Adding a (Four-legged) Member to the Family

Babies are wonderful additions to a family that can bring great happiness, but also require special attention. This, of course, applies to puppies and kittens as well. Before bringing these furry bundles of joy home, there are a few things you should know and preparations you need to make for them.

“The first thing to consider is if there is already another pet in the house,” explains Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “If there is a pet there already you will need to be prepared for dominance issues as the old pet will think it is the king of the house.”

Because of these dominance issues, it is best to introduce your new puppy to your current dog on equal ground outside the home if possible.

“This way the dogs can sniff each other out and get to know each other in an area where neither dog feels ownership,” notes Stickney.

When you initially bring the puppy home, try to do so when the older dog is out of the house and let the puppy explore for a while. Then you should confine the puppy to one room and let the old dog back in to sniff around and figure out that the puppy is there.

“This process should really help get the dogs used to each other and in most cases is really fairly quick and easy,” states Stickney. “However, the process for acclimating cats to new kittens is slightly different as cats tend to have more problems adjusting to a new roommate.”

With kittens you want to put them into their own room with food, water and a litter box. Let the old cat and the kitten sniff each other through the door and over a couple of days to a week let them into more and more areas of the house, making sure to supervise their first face-to-face visit.

“Unfortunately cats can be mean to a new cat for up to a year so you will need to be prepared for a long duration of family strife,” warns Stickney. “If you are having a lot of trouble with your kitties getting along you can pick up a cat pheromone such as Feliway at the pet store. It resembles the pheromone they secrete when they are happy and should help to calm them.”

Weather you have another pet or not there are some things you will need to prepare for any new pet coming into the house. Water and food bowls, food, a collar, and a bed would be a good start.

“If you already have a pet it is important for your new pet to have its own separate food bowl and bed,” states Stickney. “You should also feed them in separate areas so they don’t compete for food.”

One additional thing you should have if you are getting a puppy is a kennel. It can aide in potty training and also give them a safe place to go.

“Just make sure you do not use the kennel for punishment reasons or they will no longer feel safe in it,” explains Stickney.

Cats like to climb and scratch so if you are bringing home a kitty it would be a good idea for your sanity and the fate of your furniture to have a scratching post and/or a cat tower. You will also need a litter box and litter.

Once you bring your new puppy home the first thing you should do is schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

“The most important thing you can do for your new friend is to make sure they are healthy,” notes Stickney. “As soon as possible take them to get a check-up, any vaccinations they need and have them put on a heartworm preventative and flea control.”

Even once you have taken care of all their needs there is probably still going to be a period of adjustment. New puppies and kittens are babies and can get scared and cry during the night or when you are not with them.

“If your new pet is crying at night I would suggest giving them something that smells like you, such as the shirt you wore that day,” suggest Stickney. “Ticking clocks and the stuffed bears that are made for infants that stimulate a heartbeat are also very effective in calming dogs and cats.”

Although it might be a process getting ready for a new pet, the rewards almost always outweigh the negatives. If you start out right by making sure they are healthy and happy they very well might do the same for you.

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

Pet Hygiene

Looking neat and smelling clean are crucial aspects of social interaction for most people. While we also like our animals to smell and look nice, there are many other important reasons to maintain their hygiene. “Bathing and grooming your pets is helpful for their appearance, but even more so for their health and well-being,” explains Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Matted hair, cracked nails, and rotting teeth can all lead to very painful conditions down the road.”

Bathing your pets regularly and brushing their hair a couple times a week helps to disperse the skins natural oils through it and keeps it soft and healthy.

“It’s also important to bathe your pets for your own well being. The cleaner your pets are the less allergens there are floating around your house,” states Stickney.

While many people are tempted to use their own shampoo on their animals, Stickney points out that they make pet shampoo for a reason.

“Dog’s skin has a different pH than humans’. If you use your shampoo on your pet it is likely to make them itchy and cause their hair to be brittle,” warns Stickney.

Indoor pets also need to have their nails trimmed regularly to avoid snagging and tearing. It’s important to note that the longer nails grow and the longer interval between trimmings, the longer the blood vessels and nerves grow.

“If you let nails go too long, the nerves and blood vessels, what we call the quick, will keep growing with them. This means that when you do trim them they will most likely bleed and it will hurt your pet,” notes Stickney. “If this does happen you want to trim just a little and next week trim a little more. This will cause the quick to regress.”

If bathing, grooming and trimming your pet’s nails sounds like a little more than you would like to do on your own, you can always take them to a local groomer.

“One additional advantage to this is that a groomer may find a bump or mass on your pet that you might not have noticed,” adds Stickney.

In order to get your dogs ready for grooming, Stickney suggest that you acclimate them from a young age.

“I recommend that as soon as you get a puppy that you start regularly playing with their ears and their paws,” suggest Stickney. “This will make it easier for both you and a groomer to work with your pet and will ease its anxiety.”

Regular bathing and grooming is required for most pets, however there are some types and breeds that will need to be groomed more often than others.

“Larger breed dogs and short haired dogs will not need to be groomed as often as long haired dogs and small or toy breed dogs,” remarks Stickney. “Also, if they are active outdoor dogs they will wear down their nails naturally so you shouldn’t have to clip them as often.”

While all dogs will need to occasionally be groomed and bathed, Stickney notes that most cats are able to keep clean and work out mats on their own.

“It’s also good to note that pocket pets like hamsters and lizards also do not need baths,” states Stickney. “You are really just going to upset them if you try.”

Even though not all pets need regular baths it is important to know that there are aspects of hygiene and maintenance that are required for all pets. Keeping your pets clean and healthy throughout their lives will enhance their quality of life and the time you spend with them.

5 General Tips for Pet Hygiene:

  1. Keep fur brushed and free of mats.
  2. Brush teeth every day.
  3. Bath regularly as needed.
  4. Exercise regularly.
  5. Feed a high quality diet for healthy skin and hair.

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

First Aid Tips for Pet Owners

It’s the middle of the night and your phone rings. Your dog has gotten out and was hit by a car. What do you do? When our kids or our significant other gets sick or hurt we have a pretty good idea of how to take care of them. Unfortunately, most people are not prepared to handle these occurrences in our pets. To help pet owners deal with emergency situations, April has been designated as National Pet First Aid Awareness Month.

Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences says that one of the most important things that you can do for your pet’s safety is to have a relationship with your veterinarian.

“It is absolutely necessary to know if your veterinarian has an after hour emergency service and if not, who they recommend calling in case of an emergency,” explains Stickney. “It’s also imperative that you can call your veterinarian for advice on what to do to help your pet until you can get it to the clinic.”

The two most common emergency situations that a pet owner should be prepared for are poisoning and trauma.

“If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, contact your veterinarian. They may tell you to make it vomit by feeding it hydrogen peroxide,” states Stickney. “While hydrogen peroxide is generally harmless there are some poisons that will actually make things worse if the pet vomits so it is important that you contact your veterinarian first.”

As spring and summer approach more and more pets will be affected by snake bites. Dogs are especially curious and tend to get bitten the most on their noses, faces and front legs. “The area where the pet was bitten will swell up very quickly,” states Stickney “Just because there is no visible puncture wound does not mean that your pet did not get bitten.”

If you think your pet was bitten by a snake, stay calm and take it to the vet immediately. Do not put a tourniquet on the pet as this will limit the blood flow too much and cause more harm than good. “If you are able to kill the snake take it to the veterinarian with you. If they can identify the snake they will have a better idea of how harmful the bite is,” recommends Stickney.

It’s not uncommon that a dog or cat will suffer a traumatic event such as getting hit by a car, bike, or other vehicle. While the animal might look ok it is good to have it checked out by the veterinarian anyway. “Trauma can be very deceiving. Most of the time it looks better than it actually is and there is usually a lot of damaged tissue on the inside,” explains Stickney.

The first thing to do if your pet has been injured and is bleeding is to put pressure on the area to slow the blood flow. Hurt dogs tend to bite so it is a good idea to have a muzzle on hand to use in this type of situation.

“Your pet might be your best friend, but when dogs are hurt they may not remember that,” notes Stickney. “If you have a big dog, I would also recommend that you have a dog stretcher. They make it much easier to move large injured animals.” Less severe incidences such as minor cuts and scrapes are fairly common and can be handled much like you would treat yourself.

“Make sure that the cut is as clean as possible,” states Stickney. “I would not recommend putting antibiotic cream anywhere your pet can lick it off. This just causes more germs to get in the wound. If the cut is on an area they can’t lick than something like Neosporin will be fine.”

While there are a lot of ways that you can help your pet with simple first aid techniques, you will probably never have to use CPR. “The reality is that the chance that CPR will help your pet is very low,” says Stickney. “The good news is that this means there is very little reason you would have to put your dogs face in your mouth.”

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

Best Pets for People with Allergies

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that one in five Americans suffers from all types of allergies, and of these between 15 and 30 percent have allergic reactions to cats and dogs. With so many people affected by allergies, it has become a growing trend to market pets as hypo-allergenic or suitable for people with allergies.

Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, discusses the causes of these allergies and how to keep them at bay while enjoying the companionship of a cherished pet.

“While there are dogs and cats that are marketed as hypoallergenic, there is really no such thing,” notes Stickney. “People can be allergic to anything and it varies by person.”

The most common causes of pet allergies from dogs are flaking skin, called dander, and seasonal allergies can be caused by pollen spores that have attached to a dogs fur and brought into a house.

The kinds of dogs that are probably less likely to cause allergies are those with short hair and those that are less-likely to shed. These include terriers such as Yorkies and Westies, Poodles, and Schnauzers.

“There are really no breeds of cats that are better for people with cat allergies because these allergies are usually caused by the cat’s saliva,” states Stickney. “When a cat grooms itself, the saliva dries on its fur and is then transferred to the pet owner.”

There are some breeds of pets, such as the Chinese Crested dog and Sphinx cat, that are mostly or completely hairless. These pets may be less likely to cause allergies as the fur will not hold onto allergens.

“While hairless pets may be an option for people with allergies, these types of animals come with their own problems,” warns Stickney. “Hairless dogs have to be washed very often as they tend to have very oily skin and other skin problems.”

There also alternative pet options for people with allergies if they are willing to be a little adventurous. Reptiles, birds, rats, guinea pigs and fish are among the possibilities.

“It may take some experimentation to find the right pet as different people are allergic to different kinds of animals, but reptiles and fish should be safe for just about anybody,” says Stickney.

However, if one has their heart set on owning a dog or cat there are a few steps that they can take to alleviate some of the allergy risks.

“Bathing your pet once a week and vacuuming your house often are two precautions you can take to cut down on the allergens attached to your pets and floating around your house,” notes Stickney. “If possible, grooming should be left to someone who is not allergic as to minimize your contact with the pet’s fur and dander.”

Owning a pet is a fulfilling experience and something that many of us could not bear to live without. While allergies may dictate the breed or type of animal one can live with, everyone should be able to find a pet that they can love and that doesn’t make them sneeze.

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

Gift Ideas

Sure Santa Claus is coming to town with gifts for little Sammy and Sue, but what about your pet? If your pet has been good this year it is time to reward them with a holiday present.

“Pet stores sell all kinds of holiday presents for our animals,” states Dr. Mark Stickney, clinical assistant professor and director of general surgery Services at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “However, not all those presents are good choices for your pet.”

Added holiday pounds are not just a worry for us; our pets can be at risk as well. Dr. Stickney recommends keeping a few things in mind if you are planning on purchasing edible presents for your animals.

“Too many sweets can make pets sick,” notes Stickney. “It is also important to factor in the added calories from the treats so overfeeding can be avoided.”

If you are planning on buying your pet an edible chew toy, Stickney recommends getting them one that will soften as they chew it such as rawhide. Things such as pig’s feet and horse hoofs do not soften, and can crack a dog’s teeth.

In terms of toys, Stickney has a few suggestions when it comes to what to get your pet.

“For dogs, don’t get them a toy that resembles anything they are not allowed to chew on. A toy shoe or newspaper could be confusing and give the animal the wrong idea about what is or is not ok for them to chew on,” explains Stickney.

Also, make sure the toy you get the dog is sturdy.

“Don’t get your pet anything they could shred or destroy, they might eat part of it which can potentially cause gastrointestinal obstructions,” comments Stickney. “Make sure to get a toy that is appropriate for the breed and age of your dog. There is a great rubber dog toy called a Kong. These rubber toys have a hole in the center that can be filled with a treat which the dog works to get, which is both fun and stimulating for the animal. Kong’s are a great toy idea for any dog because they are virtually indestructible, come in various sizes, and provide hours of entertainment for your pet.”

Stickney also recommends avoiding toys that encourage tug of war games. Never encourage your dog to resist giving you things they have in their mouths.

“When it comes to buying gifts for cats, they will like anything that crinkles or moves unexpectedly,” states Stickney. “Beware of things that have strings they can swallow or bells they might choke on.”

If you give your pet a toy that requires interaction on your part, such as cat “fishing” poles that have long strings, in which your cat can become entangled, make sure the toy is put away when you are not playing with your pet.

“Birds and Ferrets like anything new and novel,” comments Stickney. “Just know that birds will ultimately destroy anything that is put in their cages, and ferrets often swallow things so make sure what you give them is strong enough to resist being pulled apart or chewed up.”

If your pet is of the scaly nature, they may not appreciate their present.

“Snakes and lizards won’t really notice if they get a present,” notes Stickney. “These animals like stability in their environments, so adding something new may not excite them as it would other pets.”

No matter what kind of pets you have on your list make sure you get them safe and appropriate gifts this holiday season.

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

Protect Your Pets from Food Hazards During the Holidays

Sweet treats and family meals are a hallmark of the holidays, but for many of our furry friends, these same indulgences can be dangerous. Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, tells us how we can keep our pets safe while enjoying the holiday season.

One of the major food dangers to our pets during the holidays and beyond is chocolate. Eating chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can cause toxicity in dogs and cats, which can result in death.

“While chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats we see chocolate toxicity much more often in dogs. This is simply because dogs are much more likely to eat it. However, it is important to keep it away from all pets just in case,” notes Stickney. Although chocolate has long been a known toxin for dogs, other foods and vegetation can also be very harmful.

“Few people know this, but both grapes and raisins can cause renal failure in dogs,” states Stickney. “Another thing to note is that Easter lilies, or really any flower from the lily family, can cause kidney failure in cats.”

While these foods are especially dangerous, feeding any table scraps to your pets can cause them harm in the long-run. Because of this, Stickney stresses the importance of keeping your pet’s diet regular year-round.

“During the holidays it is common for friends and family members to slip your pets food under the table. While they think they are giving them a nice treat, the high fat content of most table scraps can not only cause weight control problems, but can also cause pancreatitis,” says Stickney.

In order to avoid these situations, Stickney suggests that you ask any guests to avoid the temptation of feeding your dogs table scraps and explain to them the risks associated.

“Most people are more than willing to respect your wishes, especially when they know the health concerns,” Stickney notes. “Of course children are another story. The only thing you can do is watch them like a hawk.”

Even if they are not given food, pets can sometimes find it themselves. It is not uncommon in the commotion and food preparation of the holidays to find your animal knee-deep in your trash can.

“It’s important to remember to always keep you trash closed with a lid or put somewhere your animal cannot reach it,” states Stickney. “If they do get into it you may have a sick animal on your hands and no way of knowing what and how much they ate.”

While it is best to keep your animals on their regular diet, Stickney does say that there are some foods that are safe for pets to eat.

“If you absolutely have to give them something off of your plate, hand them a green bean,” says Stickney. “Plain vegetables and unbuttered, unsalted popcorn are both pretty harmless since they are mostly fiber and don’t contain a lot of extra calories.”

Although toxic food is a major concern for your pets during the holiday season, other common substances and smells can also harm them during this time.

“Birds are very sensitive to anything they can inhale. During the holidays people like to burn smelly candles and our guests may want to smoke, but these types of irritants can give our winged companions the bird version of a cold,” states Stickney.

Another thing to keep in mind, as the weather gets colder and you start changing your anti-freeze to keep your dogs away from it.

“Anti-freeze has a sweet taste to it that dogs seem to like. Unfortunately it is extremely toxic and can cause renal failure,” notes Stickney.

The important thing to remember is that your pets are part of your family. By keeping an eye out and avoiding over-feeding you can make sure the entire family is enjoying the season.

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

Make Sure Pet Costumes are a Treat

As the weather turns colder and the holidays approach, many pet owners start thinking of the adorable Halloween costumes and cozy sweaters they can put on their pets. While these outfits can be fun and festive, the wrong outfit can cause harm to your animal.

Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, shares some tips and insight on how to protect your pet while celebrating the season.

While Dr. Stickney agrees that costumes and clothes are a fun way to interact with your animals, he emphasizes that the most important thing to remember when dressing your pet is to monitor them.

“Cute little costumes are fun to put on your animals while trick-or-treating, but when you are not watching your animals, make sure to take them off,” said Dr. Stickney.

He also stresses that this also goes for sweaters, jackets or any other clothing you may put on your pet. While you may think your pets need clothes to stay warm, they can do more harm than good if the animal is not monitored.

Dr. Stickney states, “More than likely your animal does not need to keep clothing on to stay warm, even in the winter. If you have a house pet that only goes outside for 15-20 minutes to go to the bathroom, they will be more than fine without the clothing.”

Although it is important to watch your pets while they are dressed it is also important to make sure the outfits you buy them fit correctly. Anything that can wrap around your pets neck, paws or legs can cause them to panic and seriously injure themselves.

“This is especially common in small or young dogs as many costumes may not fit them correctly because of their size,” states Dr. Stickney. “The best way to select pet costumes or clothing is to buy them at a pet store where you can take your pet with you and try the outfit on them. That way you will know for sure that it not only fits correctly but that it also looks as adorable as you hoped.”

Other things Dr. Stickney says to avoid in pet clothing are dangly pieces of fabric, bells or other small objects that can be chewed off and swallowed by your pet. These things can cause your animal to choke, cause blockages in their intestinal track, or worse.

“Ribbons and bows are especially dangerous for cats. These are things cats love to play with and chew on, but if they swallow them it causes what is called a ‘linear foreign body’. This requires emergency surgery to remove or it can ‘saw’ a hole in the intestines,” warns Dr. Stickney.

One other minor problem that pets may experience when wearing costumes is that they may be allergic to the clothing materials or the detergent in which it has been washed.

Dr. Stickney states, “If your dog is allergic to a costume or clothing they may develop an itchy red rash. The best thing to do is to take the outfit off of the pet and retire it. There is no reason to cause your pet pain and discomfort.”

By keeping your pet’s safety and comfort in mind you can make sure this holiday season is a fun treat for you and your animal.

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

Pet Wellness

Taking care of our pets is a year round commitment. However, caring for our animals is more than simply making sure they have food, water, and shelter each day. Making sure they visit their veterinarian for regular check-ups is vital to their well being as well.

October is National Pet Wellness Month. Sponsored by The American Veterinary Medical Association and Fort Dodge Animal Health, National Pet Wellness month is intended to promote awareness about the pet aging process, disease prevention, and the importance of pet wellness exams.

Many people adopt the misguided belief that unless you pet is clearly ill or injured there is no reason to take them to the veterinarian. Just because your pet is not displaying discomfort, does not mean it is healthy. Visiting your veterinarian for wellness exams can potentially prevent health problems, lead to early detection of health issues that could become problematic, and find existing problems that may be corrected.

“Make sure your pets see their veterinarian at least once a year. Once your animals reach their “senior” years they should be getting wellness exams every six months,” explains Dr. Mark Stickney, the Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Teaching Hospital.

Of course what is considered “senior” for pets is drastically different from that of humans. Stickney explains that “senior” is defined differently for different animals. Average sized dogs and cats usually are considered to be senior pets once they turn seven. Large breeds of dogs are classified as senior after their fifth birthday.

“Our pets age faster than we do. Therefore, diseases develop faster in them. For example, an illness that could take years to affect a human can develop in dogs in a few months,” states Stickney. “Our pets cannot tell us when something is wrong with them; scheduling regular wellness exams can help detect and treat illnesses early.”

According to Stickney, during a wellness exam the veterinarian is checking: the animal’s body condition(not too fat or skinny), the muscular skeletal system to make sure there is no muscle wasting that could mean they are not using certain muscles because it is painful, if the heart and lung functions sound normal, the abdomen and organs to make sure they are normal in size and not causing the animal pain, the lymph nodes are normal sized and symmetrical, the condition of the eyes, ears, and teeth, no unexpected lumps or bumps, and no skin or internal parasites.

It is important to tell your veterinarian if your pet has been displaying any abnormal behavior. Changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits, obedience, and displays of aggression can be signs of a bigger problem.

“Though some illnesses are unavoidable, there are some diseases that we can prevent our pets from contracting by simply getting them immunized. Though rabies is the only vaccination required by law, veterinarians recommend a few other vaccinations for our cats and dogs,” notes Stickney.

Common vaccinations for dogs include Parvovirus, Distemper, Parainfluenza, and Adenovirus. Cats should be vaccinated for Feline Herpes, Calicivirus, and Panleukopenia.

According to Stickney, series of vaccinations generally begin when a puppy or kitten is between eight and twelve weeks old. These series are scheduled about three weeks apart until they are around twenty weeks old. At one year old, pets should go in for booster shots.

Because there are no set rules for when and what to immunize your pet for, it is best to talk with your veterinarian about creating and maintaining a vaccination plan that works best for your pet.

“We are able to treat more illness in animals than ever before,” states Stickney. “Taking your animal in for their wellness exams can give them longer, better, and happier lives. Yearly visits to the veterinarian are a small price to pay for our pets’ companionship.”

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718

Safe Toys for Pets

It is never desirable to leave a pet at home alone, but when it is necessary, it is nice to know the pet will be entertained. But the price of entertainment can be high when the pet is left with inappropriate toys; some toys may cause choking or even require surgery to eliminate the problem.

Buying safe toys for your pet is a must in order to keep them safe from harm. The problem is that most people are not aware of the potential hazards that pet toys may cause their animal.

Fortunately, there are people like Dr. Mark Stickney, veterinarian at the College of Veterinary Medicine Biomedical Sciences, to lend their expertise. When looking for a toy for a dog Stickney recommends, “Don’t buy anything too soft where the dog could bite off pieces and swallow them.” Stickney warns that the dog could choke on these pieces or even swallow them. If the dog was to swallow the pieces, surgery may be needed in order to remove them. Toys that may be too soft are toys made of soft plastic or rubber; these materials are easy for dogs to bite through.

Stickney also recommends that toys not be too hard. He strongly suggests that dogs not be given animal bones. Bones are too hard, leading the dog to chip or even break its teeth.

Stickney advocates the use of raw hide chews. He believes that dogs enjoy playing with them and that they are the safest material for the dog. He also urges pet owners to buy toys that are appropriate for the size of their dog. If the dog is smaller, naturally the toy should be smaller; and the same holds true for larger dogs. Stickney proposes that a safe toy is one that the dog can easily hold in its mouth without its teeth puncturing the toy. Yet, the toy should not be small enough to fit down the dog’s throat.

The best toys, in Stickney’s opinion, are called ‘Kongs.’ They are tubes that are filled with treats in the center. They come in a variety of different sizes for different dogs, and are hard enough that the dog cannot chew through them. The tubes even have weight recommendations on their boxes, signifying the most appropriate tube for the weight of the dog.

Cats are a bit different with their toy preferences than dogs. They tend to like toys that move and are stimulating to the eye. Stickney admits that, “Cats tend to like toys that are free.” Such as playing with small aluminum and paper balls. “Any toy that a cat can place under its paws and the toy springs out, cats will often love.”

Stickney cautions that cat owners should not give their cats toys that have long strings. The cat may swallow the string causing choking. Cat’s preferences on toys tend to be more varied than dogs, but most prefer round toys that move.

The best places to purchase these toys are places with a wide selection of pet toys, such as PetCo and PetSmart. These places usually have a large variety, and if a toy has proven to be harmful, they are good about taking it off the shelves.

About Pet Talk

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 vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for future topics may be directed to editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc – (979) 862-2675
Cell – (979) 739-5718