What good is an outdoor pet? Animals need to be part of the family

December 23, 2009 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

It’s a never-ending mystery: Why people have companion animals, and never let them become part of the family. From Gina Spadafori in this week’s Pet Connection newspaper feature:

I have always had difficulty understanding why people want to keep dogs outside. If keeping a beautiful house and yard are of the utmost importance to you, then don’t get a dog. If you know someone in your family can’t abide a dog in the house, for whatever reason, then don’t get a dog. If you can’t let a dog be part of your family, then don’t get a dog.

You don’t get the benefits of companionship from a dog you see so little. You don’t even get much in the way of protection from the pet who has no access to the house. And don’t count on outdoor dogs as an early warning system. These animals often become such indiscriminate barkers that you couldn’t tell from their sound whether the dogs are barking at a prowler or at a toddler riding a tricycle down the street. Besides, people who keep outdoor dogs seem to become quite good at ignoring the noise they make, as any angry neighbor can vouch.

From Dr. Marty Becker, a warning that too much of a good thing this holiday season might land your pet in the ER:

It seems I write about this every year. I know I’m dating myself, but I remember when leftovers from restaurant meals were packed into foil bags with a picture of a dog on them, not Styrofoam containers. Doggie bags they really were, since many of the goodies went straight home to the pets.

Veterinarians have always been aware that the leftovers of a fine meal out — or treats from a delicious holiday feast — often represented a genuine danger to pets rather than a tasty treat. Far from being a special gift to our beloved pets, fat-laden leftovers and sharp bones pose a threat to their health, causing illnesses such as pancreatitis, accidents such as a perforated intestine and even death.

The containers may have changed, but the attitude hasn’t. While lean meats and raw vegetables (such as baby carrots) are healthy treats for any dog, the old doggie bag staples such as bones and the fat trimmed off a steak need to be strictly off-limits to pets.

If you do give meat or poultry to your dog or cat as an occasional treat, trim it carefully to remove the fat as well as the skin, which is a hiding place for more fat. Even if you’re lucky enough that your pet doesn’t end up with acute pancreatitis (a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas), a perforated intestine, severe gastroenteritis (aka a big bellyache), or relatively mild cases of vomiting or diarrhea, the fat certainly adds calories most dogs today don’t need.

Many breeds are especially prone to obesity, including the Labrador retriever, Cairn terrier, cocker spaniel, dachshund, Shetland sheepdog, basset hound, pug or beagle, and mixes of these breeds (hello, puggles!).

So dump the scraps and watch the weight. Ask your veterinarian for guidance when it comes to what your pet should and should not be eating, at any time of year. You don’t have to deny your pet a little holiday yummy, but you do need to be careful with the kind and amount of treats you provide.

Want more? Read the entire Pet Connection for this week, or download the PDF file here to see it just as we submit it to our client newspapers!


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