According to TV commercials, your best buddy will live to a ripe old age if you simply buy the pet food advertised.
You want to feel like you are doing everything possible to keep your buddy happy and in good health, but what may work for one dog may not work for another. A Labrador retriever that accompanies you on your daily three-mile run needs more calories than a Shih Tzu that sits on your sofa for hours. If your buddy is a couch potato, you may have to seek a high-fiber, low-calorie food to keep her weight down. Growing puppies require more protein than senior dogs.
As you seek out the ideal nutritional solution for your pet, consider the following.
The best ratio for a healthy diet is 50 percent meat and 50 percent vegetables. Be aware of companies using grains as cheap filler. Any grains should be in whole form, such as rolled oats, barley, quinoa, millet and brown rice. Also watch out for chemicals. Avoid pet foods that use chemical preservatives like BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, which are carcinogenic. Look instead for natural preservatives like vitamins C and E. And just as you do with packaged foods you buy for yourself, check expiration dates.
Here is an example of an ingredient list for a top-ranked dog food (Arcana Adult Small Breed dog food, rated five stars by DogFoodAdvisor.com): chicken meal, steel-cut oats, deboned chicken, whole potato, peas, chicken fat, whole egg, deboned flounder, sun-cured alfalfa, chicken liver, herring oil, pea fiber, whole apples, whole pears, sweet potato, pumpkin, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, spinach, cranberries, blueberries, kelp, chicory root, juniper berries, angelica root, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, lavender, vitamins, minerals and proteinates.
Freeze-dried food can be stored in a low-moisture environment for a year or more and is especially great for traveling with your pet.
You might want to consider making your own dog food. This can be tricky, as the balance of vitamins and minerals is essential. Invest in a pet-food cookbook such as The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook by Barbara Taylor-Laino and Kenneth Fischer, D.V.M. (Fair Winds Press, 2013);
Find the perfect pooch by considering personality traits — yours and his!
THAT GIFT-GIVING TIME of year is rapidly approaching. If you’re thinking about getting someone in your family a present that has four legs and barks, be sure to choose the breed that’s the right match.
It’s all fine and well to opt for a cute or fashionable dog, as long as that dog’s personality and energy level are in harmony with his or her human companions. Answer the following in terms of yourself or as the person upon whom you are bestowing a pup.
What personality traits do you have? Are you affable, in a good mood most of the time and happy to meet new people? A toy dog (such as a toy poodle, cocker spaniel or terrier) or bird dog (such as a golden or Labrador retriever) might be a perfect fit. If you’re on the upper end of the IQ scale and would like a dog with matching intelligence, look into a herding or working breed (such as a German shepherd or border collie). Extroverts may do well with an English sheepdog.
To help you choose a pet that’s on the same wavelength as you (or your giftee), here is a list by energy level of some common breeds and their generalized traits. But remember, there are no guarantees when it comes to a dog’s personality.
A note of caution: When you’re making your decision, don’t kid yourself into thinking that owning a frisky dog will make you an energetic person. That’s an unlikely scenario.
Airedale terrier: intensely curious, easily distracted, outgoing, playful, self-confident, stubborn
Australian shepherd: cautious, demanding of time and attention, loyal, eager to please, protective, quick to learn, reserved
Boxer: animated, courageous, dominant, loyal, playful, reliable, sensitive, headstrong
Dalmation: demanding, dependable, headstrong, high-spirited, independent, intelligent, loyal, territorial
Golden retriever: Cheerful, attention-loving, eager to please, easily distracted, gentle, slow to mature, social, submissive
Irish setter: affectionate, easily distracted, happy-go-lucky, high-spirited, impulsive, sociable, willful
Jack Russell terrier: affectionate, alert, excitable, headstrong, independent, intelligent, playful, mischievous
Labrador retriever: enthusiastic, friendly, good-natured, independent, slow to mature
Basset hound: friendly, gentle, good-natured, laid-back, sensitive, slow to obey, stubborn
Bulldog: easygoing, dependable, possessive, single-minded, good-natured, tenacious,
Chow chow: aloof, independent, intelligent, introverted, mannerly, strong-willed
Mastiff: dignified, docile, good-natured, sensitive, headstrong, timid
Shih tzu: attention-loving, devoted, friendly, mildly stubborn, playful, good-natured
Saint Bernard: accepting of everyone, gentle, intelligent, loyal, relaxed, slow to mature, social
Pekingese: independent, loyal, polite with strangers, possessive, sensitive, stubborn
By Sandie Lampe
What to do with a feral cat
THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 1 million feral cats living in San Diego County. Our local suburban sprawl and lovely year-round climate are perfect for sustaining these homeless kitties. It’s quite possible that one day, while opening your back door to check on what’s blooming in your garden, you might come across one of these uninvited guests. The furry feline may look adorable, lonesome and hungry, but should you feed her? And, if you do, will she move into your yard and bring all her relatives?
Here’s what Julie Levy, the director of Maddie’s Shelter Medicine Program in Florida and an expert in feral cats, has to say on the matter.
Q: What is a feral cat?
A: Feral cats are domestic animals that are not socialized to people. They usually behave like urban wildlife, avoiding close contact with people but often seeking the benefits of food and shelter that come with loose associations with human society.
Q: What is a colony?
A: Feral cat “colonies” often form around a food source and can range from just a couple of cats to more than 100, although large colonies are the exception.
Q: How did this happen?
A: Cats have been living outdoors alongside human societies for 10,000 years. Thanks to the high-reproductive success of cats, the free-roaming community cat population is self-sustaining.
Q: Does a tame cat that’s been abandoned become wild and join a colony?
A: Cats that are lost or abandoned from homes often struggle to survive. Having not grown up in the wild, they never developed the skills to find a safe place to live and adequate nourishment. The stress and fear associated with abruptly losing a home and a family is enormous, just as it would be for a child that was suddenly lost and alone. It’s likely that most kittens that are abandoned do not survive to adulthood. Those that do usually gravitate toward a source of food and shelter, often intentionally or unintentionally provided by people. Many cats live on residential properties, either alone or with one or two other cats. Others live in colonies that can grow larger if their reproduction is unchecked. We estimate that adult females average a litter of four kittens each year. Other research shows that three out of four kittens won’t make it to breeding age and that if cats have a second litter in a season, the survival rate for them is much lower.
Q: Where are these colonies in San Diego?
A: It’s likely that colonies exist everywhere people do, including residential areas, industrial parks, strip malls, institutions and other places where food and shelter are available.
Q: What should we do when we encounter a colony?
A: Locating any other caregivers or people concerned about the colony to develop a well-supporting response to the colony is ideal. The best approach when encountering a colony is to initiate the process of trap/neuter/release. (Editor’s note: To find a trap/neuter/release clinic near you, call the Feral Cat Coalition, 619-758-9194.)
Q: When you have a feral cat come to your house, what should you do?
A: Give her a meal, borrow a trap and take her to a TNR clinic. She’ll reward you with her company and look to you for protection, even if she never lets you touch her.
Q: Can we invite a feral cat to be part of our family?
A: Some feral cats are actually lost pets and will readily accept joining a family. Feral kittens often can be tamed enough to come inside. Some older ferals become tamer as they age and spend their elder years inside. Most truly feral cats are too frightened to enjoy life inside or in close proximity to people and dogs and are better off left outside.
Pet Patrol: By Sandie Lampe
Custody battles for dogs are on the rise
"TRACY” AND “MIKE” SAT at the conference table, waiting for their attorneys to agree on the last part of their divorce-dispute resolution. The conference had come to a satisfactory settlement, except for one decision: Who gets the dog?
Dividing assets and personal treasures are difficult when couples divorce, but pet custody is becoming a T-bone of contention, too. Take, for instance, the recent custody battle over Puggles in which Dennis Derrich spent $60,000 to bring his dog back to New York after his ex took the dog to Los Angeles. Or the case of the San Diego divorcée who spent more than two years battling for the custody of Gigi, hired an animal-behavior expert to do a study on “canine bonding” (accompanied by a video documenting a day in the life of Gigi), and had legal bills that reportedly ran in excess of $140,000 by the end of the trial. That’s a lot of kibble!
Since animal laws (generally referred to as “Laws for Paws”) came to the forefront about 10 years ago, there has been a 23-percent jump in pet-custody cases. That’s because, more than ever before, pet owners consider their pets to be family. Legally, however, pets usually are deemed personal property — no different than a flat-screen TV.
Just four states — Maine, New York, California and Illinois — sometimes legally view pets as more than property. But with hundreds of child-support cases running through the court system, pet custody isn’t the issue that gets top priority.
So, what happens to pets during di-vorce proceedings? I interviewed San Diego attorney and certified family-law specialist Julia M. Garwood, owner and senior attorney at Garwood Family Law and Mediation, to get the scoop.
Q: How do pet owners come to an agreement on ownership during a divorce?
A: When parties are in agreement, some-times they consider sharing their animal, and a sharing arrangement is worked out. This is not necessarily called “custody.”
I also have seen “visitation rights,” where the party that keeps the residence keeps the pet and the other party sees the pet and takes it with him for five hours on a Saturday, for example.
Sometimes owners decide that the pet goes with the children. If the father has custody of the children, then he gets the pet, also.
If there are two pets and no children, the parties may agree that each party gets one of the pets. Or, for example, the wife takes the cats and husband takes the dogs.
Q: I’ve read articles about courts awarding “petimony,” which is like alimony except for pets. I’ve also read that the owner who is the primary caregiver for the pet is a consideration in pet-custody battles. What are some other considerations?
A: Often it depends on who lives where and whether there is a “pet welcome” policy at the new residence. (Once, I got the court to order that the dog be awarded to my client after we submitted pictures of the dog tied to the outside of the house in the rain.)
If the pet is purebred, the owner will be named on the title and that person “owns” the animal. Usually when this is the case, though, we find that the pet was a gift from the other party. Gifts, by definition, are considered to be the separate property of the person to whom they were given.
If one party obtains the pet before marriage, then that party owns the pet.
Q: Who pays for food and care, including vet bills?
A: The parties usually agree as to who pays the vet bills. The issue of vet bills often comes up if the pet is sick and/or old. One party keeps the pet and pays for the food but they split the vet bill. Burial costs are usually part of the veterinary bill.
Sandie advises: Do what’s best for your pet and place it where it will get the most companionship and loving care. To handle bones of contention and make life a lot easier if there is a custody battle over your pet, do the paperwork ahead of time. You can get legal paperwork on line at such places as Legal Zoom or write an agreement yourself about your pet … but don’t forget to sign it!
Pet Patrol: By Sandie Lampe