You are currently browsing the OkcPetsOnline category.

The Animal Conference in Oklahoma City

posted April 5th, 2015 by
  • Share
20150115B-1-.5c

Pic 2

2015 Animal Conference

reported for OKC Pets Magazine by Holly Clay

photography by Holly Clay and Austin Clay

The 2015 Animal Conference hosted by the Kirkpatrick Foundation was held on March 30 – 31, in Downtown Oklahoma City. The Conference prides itself on being a forum for impact, ideas and inspiration, focused on creating a safe and humane environment for all creatures.

Animal Conf Photo V (2)

The Skirvin lobby

This one-of-a-kind event happens only once every three years. OKC was lucky enough to host this year’s event at the beautiful, historic Skirvin Hilton hotel. Attendees and speakers came from across the country, including prominent authors, public speakers and animal specialists, as well as the average animal enthusiast.

What is the Animal Conference?

The Animal Conference is a “breeding ground” of knowledge regarding the humane treatment of all animals. The Kirkpatrick Foundation of Oklahoma City not only hosted but sponsored the event. The Foundation has long been a prominent leader and activist for the wellbeing of animals with John Kirkpatrick also being the founder of the Oklahoma Zoological Society in 1954.

The event was a great opportunity to discover and explore ideas of meaningful and effective ways to complete Oklahoma’s goal of being the most humane, safest place to be an animal by the year 2032. What an accomplishment that will be! I personally could not think of a better place to bring a group of likeminded individuals together to create a safer place for animals and our environment.

A therapy dog attendee.

A therapy dog attendee

The Conference offered studies, lectures and eye-opening sessions that were not just limited to the average house pet. For instance, a wealth of information was shared regarding the humane treatment of livestock, horses, birds and other wild animals. The hallways and conference rooms were full of happy-tailed therapy dogs, adoptive kittens and mountains of resources about how to cultivate a better environment for animals and mankind alike.

Animal Conf Photo I (2)

Kittens for adoption from Central OK Humane Society

Sunday, March 29, kicked off the event with a welcome reception at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, also open to the public. Attendees were treated to a special guest, National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore. Sartore’s career has taken him around the world, as he photographs amazing, exotic creatures.

“When we save species, we are actually saving ourselves,” he said. If you missed this event, you can still check out some of his work online. He is an incredible photographer with many captivating stories.

Monday, the Conference continued with more amazing speakers, informative breakout sessions and even a tour of the new Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital, a state-of-the-art facility at the Oklahoma City Zoo, opening to the public in 2015.

During an award luncheon, the Foundation presented its Kirkpatrick Honor for Animal Wellbeing Award to Natalee Cross for her dedicated work to rescue and rehabilitate horses. The prestigious award is given to someone who possesses a great deal of integrity and willpower for the betterment of animals. Before the presentation of the award, a powerful video showcased Cross’s hard work to save horses that would have otherwise been killed. The video was extremely motivating and heart wrenching.

Animal Conf Photo II (2)

Attendees view the video of Natalee Cross of Blaze’s Equine Rescue

Other events included intriguing and thought-provoking breakout sessions. Some of these sessions discussed the souls of animals and different religious traditions, historic views of animals and the existence of their souls. Especially beneficial to Oklahomans, some sessions centered on emergency preparedness when dealing with major disasters and pets, and understanding what happens with our beloved pets when disaster strikes.

Natalee Cross accepting the Kirkpatrick Honor for Animal Wellbeing award.

Natalee Cross accepting the Kirkpatrick Honor for Animal Wellbeing Award

Additional topics covered animal abuse and the human-animal bond. Of course, there were happy, uplifting sessions, such as the Great Horned Owl cam with Alessondra Click, which is now an Internet sensation with more than 6 million views (OKCOwlCam.com).

Tuesday brought even more exciting, fun activities, breakouts and events. In the Myriad Gardens, “high-flyin’ disc dogs” performed with their trainers, Lee Fairchild and Chris Meyers. Dora, Ace, JC, DD, JD and Gracie were nothing short of amazing with their tricks and stunts.

Local food trucks and vendors set up camp, along with The Bella Foundation who brought with them precious, adoptable kittens. The famous cat Sauerkraut who has over 200 thousand social media followers also made an appearance. Decked out in a pink stroller, Sauerkraut seemed to be OK with all the attention.

How can you help?

If you missed this incredibly cool event, you can plan to attend in 2018. Valuable resources can still be obtained; visit http://www.theanimalconference.com/.

To learn more about the new Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital opening 2015 at the Oklahoma City Zoo, visit http://www.safeandhumaneoklahoma.org/safe-and-humane/joan-kirkpatrick-animal-hospital.

Let’s all stay focused on the goal of becoming the safest and most humane place to be an animal by the year 2032.

Training 911 – Back to School

posted March 29th, 2015 by
  • Share
20140915c

Training 911

Training 911

by Khara Criswell, MA, CPDT-KSA, CNWI

 

Back to School, Fall Activities

 

Since your kids have gone back to school, your pet might feel left out. Some pets experience anxiety and wander out of their yards to follow their little owners to school.

 

One helpful tip is to leave a T-shirt from your child in the bed where your pet sleeps at night. In the morning before you leave for work and kids leave for school, you can do some training with your pet. Practice waiting with the food bowl or at the door.

Wait at the Door

1.Stand in front of the door (any car door will work too) with your dog inside the house. Say, “Wait.”

  1. Start to slowly open the door. Whenyourdog moves forward, even just a tiny bit, quickly close the door, preventing him from going through it. You can use your body to block the dog from going farther .
  2. Good timing is important, so be sure to close the door the instant you seeyourdog start to move forward.
  3. If you close the door, start to slowly open the door again. Continue to quickly close the door whenyourdog moves forward until he stays put for a couple of seconds with the door open about a foot. When this happens, say, “yes!” and “good dog.” Then toss a treat in his direction.
  4. Next, say “free” or “ok” or whatever you wantyourrelease word to be to let your dog know his job is done. Open the door all the way and let your dog walk out of the door. (You want your verbal cue to release your dog from the wait position, not your body movement.)
  5. Restart the exercise from the beginning.

Also, provide plenty of enrichment activities, such as interactive toys you can place your pet’s kibble in—Kong, Nina Ottoman toys, Zane’s interactive toys, Squirrel Dude or Football Dude. Give your pet some chew toys because chewing reduces stress in a pet.

As fall parties begin, make sure to keep the human food away from your pet, especially candy and gum. Create a safe space for your pet to retreat to and relax when the house gets hectic. This is especially helpful during Halloween when the kids’ costumes can be scary to your pet. If your dog has a crate, make it into a fun place for him to hang out. You can teach your dog to go to his spot.

Mat Train

  1. With a treat in your hand, tell your pup, “Go to your mat,” in a cheerful tone of voice and point him toward the mat.
  2. Pause a second or two (one-one thousand, two-one thousand), then lure your dog onto his mat by putting the treat up to his nose and slowly moving it over the mat. If you move your hand too quickly or too far away from his mouth, he may give up and lose interest.
  3. As soon as your dog has four paws on the mat, give the treat.
  4. Tell your dog, “down/sit.” Give the hand signal or lure him if he needs helps. When he lies down, give him the treat. Continue to give treats to keep the dog on the mat. After a few seconds, tell your pup, “OK/free” and allow him to get up.

Repeat steps 1 through 4, gradually increasing the amount of time you ask him to stay on the mat.

Pick some time during the week that the family gets involved with your pet’s activities, like going for a walk during the evening, playing fetch, a game of “find it,” hide and seek (recall), or just getting petted on the couch will be enough to calm the dog and the kids down after a long day of school.

Two books/resources I recommend to my clients with kids or who are thinking of having kids are “Living with Kids and Dogs” by Colleen Pelar and “Happy Kids, Happy Dogs,” a paperback by Barbara Shumannfang.

With a little work, every family member including your pet will be adjusting well with the season’s change.

Take A Hike…And Take Your Dog With You!

posted March 22nd, 2015 by
  • Share
20140915c

Take a Hike

Take A Hike…And Take Your Dog With You!

 

By Anna Holton-Dean

 

Crisp, cool fall months are the perfect time to enjoy some outdoor activities that were otherwise treacherous in the sweltering summer heat. Hiking is at the top of our fall must-do list, and the best part is many nearby hiking trails allow your dog to come along for the fun. On-leash, of course, it can be the perfect fall activity to enjoy with your pet.

However, before any activity, do your homework, ensuring your pet is ready for a hike. Considerations would include breed type, length and thickness of coat, age and endurance. A smashed face breed will overheat more quickly than a dog with a longer snout, as will a dog with a longer, thicker coat.

“Do check into your breed’s history and ask your veterinarian before taking your dog for a hike,” Nancy Gallimore, certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA), advises. “I had a guy who took his new shelter/rescue dog for a five-mile run, and the dog collapsed.” Just as a person must work up to that type of distance and endurance, so must a pet. Knowing your pet’s fitness level and limitations is a must.

Gallimore, co-owner of Pooches Place, has been hiking with dogs for over 12 years and training dogs for 20 years (professionally certified for seven years). She and Lawanna Smith, also a CPDT-KA and co-owner of Pooches Place, offer up some expert advice for anyone contemplating hiking with a pet:

Be sure to choose a dog-friendly trail, and do not take your dog to hike a trail if you are unfamiliar with it. This article includes  insight and advice on five area trails which allow dogs.

No matter where you choose to hike, keep your dog on a leash. “Even the best trained dogs may take off after a squirrel or deer,” Gallimore says.

If not hiking locally and traveling to a different region, consider the altitude difference and carry your dog’s vaccination records with you.

Fall temperatures should be pleasant, but always be aware of the temp. “Your dog does not sweat like you do,” Gallimore says. “So carry fresh water for your dog. If he starts to lag behind, stop. Learn the signs of heat exhaustion.”

In relation to fresh water, also do not let your dog drink from ponds or standing/ stagnant water for risk of parasites or bacteria. Also, supervise carefully that he doesn’t eat anything along the trail.

Buy dog-safe sunscreen if your pooch has thin hair and pink skin. Dogs can burn too!

Make sure your dog has flea/tick prevention, and check your dog for fleas/ ticks/stickers/burrs after a hike.

Pay attention to the trail’s surface. Make sure it won’t harm paws, and check the dog’s paws throughout the hike. “You get blisters, so can your dog,” Gallimore says. “Inspect pads and between pads carefully after a hike. If the temps are too hot or too cold, check the trail surface to be sure it’s not going to burn or be too cold on exposed paws.”

Do not hike in wilderness areas at dusk/ after dusk. “This is the time of day coyotes and other predators come out,” Gallimore says. “Your dog may attract the attention of predators.” Furthermore, “know the wildlife you may encounter in the area. Even deer can be aggressive during certain times of year. Raccoons, skunks, etc., can be a threat.”

Carry a first aid kit with you, asking your vet for advice on what to keep in it in case of injury, snake bite or allergic reaction to bug bites, etc.

Always carry your cell phone in case of emergency.

Area Pet-Friendly Hiking Trails

Kent Frates, co-author of “Oklahoma Hiking Trails” suggests Lake Thunderbird State Park in Norman and Arcadia Lake Trail near Edmond as dog-friendly hiking trails, in that the terrain and environment should be the most accommodating. These are the best options for hiking newbies, including pets new to hiking too.

Of course, Turkey Mountain in the heart of Tulsa is another good option. Frates cautions it is hilly but should be doable for most dogs. If your dog is up for some hills (no pun intended), he will probably enjoy the hike. Gallimore suggests early morning hikes to avoid bikers on Turkey Mountain who can appear in a flash, and you will have to quickly move your dog out of harm’s way.

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Indiahoma also welcomes pets on-leash, but the terrain is a little rough. For dogs with hiking experience and endurance, this trail would offer a welcomed challenge.

The Trail at Keystone Lake allows dogs, but the terrain is rocky with some elevation, and you may encounter ticks or chiggers which could be a problem, Frates says. Should you accept this challenge, go prepared with the necessary items and plan.

More Oklahoma hiking trails we should know about? Let us know on our Facebook page or via Twitter @tulsapetsmag. For more hiking tips and info, check out  “Oklahoma Hiking Trails” by Kent Frates and Larry Floyd, available for purchase from Amazon.com.

While there are many considerations, hiking can be a great outdoor activity for you and your dog. A little homework and forethought can go a long way toward creating a new healthy hobby to benefit both person and pet.

Savannah Station Therapeutic Riding Program

posted March 15th, 2015 by
  • Share
20140915c

Savannah

Savannah Station Therapeutic Riding Program

 

By Brianna Broersma

 

“It’d be the best thing they’d done in their life,” advises Sparky Prudhome to parents considering equine therapy for their children.

Sparky and his wife Hazel are parents to 8-year-old Jason Prudhome who receives therapy through Savannah Station Therapeutic Riding Program (SSTRP) in El Reno.

 

Sparky and Hazel adopted Jason when he was 4 years old. “He was behind,” says Sparky.  Jason had physical and cognitive delays and could barely walk. “He enjoys riding, and it helps him use his hands, arms and legs,” Prudhome adds. Jason is able to ride his horse, Tequila, about once a week during the riding season in order to receive these benefits.

SSTRP was founded in 2013 by a group of 16 individuals, including Dr. Velinda Baker. The purpose of SSTRP is to provide equine-assisted therapy for children with special challenges. Dr. Baker’s back-ground as a physical education teacher includes adapted physical education for students with special needs. She was first exposed to equine therapy through her work at      the University of Tulsa and the State Department of Education.

“When I was at the University of Tulsa, my students and I became volunteers for  Bit by Bit, a therapeutic riding program through Rogers State University,” Dr. Baker says. She eventually became the director of the program. After relocating to Yukon, Dr. Baker helped found SSTRP and is currently the program director.

SSTRP currently serves 16 children with a spectrum of special challenges, including muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, deaf-ness and brain damage.  “We work on cognitive, physical, behavioral and social needs of the child,” Dr. Baker says. “We don’t just ride; we do activities that challenge them mathematically and scientifically. We bring all types of things that you would see in a classroom in our classroom on horseback. Every single horse is matched to a child for their specific needs.”

For example, children with hyperactive tendencies need calm horses to help them quiet down.  Riding on the horses helps the children use muscles in their trunks, legs, arms and hands. Riding the horse in different positions, such as frontward vs. backward, can help the children engage different muscle groups. Riding also helps to improve the children’s focus.

One of these children is 9-year-old Savannah Davis. Savannah is non-verbal, non-mobile and shows symptoms of  spastic cerebral palsy, such as thrashing and biting. “Not only has the horse therapy allowed [Savannah] to learn how to sit up on her own, it has improved her trunk control beyond what her therapist thought she was capable of,” says Savannah’s mother,  Athena Captain, a founding member of the program.

“She’ll actually grab the reins of the horse and hold onto them without thrashing or putting them in her mouth, which takes enormous focus,” she  says. The therapy not only benefits the children, but also the parents. “There are a lot of sports I don’t get to watch her participate  in,” adds Captain “She’s up there, she’s moving around, interacting with other children.” For example, “They’ll put her on a horse and have another child blow bubbles, and she’ll try to grab the bubbles, so she’ll have social interaction, and I  get to watch all of that.”

While Savannah was the inspiration behind the name of the program, it also has a deeper meaning. “The word ‘savannah’ means an opening in the woods. We see this as symbolic of an opportunity for the kids who run into so many obstacles,” says Dr. Baker. “Also in Australia, a ‘station’ is where everyone meets.”

SSTRP operates out of Glenn Farm in El Reno.  Robin Glenn, owner and operator of Robin Glenn Pedigrees, was contacted by Dr. Baker and quickly offered use of her barn to house the program’s horses.  After watching the program’s horse show in June, Glenn made the following comments on their Facebook page:

“The program is a true non-profit. This    is the hardest-working bunch of people I have ever been around and not one person takes a salary, even the program director. They are utterly, unconditionally devoted  to both the children they teach and their horses. I saw how much more engaged these children are in their horseback learning experiences than they could ever be sitting in a chair in a classroom, and I saw how absolutely thrilled each one was to be on horseback. I saw their excitement when they were able to complete tasks like picking up a stuffed animal from a barrel top and throwing it into a bucket from the horses’ backs. I saw the pride in both the riders and their families when each was handed a trophy. And I saw tirelessly loving parents and family members smiling and cheering their kids on.”

SSTRP also runs satellite centers. “Instead of all the children coming to us, we haul our horses to specific centers” throughout the metro, says Dr. Baker. They currently have a three-horse trailer, which allows them to take three, out of the program’s nine total, horses to satellite centers. Dr. Baker hopes they can expand the availability of this program to more locations when the program is able to purchase a larger trailer.

SSTRP is a member of the Professional Association of Horsemanship International (PATH; www.pathintl.org). “They have very specific guidelines about how much horses can be used and how often,” says Dr. Baker. The program takes a six-week break during the summer to allow the horses rest and shelter from the summer heat. All horses are thoroughly vetted to ensure they are a good match for children with special needs. A horse must be with the program for at least 30 days, during which time its temperament is assessed, before it can be used in a therapy session.

SSTRP does not charge individuals or their families to participate in the program. “Raising a child is expensive,” Dr. Baker says. “The cost of raising a special needs child is huge.” In order to provide no- cost therapy to the families, SSTRP relies  on private, tax-deductible donations and fundraising. Their big yearly fundraiser is The Roundup, which will take place on Friday, October 3, at the Oklahoma City Farmers Public Market, 311 South Klein Avenue.

The event will feature a live country band, dancing, a live auction and a silent auction. Swadley’s will also cater a barbecue dinner. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets are $30. Companies and organizations can also sponsor a table, seating up to 10 people for $500; “event sponsors” receive two tables for a $1,000 donation.

Program operations and fundraising are coordinated by a board of directors, including Robert Reed, David Pletcher, John Branscum, Russ Nation and Dr. Kimberly Quigley. The board is already at work planning future fundraising events. Possible spring fundraisers might include a trail ride or pasture golf (golf on horseback.)

SSTRP also relies on a roster of 65 volunteers to make the program successful.  Of these, 36 are trained to be in the arena with the horses, helping to ensure the safety of the horses and the riders. A therapeutic riding session requires the volunteers to assist each child; the horse is led by one volunteer, with the other two flanking each side.

“Working with the horses is my therapy. I marvel at their understanding, intuition and patience,” Jonnie Booth, volunteer, says. No experience with horses is necessary to volunteer for the program. One-day training sessions are offered for interested parties.

For more information on participation as a volunteer or therapy student, or to purchase fundraiser tickets, contact Dr. Baker at (405) 651-2324.

You can also learn more via Facebook at

www.facebook.com/SavannahStationTherapeuticRidingProgram. The program website, savannahstation.org, will be available soon.

Prickly Pets

posted March 8th, 2015 by
  • Share
20140915c

Hedgehogs

Prickly Pets

 

From hedges to households, hedgehogs reign as the latest pet trend.

 

By Bria Bolton Moore

 

When he was 9 years old, Mary Dickey’s son Ryan didn’t beg for a rowdy puppy or a purring kitten like most kids. He wanted a palm-sized prickly playmate, a hedgehog.

Mary granted Ryan’s wish, and they got their first hedgehog, Tiggy, in 1995. The Dickeys began breeding and caring for hedgehogs at their home in Stillwater, Okla.

 

“We went from having them in my son’s bedroom to the bedroom being overtaken by being the ‘animal room’,” Mary Dickey said.

Today, 20 years after Tiggy became part of their family, Dickey has eight hedgehogs, three females and five males, and operates Atlantis Hedgehogs.

It seems more and more people are interested in welcoming a quill-covered animal into their homes. Due to exotic animal ownership restrictions, keeping a hedgehog as a pet is banned or restricted in at least     six states. However, their popularity as American pets grows.

Dickey said she has seen sparked interest at Atlantis Hedgehogs with an influx of calls as more people question if a hedgehog is the right pet for them. Similarly, Kimber Knight, who owns Parkplase Heggies in Ramona, Okla., has also experienced more inquiries.

“I have gotten more emails and calls in the last six months than I ever have,” said Knight, who has owned hedgehogs since 1999 when her family got their first heggie, Sonic.

Dr. Rachael Davis, DVM, is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at VCA Woodland South Animal Hospital in Tulsa. She said she has cared for more hedgehogs recently, three in the last few months, and has about five in her client base.

People are fascinated by the small, cute creatures. Social media celebrity Biddy the Hedgehog has an Instagram account with more than 480,000 followers featuring snapshots of Biddy at the beach, on road trips and hanging out with a fellow pet, Charlie the Mini Mutt. The April 2014 cover of National Geographic highlighted Jade, a female hedgehog from South Carolina, who attracted attention to the magazine’s piece on owning exotic animals.

While there are 15 hedgehog species, most domestic hedgehogs in the United States are African Pygmy hedgehogs. They generally have white bellies, of course fur, with more than 5,000 spines covering their crown of the head and back. Male hedgehogs weigh about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds, while the females weigh half a pound to 1 pound. Hedgehogs live about four to six years.

The right pet for you?

Kristen Zorbini Bongard is a board member of the Hedgehog Welfare Society, a 501(c)(3) committed to the health and welfare of hedgehogs through rescue, education and research. The society has more than 1,600 members who reside in 31 countries.

“I originally became interested in hedge-hogs because I was allergic to many of the more traditional furry pets,” Bongard said. “I read a couple of books about them and then adopted an unwanted hedgehog from a friend of a friend.”

As a rescuer, Bongard said she sees “many, many instances of buyer’s remorse” because people don’t know a lot about hedgehogs before they bring them home. She encourages people to do their research, talk to someone who owns a hedgehog and meet a hedgehog before deciding to get one as a pet.

“They’re really interesting pets, but they’re not for everyone,” Bongard said.

She said she has spent thousands of dollars in vet bills through the years.

“They are exotic animals and require a knowledgeable vet and frequently require anesthesia just to be examined—the downside of a pet that can enclose its body in sharp quills,” Bongard said. “For all you put in, you will still not have an animal that will miss you when you’re gone or greet you at the door with a wagging tail. Make sure it’s worth it to you before you commit to owning a hedgehog.”

Hedgehogs can be interactive pets, but they’re naturally shy, rolling up into a ball when they feel threatened or uncomfortable.

“They require a little bit of effort, but they can be a lot of fun,” Dickey said. “They’re not social like a dog or a cat that seeks to be friends with you. You have to handle them a lot. So, if you’re not willing to handle your hedgehog, you may end up with a little pet that sits in the corner, and you never see it. And it’s prickly,” she said between laughs.

Dr. Davis echoed Dickey’s comments on hedgehog temperament.

“Some aren’t really interested in being handled,” Dr. Davis said. “They want to just roll up into a ball. But, most of the time, that can be overcome with gentle handling and getting them used to people. Then, I see some that are just out, walking around and aren’t even phased by coming in to see me (in the veterinarian’s office).”

Dr. Davis said some hedgehogs are stressed by new people, small children, or dogs and cats that may be perceived as predators.

Another unique characteristic is anointing. When hedgehogs encounter a new smell or object, they pick it up or chew at it until they begin drooling excessively. Then, they rub the saliva all over their quills and body in a process called self-anointing. No one knows why the animals anoint, but it’s a common behavior.

Hedgehogs can be purchased from a breeder or a pet store that offers exotics. A hedgehog from Atlantis Hedgehogs costs $125 while a hedgehog from Parkplase Heggies costs $150.

Caring for a hedgehog

“They’re easy to care for,” Dickey said. “They’re not rodents, so they don’t have     any odor.”

A hedgehog should be housed alone in a large cage with a solid base, at least 2 feet by 3 feet with shredded newspaper or Aspen shavings. A hiding place or shelter as well   as an exercise wheel are recommended. The cage should be cleaned weekly.

In the wild, a hedgehog diet consists mostly of insects. However, pet hedgehogs usually eat two to three teaspoons a day of commercial hedgehog food or low-calorie cat food. Their diet should be supplemented with one to two teaspoons of mixed vegetables or fruit as well as insects, such as crickets or mealworms.

“The most common issue I see with [hedgehogs] is obesity,” Dr. Davis said. “It’s hard, because there’s not a readily-available hedgehog diet.”

Dr. Davis said other common health problems are mites and dental disease.

Hedgehogs are also nocturnal, sleeping during most of the day, so Dr. Davis advises owners to house their pets in a non-sleeping room.

“A lot of people will get [hedgehogs] for their children, put the cage in the child’s bedroom, and then the hedgehog’s up, running around all night long.”

Dr. Davis also recommends that owners take their hedgehogs to see an exotic veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up.

Bongard has cared for more than a dozen hedgehogs since getting to know her first hedgehog in 2004.

“Hedgehogs are really fascinating creatures,” Bongard said. “They are independent and sometimes standoffish,  but that’s part of their charm. There’s something magical about earning their trust over many, many days and watching them splat out, unafraid, on your lap. They have adorable little faces, too.”

Plump Pets

posted March 1st, 2015 by
  • Share
20140915c

Plump

Plump Pets

 

By Kiley Roberson

 

It’s not just a people problem; many of our pets are packing on the pounds too. Just over half of all cats and dogs in U.S. households are either overweight or obese, according to a survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

And just like in people, extra weight means extra health problems associated with it.

“Excess weight predisposes pets to a variety of illnesses,” explains Dr. Scott Floyd, DVM at Midtown Vets in Oklahoma City. “Diabetes, intervertebral disk rupture, arthritis, collapsing trachea, heart-associated illness and fatty liver syndrome, to name a few.”

Dr. Floyd says he treats at least two to three obese pets every week, and not surprisingly, treats are part of the problem. He says over-treating, free-feeding and lack of exercise are the major contributing factors to pet obesity. We’re all living such busy lives, that a long walk with Fido or tossing around a ball of yarn with Fluffy just isn’t a top priority. As we do less and less, so do our pets, and before you know it the scale is going up.

It might seem like an extra pound or two on our four-legged companions isn’t so terrible. But that little bit can be a significant percentage of a pet’s total weight. For example, a Yorkie who tips the scales at “just” 12 pounds is equivalent to a 5-foot- 4-inch woman who weighs 218 pounds.

Some pet owners ignore the health hazards associated with overweight pets, focusing on how cute their plump kitty or roly-poly puppy looks. But overfeeding a fat cat or dog is loving it to death basically. That’s because overweight and obese pets also have much shorter life spans.

“Preventing obesity will contribute to a much higher quality of life for your pet       and could certainly lead to a longer life,” says Dr. Mark Shackelford, DVM at 15th Street Veterinary Group in Tulsa. “Your pet will  be happier, healthier and much more energetic.”

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says inactive pets are more likely to become depressed or anxious—habits most pet owners associate with behavioral problems. That’s because a sedentary life-style leads to an alteration  in the three major brain chemicals responsible for mood, and that can create emotional issues. Aerobic activity for as little as 20 to 30 minutes a day balances norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin levels, resulting in a better, more stable mood. Also, well-exercised pets won’t be quite as wired indoors, so they’ll be less prone to chewing, barking and other troublesome behaviors.

How can you know if your pet is overweight? You may not be able to tell by appearance alone, since pets can appear to be in good shape even when they aren’t.

“The standard that applies to most animals is that the owner should be able to count the ribs with their fingers, but not be able to see the ribs under the skin,” explains Dr. Shackelford. “At the appropriate weight, pets should only have a thin layer of fat over their ribs and show an hourglass shape from above. If you have a long-haired pet, it may be best to do this when your dog is wet. If you’re in doubt, you can always ask your vet.”

If your pup is a little plumper than you thought, don’t panic, but do take action. “Restricting food is the first step in fighting obesity,” says Dr. Shackelford. “Feeding a recommended amount of pet food with a minimum of treats usually will help with weight loss. Some dogs and cats, due to genetic makeup causing difficulty in dieting, will have a special weight loss diet prescribed for them, and exercise is very important. Exercise will help burn calories and will also help change the metabolism  to help burn calories more efficiently.”

Exercising dogs is usually simple, but what about cats? You can try  toys that engage them or scattering their food around in small portions through-out the house so they have to hunt for it and, in turn, get more exercise.