Springtime safety tips for pet owners

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Yay! It’s sunny. It’s 70 degrees. It won’t get dark here until 7:29 p.m. And I’m… stuck inside, working. Actually it’s taken me the better part of an hour to come up with an idea for today’s post.

So I decided to go with the obvious. Warm weather and springtime safety tips for pet owners.

Exercise some common sense

When it comes to warm weather, pets and people aren’t all that different. We all want to be outside, having fun. And we can all get a bit carried away.

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

But while we are responsible  — and know there are consequences for — rash decisions, our pets don’t. So it’s up to us to look out for them.  It’s our responsibility to learn the signs that our furry friends are in physical discomfort or distress. Some of the symptoms are obvious, but because dogs and cats are also adept at hiding weaknesses, some aren’t so obvious. Don’t leave anything to chance… talk to your vet about what to look out for.

While you’re at it, have a frank discussion with the vet or another expert about your pet’s outdoor activities. If you’re going to let your cat romp around the neighborhood or leave your dog outside on its own for prolonged periods (something I personally recommend against) learn how to make the environment as safe and comfortable as possible. Find out:

  • How to create an “escape proof” yard.
  • What type of shelter to buy or build.
  • How to mitigate any hazards posed by other animals.
  • How to ensure your pet has access to food and water.
  • How to make sure your pet can be readily identified if it goes missing.

Taking these precautions is largely a matter of common sense. On the other hand, failing to take them could cause a lot of trouble. In Connecticut, for example, failing to provide proper shelter for an outdoor pet can result in animal cruelty charges.

Keep hazardous items out of reach

According to the ASPCA, a litany of springtime items pose a threat to our pets. These include:

  •  Easter candy and decorations
  • The ingredients in lawn and garden chemicals,
  • The plants and flowers that will soon appear in our gardens
  • household cleaning products that we’ll use to get rid of winter funk

Keeping these items out of reach is key to keeping our pets safe at this time of year. But if you do have reason to believe your pet has swallowed a harmful substance, it is crucial to call your own vet or the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

A cat may be able to land on its feet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get hurt

Before you yield to temptation and throw the windows wide open, the ASPCA also recommends checking all of the screens. Make sure they aren’t ripped or torn, and make sure they are well secured, the organization recommends. This is especially important for cat owners — after all, your cat may be able to withstand a fall from a significant height — but that doesn’t mean he or she will come out of it completely unscathed.

Crooks now preying on vulnerable pet owners

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.

I am keeping it brief today because I really don’t have the words to express my outrage about this. It is so low, so despicable, and so disgusting …. How anyone could stoop to this is beyond me.

I mean, let’s face it — stealing someone’s pet is bad enough. Demanding money from someone who has lost a pet is even worse.

But it happens — and apparently it happens more frequently more than anyone realizes, or cares to admit.

According to one news account, it’s happening in Aurora, Missouri. The story about the family that lost their dog and then got a series of phone calls demanding money in exchange for his return appeared on an ABC affiliate’s website Feb. 17. You can read the details here.

Now imagine how you would feel if this happened to you. What would you do? Where would you turn?

Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

Numerous websites offer advice on the topic. Scambusters.org lists five different shakedowns targeting owners of lost pets and shares tips to keep crooks from taking advantage of you when you’re vulnerable. You should:

  • Make sure your pet is always properly licensed and tagged.
  • Keep your pet indoors, in a secure yard, or on a leash at all times.
  • Limit information in your missing pet advertisements or social media posts  to the essentials.
  • Ask for a phone number if you get a call from someone who says they’ve found your pet and claims to be out-of-state.
  • Make any caller who seems to be ‘fishing’ for information about your pet initiate the questions or comments about your pet’s description.

Oh, no! Not the vet!

This vintage typwriter is our featured image.
Eli, the In Brief Legal Writing Services mascot.
In Brief Legal Services mascot Eli catching up on the latest news. Photo by Alexandra Bogdanovic

So I had to take Eli to the vet today. Actually I was supposed to take him on Wednesday, but luckily for him (or maybe for both of us), it was freezing and I was still recovering from the stomach flu so I decided to reschedule.

Of course that was simply delaying the inevitable.

It doesn’t matter whether he has to go to get his nails trimmed or whether it’s time for his annual shots. He does not like the vet. And, being a cat, he makes his feelings on the subject “purrfectly” clear.

Here’s what always happens: An hour or so before the appointment, I go down to the car and hit the control lever for the front passenger seat until the seat is flat and as far back as possible. Next I go into the basement, grab his carrier and stash it in the upstairs hallway. If I am lucky, I will then find my 15-and-a-half pound cat on my bed so I can easily apply a generous dose of herbal calming gel to his paws.

By this point, there’s usually about 30 minutes until the appointment. Assuming Eli has actually ingested some of the salmon-flavored calming gel (he should theoretically do so when he licks his paws) it is fairly easy to wrangle him into his large blue carrier. Of course the phrase, “fairly easy” is relative… after all, he is a cat.

Getting him into the carrier is one thing. Taking the carrier down a steep set of stairs without breaking my neck is another challenge altogether. By the time I finally get him situated in the car both of us are completely frazzled. By the time I start the engine, a pitiful mewing is sounding from his crate.

Fortunately the trip itself only takes five to ten minutes, depending on the traffic. I drive with one hand on the wheel and one hand on the crate, speaking softly the whole time. I know he’s upset and scared, and I want to offer all the comfort and reassurance I can. After all, I don’t like going to the doctor, either…

When we finally arrive, I wrestle the carrier into the lobby and put it on the floor while I sign in. By now, Eli knows where he is and makes his displeasure known — loudly. With paperwork completed, I take a seat, put the carrier on my lap and give Eli a pep talk — or a lecture, depending on how badly he’s behaving. I breathe a sigh of relief when the vet or vet tech finally takes him into the back room.

But the relief is short-lived. As the minutes tick by I glance between the wall-mounted TV and my cell phone, hoping that Eli is OK and praying that he’s being good. He’s a sweet boy — most of the time. But he has been known to bite, and he fought his old vet so much that she’d have to sedate him just to trim his nails.

Back in those days, Eli would emerge from the clinic looking miserable — and I would leave with a hefty bill.

I shared Eli’s history and my concerns about his behavior with his new vet when we moved back to Connecticut from Virginia. She said in her experience, cats seem to do better when they are not restrained during exams. She also asked whether Eli acts up more when I stay in the exam room — which he does.

Given that, we agreed that Eli would be treated in a separate area while I wait in the lobby. Because I haven’t witnessed any of the procedures, I can’t say exactly what transpires. Apparently it’s working though. To date he hasn’t been sedated and he hasn’t bitten anyone — that I know of. I’ve actually been told that he’s been a good boy.

Perhaps Eli (who just celebrated his 10th birthday) is mellowing in his old age. Or perhaps he’s simply decided to tolerate this new vet and her staff. I can’t say for sure.

I do know that there’s a growing trend towards making vet visits less stressful for pets. You can learn just how they’re doing so in a report on the subject that was recently published on abc.go.com.

Now if only they could do the same for people…