Just the FAQs

Q: I keep losing my pets and I can’t understand why? Sure, some people say I’ve been irresponsible because I’m rarely home and allow my pets to roam free around my yard, which has no fence, gate or visible border. But would an irresponsible person go to the trouble of issuing each of their pets a cellphone? I mean, do you know how hard it is to find a phone with a paw-friendly keypad? Anyway, my question is when my pets inevitably go missing, what’s the best way to track them down?

First off and most importantly stay calm. Pets often go to familiar places and respond to familiar things. According to Petharbor.com, a service of the Humane Society, you should first walk around your neighborhood and “call your pet’s name, and bring some items that your pet is familiar with and typically responds to.” These items could be a noise-making toy, car keys, or a collar and leash. As you widen your search you’re going to want to check areas that your pet would be accustomed to: paths and/or parks where they are normally walked, for instance. Enlist as many people as you can to help, preferably people familiar to your pet.

If you can’t find your pet, call your local animal control office (a list of offices is found on page 15) for recent activity in your area, including pick-ups and found pet reports. You should also search www.petharbor.com for listings and pictures of animals brought into shelters, updated hourly. You can register your pet as lost to receive an e-mail when a matching animal is listed by a shelter or registered as found on the site. Be sure to visit www.lostmydoggie.com, they notify your local neighbors and shelters that your pet is missing. You may also want to contact www.amberalertforpets.com and/or www.findtoto.com, some fees may apply. It’s always a good idea to visit local and regional shelters in your area to look for your pet; neighboring cities often contract with different shelters. Visit as often as possible as animals are brought in continuously. If the shelter policy allows, leave your contact information with a recent photo of your pet; shelter staff cannot always provide notification, but most will provide as much assistance as possible (see back inside cover for a list of shelters).

Q: I keep finding pets wandering aimlessly in my neighborhood with no identification except; strangely, a chewed up cellphone attached to their collars. I want to ensure they get back to their owners safe and sound, what’s the best method?

Well, Petharbor.com is a terrific place to start. You can register the pet as “found” on their website where matching descriptions of the pet you’ve found will be e-mailed to owners who have registered their pets as missing. If you choose to, you can take the pet to a shelter where it will be scanned for a microchip ID and logged. Be aware that there are two kinds of facilities: euthanizing and non-euthanizing. Most city shelters perform euthanasia on animals. Animals that are euthanized typically have temperament problems, are unhealthy or have exceeded the capacity of the shelter. Non-euthanizing shelters keep all healthy animals until adopted; however, they do perform euthanasia on pets that are “un-adoptable.” Sometimes these shelters are called pro-humane rather than non-euthanizing, but are similar. There are a few shelters that practice a true non-euthanizing policy—those that do, will turn animals away if their shelter is full. If you have found an animal and need to take it to a shelter, but you are concerned about the life of the animal, ask about the shelter’s policy before you take the animal in. Many adoption and rescue organizations offer advice and/or referrals about found/lost/stray animals (see “Adoption and Rescue” for a list of organizations).

Q: The whole dog license thing, that’s a scam, right? I mean, I don’t actually have to get one, right? Right?

All dogs over the age of four months are required by law to be licensed and vaccinated against rabies. The licensing law was implemented as a health issue related to rabies, but it also keeps an updated record of ownership, which comes in handy if your dog is lost. Residents owning or having custody of any dog must license the dog within 15 days after the license becomes due. Applications and fees are usually available on the city’s website and can be obtained in-person or by mail.

Now, there was a time when a dog license was a luxury, one that many local municipalities didn’t rigorously enforce. But the cold reality is that in these tough economic times, virtually every California city is looking for ways to keep revenue coming in and one of those ways is to enforce rules and regulations they used to turn a blind eye to. Take it from someone who received a strongly worded letter from their hometown advising them to either pony up for a license or pony up for a license and a sizeable fine, they are serious about this stuff.

Q: Well, the summer is here and my family is about to make our annual pilgrimage to Regis Philbin’s home. Accounting for the distance and the time we will spend incarcerated for the inevitable “trespassing” charge, I’m concerned how my pets will do without us. Should I have them boarded or have someone come to the house and care for them? What would Regis do?

No doubt, he would yammer on about his days at Notre Dame. You, on the other hand, should make sure not to treat your pet like your packing: i.e. something to be handled the day before setting off. What you want to do is find out what best suits your pet. If you’re interested in boarding them at a facility, take them to a couple and see how they respond. Sherri Loomer of www.youranimalsbestfriend.com says she always discusses with an owner what their dog is like. “The owner is the most likely to know what’s best for their dog; we discuss if the dog is friendly, if it likes being around other dogs. Some dogs are very social, in fact, we have a hard time getting them to leave. But other dogs are not friendly and for them it’s probably best to care for them in familiar surroundings.” If you decide a boarding facility suits your pet you should take a tour of the facility, checking for things like cleanliness; asking if the kennels are cleaned everyday (the answer should be “yes”). Also, ask about their feeding schedule and keep in mind your own pet’s schedule and ask if they will accommodate. Find out about walks and play times and any extra services that may be offered. Also inquire about on-call veterinarians and their procedure in an emergency situation.

Q: I love my dog but, oh, how to put this gently … His breath has started to set off my home’s smoke alarms. Is there anything I can do about that?

Perhaps because we hear all the time that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s we figure that they don’t need regular dental cleaning. But pet’s eat and, like us, their teeth hold onto food which can in turn cause bacteria and decay which in turn can cause serious infections and medical problems. “Infection and bacteria in the mouth can lead to problems with organs that have the highest blood flow. We’re talking such critical organs such as the brain and heart,” said Ken Kurtz who runs Animal Dental Care, based out of Newport Beach. Kurtz’s company does cleanings in about 300 local veterinarians’ offices. He also says he can teach the same hold to pet owners so they can practice brushing their pets’ teeth, and ideally, brushing every day. Kurtz says he prefers regular pet tooth paste for your pet, and recommends the brand CET. Yes, he says, he knows of the gravy and meat flavored tooth paste available at pet stores, but asks “how are you going to get a good fresh, clean smell with beef gravy?”

Q: I’m looking to move into a rental property. Will I be able to take my pet, and if I can, can I get my pet to kick in for half of the utilities?

You’re in luck—not with the utilities, pets are notoriously tight-pawed—Southern California is a very pet-friendly place when it comes to rentals. Here’s a couple tips on moving in with your pet: 1) When doing a walk through with the landlord, bring your camera and/or a notebook and record any damage that is already there. 2) Get your pets new tags with the new address before moving day. 3) Know your rights as a tenant. You can download the booklet at www.dca.ca.gov, go to “Publications,” then “Legal Guides,” scroll down to Tenant-Landlord.

Q: It’s gotten to the point that I find I’m spending more money out of pocket on my pet’s health than my children’s. I think it’s time to consider pet insurance. How do I go about selecting a company?

When comparing insurance companies and their policies, there are some main points to consider: 1) How much coverage is needed? Coverage ranges from accidental injuries to preventative care, such as vaccines. 2) For puppies and kittens, consider a policy that covers vaccinations, spaying/neutering, deworming and microchips. 3) Consider how much you spend on medications and look for a policy that may cover that cost. 4) For senior pets, consider a policy that covers dental, medications, and tests such as blood work, EKGs and X-rays. 5) Consider your pet’s chronic or recurring conditions. Look for a policy that covers pre-existing conditions and hereditary or congenital defects that may occur in specific breeds. 6) Consider alternative medicine and look for a policy that covers acupuncture, chiropractic work, and/or holistic medicine. 7) Also ask about available discounts. Be sure to talk to your vet about their experiences with different providers and policies. There are also these sites that are helpful: www.petinsurancecomparison.org and www.petinsurancereview.com.

Q: My dog has been crying out incessantly for a couple days. At first I thought it was because he didn’t care for what was going on with this season’s “The Bachelorette” but I think now it’s something more.

Your dog probably is trying to tell you he’s not feeling well. Any time a dog displays behavior that isn’t typical there’s a strong possibility he’s sick. Here’s a couple of tell-“tail” signs (see what we did there?): 1) Diarrhea for more than a day or two. 2) Wounds; if it looks like your cat or dog got into a fight, it may have been with a wild animal that had rabies or another disease. 3) Discolored gums; if your pet’s gums are not the normal pink, take them in as white or blue gums can indicate breathing or circulation problems or even shock, and yellow gums show possible liver problems. 4) And, in your case, unusual behavior such as crying out incessantly when there are no visible symptoms, excessive coughing or sneezing, lethargy, seizures and/or any behavior that just isn’t “normal” for your pet.

Q: How can I tell the difference between a normal health issue for my pet that can be handled by my veterinarian and an emergency situation?

Here are a few “need-to-go-to-the-emergency-room-now” signs: 1) Difficulty or abnormal breathing. 2) Loss of consciousness or collapse. 3) Weak, rapid pulse, pale gums, cool limbs, low body temperature. 4) Drooling and swollen abdomen. 5) Extreme anxiety which may present itself in pacing or attempting to vomit or defecate unsuccessfully. 6) Seizures. 7) Profuse, repeated vomiting or diarrhea. 8) Lethargy, weakness, running/bumping into things. 9) Near-drowning. 10) Electric shock. Whenever possible, call ahead before transporting so the emergency clinic can be prepared.

Q: Over the last few months, my dog has gotten big. I mean really BIG. Like so big that I’ve had inquiries to rent him out for rides at parties … and these are not “kid” parties. Is it possible that my pet is overweight?

Very. Now, I could be all glib and say you know your pet is overweight when he is assigned his own zip code but that would be wrong. As in humans, excess weight can lead to numerous health issues for pets. So, to check if your pet has packed on a few, or many, extra pounds go over this check list: 1) Can you feel their ribs? 2) Is there a visible waistline below the ribs and above the hips when looking from above? 3) Is there is a visible “tuck” where the fullness of the chest tapers to the waist when looking from the side. If you’ve answered “no” to any of these you should probably consult your veterinarian for a weight-loss program.