Relocating with Pets

The new job is wonderful – the salary is great, and you love the office. However, there happens to be a catch – it requires that you move to another country. The place is lovely, and it is perfect for your family. But can you take little Fluffy with you?   Will she be happy with the new place?  Moving is a difficult time for us, but what about our pets?

“Moving with your pet can be a challenge therefore it is important to plan ahead,” says Dr. M. A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.  What are the things that one should know before relocating with pets?

“It is important to focus on making their transition to their new home smooth because an agitated pet can be scared and run away, get confused and get lost, or be stressed and be destructive,” Crist says.  Her suggestion is to keep the pet confined before and during the move, and then settling quickly into an everyday routine after the move.

When talking about moving, what are the options for transporting pets?

“It is important to make travel arrangements in advance to avoid the unexpected,” Dr. Crist says.

She suggests enquiring with travel agencies and pet transportation services. These agencies take care of all the shipping details – pickup, boarding, and delivery – for an associated cost for pet insurance and transportation charges.

Transportation of pets requires a lot of planning on the part of the owner. For example, if you are planning on air travel, you need to know the specific regulations of the air carrier.

“Puppies and kittens less than eight weeks of age are prohibited from traveling by air transportation,” Crist says. “Pets are usually placed on the plane last so that they can be unloaded first.  Weather can be a concern and it is better to ship pets during moderate weather and not in extreme heat or cold.”

Large pets travel as air freight, small pets may be allowed to travel in the passenger cabin with the owner, and those pets travelling without their owners need to be shipped by air express (usually rodents, birds, and tropical fish).  These shipping containers are available at pet stores and pet supply companies. Crist recommends a strong container to withstand the pressure of other freight accidentally toppling on it. She also suggests choosing containers with good ventilation and a leak-proof bottom.

Other transportation modes require other precautions.

“If traveling by automobile, be sure to get your dog or cat accustomed to riding in the vehicle,” Crist advises.

A travel kit with the pet’s regular food and fresh water is important.

“Changing the drinking water suddenly may cause stomach upset in some of our four-legged friends,” Crist says. “A favorite toy, treats, scooper, and plastic bags to clean up after your pet are recommended as well.”

The recommendations for transportation vary for different pets. Crist recommends that fish should not be overcrowded in their transportation containers, and the water temperature should not change suddenly.

Horses can be transported by air freight or a horse trailer (ground transportation).

“Horse transportation agencies are available and even have pick-up and delivery,” Crist says. Birds are highly sensitive to changes in wind drafts and temperature, not to mention being easily frightened. “It is recommended to travel with the bird cage covered but with plenty of ventilation. During transportation, remember to have travel identification tags with the new phone number attached to the pet’s collar.”

Dogs and cats can have this information on their collars, while horses can have brands, tattoos, and registration papers, and birds can have it on their leg bands, she says.

Most importantly, one needs to be aware of the health regulations of the place you are moving to when transporting pets. Pets need a health certificate after a veterinary examination, and an international health certificate for international travel. These certificates have expiration dates, and it is important to check that the valid period has not expired before you travel.

“Discuss with your regular veterinarian about recommendations for a veterinarian in the new location and travel with a copy of your pet’s records,” Crist recommends.

The new state or country may have different laws for entry with a pet, and it is important to know these beforehand. There may be standard border inspection at some places and random inspections at other places. This is especially important for unusual pets like snakes, lizards, monkeys, or wild animals.

“Communicate, well in advance, with the regulatory agency of the final destination of the pet, prior to moving to understand all of the requirements needed for that pet to be admitted to its final destination,” Crist advises.

At the new home, Crist recommends to confine the pets till they are familiar with the new environment.

“Try to use the pet’s same food and water dishes, blanket, bed, and toys and try to place them in a similar location as they were in their previous home,” she says.

Relocating with pets requires extensive planning.  Sometimes, extra vaccinations and health documents are required six months in advance of the actual move. So, it is important to be aware of the rules and regulations of the place you are moving to.

“It is best to make arrangements ahead of time,” Crist advises so that both you and Fluffy can have a stress-free relocation.



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Treats for Pets

Halloween is around the corner, and while we are enjoying the season with treats, we would like our pets to share the joy too. Pet treats are a great option when you want to treat your well-behaved little kitty or doggy with a sweet surprise.

However, with a plethora of options for pet treats, the decision-making can be scary for pet owners. There are several questions to be answered: Do all vegetables and fruits make good pet treats? Should children be allowed to share their candies and chocolates with their pets? What would be safe and healthy pet treats?

And the fundamental question:  Are pet treats a good idea?

Don’t worry. “Giving your pet treats is a great way of training them and it can also strengthen the human-animal bond between you and your pet,” says Dr. M. A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

Her first recommendation is to opt for commercially available pet treats rather than human treats. But are pet treats manufactured for all kinds of pets?

“In the pet food industry, one can find a commercial pet treat for just about any companion pet that they may own,” Crist says.

The advantage of commercially manufactured pet foods is that they are designed to complement the pet’s regular diet.

“(They) may even contain nutritional benefits such as improved digestive health or dental health,” Crist says.

If you prefer homemade pet treats, Crist recommends trying the now popular pet food bakeries which make safe and pet-friendly food.

“The treats come in a variety of fun flavors, shapes and sizes and are usually associated with the holiday seasons or special occasions such as a birthday!” she says.

More than what to give as treats for pets, a big worry is what not to give. Crist lists food that should never be given to pets.

Onions are a big no since they can harm the red blood cells and may cause serious illnesses, even death.  Raisins and grapes can also cause severe health issues in pets and should be avoided. Some pets experience gastrointestinal upsets with milk and milk-based products.

“Bread dough is another food that most dog owners do not realize is harmful to dogs,” Crist says. “The yeast inside bread dough will expand in the dog’s stomach leading to a very serious veterinary emergency.”

Macadamia nuts can be harmful to dogs.  Hypothermia, vomiting, tremors, loss of coordination, dizziness, and hyperthermia are some of the symptoms seen in the affected dogs.

“Luckily, these symptoms usually disappear, and most dogs return to normal within a couple of days,” Crist reassures.

Avocados – not just the fruit but also the leaves, fruit, seeds and bark – can be harmful to dogs by inducing diarrhea and vomiting.  Some birds and rodents can be sensitive to avocados too, Crist says.
“… (they) can develop congestion, difficulty breathing and fluid accumulation around the heart which can be fatal,” she states.

Salt in large quantities can be harmful to pets by causing excess thirst and urination.  Some pets can even experience sodium poisoning.

“Some clinical signs of excessive salt intake can be vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures. So keep those salty chips away from your pets,” Crist recommends.

What about the flavors of the season, candy and chocolate?

One main substance to avoid giving pets is Xylitol – a common sweetener in many everyday products such as toothpaste, candy, gum and baked goods.

“Toxic ingestion (of Xylitol) can cause insulin release which can lead to liver failure,” Crist states. “The initial signs of Xylitol poisoning are lethargy, loss of coordination, and vomiting. Later, seizures can occur followed by an elevation in liver enzymes and subsequent liver failure in a few days.”

Chocolate is a universal favorite for humans and animals alike. But it comes with warnings too. Caffeine and theobromine are two ingredients in chocolate that may be harmful to animals.  A combination of these ingredients can cause a variety of problems. The potentially fatal side effects include heart arrhythmias, cardiac, and respiratory arrests.  Minor ones include vomiting and diarrhea.

How do we know how much of these chemicals are in chocolates?

“It is difficult to quantify how much theobromine and caffeine is in different kinds of chocolate,” Crist says. “A good rule of thumb is that the darker the chocolate, the more harmful it is to the pet.   Baker’s chocolate and cocoa powder are considered the most dangerous, with dark chocolate and semi-sweet chocolate somewhere in the middle, and  milk chocolate and white chocolate have the least amount of theobromine.”

So what are the general rules for feeding treats to pets?

Crist’s first rule when trying a new treat: “Introduce the new treat slowly and in small amounts,” she says.  Just like in humans, treats should not make up for the regular meals which contain all the nutritional requirements of the pet.

High calorie treats for pets may lead to obesity.

“It is advisable to always reduce the pet’s main meal by an equivalent caloric amount according to the feeding guides,” says Crist. “An ideal treat would be great-tasting, nutritious, and with low fats.”

Another tip: feed according to age requirements recommended on the label.

Consult your veterinarian for any doubts about the size and the timing of pet treats, Crist advises.  Her take-home message: Feeding too many treats or the wrong type of treats to your pet can cause an imbalance in the pet’s diet and lead to weight problems. Do not over do it!



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Pet Care for Students

It’s that time of the year again. Students have entered another phase of their academic lives, and there is so much to take care of at once- excelling in academics and sports, eating healthy and staying stress-free. Many students live away from their homes during college, and a pet can be a great companion when students miss having their family around.

But a big question remains: Is maintaining a pet while at college a good idea? “Having a pet in college has its challenges but it is not impossible,” says Dr. M. A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM).

Students need to think about a number of factors before deciding to own a pet. A very important consideration is the amount of time the owner is prepared to spend.

“Pets need to be walked, fed, and socialized and this can take up quite a bit of a student’s free time,” explains Crist.  Hence, aquarium pets like fish, which only need regular maintenance, are a good choice – especially when sharing apartments with room-mates.

Similarly, cats make great indoor pets for students who do not have time for walks. Dogs are a popular choice even though they require more time for walks and socialization.

“More and more college towns are developing dog parks to have areas where students can enjoy their canine friends,” Crist notes.

Apartment complexes may sometimes require special deposits for keeping pets and students need to plan for that extra expense. Some students love horses, but they need to make arrangements for a stall at an equine facility and a pasture for riding.

Pet nutrition is another concern for many students. Veterinarians recommend specific diets for pets based on individual requirements. According to Crist, the most important thing in pet nutrition is “to maintain continuity.” A constantly changing diet can cause gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. In some cases, this may even lead to illness or death, she warns.

However, healthy pets can be maintained on a student budget.

“Many manufacturers of the commercial pet foods will provide coupons for your pet if you contact the company directly by email,” reassures Crist.  “Such student discount coupons are also available on the internet.  Keeping our furry, feathered, or scaly pet friends on a good quality diet will save money in the future to avoid unnecessary veterinary visits and expense.”

A new pet needs to have an initial visit to the vet and must finish the series of puppy/kitten vaccinations. “It is recommended to spay or neuter, and microchip their pet, as well as keep them on heartworm and flea prevention,” says Crist.

Students can take advantage of the discounted services offered by veterinary offices at different times of the year.   For instance, students, staff, and faculty at Texas A&M University receive special discounts on pet food, medicines and services at the CVM.

Aside from nutrition and regular check ups with the veterinarian, a budget for pet care needs to include the costs of unexpected emergencies. Students also need to plan ahead for events such as road trips and parties.

“Situations have occurred where students have had parties, and their pet got into a fight with another pet brought to the household by another partygoer,” says Crist.

She also cites instances where pets have been lost or injured during parties when students have been too distracted to notice.  However, with care and attention, students can certainly make good owners of happy pets.

Crist suggests that adopting a pet earlier in the summer would help one to know more about the pet and train it before school starts. Having a roommate who also likes pets helps avoid any potential conflict in the future. If the roommate has another pet, she advises that both the pets are introduced to each other early and have time to socialize and become friends before they are left alone.  Doing such little things to make the pet feel at home would go a long way in making pet ownership by busy college students more manageable.



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

The Human-Animal Bond

Humans and animals have interacted together for thousands of years. From the very first people who decided to domesticate the dog, to the present day “pioneers” that choose to keep goats and pigs in their houses, animals have played huge roles in the lives of many people. While early civilization saw them as mainly a food and fiber source or a hunting tool, modern society views them as companions, family, and best friends. The human-pet bond concept emerged in veterinary medicine as recently as the last few decades, and it has caused the companion animal industry to explode.

According to Dr. M. A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the inclusion of pets in many non-traditional activities, such as family ceremonies, photos, trips and gatherings, drives part of the pet industry today.

“Many of today’s pets are now considered part of the family and are treated as family members,” explains Crist. “For example, some clients have pet chickens that live in their houses. The chickens wear little pantaloons to catch their droppings in the house so that they do not make a mess. Chickens are actually becoming quite popular as family pets.”

Many pet owners include their pets in their day-to-day activities, and a lot of them include their pets in social outings. Some people raise and show pets as part of their livelihood, while others do so as a sport.

“The human-animal bond has definitely become stronger and more apparent,” says Crist. “Society is experiencing more legal issues with pets such as pets having guardians, becoming heirs to large family fortunes, or becoming disputed over in divorces. People are wanting to make sure their pets are provided for in the event of their deaths, causing the inception of companion animal centers that care for pets when their owners pass away or are no longer able to care for them.”

An example of such a facility is the Stevenson Companion Animal Life Care Center in College Station, Texas, where animals are provided life-long care in a home-like environment.

What has caused this shift in the way people view animals?

“In the past, most dogs and cats were kept outside on the family farm or ranch,” states Crist. “The dogs were sometimes used to help work the cattle or guard the sheep, and the cats were kept around to keep the mice or snake population under control. These working dogs and cats were usually fed table scraps and taken care of in passing when a veterinarian came out on a call to check a farm animal.”

As populations changed and urbanization began, dogs and cats started moving into the house, and the human-pet bond thus began to grow and strengthen. Additionally, the bond developed in food and farm animals as well.

“Youth began to get involved in FFA and 4-H programs in schools and became involved in raising and showing sheep, steers, goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and other food animals for competition,” explains Crist. “Many of these youth enjoyed the companionship of the farm animals that they raised and showed, and then as adults they purchased farm animals to have simply as personal pets.”

As people and animals began living together, the bond between them became more emotional. Traditional uses of animals were questioned and modified to satisfy the want of companionship.

“As veterinarians, we are seeing a trend toward some farm pets being kept in the house as personal pets,” reveals Crist. “New miniature breeds, or “designer” breeds, are becoming popular so that these pets can be kept in smaller spaces. For example, the miniature micro pig, or teacup pig, is a pig smaller than the potbelly pig and is becoming a popular house-hold pet.”

Again, this is an instance of how far food animals have come in regards to their relationship with humans.

“Years before, food animals were raised simply for that- food- and did not have long lives,” asserts Crist. “Today, some food animals are kept as pets and will live to be quite old. As veterinarians, we are now learning some of the diseases and issues that go along with geriatric (older) food and farm animals. We have improved greatly at pain management for these animals, and we have a better understanding of the pharmacokinetics (action of drugs in the body over a period of time) of the medications we can use in these animals.”

Snakes, birds, dogs, horses, goats, cats- for all pet species, there are humans that love them. Pet owners want their pets to live long lives so that they can have as much time with them as possible. This simple need for companionship has helped to greatly improve diagnostics in veterinary medicine, as many of the diagnostics and treatments that are available to humans are now available to animals too. Owners want the best for their pets, and in return, they receive a life-long friend that might bear a ring in a wedding, pose in the family photo, or follow them room-to-room while wearing pantaloons.



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

A Look at the Alternative

This year marks the 250th anniversary of veterinary medicine, as the world’s first veterinary school opened in Lyon, France in 1764. However, veterinary medicine has been around since people and animals have coexisted, and there are many ancient techniques in veterinary medicine that have been used for thousands of years.  Those ancient techniques are reaching the forefront once more as clients demand all available treatment options for their pets and veterinarians start to consider the staying powers of antique methods.

According to Dr. M.A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), alternative veterinary medicine is best described as a term for a group of treatments or modalities that lie outside of the conventional or mainstream treatment of veterinary medicine. Occasionally, the terms “alternative veterinary medicine”, “integrative veterinary medicine”, and “complementary veterinary medicine” have been used as synonyms; therefore, veterinarians now use the acronym CAM to reference all three terms.

The American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines for alternative and complementary medicine state that holistic veterinary medicine includes, but is not limited to, the practice of acupuncture and acutherapy (involves the stimulation of specific points on the body by use of acupuncture needles, low level lasers, and other tools), botanical medicine (the use of plants and plant derivatives for treatment), chiropractic (refers to the adjustment and alignment of specific joints to create comfort), homeopathy (unique form of medicine), massage therapy (touch technique used to eliminate pain and to improve the blood-flow) , nutraceuticals (the use of nutritional supplements to aid in treatment), as well as conventional medicine, surgery and dentistry.

“Holistic veterinary medicine considers all aspects of the animal’s life in the context of its environment, behavior, medical and dietary history, emotional stresses as well as a comprehensive physical examination, and other factors that may play a role in the animal patient’s life,” explains Crist. “In other words, diagnosing and treating the animal patient in the context of the ‘whole’ patient.”

Most alternative medicine treatments are based on clinically accepted medicine. However, it is difficult to find scientific data to support the theory that these modalities are safe and effective. More clinical data is becoming available, but it is a very slow process due to limited funding for research.

There are still a lot of questions concerning alternative veterinary medicine techniques as some practitioners believe there is still little evidence today to back up the powerful claims.

“Some veterinary practitioners view complementary and alternative medicine as controversial,” notes Crist. “Some critics believe that there is limited to no evidence-based data to support unconventional therapies or modalities and others claim that the evidence-based data to support these therapies is of poor quality.”

“Owners need to understand that some of these modalities are slow and gentle and take time to take effect,” says Crist. “Others may believe that alternative medicine does not work at all, because they may have waited too long in the disease process and despite what therapy is used, nothing will work.”

“The approach in the field of complementary and alternative veterinary medicine is the philosophy that an integrated approach with conventional veterinary medicine will increase the chances that the patient will do well,” explains Crist. “Conventional and alternative veterinary medicine is becoming more available from veterinarians because of client demand and also because some veterinarians are recognizing the value in using these alternative modalities in their patients.”

If an animal does partake in any alternative technique without the care of its primary veterinarian, it is necessary for the owner to notify its primary veterinarian of any alternative modalities; especially if a pet takes medications, herbs, and supplements on a regular basis. Some of these therapies may interfere with other medications prescribed by the veterinarian.

“The FDA has classified herbal products as food supplements and they are marketed as such,” says Crist. “Most herbal products or remedies are sold in various forms such as dried bulk, herbs, oils, tinctures, ointments, creams, and capsules. It is important to purchase high-quality products from a reputable and established supplier.”

If interested in learning more about alternative medicine practices, it is important to visit with a veterinarian who is trained in CAM. To practice in any of these modalities veterinarians must first be certified and well versed in their area of interest within the scope of complementary and alternative medicine.

“These modalities should be practiced by a veterinarian with licensure and referral requirements concerning each modality,” explains Crist. “The certification includes hundreds of hours of continuing education in that field, numerous examinations, multiple case reports, and hours and hours of shadowing an expert in the field. It is important that if an owner requests any of these integrated modalities that he or she is referred to a veterinarian certified in that field. It is also important that if they are referred by their regular veterinarian, that the two work together to do the best for the pet.”

Alternative medicine is another option for the treatment of your pet. It is your job to do extensive research and consult with your veterinarian to decide if it is the best option for your pet.



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Hotels Staffing Pets

Hotels have recently jumped on the trend of accommodating pets in hotel stays. However, pet-friendly hotels are still limited across the country and so the next time that you travel for business or pleasure you may need to leave your pet behind. On the other hand a new trend adopted by hotels may allow for a pet to be waiting for you.

Hotels around the nation have slowly adopted rescued dogs, cats, and fish to ease travelers’ minds. Hotel visitors can schedule walks, sit down appointments, and hikes with these hotel companions while they stay at the hotels.

Dr. M. A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, is familiar with the positive effects animals can have on people and she sees this trend lasting.

“Studies have been provided that interactions with animals can be calming and even lower blood pressure for humans,” notes Crist. “A. Beck and N. Meyers studied that ordinary interactions with animals can reduce blood pressure. Pets may also enhance the physiological and psychological well-being of many people. This opportunity to interact with the animals may provide some travelers with the opportunity to meet others or for other travelers to be alone without being lonely.”

The use of companion animals to aid in relaxation and to provide additional opportunities for exercise is healthy for the travelers. This is healthy for the pets as well, because the pets receive exceptional care from the hotel. Hotels chose pets who are very socialized and extremely people friendly.

“Most of the chosen pets are temperament tested and enjoy meeting people and the activities that they provide,” Crist says. “The hotel pets are bathed regularly and are current on healthy veterinary wellness examinations and vaccinations protocols. I believe that the hotel would not support or place an animal in harm’s way. The resident hotel pets are very well taken care of and usually have an endless list of people waiting to share their friendship with them.”

Aside from the beneficial health factor this may have on both parties, it is important to note the pros and cons of this situation.

According to Crist there are several positives through this experience. A rescued animal is provided a healthy home spent with people who will give it attention. Hotels are also very aware and give particular instructions so that their resident animal is not harmed while in the company of travelers. Any extra fees that may be charged are usually donated to a pet charity or a rescue shelter.

According to Crist there are also some drawbacks to this operation. Some travelers may have allergies to animals and they can not be around them. Some travelers may have no desire to be around animals. While other travelers may have an actual fear of animals and they will choose to stay away from them at all costs. Hotels provide specific instructions in the care of the resident pet so that a hotel guest or traveler does not cause unintentional harm to the pet.

Outweighing the good with the bad, Crist does see this trend lasting because of the positive effects it has.

“This trend may be long lasting, because if promoted in the sense that the hotel is giving a rescued pet a place to live and an opportunity to have interactions with people who are pet friendly, who would not want to support that trend,” explains Crist. “Some travelers are on the road so much that they cannot have a pet because they are not home long enough to take care of a pet properly and this can give them a chance to interact with a pet without the ownership responsibility. Other travelers may live in a place that does not allow pets and this gives them an opportunity to interact with a pet.”

Currently Fairmont, Kimpton, and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chains across the United States are staffing rescued pets for traveler companionship. In the very near future we may see a rise in this as it may be a trend longing to stay.



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Thrifty Thinking

Occasionally money can get a little tight from time to time, no matter whom you are or what your situation. For those of us that own pets, we want to still make sure that they are not neglected and remain in good care during these times.

This poses the question: Are pricier products worth the extra dough?

As consumers we want to make sure that we always get the best bang for our buck even when shopping for our pets.  Whether it be food, toys, or training supplies, which ingredients/materials are most important when trying to go with a more cost-conscious or generic brand?

“If you are referring to any general product, I would have to look at quality versus monetary value,” said Dr. M.A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“For any pet owner it is an individual decision to feed kibble, canned diets, semi-moist, all-natural, or homemade food and I recommend input from your veterinarian,” said Crist.

Numerous different ingredients are required for a puppy, kitten, dog, or cat’s wholesome health, and it is important that these are provided for them so that they continue to grow and thrive.

“If one is unsure of what to feed then it is best to remain with the big commercial name-brand manufacturers because most of these companies have used feeding trials to test their foods,” explains Crist.

The best foods are usually tested in actual feeding trials and not by nutritional analysis alone. Crist explains that one can look for the words “complete and balanced nutrition” on the product, which is a statement that explains that the food has been tested “for all life stages” of the feline and canine.

If you are a dog owner, chances are you have figured out by now that your pup most likely prefers the deliciousness that canned food has to offer, however, dry kibble is usually the less expensive choice as well as being easier to handle.

It can also be a good idea to try to buy in bulk and search for any possible coupons or sales that are going on.

“It is very important that a feline’s diet contains taurine because research has linked taurine deficiency in cats to fatal heart disease,” said Crist.

Crist explained that commercial name-brand companies do usually provide higher quality grade ingredients but it is still important to read the label and make sure that it reads “complete for all life stages” and has the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which helps to govern quality control.

When looking for cheaper alternatives, when you are low on cash, or when you are simply too lazy at the moment to go and pick up some food for your pet; some people are tempted to share their food with their animals in place of pet food.

“It is important to go easy with ‘people food’ and one has to be mindful that these cannot replace the balanced diet of the cat or dog,” said Crist.

Foods made for cats are formulated to contain the vitamins, mineral, and amino acids a cat needs for good health which is why it is important to feed them cat food. But if one is looking for an occasional delicacy for their cat, Crist recommends trying small bits of cheese or cooked tuna, chicken, fish, or liver.

“Carrots are a snack that sometimes we humans enjoy that can be fed to a dog, along with broccoli, green beans, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and zucchini,” said Crist.

If you have a picky or more pampered pooch and would like to try out some homemade recipes: and are two websites that have some great ideas.

recipe 1“I do have a quick recipe that I use to make quick and easy cookies for some of my canine patients, they are fun, very easy, and dogs love them!”

“A quick kitty recipe that I have used that has been passed around is this kitty recipe. It is very “fishy” but cats like them.”

Going green for your pet is another possible alternative when looking to save a few bucks.

“Catnip makes a fine low-calorie feline treat that most cats will love,” said Crist.

recipe 2Both catnip and “cat grass”, which is essentially a cereal grass similar to wheat or oats, are easy to grow in a sunny window or purchased from a store either dry or fresh.

“Always be sure that the plant you are offering your furry feline is safe for them but do not be alarmed if your cat regurgitates the kitty grass that can be bought in-stores;  some will do this and it is nothing to be alarmed by,” said Crist.

If your cat is in fact regurgitating the kitty grass, the catnip should suffice.

If any questions arise about the safety of a plant, please refer to the ASPCA’s website for more information or follow this link

If it is believed that that the feline or any other animal might have eaten a dangerous plant, call your veterinarian immediately, or contact the Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Another good tip for dog owners might be to cut down on the number of unnecessary treats given throughout the day. Instead, try ice cubes or bones that will last longer than a treat. This will help save you money as well as help any canines who are a little overweight.

So if you find yourself in a period where you are pinching pennies, remember that there are always alternatives and options that can help keep you and your pet healthy and happy.



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to


The Dog’s Space at Your Place

We all know that a happy pet makes for a happy home, so for dog owners it is our job to make sure that the home is a safe and comfortable living space. From big ranches to one bedroom flats our dogs are forced to adapt to the homes that we have chosen. The best thing you can do for a dog is to keep their needs in mind the same way that you keep your own every day.

“Dogs need food, water, and shelter, however, most dogs need more than that” explains Dr. M.A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Dogs have emotional needs as well as physical requirements, they are social animals and need to be a part of the family or be included in your daily routine”

“Some dogs acquire bad habits due to neglect or boredom. They begin to bark or express numerous emotions such as anxiety, aggression, boredom, playfulness, hunger and can sometimes even become destructive,” Crist continues, “Enrichment toys are recommended to help with this. These usually have foods placed in them and then the dog has to work on getting the food out over a period of time.”

For potential dog owners who live in smaller environments such as an apartment, condo, or duplex-type of space it would be best to purchase a small breed dog with an expected mild-mannered behavior.

“A crate can help limit access to areas that are off limits until all household rules are learned such as what not to chew on and areas the pet is not to eliminate in. It should be just large enough for the pet to stand and turn around in and strong enough to securely contain the pet.” Crist continues, “It might be wise to place the crate in your bedroom or a nearby place especially if the pet is a puppy then one can hear the puppy whine if it needs to get outside to eliminate.”

According to Crist, older pets should be kept nearby so that crating is not associated with social isolation. Once the pet is comfortable in the crate near you, one can gradually move it to the location you prefer. Crating a pet for separation anxiety will not solve the issue. A crate can prevent the pet from being destructive; however, the pet can be injured if trying to escape from the crate. Separation anxiety should be handled with desensitization training and counter-conditioning. An owner may need to consult with a board certified veterinary behaviorist for further treatment.

“We do have to be mindful if this pet is a puppy or an older dog because each requires different needs,” suggests Crist. “Puppies less than six months old should not be left alone or neglected for more than three to four hours at a time because they cannot control their bladders for long periods of time. Another consideration is if the apartment has a balcony, then one has to always be mindful that the pet does not fall from the balcony. Stairs could also present a problem to some dogs if they are a senior pet or if they have arthritis.”

Some people with yards or larger properties often have dog houses for dogs that sleep outside or are outside for extended periods of time. The idea that a dog is an ‘outside’ dog does not mean that the owner cares any less for it, but if your dog is going to be outside for the majority of the day there are some things to keep in mind.

“Some believe that outdoor dogs can have a higher risk for being abandoned,” said Crist “When a dog lives as part of the family inside the house, a tight and caring household bond can be formed. Occasionally, some puppies that grow up outside receive no socialization or behavior training. Some dogs may become bored or lonely and can develop bad habits such as digging in the yard, barking, chewing on outdoor equipment, sprinklers, or housing.”

Crist added that some county laws do not allow the pet to be chained up outside and require the pet to have food, water, and shelter. Some dogs that are unsupervised in the yard or outside can be physically injured from hazards that might be present in the backyard. They might want to chase other creatures like a skunk, raccoon, possum or other animals that might visit at night.

For outside dogs, toxic plants and meter readers that may spray the pet with a deterrent for their own protection are also things to be mindful of.

So whether you carry your canine in your purse with you everywhere or give him the ranch to roam, as long as you keep your tail-wagger’s best interest in mind along the way it will keep your home a happy one.



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Fostering for Thought

Ever have a soft spot for that starry-eyed cat or dog behind the caged door at an animal shelter? But maybe you are not sure if you can take on the responsibilities that come with being a pet owner for whatever reason just yet? Fostering could be a good option that allows you to feed your personal wants while also keeping the best interest of the animal in mind.

“Many animals are fostered. Most are dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens.  Sometimes reptiles and pocket pets are fostered until a permanent home can be found,” Dr. M.A. Crist, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences explains.

In the Brazos Valley area especially, there are many young adults and college students who are in a transition stage in their life due to school or other reasons. Because of this, some of us are more hesitant when it comes to making big decisions such as adopting a pet.

“Some young adults volunteer to foster an animal before adoption, especially if they provide volunteer work to a shelter or rescue organization.  Many young adults or college students who graciously provide their volunteer services do go on and adopt the animal they are providing fostering services for.  I believe this could allow the foster parent time to “bond” with the pet before making a lifetime commitment” explains Crist.

Of course there are also people who foster animals without the intention of adopting.

“If the relationship does not work out for a permanent home then the pet was housed for some time period and had human contact until new owners could be found.  Pet fostering does allow some young people to enjoy the company of a pet but yet not have a lifetime commitment if they help find a permanent home for the foster pet” said Crist.

The process leading up to fostering a pet usually consist of filling out an application and maybe attending a short orientation session. Most shelters provide the food, crate, and everything else to meet the specific needs of your animal. Some pets that need to be fostered also have special needs due to them being young, old, or sick.

“Older pets come with an established character, whereas, usually young pets are developing their character.  Older pets may have been abused in a previous environment and need extra time and care to get acquainted with the foster parent and foster household.  It is helpful to know the history of the foster pet if possible to provide the best care possible” explains Crist.

When introducing a new pet into your home there are some things to always consider. Some animals are timid or anxious before they become fully adjusted which can concern some new parents if they are unsure of this being a permanent personality trauma or problem.

“If the foster pet has not responded to the new foster home or parent within a timely period and is displaying unusual behavior or unacceptable behavior, then the foster pet needs to have a complete physical examination by their veterinarian.  The foster pet may need to be referred to a board certified animal behaviorist for further treatment.  Occasionally, the pet may need medications for their behavior which can be prescribed by the animal behaviorist” said Crist.

“The foster parent needs to decide if the foster pet is going to coincide with the existing household pet or will they be kept separate until the foster pet gets a permanent home.  Some things to consider is if the foster pet is young or old and will it get along with the household pet.  Also, does the household pet have a dominant or passive character and will it get along with the foster pet? Introductions need to be made slowly, over a period of days to weeks. The trick with kitty harmony is to introduce the felines slowly,” said Crist.

Take your new foster cat to your veterinarian for a complete physical examination for a healthy pet check.  Have a prepared room with food, water bowls, a bed, and a litter box which will be your new cat’s home until the two cats’ get used to each other.  Do not put the food so close to the door in the beginning that the cats are too upset at each other’s presence to eat.  Gradually move the food dishes to feed your resident kitty and your new cat on each side of the door to this room and this will encourage them to get used to each other’s smells and eat calmly.  Once this is accomplished, prop the door open enough just to allow the cats to see each other and repeat the whole procedure.

It is good to switch out the sleeping bed or blankets between to have them get comfortable with each other’s scent.  When the new cat is using the litter box and eating regularly, it is also good to let your new cat have some free time in the house while the resident cat is confined to the new cat’s room.  This switch allows each to cat to experience each other’s scents and the new kitty to become familiar with its new house without being frightened.   It is better to introduce your pets to each other gradually so that neither pet becomes frightened or aggressive.

“Do not force the cats to be together and do not allow interactions that fearful or aggressive because if this is allowed it can become habit and it is difficult to change.  Eventually, you can encourage them to play with a cat “fishing pole” or cat toys on a string.  Remember a litter box for each cat plus one,” Crist adds, “Introducing a cat to a dog can be quite tricky as well.  Some dogs have such high prey drive that they should never be left alone with a cat.  Usually dogs want to chase and play with cats and they become defensive, afraid and sometimes injured or worse.”

Using the separate room technique as described above helps the introduction.  Once the new cat and dog have explored each other’s scents and are comfortable eating on each side of the door, a controlled face to face meeting is allowed.  The dog is placed on a leash, on a “down stay” on one side of the room and a person on the opposite side of the room will sit quietly next to the cat and offer food or catnip to keep the cat around them without physically restraining the cat.  Repeat this with lots of short visits rather than long visits until the dog and cat are tolerating each other’s presence without fear or undesirable behavior.

The next step is to allow the cat to investigate the dog with the dog on a leash on a “down stay” and praising good behavior.  It is best to keep the dog on a leash and with you whenever the cat is free in the house during the introduction phase.  Allow the cat an escape route and hiding place and always keep the dog and cat separated when you are not present until you are quite certain that your cat will be safe.

“Be mindful that kittens are much smaller and can be easily injured or killed by a young energetic dog,” said Crist, “or high prey drive dog as well as our senior cats.   Sometimes it is best to allow the kitten to become fully grown.”

At the end of the day, we want always do what is best for the animal. Fostering an animal can help people decide if they have the time, energy, or accommodations needed for a pet.

“The only negative would be if the young adult or college student over commits themselves,” explains Crist.  “Sometimes the foster parent gets emotionally attached to the foster pet and it can be hard knowing they have to give up the pet at the end. For most, the foster parent is eager to find a great family who can make a lifelong commitment to the pet.”



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Proper Care of Stray Animals

Strayed or lost … what to do? When you find an animal wandering, what steps should you take to reunite them with their owner and keep yourself safe? “One should be careful when approaching a stray animal,” says Dr. M.A. Crist, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“If the animal is injured or scared it may inflict bite wounds or scratches to the person approaching or trying to handle the stray animal,” explains Crist. “Because the animal has an unknown vaccination history, we do not know if this animal has been vaccinated for rabies therefore it is recommended that experienced personnel handle stray animals.”

“Some rescue groups, animal shelters, and city animal control have knowledgeable personnel who are experienced in rescuing stray animals,” notes Dr. Crist. “They can provide veterinary care for the sick or injured and also check if the pet is microchipped or has any other form of identification that may reconnect it with the original owner.”

Teach your children or young adults not to walk up to any animal that does not have an owner attached to it. Even if there is an owner present, they should ask if they can approach the pet because it may not be friendly. If they are allowed to approach the pet, sometimes it is best to come from the side of the pet and try to avoid a frontal approach.

Crist also suggests that one should be mindful of bringing a stray animal into a confined area such as your car. The stray may become frightened and become a fear biter that causes harm to the person. She recommends that if one does obtain a stray and needs to transport the animal, it is best to place it into a pet carrier for transportation.

“Bringing a stray animal into your own home may be concerning,” notes Crist. “The pet has an unknown vaccine history. Again, the animal may become fearful and cause harm to people or other pets in the household. The stray pet should be kept away from your personal animals because one does not know if this animal may be carrying other diseases and expose your pets to these diseases.”

If you decide you want to keep a stray animal, Crist recommends having the animal examined by a veterinarian who can check for a microchip or other form of identification to determine an owner. The veterinarian can advise on what the stray would need to have the best medical treatment and how to care for the pet. “Good enclosures help to keep pets from escaping and getting lost,” explains Crist. But, if they escape, identifying mechanisms are helpful.

“I would strongly encourage pet owners to microchip or permanently identify their pet. It is recommended, if a microchip is used, to supply an additional contact name of a person not in your state. We learned this when Hurricane Katrina came to Louisiana and people were displaced. Lots of pets had contact names of people identified, but these people were displaced as well. The animal with a microchip that had an out-of-state contact gave us a person who helped to identify the pet owner.”

Crist notes that having pets spayed or neutered will certainly help with population control of unwanted animals. It will also help control the unwanted pregnancies of the animals that might escape and become lost.

The way to help a stray … what to do? Stay safe with safety first, seek knowledgeable and equipped personnel, and try to identify the pet’s owner.



Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to