A poorly trained dog can pull you
over while you’re out for a stroll. According to the CDC, tens of
thousands of people end up in the ER every year because of pet-related
falls. Many of these falls occur during walks -- either when a person
trips over a dog or is pulled or pushed by one. Experts say obedience
training is the best way to make sure your pooch doesn’t take you down
during the morning walk.
After a walk in the woods, you check
yourself for ticks, right? Don't forget about your dog. Tick bites put
your dog at risk for Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a
handful of other diseases. They can also cause serious illnesses in
cats. If your pet has infected ticks, this puts the rest of the family
at risk. If you find a tick, remove it carefully with tweezers, being
careful to get all of the head and not to crush it. Ask the vet about
If your pet has a round bald patch,
ringworm could be to blame. Leave this fungus untreated, and you're
putting your family at risk. People can get ringworm from dogs or cats
by touching their skin or fur. Ringworm usually causes a reddish,
ring-shaped rash on the skin or bald spots if it infects the scalp. If
your pet has hair loss, take him to your vet to see if it could be
Not Bothering to Deworm
Roundworms are common parasites in
both dogs and cats. They cause diarrhea and vomiting and may lead to
serious illness. But many people don't realize these worms are a threat
to humans, too. An infected pet can contaminate soil or sand with tiny
eggs. Kids may ingest the eggs by putting dirty fingers in their mouths.
When the worms hatch inside people, they can cause blindness and other
tissue damage. Ask your vet about regular deworming.
Skipping Flea Medicine
Skip your pets' flea medicine, and
they aren't the only ones who will pay the price. Fleas will quickly set
up shop on untreated pets, particularly in summer and fall, and fill
your house with their eggs and young. Some people wind up covered in
itchy sores. Fleas can also transmit serious diseases to people
including bubonic plague. Ask your vet about long term flea medication
and put a routine reminder on your calendar.
Not Spaying or Neutering Your Pet
Millions of cats and dogs
live on the street or end up euthanized because of unwanted litters.
Still, many people are reluctant to spay or neuter their pets. The fact
is, spaying and neutering is a healthy choice for your pet. It reduces
the risk of breast cancer in females and testicular cancer in males.
Neutered males are also less likely to run away from home, mark their
territory, or exhibit aggressive behaviors.
Keeping the Food Bowl Full
With the best intentions, some
people keep their pets' food bowls full at all times. This is one of the
most common mistakes pet owners make. The problem is that cats and dogs
often eat more than they need. If food is constantly available, they
will take in too many calories and put on too much weight. To avoid
this, follow the suggestions on the pet food label or ask your vet for
Providing Too Little Exercise
Just like people, pets need
exercise to stay healthy. Couch potato pets are prone to obesity, which
raises their risk of respiratory problems and joint problems. The right
amount of exercise for a dog depends on the breed and size, but vets
recommend at least a half-hour each day. Taking brisk walks with your
dog can help you get in shape, too.
Misreading Body Language
Sure, you love your dog. But do you
really understand him? If you think a wagging tail is always a good
sign, you could be in for a nasty surprise. When a dog wants to threaten
someone, he may hold his tail high and wave it stiffly back and forth.
Mistake this warning for a sign of playfulness and you could get bitten.
To avoid misunderstandings, learn about your pet's body language.
Providing Too Little Attention
Just like children, your pets
will get bored if you don't play with them. And boredom can lead to
troublesome behaviors like chewing, digging, barking, and whining. Bored
cats may resort to scratching and excessive meowing. Fight boredom by
hiding treats for your pets to find around the house. Provide toys your
cat can chase. Teach dogs to play fetch, tug-of-war, or hide-and-seek.
Not Socializing Young Pets
It's important to provide puppies
and kittens with positive human interaction during their first seven
weeks of life. This includes handling and play that fosters trust in
people. Reputable breeders will begin this interaction, and you can
continue the process when you bring your pet home. To develop a strong
bond, play with your new puppy or kitten every day.
Leaving a Dog Alone Too Long
Spending 8-10 hours alone in a
crate, tiny laundry closet, or even outdoors is too much for most dogs.
It can lead to separation anxiety and destructive behaviors including
chewing, soiling, digging, and nonstop barking or howling -- even
depression in a timid dog. Better choices are doggie day care, a mid-day
visit from a pet sitter, or a canine companion. Adult dogs can go 4-5
hours in a crate but need exercise before and after.
Setting No Rules
Some people expect their pets to know right
from wrong without being told. But human etiquette does not come
naturally to dogs and cats. You need to make it clear that jumping up on
people, scratching the furniture, and peeing on the carpet are
unacceptable. Be consistent about the house rules, and reward your pets
for good behavior. If you need guidance, consult a trainer promptly.
Scolding Pets for "Accidents"
If you come home to find a
puddle of pee on the floor, you may have the urge to yell at your pet.
But animal behavior experts say this will do no good at all. The
transgression took place in the past, and your dog or cat won't know why
you are yelling. A better strategy is to praise your pets immediately
when they do their business where they are supposed to.
Leaving Young Kids Unsupervised
Most children adore animals,
but sometimes their enthusiasm can lead to someone getting hurt. Young
kids may play too rough, pushing a dog or cat to strike out in
self-defense. Be sure to supervise play time when a new pet joins the
family. Set rules for how children should treat the pet and teach them
to recognize the signs that a dog or cat wants to be left alone.
Letting Dogs Eat Spoiled Food
Your dog may be tempted to
rifle through the neighbor's garbage in search of a treat, but don't let
her! Food gone bad is no healthier for pets than it is for people. Dogs
who eat garbage are at risk for bacterial food poisoning or irritation
of the pancreas. Spoiled food may also contain toxic mold, which can
cause vomiting, severe tremors, seizures, and death.
Giving Bones to Dogs
We may think of bones as a wonderful
treat for dogs, but the FDA paints a different picture. The agency warns
that chewing on bones can injure the teeth, tongue, or mouth. Bones can
also get stuck in the digestive tract, where they will have to be
removed with surgery or an endoscope. If your dog likes to chew, ask
your vet about safer alternatives.
Feeding Dogs Table Scraps
can be hard to resist a dog that's begging at the table. You look into
those big eyes and want to share your food with your pet. But rewarding
your dog's barks or whines will only encourage more begging in the
future. And then you can forget about quiet dinners with your family. If
you want to share table scraps as an occasional treat, do it away from
the table -- and use the food as a reward for good behavior. Also, some
human foods can be toxic to pets.
Having No Disaster Plan
If an emergency forces you to
evacuate your home, what will you do with your pets? Leaving them behind
is not an option if your community is threatened by fire, flooding, or
hurricane-force winds. And not all Red Cross shelters allow you to bring
your pets. It's best to identify pet-friendly shelters and motels ahead
of time, so you can keep your pets with you during an emergency.