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Pet Care

Tips to embrace pet care for life

First-time and experienced pet owners should work with their veterinarian to establish a balanced healthcare regimen and find effective solutions to provide their dog with the best care throughout its lifespan.

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Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the US and Canada, a division of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., USA, announced a new survey about first-time dog owners and whether or not they were prepared for pet parenthood. Results from the “Embracing Pet Care for Life” survey revealed that taking care of a new pet, especially during a pandemic, may not be as simple as one may think.

While many people found comfort during the COVID-19 pandemic by bringing home new dogs for companionship, the survey found that 73% of those who became dog owners for the first time this year have considered re-homing once the pandemic ends.1 This is likely driven by a lack of knowledge of what it takes to care for a pet, as one in four (25%) also claim they don’t have enough information to properly care for their dog. In fact, among new dog owners who brought home puppies this year, more than half (58%) say they wish taking care of their pet’s health didn’t take so much time, and 33% were surprised to find out how much it costs to care for their pet.  

“Based on our recent survey, it appears the pandemic has intensified some of the challenges faced by many new dog owners,” said Christine Royal, DVM, Executive Director of Veterinary Professional Services, Merck Animal Health. “While people may have brought home a pet during the pandemic for all the right reasons, the reality is that pet ownership takes knowledge, preparation and patience. This reality is sometimes overshadowed by the excitement of bringing home a new pet. As a result, first-time pet owners who brought home a dog or puppy during the pandemic are experiencing a few more challenges compared to experienced pet owners. Luckily, there are several ways to streamline pet care that can improve the health and well-being of both dog owners and their furry friends.”  

Survey results indicated that 70% of all dog owners would like to learn new ways to keep their dog healthy, whether a puppy or fully grown. First-time and experienced pet owners should work with their veterinarian to establish a balanced healthcare regimen and find effective solutions to provide their dog with the best care throughout its lifespan.

Photo by BRUNO CERVERA from Unsplash.com

Expel Excess Energy

More than one-third (38%) of pandemic puppy owners say they were surprised by how much attention their pet requires. Additionally, one-third (33%) of the people who became dog owners for the first time during the pandemic (“pandemic first-time dog owners”) and are now considering re-homing their dog cited their dog’s high energy as a contributing factor.

  • Pet Care Tip: For those with pets that have excessive energy, try taking them on shorter, more frequent walks throughout the day. Pet activity trackers also can help by monitoring a dog’s activity and sending alerts if there are any changes in behavior, so their owners can then make adjustments as needed. Always remember that excessive energy is common in dogs of all ages as they get accustomed to a new home.

Protect Puppies from Parasites

One-third (35%) of pandemic first-time dog owners say giving their dog flea and tick preventative treatments has been an unexpected hurdle, ranking this responsibility as even more difficult than housebreaking. With this in mind, it comes to no surprise that nearly one-third (29%) of all pandemic puppy owners, including both experienced and first-time dog owners, said they were surprised to learn how much parasites can impact their dog’s health.

  • Pet Care Tip: For many pandemic puppy owners who were surprised by how much parasites can impact their dog’s health; the key is to make sure young pups are protected. Puppies can also be exposed to internal intestinal parasites, so it’s important for dog owners to think about complementary products which offer broad-spectrum, internal and external parasite protection against six different kind of parasites in dogs and puppies. Just remember to always talk to a veterinarian about the proper medications and dosage for puppies.

Simplify Parasite Prevention for Adult Dogs

Only slightly more than half (57%) of pandemic first-time dog owners consider themselves knowledgeable about their pet’s preventative healthcare such as parasite prevention, even though most of them originally thought they were adequately or even overly prepared before bringing a new dog home. Additionally, 37% of people who already owned dogs have been spending more time with their four-legged companions outside since the pandemic started, which includes taking them on more walks (38%), going hiking (14%), camping (11%) and bringing them to parks more often (18%). As a result, they are potentially exposing their dog(s) to more fleas and ticks than usual, making parasite protection critical.

  • Pet Care Tip: Parasite protection is something that remains critical throughout a dog’s lifetime. Keep it simple and effective. Knowing parasite protection is critical to a dog’s long-term health and well-being, pet owners should talk to their veterinarian about preventative products that fight against the most common, harmful parasites that affect dogs inside and out. 

Maintain a Preventative Care Schedule

Nearly one-fourth of pandemic first-time dog owners (22%) report they have encountered unexpected challenges when trying to schedule veterinary appointments. Approximately one-third (27%) of people who owned dogs prior to the pandemic said this was a challenge for them, as well.

  • Pet Care Tip: Regular veterinarian visits are key to preventing health issues among dogs, especially when it comes to recommended core vaccinations that protect them from serious diseases. A monthly schedule can help. Talk to your veterinarian about a preventative care schedule and try not to skip any appointments. Also, keep in mind that recommendations for some vaccines and other preventative measures may vary depending on the dog’s overall lifestyle, activity levels and local climate, so talk to a veterinarian about your dog’s unique needs.
Photo by Matthew Henry from Unsplash.com

Recognize Your Veterinary Team is a Valuable Resource – Even Virtually

Overall, more than half of pandemic dog owners say they wish taking care of their dog’s health was easier and less time consuming (57% and 56%, respectively). Nearly half of pre-pandemic dog owners feel the same way (46% and 34%, respectively); however, only 19% of them say they have spoken to their vet more often during the pandemic.

  • Pet Care Tip: Your entire veterinary team can be a great resource for pet care advice, including the veterinarian nurses at your local clinic. As a pet owner, consider writing down all pet care questions and/or challenges in advance to gather trustworthy advice from the veterinarian during the next visit. And for dog owners having trouble scheduling in-person or curbside veterinary appointments, ask the veterinary team about telemedicine and if a virtual visit is possible. 

“The increased interest in pet parenting has been incredibly heartening, particularly given the emotional strain caused by the global pandemic. It’s inspiring to see thousands of families opening their doors and their hearts to welcome new pets into their home,” said Courtney Campbell, DVM, DACVS-SA, veterinary surgeon at Vetsurg. “As veterinary professionals, we aim to make these transitions a success and want pets to stay in their forever home. My goal is to always empower people to be the best pet parents they possibly can. I encourage all new pet families to foster an open and trusting dialogue with their veterinary medical team. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or get your questions answered. With these pet care tips in mind, you’ll be able to enjoy each other’s company for a long time.”

For more information and professional advice on how to embrace pet care for life, visit merck-animal-health-usa.com and follow Merck Animal Health on social media.

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Pet Care

5 Ways to support cats in your community

To help cats in homes and communities enjoy great lives, consider these five ways you can help.

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From social media to video games, cats rule the internet. They’re a constant source of joy and entertainment, and a beloved part of more than 45 million American homes, according to the American Pet Products Association. There are also millions of free-roaming and homeless cats across the country, however.

To help cats in homes and communities enjoy great lives, Mars Petcare’s BETTER CITIES FOR PETS program is working to create more pet-friendly communities. Consider these five ways you can help and learn more at BetterCitiesforPets.com.

1. Provide a forever home. Many shelters are facing increased intake as pet parents feel forced to give up their pets due to hardship. In fact, Shelter Animals Count revealed cat intakes in June were double that of January. Check with your local shelter to learn about adoption options and resources to help. Your community might offer sponsored programs to help local cats get adopted.

2. Make sure your cat has kitty ID. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, microchipped cats are more than 20 times more likely to be returned to their owners than those without chips. One of the first things a shelter or veterinarian will do with a found cat is scan for a microchip, so it’s an easy way to ID your cat if lost and help him or her get home. Also make sure your contact information associated with the microchip is up to date.

3. Share the love. If you’re a cat parent, you know the importance of healthy nutrition, routine vet visits and active play to exercise your cat’s mind and body. You can also help homeless cats enjoy these necessities by supporting your local shelter or rescue. Donate food or funds for medical care, volunteer to help socialize cats or become an ambassador for adoption by sharing social posts about cats looking for homes.

4. Learn about community cats. If your city has a lot of free-roaming cats, you might be surprised to learn they’re probably being cared for on a regular basis through a community cat program aimed at helping humanely reduce overpopulation and nuisance behaviors. In these programs, shelters, volunteers and cities work together to feed, spay or neuter, vaccinate and care for outdoor cats.

5. Become a community cat advocate. There are various ways to support community cat programs, including getting involved as a feeder, donating food or supplies, or helping with trap-neuter-return events. You can also write letters to your city government to explain the benefits of community cat care and pet-friendly policies. Your voice matters and cats can benefit from your support.

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Pet Care

Tips to keep your pets safe from thieves

Pet theft is constantly on the rise, so it’s important to stay vigilant with your pet at all times. Leaving your dog unattended is never a good idea, and the cost of losing a family member is devastating.

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Pet theft is constantly on the rise, so it’s important to stay vigilant with your pet at all times. Leaving your dog unattended is never a good idea, and the cost of losing a family member is devastating. Staying alert is key, whether you’re home or out walking your dog. Pet thefts have risen 40% since 2021, so it is increasingly important to take precautions to keep your pet safe.

The American Kennel Club and AKC Reunite are here to give you tips on keeping your pets safe from thieves.

  • Walk close. When you’re out on walks with your dog, keep them on the leash and in-sight at all times. This will reduce the likelihood of them wandering off or catching the attention of someone with the intent to steal.
  • Never leave your dog unattended in your yard. Whether your yard is in your front or backyard, leaving them outside by themselves makes them an easy target for thieves. Especially if your yard is visible from the street, they become an easy target if alone.
  • Avoid isolated routes. Especially early in the morning or late at night, avoid routes with few people and buildings if possible. If there are others around, your pet is less likely to be stolen, or in the case that they are, there are more likely witnesses.
  • Be wary of what information you give out. It’s fairly normal for strangers to approach you and admire your dog on walks, but giving out too much information about your dog can also put them at risk. Information like how much your dog cost, or details about where you live are not things you should share.
  • Vary your route. Walking the same routes with your dog every day might seem like a great idea, but it’s also a great way for someone looking to steal your dog to make themselves aware of your routine and where you go. Varying your walking route makes it harder for thieves to find you and your dog.
  • Don’t tie your dog outside a store. Leaving your dog tied up outside of a store unattended is extremely dangerous, even if you can see them from the window. It only takes moments for your attention to be elsewhere and someone to untie them and take them along. If you need to go in stores, go to dog-friendly establishments or leave your dog at home.
  • Don’t leave your dog in the car. Similarly to leaving them outside, leaving your dog in your car unattended is not only dangerous for the dog, but also can prompt thieves to break in, or steal your vehicle.
  • Be diligent. In the event that your pet is lost, post recent photos of your pet everywhere you can: social media, community pages, put up signs, etc. Make sure to also contact local shelters and vets so that if your dog does turn up, or someone tries to bring them in as their own, they can recognize your stolen dog.
  • Protect your dog with microchip identification. Collars and tags are important, but can be easily removed. Make sure your pet is microchipped with a permanent ID.
  • Always report to the police. Many don’t realize that reporting this theft to the police can make a huge difference, but it is a crime. If your pet is stolen, make sure to alert authorities so that they can also be on the lookout and even apprehend the person who stole them. In the event that your dog is stolen, also report this to your microchip company.
  • Update microchip contact information. Make sure your pet’s microchip is up-to-date in case your pet is ever stolen, as well as their collar tags. Keep AKC Reunite’s number, 800-252-7894, in your phone in case of emergency or if your pet is found.
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Pet Care

Home sweet home: Pet cats rarely stray far

The domestic cat is one of our most popular pets. In Norway alone, 5.4 million people own approximately 770,000 cats. But where do our four-legged friends go? The cat wants to go outside, you open the door, it leaves and disappears. After a while it returns, but where was it in the meantime?

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The domestic cat is one of our most popular pets. In Norway alone, 5.4 million people own approximately 770,000 cats. But where do our four-legged friends go? The cat wants to go outside, you open the door, it leaves and disappears. After a while it returns, but where was it in the meantime? 

Researchers and master’s students at NMBU, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, are shedding some light on the feline mystery. They have GPS-marked almost 100 pet cats in a small town in Eastern Norway and tracked the cats when they were outside.

“The goal was to map the movements of  an entire population of pet cats within the same area,” says NMBU-professor Richard Bischof.

The cat owners all lived within about one square kilometer, which gave the researchers a very detailed insight into many cats’ activities within a limited area. The high number of cats within such a small area makes this cat tracking study unique.

In your neighbor’s garden

The results from this small Norwegian town corresponds with similar research from other European countries: the answer to the cat mystery lies significantly closer to home than the owners probably expected.

The cats spent an average of 79% of their time outdoors within 50 meters of the owner’s home. The average maximum distance for all cats was 352 meters.

“Some individuals traveled relatively far, sometimes several kilometers, but those were the exceptions,” says Bischof.

Most cats are literally just around the corner when they are outside.

The “catscape”

“As far as we know, no one has ever tracked that many cats in one small area. This made it possible for us to show what a domestic cat population looks like in time and space,” Bischof says.

“We tend to think of animal populations as a collection of individuals or a single number,” Bischof continues. “Instead, I prefer to see them as surfaces that envelop and interact with the landscape.”

Bischof also points out that most cat owners probably do not think of their cat as a member of a larger animal population. But they are clearly part of what the researchers called the “catscape” in their article.

“The catscape is the combined intensity with which an area is used by all cats living there, and we were able to create a map of it using GPS data,” Bischof says. 

Large differences between individuals

The results showed that there was great variation between the individual cats in how they used the landscape.

“This is quite typical,” says Bjarne O. Braastad, professor emeritus of ethology at NMBU. “Cats have different personalities, and research results reflect this: there is often great variation.”

He goes on explaining that the cats probably spend a lot of time near the home in their own garden to rest.

“It is also worth noting that almost all the cats were neutered,” he adds. “It will of course play an important role. Neutered cats are less likely to roam.”

Student participation

How the animals use the landscape also dictates how they interact with the environment. And cats definitely have some effects on their natural surroundings.

“An interesting topic for further studies is of course the effects on local wildlife,” says project manager and professor Torbjørn Haugaasen. “We did not have the opportunity to include it in this project period, but in the future we would like to take a closer look at that as well.”

A large part of the project has been carried out by NMBU’s master’s students.

“It has been a good combination of research and education,” says Haugaasen. “The students have gained a lot of practical experience with applied science, and also been co-authors of the scientific article.”

Popular project

Although the study has so far been focused on eastern Norway, rumors spread, and the project received inquiries from across the country to join.

“People are obviously very curious about what their cat does when it is out and about. Interest has been really high,” says Haugaasen.

After the data collection and data analysis was complete, the cat owners gained access to digital maps where they could see where their pet had been. The researchers conclude by pointing out how important the cat owners’ help has been.

“We could not have done this without them. As an added bonus, we had the opportunity to include many families with children in our research. Maybe we have inspired some budding scientists?” 

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