Pet Sitting

January 31, 2011

Now that the holiday season is over and we are into the doldrums of winter, many people are looking for a quick getaway to somewhere warm and sunny. That getaway may not include your pet since some pets are not good travelers, like fish or your family cat. Dogs can be good travelers, but are not always welcome in hotels and timeshares. Leaving the family pet behind is a tough decision, but advance planning will give you peace of mind and your pet a comfortable vacation too.

The most convenient option for many families is a boarding kennel. Check around before choosing a boarding kennel. Ask other pet owners and call your veterinarian’s office. The veterinarians at The Animal Medical Center have their favorite home care specialists and your veterinarian will too.

Consider contacting the Better Business Bureau for information on prospective kennels. Kennels provide an important service, but not all pets enjoy staying in kennels. The typical family pet is used to more space, better furniture and solitude.

Before you chose a kennel for your pet, visit the kennel. Is it clean or is there a bad odor? Will the kennel give medications and feed the food your pet is accustomed to eating? Kenneled pets are prone to hunger strikes and intestinal upset and feeding their regular food is one way to help prevent this. In case your pet gets sick while boarding, ask how the kennel handles medical problems. If the kennel is associated with your pet’s regular veterinarian, the answer is easy, but if the kennel is not, be sure they know who your pet’s veterinarian is and how to contact the office in an emergency. Good idea to let your veterinarian know where and when your pet will be boarded. Finally, read the boarding agreement carefully, especially dropoff and pickup rules or you might find your bill higher than you expected.

Home care is also an option for some pets, especially cats, birds, fish or reptiles. My clients have arranged home care for their pets from a variety of sources. They will often check with their AMC veterinarian or neighborhood veterinarian for a local pet sitter. A professional, such as a veterinary technician may be just what the doctor orders for pets with a medical problem like diabetes. A healthy hamster may do well with your neighbor teenager changing the water, bedding and food once a day. Some pets need a companion as well as a caretaker. If this describes your pet, you may look for a pet sitter who will move into your house while you are away. This setup works especially well for multiple pet households. For a short trip, a healthy cat can be left alone. One clever solution to the litter box problem if you leave your cat alone is an automatic toilet flusher for toilet trained cats.

Whenever you leave your pet with a friend, pet sitter or kennel, provide the substitute caretaker with:

  • Your travel schedule and contact information
  • The veterinarian’s name, number and location
  • A schedule of your pet’s daily routine
  • Enough of your pet’s regular food, medications and supplies (litter, pooper scooper, bags and chew toys) to last longer than your trip in case of a delayed return.

This blog may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog from WebMD.

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For over a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


The Veterinarian’s White Coat

June 14, 2010

On June 15th the AMC will hold its annual white coat ceremony welcoming a new group of young veterinarians to AMC. These veterinarians were selected from a pool of hundreds of the brightest and best young veterinarians in the country. For the next 13 months, these 18 veterinarians will rotate though the various specialties at The AMC, guided by The AMC’s experienced staff. Their experiences at The AMC will expand upon the knowledge they gained during four years of veterinary college. This coming year embodies the final line of the Veterinarian’s Oath, taken at graduation from veterinary college, “I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.”

This week’s white coat ceremony marks the transition from veterinary student to veterinary medical professional. Medical colleges, schools of pharmacy and colleges of veterinary medicine are all adding the white coat ceremony to their annual calendars. Initiated in 1993, at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the white coat ceremony was developed to realign the balance between scientifically based medical care and compassionate patient care. Veterinarians carry the additional responsibility of preserving the human-companion animal bond and in their oath, veterinarians promise to “benefit of society through the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge.”

Medical professionals adopted the white coat, because it was considered to be pure and hygienic. Scientists also wore the white coat. With the coming of the 19th century, medicine moved into the world of science and away from the medieval practices such as exorcism, incantations and blood letting. With the change in emphasis in the practice of medicine, the members of the profession needed to look their part. And thus, the white coat was chosen to represent responsibility, empathy, knowledge, skill and integrity and as is recited in the Veterinarian’s Oath, “I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics.

These are good words to live by and now you know why we wear those white coats. They are a constant reminder of our promise to those animals and their families we have the privilege of caring for daily.

The Animal Medical Center

For 100 years, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit http://www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Making Difficult Decisions for Your Pet

June 7, 2010

Making certain decisions for your pet can be pretty simple. Yes, I give heartworm medication every month, because the drug is effective and much safer than treating my dog for heartworms. Yes, I know spaying my dog prevents mammary gland cancer and unwanted puppies. Yes, I keep my cat indoors to protect against cat fights, automobiles and feline leukemia virus infection. There are some decisions, however, that do not come so easily.

Recently, I spent time with a dog-owning family facing one of these tough decisions. The dog was older, but age should never be the sole criteria used to guide decision-making. The dog was in reasonably good shape until he collapsed earlier that day. Emergency evaluation discovered a life-threatening problem requiring an emergency surgery. It doesn’t get tougher than that — you’ve got your back against the wall and the clock is already ticking. Luckily for these owners and their dog, there was a surgical procedure to correct the problem, but (and there is always a “but” in these situations) the procedure was not without risks and no veterinarian could guarantee a positive outcome for the dog. Scientific research into this disease had identified four factors which decrease a dog’s chance of surviving the procedure. Unfortunately, this dog had three of the four factors. Does this information mean the dog should not be taken to the operating room? Not necessarily.

Just to illustrate the point, let me tell you about a cat and its owner I saw this week. Four years ago this cat experienced congestive heart failure, meaning his heart muscle was too weak to pump blood and fluid built up in his lungs. Sounds bad, and usually it is. Once a cat experiences congestive heart failure, the typical survival time is about one year. So why is this cat still alive four years later? Is the scientifically collected data wrong? Data gives probabilities about an outcome in a population of patients with a particular condition but cannot predict how a condition will affect an individual patient. Statistics will never tell the whole story since each pet is an individual and may respond better (or worse) than the typical pet with this condition. This lucky cat defied the odds and lived to tell about it.

So what is a pet owner to do in situations like this? First, listen to your veterinarian. Ask questions about the quality of life after the procedure, the length of hospitalization and the follow up care required. Some pets have the personality to cope with many trips to the hospital for follow up care, others do not. Some families have the time and energy to nurse a pet back to health; others do not. Only your family can determine what is right for you and your pet. Sometimes your veterinarian will give you grim statistics, but if your heart tells you not to quit or if you know your pet is not a quitter, then go forward with an informed and realistic expectation of the outcome of the procedure.

By the way, the dog with the three or four bad factors was discharged from the hospital three days after surgery. Go figure.

Sometimes, even after you speak with your veterinarian, you are still confused about what to do. Maybe your friends and family are giving you conflicting advice. Perhaps you have concerns you feel are too private to share with most people. You may need more time to talk things through than your veterinarian can give you. The Animal Medical Center is the only hospital in the tri-state area with a full-time counseling department. Trained social workers can speak with you by appointment, on the phone or during your pet’s visit to help you sort through your options, figure out what questions to ask, and help you decide what is right for you and your family.

If after careful consideration you decide not to pursue treatment and have chosen to let your loved one go, the Counseling staff will be with you through our pet loss services, including The AMC’s Pet Loss Support Group. To reach a counselor, call 212.329.8680. There is no charge for counseling services.

For more information about our counseling services, visit www.amcny.org/counseling. To contribute to the Counseling/Human-Animal Bond Program, visit www.amcny.org/contribute and ask that your donation go to support those services or consider joining our partnership with Margo Feiden Galleries.

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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts. Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Kitchen Catastrophes

November 17, 2009

New pet owners often ask their veterinarian, “What is the greatest danger to my pet?  Is it the dog park, the sidewalk or being cat-napped?”  It may come as a surprise to you, but your kitchen holds some of the greatest dangers for your pet.

Xylitol, a sweetener found in low-calorie foods, induces excessive insulin release in dogs.  No one knows why insulin production ramps up in response to xylitol, but the result can be a fatal low blood sugar in your dog.  Dogs consuming xylitol may experience vomiting, lethargy, lack of coordination progressing to seizures and liver failure.  If your dog eats food containing xylitol, see a veterinarian immediately.

Dogs have a bit of a sweet tooth and often find grapes and raisins tasty.  Tasty can turn into tragedy because some dogs develop kidney failure following consumption of even a few grapes or raisins.  The toxin has not been identified, but a quick trip to the veterinarian and a short hospital stay can help prevent long-term kidney damage.

Both cats and dogs have red blood cells which can be damaged by ingestion of onions, garlic or garlic powder.  Red blood cell damage can result in the need for a blood transfusion, so avoiding these ingredients in your pet’s diet is critical.  Typically dogs get into onions by snacking from the trash can.  On the other hand, cats may have problems if they are fed human foods flavored with garlic powder. 

Birds love human foods too, but bird owners should be cautious about avocados, which can cause respiratory distress and death.  Like in dogs and cats, the caffeine-like substance in chocolate can be dangerous for birds.  Baking chocolate contains the most of the caffeine-like substance, dark chocolate somewhat less and white chocolate the least.  Ingestion of the caffeine-like substance can cause hyperactivity, heart rhythm abnormalities and seizures.  Too much salt is bad for all of us including birds, so it is best to keep the salty snacks on your plate rather than your bird’s.

The AMC recommends you check with your veterinarian before feeding your pets any human food.  Keep these foods out of your pet’s reach and ensure that your garbage is not easily accessible by them as well.  If your pet has ingested any foods that may be toxic you should contact your veterinarian immediately or call Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435, 24 hours a day.
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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal health care, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts.  Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. For more information, visit www.amcny.org. To make an appointment, please call 212.838.7053.


Celebrate National Pet Week, May 3-9, 2009

May 4, 2009

kids-with-catThis week is National Pet Week, but for some of us, every day is “Love Our Pet Day.” These days, many caring  pet owners are being faced with difficult economic decisions. During these tough economic times, pet owners may be tempted to delay or even skip preventive healthcare for their pets, but this could prove to be “pennywise and pound foolish.” The staff of The Animal Medical Center recommends routine visits to your veterinarian to allow early identification of medical issues before they become extensive and expensive problems.

To make the most of your visit with the veterinarian, advance preparation is required. Doing your homework will help you to readily answer your veterinarian’s questions, focus your veterinarian’s attention on potential problems you have identified and decrease the need for return visits to deliver additional samples or have procedures performed. Below are The Animal Medical Center’s suggestions to make the most of your veterinary healthcare dollars.

Before visiting your veterinarian:
• Create a list of pet’s current medications, diet and dietary supplements to bring with you to the visit. 
• Write down a list of questions to ask your veterinarian regarding diet, exercise or other health concerns.
dog_with_empty_bowl• If your pet has skin bumps and lumps you want evaluated, be sure you know where they are located so you do not waste your appointment time hunting for them. In light colored pets, a permanent magic marker can be used to color the overlying fur to make the lump easier to find. In dark coated pets, you make want to make a drawing to indicate where the mass is.
• The night before the visit, take up any food bowls and the morning of the visit, skip your pet’s breakfast. An empty stomach makes sedation safer, if sedation is required for a minor procedure. Blood tests are easier to interpret in a fasted pet.
• On the morning of the visit, collect a urine sample and a fecal sample.  Having these available at the time of the visit may save you another trip to the veterinarian to drop them off. If they are not needed, the samples can easily be disposed of in the trash.

waiting-roomWhile at the veterinarian’s office:
Restrain the pet properly in the waiting area with a collar and leash or a sturdy carrier. A waiting room altercation with another anxious patient will distract you and your pet from the task at hand.
• During the examination, don’t be afraid to ask the veterinarian to muzzle or sedate your pet if it is very fearful and may injure itself or the clinic staff.

When visiting a new veterinarian or bringing a new pet to your current veterinarian:
• Have all your pet’s medical records with you at the time of the visit.
• The day before the visit, confirm the directions to the veterinary hospital, double check the date and time of the appointment and investigate parking options so you arrive on time and prepared to focus on your conversation with the veterinarian.

After the visit as been completed:
Have a nutritious, low-calorie snack ready to reward your pet for a job well done.
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For nearly a century, The Animal Medical Center has been a national leader in animal healthcare, known for its expertise, innovation and success in providing routine, specialty and emergency medical care for companion animals. Thanks in part to the enduring generosity of donors, The AMC is also known for its outstanding teaching, research and compassionate community funds. Please help us to continue these efforts.  Send your contribution to: The Animal Medical Center, 510 East 62nd Street, New York, NY 10065. Visit www.amcny.org for more information.


Tips for Keeping Your Pet Healthy in a Tough Economy

November 24, 2008

For nearly a century, serving our neighbors has been at the heart of The Animal Medical Center’s mission. We understand that during these tough economic times, cutting expenses is on all of our minds.  Pet owners who may be looking for ways to cut costs could be tempted to scrimp on pet care to save money.  But this strategy soon may turn out to be more expensive when a little problem becomes a big crisis.  Maintaining your schedule of preventive healthcare with your family veterinarian is the best way to identify health issues early so that they remain treatable problems.

1.  It is better to be proactive than reactive, so continue the routine examination schedule recommended by your veterinarian, and follow their recommendations for vaccination, heartworm, flea and tick preventative.  

2.  Be sure you feed your pet a complete and balanced diet for their age, but buy in bulk to save money.

3.  Just because you buy food in bulk, don’t feed it in bulk.  The porky pet is at greater risk of diabetes, arthritis, urinary tract disease and certain tumors.

4.  Brush your pet’s teeth daily to remove plaque and prevent tartar build up.  You can use a soft human toothbrush or a special “finger puppet” toothbrush made for pets.  Don’t use human toothpaste as it can be harmful to pets.  Just plain tap water or a pet approved toothpaste is best for your pet.

5.  Take a daily walk with your dog.  It’s great exercise for both of you and doesn’t cost a thing! Download our exercise posters for dogs and cats.

6.  Purchase pet insurance, particularly while your pet is young and rates are lower.  For any aged pet, owners buying pet insurance should investigate exclusions related to specific breeds carefully so your pet has optimal protection.   

7.  Be sure to ask your pet groomer, boarder and doggie day care facility if they are providing discounts on their services, as they often do during the holiday season to promote their services.  

8.  If you notice a problem, don’t hope it will go away – visit your veterinarian! 

The AMC is a world-renowned nonprofit veterinary hospital and teaching institution.  Through our wide range of specialty services, we provide the highest quality care available to companion animals.  In fact, The AMC was founded in 1910 specifically to care for the pets of New York’s less fortunate citizens.  We continue that tradition through our compassionate community funds, which have provided free and subsidized care to thousands of animals in need.  For more information about The Animal Medical Center and our charitable funds, please visit our website at:  www.amcny.org.


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