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Pet Care & Pet Health

Pets are our companions and our friends. They give a great deal to us and ask little in return — just the love of a caring master who will shelter and protect them, as we do our children. If you’re a pet lover, you may in fact treat your pets like children and even consider them as such.

The relationship between pets and humans appears to be symbiotic. Studies have shown that pets are good for us in numerous ways. Petting an animal is known to lower heart rate and blood pressure and brighten mood. A study found that simply watching fish in an aquarium made patients waiting to undergo medical procedures less anxious.

Pet Health & Safety Tips

While we value our pets for what they provide for us, many of us forget that pet ownership carries with it responsibilities. Our pets are dependent upon us to meet their needs; they cannot do this on their own. Pets require proper shelter, feeding and, when ill or injured, medical attention. Pets having fur or hair require grooming. Dogs and cats require quality time spent with their owners at play. Dogs and horses require daily outdoor exercise. Fish and birds are highly susceptible to environmental stress, but may not display symptoms until it is too late to prevent death.

All pet owners should be vigilant in watching out for situations and conditions that might bring discomfort or harm to their pets. This involves:
  • Employing common sense when caring for your pets;
  • Understanding that domesticated pets such as dogs and cats are neither people nor wild animals;
  • Learning as much as you can about the type and breed of pet you have or would like to have;
  • Maintaining proper diet and living conditions for your pet;
  • Being proactive in avoiding situations or conditions that might result in harm;
  • Learning how to interpret your pet’s behaviors so you can be attuned to behavioral changes that might signal a problem;
  • Talking to other pet owners who have similar pets;
  • Seeking veterinary or other expert assistance when you are unsure if there is a problem.

VERY  IMPORTANT!   All pets communicate, but not in ways we can readily understand. In the absence of overt symptoms such as an open wound or vomiting, behavioral changes are your pet’s ONLY method of telling you when something is wrong. Often these changes in behavior will be subtle, because an animal’s instinct, acquired from the wild, is to not show weakness. It is therefore imperative that you know your animal and its patterns of behavior. Visual inspection of feces may also provide clues to a pet’s health.

Some helpful hints (“do’s and don’ts”, if you will) for pet owners and those thinking of becoming pet owners:
  • NEVER,  EVER leave an animal (or a child or elderly person) in a closed vehicle on a hot day. How often have you burned yourself on the buckle of your seatbelt when getting into a hot car? Temperatures inside a closed vehicle, even with windows cracked open, can, within minutes, soar to 120° F. (49° C.) — enough to kill or cause heat stroke. This seems obvious, yet each year hundreds of animals (and some children) die in just this way, often at the hands of otherwise thoughtful owners who simply forgot. Remember, too, that a shady spot may not remain shady. Leave your pet inside your cool(er) home (NOT IN THE GARAGE, which can get nearly as hot as a car!) if you must travel on a hot day.
  • During the winter, don’t leave pets outside in below freezing temperatures. Animals can get frostbite on exposed surfaces such as their feet and ears nearly as easily as people can. If you must keep your dog outdoors when it’s cold, be sure he or she has a well-insulated dog house containing soft, insulating material on which to lie.

    If you must leave your pet outside during the day, be certain they have a protective shelter to which they can retreat that will protect them from sun, cold, wind and rain. Be sure an outdoor cat has an emergency perch well above ground level to which it can retreat if pursued by a dog or other aggressive animal.

  • Don’t put the cat out at night. Cats left outside at night get into fights with other cats and can fall prey to wild animals. In the Southwestern U.S. and Southern California, it is a well-known fact that cats and even small dogs left out overnight may become coyote food. Owls have recently become a nighttime predator problem for pet owners in Northern California. While we’re on the subject, the average life span of cats kept indoors is significantly greater than that of cats allowed to roam free.

  • Keep your dog on leash unless you are in an approved fenced-in area such as a dog park. We all think we know our pets, but they can surprise us by running away, running into the roadway, or pursuing an animal, person or vehicle. Remember, too, that many municipalities have leash laws. If an altercation ensues in which your dog is off leash and bites an animal or person, then even if your dog was provoked, you will probably be held legally responsible.

  • Always be sure your pet has plenty of fresh water to drink. Change the water several times per day. If your pet is outside, make sure the water stays cool and that your pet has access to a shady area.

  • Don’t feed your pets “people food”. Also, some pet treats are not especially healthy for animals. (Kinda like people snacks — you know?) Diet is extremely important for your pet’s health and longevity; research pet foods thoroughly so you can choose the right food for your pet. Dry foods tend to keep an animal’s teeth cleaner than moist foods. By the way, a morsel of table food once in a while won’t really harm your pet (except for some specific foods such as chocolate and grapes, which should never be given to pets); let’s face it, we all do it. But this should be a rare event, and don’t feed your dog or cat the fatty scraps you wouldn’t eat yourself.

    Don’t allow your dog to chew on natural bones such as the one from the Sunday roast. Bones can splinter under chewing pressure; chicken bones are extremely dangerous in this regard and should never under any circumstance be given to a pet. A splintered bone can lodge in an animal’s throat, presenting a choking hazard, or perforate the intestinal wall if not thoroughly digested within the stomach. Purchase synthetic bones from your local pet store or through our Pet Products & Supplies section instead.

    NOTE:  We receive quite a few searches by visitors whose pets have apparently ingested chicken bones. If this should happen, the best thing to do is to call your veterinarian immediately and seek their advice. If your vet is unavailable when the incident occurs (evening or weekend, for example), observe your pet carefully for at least 48 hours for signs that it is in distress and contact your vet as soon as you can. Do NOT try to induce vomiting. If the bone is small and not splintered, odds are good that it will do no damage. If your pet begins choking and cannot stop, get it to a vet immediately! (You should always have the number of a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital on your refrigerator door or in a prominent location.) If your pet shows no ill effects within 48 hours, continue to monitor for about two weeks for signs of illness, which will develop slowly if the intestine has been perforated. If you believe your pet is becoming ill, inform your vet immediately about the bone ingestion and follow his or her advice.

    Discard food scraps, bones and spoiled food in pet-proof containers and make certain those containers are tightly closed. You might be amazed at what animals will eat and how ingenious they are at getting to a forbidden food item. I knew a golden retriever who chewed through a plastic container to ingest an entire quart of lard. Another golden wolfed down a rotten goose egg she found under a bush as I walked her in the park before I even knew what she was doing! (Both dogs were ultimately OK, although the first mentioned did not feel too well for a few days. We discovered later that the quantity of lard ingested could have proven fatal.)

    Some common houseplants and outdoor plants are toxic to animals. Furthermore, pet owners often have misconceptions regarding what plants are toxic. Poinsettia, thought by many pet owners to be highly toxic, is actually far less toxic than is Easter lily, which can be fatal to cats. Plants should be kept away from animals who are curious or like to chew — or the animals should be kept away from the plants. It may be necessary to eliminate toxic plants from a pet’s habitat altogether to avoid poisoning. Note that a pet who has never exhibited a penchant for chewing plants may suddenly develop the urge when a new plant is introduced into its environment.

    Finally, some “people foods” are toxic to animals. Chocolate is toxic to some dogs, but did you know about grapes?

  • Make sure your pet is properly vaccinated and gets his or her required booster shots. Vaccination is now available for most but not all common dog and cat diseases, some of which are potentially fatal. An unvaccinated indoor cat may be at risk, even if it does not come into direct contact with an infected cat, from secondary contact and because some feline diseases are airborne. Also, indoor cats often temporarily escape; a brief encounter while outdoors, or walking through an area where an infected animal has been, may be all that is necessary to infect your precious family member. Get those shots!

  • Most canine diseases are not transmissible to cats. Most feline diseases are not transmissible to dogs. Most animal diseases are not transmissible to humans. Most does not mean all. Always use common sense and proper hygiene. Parasitic diseases and fungal infections are most easily transmitted between species. So before you let your dog kiss you, ask yourself, “Where has that tongue been?” On the other hand, don’t get freaked if the neighbor’s dog licks your child’s face.

    A cat’s mouth is actually considered to be much dirtier than a dog’s, as a cat’s mouth contains a much higher concentration of bacteria. By the way, the oft rumored cat scratch fever is real, but is neither common nor a major health concern. Any animal scratch should be thoroughly washed and disinfected to remove bacteria that may reside on the animal’s claws. An accidental animal bite, if shallow and from a known and trusted animal, may be treated in the same way. Any bite from an unfamiliar animal (such as a dog that you have never seen before), a deep bite, or a bite from a wild animal should be immediately treated by a physician. Bites from wild animals or from unfamiliar animals for whom an owner cannot be located may require innoculation against rabies, and should be reported to police and health authorities.

  • If you have both a dog and a cat that get along well, care must be taken with regard to the dog’s safety. Cats can get a bit aggressive in their play, and on occasion will attack a dog’s eyes. While a dog under this sort of playful “attack” will usually simply close its eyes or turn its head away, an errant claw might cause significant damage to a dog’s eye. I can personally tell you that a friend’s cat has been with five different dogs over the course of seven years, has exhibited this behavior frequently with them all, and has never done any damage. It always pays to be safe, however. Cats generally perform this play in front of their masters as a form of Alpha behavior; simply shooing the cat away, then praising it when it complies, is usually enough to stop an attack.

  • Despite the danger posed by a cat’s claws, do not have your cat declawed unless there is an overriding reason for doing so. Declawing can result in permanent physical and psychological changes to a cat. Worse, a declawed cat that escapes outdoors is defenseless and cannot climb to reach safety. Please examine options other than declawing if you are concerned about the damage a cat can do with its claws.

Authored by Kenneth L. Anderson.  Original article published 21 July 2003, updated 27 July 2010.

Ten Spider Pets & Companion Animals provides information and resources that can help you locate and acquire a pet, protect the well-being and health of your pet, and maximize your pet’s quality of life. For information pertaining to pet care and pet health, our Pet Care & Pet Health SiteMap immediately below will help you to quickly locate the resources you seek.



    • Pet Feeding
    • Pet Grooming
    • Exercising Your Pet




    • Sources of Allergens for Pets
    • Reducing Pet Allergens
    • Treatment of Pet Allergies



    • Avoiding Animal Attack
    • Avoiding Pet Accidents
    • Treatment of Pet Injuries


    • Bites & Stings
    • Foods Toxic to Pets & Other Animals
    • Pets & Household Chemical Poisoning
    • Plants Toxic to Pets & Other Animals
    • Treatment of a Poisoned Pet


    • How to Recognize Pain in Pets
    • Alleviation of Your Pet’s Pain
    • Euthanasia for a Suffering Pet Back to Top

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