National Animal Safety and Protection Month
National Pet Wellness Month

October is National Animal Safety and Protection Month – 30 days dedicated to promoting the safe handling and care of domestic and non-domestic animals. Because animals play such important roles in human existence, it is necessary that all animals be treated kindly with the respect and care they deserve.

October has also been designated National Pet Wellness Month by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in an effort to help educate pet parents on the importance of wellness exams, spaying/neutering, disease prevention and pet insurance. Some advice from the AVMA for keeping your pets happy and healthy year round includes:

  • Annual Exams – Make sure your pets see a veterinarian yearly to check for any new or chronic health issues and receive adequate treatment. Vaccination protocols and the program best suited for your pet can be re-examined at this time.
  • Spay/Neuter – Sterilizing your pet not only helps to curb pet overpopulation, spaying and neuter prevents such diseases as pyometra (a painful uterine infection) and mammary, testicular, and prostate cancers. Young animals can safely have the procedure as early as 8 to 12 weeks of age depending on your veterinarian and the size of the animal (most vets wait until your pet weighs at least 2 pounds).
  • Weight Management – According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in this country veterinarians classify approximately 53 percent of adult dogs and 58 percent of cats as overweight or obese. Regular exercise and attention to diet and meal times can prevent your pet from becoming fat. Our recent blog, “Is My Pet Too Fat?,” can provide you with some of the “hows” and “whys” regarding pet obesity and some tips on helping your furry companion remain slim, trim and healthy.
  • Balanced, Nutritional Diet – Whether you feed your pet a commercial diet or make your pet food in your own kitchen, your animals need a complete, well-balanced meal plan with all the necessary nutrients to remain healthy and disease-free. Read labels, follow dietary restrictions, and do your research to ensure that your feeding plan meets all of your pet’s requirements.
  • Dental Care – Your veterinarian should evaluate your pet’s teeth during any regular health examination for dental tartar and plaque, broken and loose teeth, and periodontal disease. Daily brushing – if allowed – and veterinary dental cleanings when necessary can prevent the dental disease that, if left unchecked, can lead to cardiac and renal problems or nutritional issues if your pet can’t chew or adequately digest food.
  • Senior Pets – As your animals age, their dietary and exercise requirements change. Kidneys lose some ability to concentrate urine, so the animal drinks more water and produces more urine. Hearing and eyesight may begin to fail and cardiac issues may arise. Senior bones and joints may become painful with osteoarthritis. Feeding the correct foods and regular veterinary checkups can help your senior pets remain active well into their dotage.

There are other ways you can care for the animals in your home and in your community.

Use safety restraints when traveling with your pets. If your cat or dog feels more comfortable riding in a crate when driving in the car, then placing the kennel where your pet can comfortably see you may be just the ticket to keep him or her relaxed and stress-free on the trip. A dog that likes to feel the wind on his face and watch the traffic go by will probably be best wearing a harness that attaches to the seat belt buckles. This type of safety harness allows your dog to move around a bit, but will hold him in the seat in case of emergency stop or a traffic accident. For more tips on how to safely travel with your pet, you can read our blog at Healthy Summer Travel with Your Pet.”

Microchip your pets in case they get lost or stolen. This particular piece of advice is probably self-explanatory. Once your vet injects an identifying microchip under the skin of your furry companion, the chances of him or her making it back to your home greatly increase should the pet become lost or stolen. To understand how microchips work and why they can literally save your pet’s life, check out our blog at “Lost or Found: Why Microchipping Your Pet Makes Good Sense.”

Teach young children about animal care, including how NOT to handle pets. Young children are drawn to their animal companions, but, unless they are taught the “dos” and “don’ts” of pet handling, they can get into circumstances where someone can get hurt.

The Do’s – Teach your children to properly feed, walk, and groom your pets under your strict supervision. Rough tugging at a leash, rubbing the brush too hard against hair mats or sensitive skin, taking away a food dish before the animal is finished eating are all situations that leave both a helpless pet and your child vulnerable to the whims and personalities of both human and animal.

Show your children how to lovingly and gently pet your dog or cat while the animal is relaxed and willing. Play activities can be bonding time between your child and your pet as long as both animal and kid are having fun and neither is feeling threatened by the other. This hassle-free recreation can only occur when both children and animals receive the proper training and parents set the appropriate behavioral boundaries.

The Don’ts – Don’t allow children to do any of the following to your pets:

  • pull on tails or ears.
  • take food or toys away from a pet without your permission and/or supervision.
  • sit on your pet.
  • pick up a pet who appears uncomfortable or unwilling to participate.
  • reach out to touch an unfamiliar dog or cat without asking permission from the owner.
  • stare or lean into the face of a strange animal.
  • wake your pet out of a dead sleep.
  • play with your pet’s eyes, mouth, teeth or feet.
  • hit, kick, or otherwise punish your animal.

Just as you teach your children to appreciate the space and personalities of their human friends, so you must show your children how to respect the needs and quirks of their furry companions.

Volunteer at a local rescue and/or foster shelter animals. Spending a few hours a month at a local rescue can be a way of caring for animals as well as giving back to your community. By fostering shelter dogs or cats prior to adoption into their forever homes, you can help unwanted pets learn how to live in a family and a house and make them more attractive and adoptable than those animals who spend their time waiting in a kennel. Our blog at “6 Great Ways to Celebrate National Dog Day on August 26th” gives you more wonderful ideas on how to care for pets in your community.

Use non-animal tested products in your home and on your body. Did you know that in the US animals are still routinely used in laboratory and manufacturing facilities to test cosmetics, medicines, personal hygiene products and home-cleaning chemicals?

According to the National Anti-Vivisection Society, rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs are the most commonly used animals in product testing, although beagles, cats and pigs are also exploited by manufacturers. The NAVS states that, “The tests attempt to determine the potential harm a substance can do to a living creature when ingested or inhaled, or otherwise comes into contact with the body. They include eye and skin irritancy tests, as well as tests which determine the internal effects of a substance.”

These tests often cause extensive and painful damage to the animals’ eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and skin. For example, the Draize test for eye irritancy allows for various concentrations of chemicals and products to be applied directly into the animals’ eyes, which causes intense pain, burning and blindness. In the Draize test for skin irritancy, skin is abraded by firmly pressing adhesive tape onto the animal’s body and repeatedly stripping it off until several layers of skin have been removed after which harsh chemicals are painted on to the raw flesh.

So what can consumers do?

Do your research and purchase only those cosmetics and household products not tested on animals. More and more companies – particularly those listed as “organic” or “vegan” – no longer purchase animals to use in their labs. This Humane Society International infographic can point you in the right direction on what to look out for and how to begin using animal-free products.

National Animal Safety and Prevention Month is a wonderful opportunity to remind people of the importance of animals in our everyday lives. Though it’s only one month out of the year, these health, safety and welfare practices can be observed all year round. With better care for humans and animals, we can all lead happier and healthier lives.

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