By Dr. Susan Lowum, DVM, MS, Diplomate, ABVP (Canine and Feline Practice) and Dr. Kristi Flynn, DVM
Lavender runs a Vet Q&A in our Pet Issues as well as online. If you have a question you’d like answered by a veterinarian, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With the recent natural disasters in the news, what would I need to consider if I need to evacuate my home with my pet(s)?
Dr. Susan Lowum: Be prepared!
- Pet Identification: In case you get separated from your pet, make sure you have a registered microchip placed in each pet and your contact information is up to date. This is the best way to help assure you are reunited with your pet. You should also have collars with identification tags including the pet’s name, address, and your phone number. Also make sure you have access to current photos of all your pets in case you need to post a missing pet notification.
- Have pet carriers ready: Make sure to have an individual pet carrier ready to go for each pet. Write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on each carrier. Train your pet to go in the carrier by using treats, so when the time comes they will be willing to quickly go into the carrier without having to chase them around the house.
- Ready to go bag: Pack the “to go” bag ahead of time including leashes, water bowls, food in airtight and waterproof containers, litterbox and litter for cats, plastic bags for poop, paper towels, cloth towels or blankets, and any critical medications they are currently taking. It is also helpful to have medical records, including vaccination status and boarding instructions (such as feeding amounts and timing, medications, and any known allergies or medical issues).
- Make a plan for housing your pets: Contact family and friends, shelters or pet-friendly hotels to have a plan for sheltering your pets.
What should I keep in mind if I come across an animal that isn’t mine but I’m considering rescuing?
Dr. Susan Lowum: First of all, be very careful in approaching the pet. The pet is likely very scared and may bite out of fear. Offer treats and approach slowly.
Try in every way possible to find the owners of the pet—including bringing pet to your local veterinary clinic to have the pet scanned for a microchip, contacting local animal shelters and Animal Care and Control centers, contacting neighborhood social media contacts, Craig’s list, and posting flyers around the neighborhood. If you can’t determine the owner, bring the pet to your veterinarian for a thorough examination and preventive care prior to introducing the pet to any current pets.
How does extreme weather affect pets?
Dr. Susan Lowum: Extreme weather may affect pets similarly to people, but in many instances the effects may be even more pronounced. Pets are very comfortable with routine and any change may be very difficult for them. For example, thunderstorms, wind, and lightning may cause extreme anxiety for pets. Keeping them in a safe, secure place where noise and light are minimized will often help. Extreme heat is also a problem for our fur-coated friends. They can overheat easily, which may result in heat stroke and even death. Try to keep them cool if at all possible.
How can I prepare my pets for changes in their home life (kids going back to school, new work schedules, a new partner)?
Dr. Kristi Flynn: Fortunately many pets take change in stride. For these pets, keeping the basics consistent can be enough. Try to keep the amount of time between feedings the same. For dogs, it is helpful to keep the number of hours between going out routine and give a food reward for eliminating outside to encourage the behavior. For cats it is important to keep the litterboxes clean and accessible. Both dogs and cats benefit from things they normally enjoy during times of stress. Be sure to make time for daily play and exercise as well as good old fashioned belly rubs which positively impact our pets and us when change is occurring in our lives.
What is the leading health concern for dogs at this time? Cats? And how is this concern to be addressed?
Dr. Kristi Flynn: Obesity is the leading health concern for dogs and cats. In the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s 2016 survey, 53.9% of dogs and 58.9% of cats were classified as overweight. Being just 10% over-conditioned can lead to decreased lifespan and earlier onset of arthritis according to a Purina study. Pet obesity can be addressed by feeding a complete and balanced diet in the right amount. Feeding our pets brings us joy, so try using a measured portion of their meal as treats between feedings for behaviors you want them to do more of.
Dr. Susan Lowum and Dr. Kristi Flynn practice at the Veterinary Medical Center at the University of Minnesota. For more information, go to www.vmc.umn.edu.