Should You Take Your Pet On Long Trips?

When the coronavirus pandemic finally dies down and herd immunity is reached — through the new vaccines becoming widely available, we hope — it stands to reason that many people will decide to pack their bags and travel as much as possible before heading back home to the daily grind. That makes sense. We’re all tired. We’re all weary. But there are some things to consider before we get up to leave — especially for those of us who own pets.

First and foremost, the greatest concern is the mode of travel. Many people enjoy flying, as it can be quite economical and efficient these days. But that might not be the best way to get from point A to point B if you’re traveling with a beloved pet. If flying with a cat or dog, try to keep it with you (a veterinarian can help provide a means to sedate your pet) on the flight. Allowing the pet to be placed in the luggage compartment can be traumatic for a pet, especially when all they want is to be with you!

Road trips are a beloved mode of travel for many, but they also come with their own set of challenges — even if you have all the amenities, as those traveling in any kind of recreational vehicle might be accustomed to having. Pets thrive off of routine (especially cats, but dogs as well), and so they might become more and more stressed the longer you travel. This is especially true if you plan to move from one environment to the next.

Going on a road trip? Make sure you bring more water than you need. Pets can overheat and won’t necessarily make their needs known until it’s too late. Make sure you bring your pet’s veterinary records along for the ride, just in case you need to bring them to the vet. Make sure your pet has its own space. Most important? Let them out to use the bathroom as often as possible!

Keep Stray Animals Off The Streets And Out Of Shelters

Not all communities are created equal. Many aspects of life are different in the south. One of those revolves around treatment of, and care for, animals. Fewer cats and dogs are spayed or neutered in some southern states like Virginia, especially in or around rural communities. Cats are especially bad for the environment because they’re nature’s little serial killers. How can we keep stray animals off the streets and out of shelters?

One of the most obvious answers is through increased regulation. Spaying or neutering pets is the only way to ensure populations don’t skyrocket out of control, which is something already happening around the country. These pets are much more likely to belong to owners who also keep them outdoors the majority of the time, which means they’re also far more likely to reproduce. When pets multiply, they’re left behind. Spaying or neutering pets should be mandatory. 

Another way to help keep pets safe and secure in the loving hands of an actual pet owner is to create awareness about shelters and pet populations. Take Debra Griggs, for example, a resident of Norfolk, Virginia. When she found a small stray dog in 1998, her first instinct was to bring it to an animal shelter for safety. After speaking with the management at several, she realized this was tantamount to a likely death sentence.

Griggs said, “As I began to talk to shelters, I realized the chances of that dog getting out alive was less than 50 percent.”

She eventually found a home for the dog, but realized she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t do something to help solve the problem.

“My heart opened up to the unconditional love that pets give us only later to find out the majority of them were losing their lives in public shelters. I had to go work on that,” she said.

Griggs went on to establish Animal Resources of Tidewater in 1999. Based in Norfolk, it provides many services to the community’s stray pet population, including one program that traps stray cats and dogs to safely spay or neuter before releasing them. The nonprofit also provides support to pet owners who can’t afford medical treatments for their ailing pets, which is one of the biggest reasons why pet owners send their animals to shelters. The rate of euthanasia for these pets is close to 100 percent.

Griggs added, “We provide veterinary care to pets whose owners could not afford it and would surrender their animal to a shelter. We believed if you paid for the care, the animal stayed in its home, which is better for the animal and the family and kept the animal out of the shelter….In [the] early days, we saved in excess of 2,000 dogs and cats.”

But she didn’t feel she was making an impact until much later down the road. But eventually, those programs paid off. In fact, the pet save rate rose from the aforementioned 50 percent to 71 percent by 2015. It had risen even further to 82 percent in 2019. 

Everything You Need To Know About Winter Pet Safety

Pet owners make mistakes regarding the safety of their animals in winter — especially those who have never owned one before. This is in part because of ignorance and misconception, and in part because of oversight. We tend to believe our pets are more suited to the outdoors than we are, especially in colder weather, but this isn’t necessarily supported by the facts.

Rhea County Animal Control Officer Cheyenne Swafford said, “Cats and dogs should be kept inside during cold weather. It’s a common belief that dogs and cats are more resistant to weather because of their fur, but it’s untrue. Like people, cats and dogs are susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia and should be kept inside.”

That doesn’t mean you can’t walk your pet or allow it outside to use the natural facilities. It only means that time spent outside should be severely limited, dependent on several factors like age, health, breed, etc.

Swafford continued, “You will probably need to shorten your dog’s walks in very cold weather to protect you both from weather-associated health risks. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice and may be more prone to slipping and falling.”

And don’t assume that a long-haired pet is immune to the cold weather. They have an extra layer of protection, but that’s not enough to protect them from sub-zero temperatures.

“Short-haired pets feel the cold faster because they have less protection,” Swafford explained. “Short-legged pets may become colder faster because their bellies and bodies are more likely to come into contact with snow-covered ground.”

Health is also important. Just like their human owners, some pets have diabetes, heart disease, and kidney disease — all of which make them less likely to fare well when outside for long periods of time in colder weather. It’s important to take care of your beloved pets!

How Do We Care For Our Animals During Hurricane Season?

Man made climate change is leading to a warmer planet — and it’s not enough just to say it out loud. We need to know exactly what that means. What are the consequences? Long-term consequences include damage to our economy, displacement in the millions, flooding, agricultural issues, etc. But the short-term consequences are already here. We need to prepare for them now, not try to stop them from happening. One short-term consequence is a longer — and more damaging — hurricane season. 

When it comes to animals, this is an especially big deal. Dogs and cats don’t know what to do when they’re trapped indoors during a big storm or hurricane. They panic! Part of the reason for this is that they sense our own anxiety and fear. They know when something is wrong.

That’s why we need to do our best to protect and care for them in the event of a worst case scenario. Luckily, most of the relevant steps to care for our animals are the same for us. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Make sure you know where to evacuate if the order comes down the pipeline or you simply decide you’re more comfortable somewhere else. Always have a plan ahead of time. Make sure your Great Aunt Sally knows that she’s a part of the plan if that’s where you would go in case of a storm. 
  • Make sure you have a two-week supply of food and water in case you’re at home when the power goes out. You never know when the roads might be blocked. Put together a kit with flashlight, batteries, blankets, etc. Keep a radio on hand (battery operated). You might even want to exchange walkie talkies with at-risk neighbors who you trust.
  • Stay away from windows and glass doors. Stay on the first floor when possible, and stay in a small windowless room, closet, or hallway. If you want more space, then be sure to sufficiently board up or block windows. 
  • Make sure all appliances are unplugged if you do lose power. 
  • Turn off the breaker if you’re in an area prone to flooding.
  • The FDA suggests keeping pets in carriers, but we realize not everyone can stomach taking terrified animals and placing them in even more confined quarters. You can consider keeping them cooped up with you, but keep them leashed when you do. 
  • Keep pillowcases on-hand. If you need to evacuate or leave in a hurry, these are useful for scooping up cats. This is also good advice if you have a house fire.

No one wants to leave. But in the event of hurricane damage property evacuation, you might need to do exactly that. If you have to get out of the house, then bring your pets with you. Friends and family are the best options to provide shelter when you have pets, as not all emergency shelters will take pets too. You can ask your local emergency management agency for information about which shelters will allow both you and your animals.

How Many Pet Owners Believe All Dogs Go To Heaven?

The United States of America is a country filled with millions of people who have strong beliefs — that should be more than obvious considering the venom and fire we’ve seen in this current presidential contest. But what do people believe regarding their animal friends? Many Americans believe in an afterlife. Most of us are religious. But do those beliefs hold true for our pets? Do pet owners believe their cats and dogs go to heaven?

According to Live Science, “heaven” for pets is a notion that’s been around for quite a while — but it’s grown in popularity over the last century or two. True, our pets have become closer and closer to us over the years. It shouldn’t be so surprising that those of us who believe in the afterlife want to bring them with us.

And we don’t just know this because of oddball surveys, either. We know this because archaeologists have studied the graves of humans all the way back to the Paleolithic Era. Human graves that held the remains of dogs became increasingly common then and throughout the Stone Age.

But in Hyde Park, London there was a pet cemetery established in 1881. That may have been the very first one, but since then there have been thousands commemorated all over the world. Perhaps that’s the real reason why the concept of a “pet afterlife” has become more widespread. A savvy businessman simply discovered that there was a demand for this strange service. That could have led to more people actually considering the possibility that religious beliefs could extend to our animals.

During the 20th century, gravestone inscriptions have been found to include snippets describing the relationship to the family pet — and many even use religious icons that could show their beliefs in the “souls” of those animals. A new study showed us much.

Americans Are Struggling With Their Veterinary Care Bills

Citizens of the United States are known for living in luxury — but the truth is that most of us cannot afford a single unexpected $400 expense. And the coronavirus pandemic has wiped out that cash for most of us. A pet that needs surgery can result in a steep bill in the thousands. The vast majority of us would need to decide between keeping our pet alive and healthy at great expense — or letting our pet go earlier than we ever wanted.

Thankfully, there are financial options available to those who need them. You just need to know where to look.

First and foremost, lowering medical costs means taking advantage of several elements. You need to ensure your pet has a routine checkup just like you do! Good preventative care can lower big costs later. Not only that, they help keep veterinary clinics open until you really need them. Preventative care means vaccinations, parasitic control, and managing weight — because even pets can sometimes be obese.

If you were already hit by the bill after veterinary care, then a credit card debt relief lawyer might be able to provide you with additional options. You can also check in with a financial advisor to help manage your expenditures and reduce bills at home as much as possible. Refinancing your debt with the bank or transferring to a card with a lower interest rate is possible as well.

For those who are simply worried about what they might do if their pet gets sick and needs major surgery, there are many low-cost clinics around the country. Not all of these clinics offer the highest standard of care, but they can often provide preventative care. Talking to your veterinarian about financial issues is the safest way to go about it, because they can often provide payment plans to significantly reduce the burden.

Some states have a veterinary medical association to offer assistance or provide contact information to other helpful organizations, most of which will help mitigate your costs if you have a real financial need. A few you might look at include: Red Rover Relief, Cat Emergency Assistance, The Pet Fund, Banfield Charitable Trust, and Elderly, Disabled, Handicapped Pets.

What about those who are looking for debt relief because they’re studying veterinary care? They need help too.

Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Aja of the Banfield Pet Hospital said, “High levels of veterinary student debt are plaguing the industry, and Banfield is committed to helping veterinarians address this significant burden. As we continue to dedicate ourselves to continuous improvement as a practice, we’re investing in the new Banfield Veterinary Student Debt Relief Pilot Program to support our doctors first and foremost — but also set the bar for the veterinary profession to help address this industry-wide issue.”

The Banfield program provides low-interest refinancing solutions with a low interest rate, a monthly student-loan contribution, and a $2,500 payment to qualifying student doctors.  

More Human-to-Animal Transmission of Coronavirus Discovered

We’ve already discussed scientific findings that shed light onto whether or not your housepets can catch coronavirus (the chance is infinitesimally tiny and was never really confirmed), but what about other animals? It turns out that humans who have caught coronavirus can spread the disease to minks, which are also susceptible to COVID-19. And you might be surprised at the damage to mink populations!

Minks are animals — and that means there are no social distancing regulations or government-imposed restrictions for them to follow when interacting with one another.

That’s how 10,000 minks in Utah died of COVID-19 in Utah according to an NBC News report. The real damage to mink populations, though, was done when government officials decided it was better to be safe rather than sorry — and chose to cull over one million of the animals to guarantee that they would not be a threat to humans.

While this response might seem like overkill, it’s important to remember that the single greatest chance for a virus to mutate is during species to species transmission. And what might not be deadly to one animal could be deadly to another.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is very little risk of catching the virus from an animal. Of course, that won’t comfort people who remember the theories about how the virus propelled into the spotlight into the first place.

COVID-19 attacks and damages the lungs and other organs of minks in much the same way as it does in humans. More information is still needed to understand the long-term effects of the disease that has already killed over 200,000 Americans. There are a number of reports of COVID-19 survivors returning to the hospital with lung and heart damage, among other serious complications. Protect yourself and others by wearing a mask!

Pet Grooming Businesses Going Out of Business Because of COVID-19

Prior to 2020, pet businesses were booming — grooming services, adoptive services, dog walking, petsitting, pet shampoo. You name it and it was selling. But that all changed earlier this year when COVID-19 forced local and state governments to shut down much of the economy. Many of the jobs that kept those businesses afloat went out the window, and the CARES Act didn’t provide nearly enough aid to mend the damage. 

The end result? Thousands of pet care businesses have gone belly up. This is especially true in cities like New York, where coronavirus hit hardest. 

Business bankruptcy lawyer Ryan Reinert said, “By the end of the year, you’re going to start seeing more filings of foreclosure cases, and then those go through litigation, and then you end up with bankruptcy as an option. One of the first things that you want to have a very good feel for is: What’s your goal? Is it a normal Chapter 11 case for reorganization, or is it filed under the Small Business Reorganization Act? Do you intend to sell the company?”

Pet business owners will have to make all of these decisions quickly — decisions that are very different from those made on an individual or family basis — to reduce the debt impact.

“If it’s a sale case,” Reinert added, “you want to ensure that the party that’s coming in to acquire your lease can continue to perform and has the same type of financial basis or better as the debtor had at the time that you entered into the case. Often, you end up with a long-term lease as part of that. And that’s a very successful result.”

The good news is this: not all pet businesses have to deal with lease payments unrelated to the home, because that’s where they usually work from. 

Also, the market was already changing before coronavirus struck. For example, a whopping 22 percent of the pet products market was dominated by the online marketplace. Coronavirus helped propel companies who were already selling online as a primary mode of business to even greater heights. Those who failed to adapt in time were the ones feeling financial pains the most, and certainly they are the ones most likely to go out of business.

Still, there are other concerns. Because the average consumer has less money to spend, a smaller slice of the pie goes to Fido. Pet product sales were initially forecasted at 5 percent growth for 2020, but those forecasts were then revised to show no growth at all. Supplies diminished by nearly a quarter, and service requests were slashed by about a half. That’s a huge problem for small business owners who relied on profits to put food on the table for their families.

Now that President Trump is being wishy washy about new coronavirus relief aid (and also because Congress might not have come to an agreement anyway), it’s anyone’s guess whether or not help will come soon enough to help businesses just hanging on for dear life.

CDC Recommendations: If You Have Pets During Coronavirus Outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have established best practices for households with pets. While there is only a small chance of human-to-pet transmission, these practices should still be followed if you would like to keep your cat or dog safe and healthy!

This is what you should do if you have pets and worry about transmitting coronavirus:

  • Do not allow people from outside the household to interact with your pet.
  • Do not allow cats outside during the outbreak.
  • Do not allow dogs to wander outside when not on a leash.
  • Do not use face coverings on your pets; these can affect respiratory response and actually harm your animals!
  • Avoid large gatherings and public areas.
  • When sick, do not care for your pet; ask someone else in the household who is not yet sick. When there is no other option but to care for your pet on your own, use a face covering for yourself. Wash hands with warm water and soap both before and after interacting with your animal.
  • Avoid close contact with your pet. Avoid being licked or cuddling.
  • Be sure to clean up pet waste quickly.
  • Contact your local veterinary clinic if you have additional questions about your pet’s health!

There might be a circumstance in which both you and your pet become sick at the same time. It’s important to know if you have the coronavirus infection/COVID-19. If you do, then avoid traveling to the veterinary clinic! You will only be spreading the virus and putting other pets and pet owners at risk.

Instead, call the clinic to ask about help. They will have their own best practices put into place and will know exactly how to help most efficiently. Some will want to video conference with you.

For additional information, check the CDC website which will be updated routinely as new information is learned: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/pets.html

Pet Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Dies After Quarantine

Authorities have assured pet owners that there is little evidence humans or pets can transmit the novel coronavirus to one another. Minute traces of coronavirus have been found after testing several Hong Kong pets, but scientists believe these traces did not represent infection. Instead, they were just the result of a virus floating around because the owner was infected. A number of blood samples were tested; each was returned from the lab with a negative result.

Regardless, the owner’s dog was placed in quarantine for two weeks before being returned. Shortly thereafter, the dog passed away. This has kick-started a number of conspiracy theories about pet to human or human to pet transmission, but none of them hold much weight. Sadly but understandably, the owner did not want her dog to be opened up in a lab post-mortem. No autopsy is scheduled.

The AFCD explained that the original “negative result indicates that there is not a strong immune response and that there are not measurable amounts of antibodies in the blood at this stage.”

Coronaviruses can mutate very easily, but the virus present in both pet and pet owner were genetically similar. The AFCD said, “The sequence results indicate that the virus likely spread from the infected persons and subsequently infected the dog.”

Many pet health organizations stress that the dog’s health was likely impacted only after being taken from its owner, and that the dog’s death should not represent cause for concern. The World Health Organization has also said that there is scant evidence that cats or dogs can help spread the virus.

The AFCD said, “This is, however, a rapidly evolving situation, and information will be updated as it becomes available. [But] … there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare.”

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) said that it would urge members to thoroughly wash hands with soap and warm water rather than panic about the potential of transmission. 

The Maine-based Idexx Laboratories has already tested and evaluated the blood results of thousands of cats and dogs and found no evidence of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus strain that causes the disease COVID-19.

Idexx spokespersons said, “The new test results align with the current expert understanding that the virus is primarily transmitted person-to-person and supports the recommendation against testing pets for the COVID-19 virus.”