Here are eight messages I resolve to attempt to communicate in 2018:
Fear Free: There’s an initiative, called Fear Free, which began among veterinary professionals with the intent to lower the fear, anxiety, and stress of veterinary visits. And, that fear, anxiety, and stress is real. Most cats and many dogs are so terrified of going to the vet that they actually believe they are going to die. Can you imagine? No veterinary professional ever went into the profession to do anything other than to help pets.
When pets are that terrified, pet owners pick up on this stress and become anxious themselves. The result: These pet owners are less likely to return with their pets for routine exams.
And, when animals are terrified, the exam itself suffers: The blood work may be skewed, and the heart is beating so rapidly that hearing an abnormality is challenging.
You can help to mitigate these problems by finding a Fear Free certified veterinarian near you at fearfreepets.com.
You can also help by making other areas Fear Free for your pet. Whether your pet is being trained, groomed, or simply hanging out at home with the family, Fear Free tactics can be incorporated to help him stay calm and happy.
Some of those tactics include using pheromone products (like Adaptil for dogs and Feliway for cats), using treats to help divert a pet’s attention from an uncomfortable or scary procedure (like a nail trim), enriching your pet’s environment (with stimulating toys and activities), and ensuring your pet gets appropriate exercise. Learn more at fearfreehappyhomes.com.
Cat Friendly Practices: American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) Certified Cat Friendly Practices follow guidelines to ensure cats are happier (or at least more content) during and before veterinary visits. Veterinary practices that are certified as Cat Friendly voluntarily agree to meet new standards, based on what we know today, that focus of being friendlier to felines. I staunchly support Cat Friendly Practices, because the changes these practices make for our feline friends is transformational. If you’re not totally pleased with your veterinarian, ask the practice to become a Cat Friendly Practice, or seek one out.
Also, if you’re a cat lover, check out the Cat Community. Its purpose is to build a group of cat caregivers who want to provide the very best care for their cats. Powered by feline veterinarians, the Cat Community provides credible and trustworthy information on a variety of feline topics.
Founded in the 1970s as a small group of 25 veterinarians with a passion for feline medicine, the AAFP has grown exponentially and is now the established leader in the field of feline medicine, standing up against declawing cats with a new and powerful statement.
No Declaw: Why would a veterinarian declaw? And, with increasing science and a new product hitting the market called Feliscratch, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to defend the pro-declaw position.
The primary responsibility of veterinarians—and the oath they take in veterinary school—is to do no harm. Is declaw harmful? No matter how you feel about it, it is an elected amputation. Enough is enough.
Declaw is not only unnecessary, it’s cruel. By using Feliscratch and implementing simple behavior modifications, it can be avoided.
Preventive Care: Pets age far faster than people; one year for a dog or cat, can be six or more years for us. Imagine not seeing a doctor for six years. While we can observe the obvious, like a dog who isn’t eating or who is limping, our pets can’t tell us when something is wrong. Cats are especially adept at masking illness. And, most of us don’t have stethoscopes or laboratories at home to diagnose illness.
Preventive care will help catch disease early, which will usually lead to improved outcomes. It will also help to prevent your pet from suffering and save you money. The best medical prescription is to visit your veterinarian for checkups twice a year for life.
Be Positive: Any change in your pet’s behavior may be an indication that something is medically askew. Pets don’t “act out” to get back at us out of spite. When a pet is behaving poorly, and a medical explanation is ruled out, consider that a pet may be suffering from anxiety. If the dog is ripping pillows to shreds when you leave, it’s not because he is trying to get back at you. Rather, he could be suffering from separation distress. If the cat begins to urinate outside the litter box, and potential medical explanations have been ruled out, the possibilities are endless. Some cats do this because they aren’t getting along with another cat; some do it if the box isn’t scooped often enough; some don’t like the location of the box or the type of litter being used.
Instead of responding with punishment or aversive techniques, try rewarding behavior you do want by using treats and praise. And, try to set your pet up for success. Some problems, such as thunderstorm or separation anxiety, aggression, or others may require a qualified professional, such as veterinary behaviorist or a certified animal behavior consultant.
Smile: Dogs are motivated not as much by what we say as how we say it and how we look when we say it. New research has found that dogs understand our smiles and are comforted by them, just like people relate to smiles. So, resolve to smile at your dog more—you’ll both benefit. Every time we smile, endorphins in our heads do a little “happy dance.” And, with luck, your dog will smile back at you.
Dogs vs. Wolves: The TV commercials and other hype just isn’t right. Dogs are not wolves. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? No matter, feeding dogs as if they are wolves doesn’t make sense and offers zero benefits. In fact, dogs evolved with humans. And the wolf species dogs once evolved from has been extinct for a long time. Similarly, raising puppies like you’re a mother wolf isn’t advised.
Be a Partner: People who partner with their dog as a team find the experience incredibly rewarding, and the human-animal bond that results is special. Some examples include partaking in an organized canine sport (like agility), local events with a dog trainer (like nose work), or Pet Partner-sanctioned animal assisted activities. What’s best for one person or dog may not be best for another. But, the bond is always intensified when you work with one another. Take the time to share a slice of life in a special way and be a pet partner.