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How to Spot Bad Pet Advice

On a recent trip to our local pet superstore, I heard an employee give a dog owner really terrible advice. It wasn’t obviously terrible, like, “Yes, you should absolutely buy that dayglow cocktail dress.” Or, “Sunblock is for sissies, you don’t need it!”

No, this advice was potentially deadly. And I wish I could say it was the first time I’ve heard people (not just pet store employees) spout off advice that isn’t just unfounded, but downright dangerous.

This weekend’s edition of bad advice was a woman looking to buy her aggressive chewer a toy that he couldn’t destroy. The employee said to her he wasn’t sure there would be anything strong enough for her dog if he’s chewing through firehose (?)! “I’d just give him a baseball, yanno?”

No no no no no. I spoke with a manager about the bad advice and she was able to get to the woman before she left to tell her to please not give a baseball to her dog. I’ll explain why baseballs are bad in a sec.

Bad Toy Advice

Plainly said, if it wasn’t designed to be a chew toy it isn’t a chew toy. Even well-known toy companies want you to be aware that damage to their toys, even toys made for chewing, can be dangerous if pieces break off and are swallowed. My two favorite chew toy companies for Gremlin are Kong and Nylabone and they readily tell owners to be aware of that danger.

Even things sold in some pet stores can be bad to give your dog, like the very popular deer antlers. They are very hard and can do serious damage to your dog’s teeth that can lead to infections. The rule of thumb to keep in mind is if you can’t make a dent with your thumbnail (I told you it was a rule of thumb) then it’s too hard. Kong and Nylabone have excellent safe and healthy options

To bring this back to the pet store, baseballs are made of string, tightly wrapped and covered in leather. The adhesive that binds the cover to the ball of string is only surface level, meaning once you get past that thin layer you can unwind the ball all the way to the pill.

There’s no reason that a dog, especially an aggressive chewer, couldn’t get through the adhesive and end up chewing on a ball of loose string. The problem with playing with string is that it can lead to one of the worst foreign body obstructions seen in veterinary medicine.

Linear foreign bodies create a dangerous problem for dogs and cats because they can become lodged along the GI tract. String can anchor itself around tongues or get balled up and stuck at the bottom of the stomach. In both situations, the rest of the string will continue being pulled along the animal’s digestive tract, eventually getting pulled so tightly that it will cut into your pet.

The only way to fix these (lower) obstructions is for your veterinarian to perform an exploratory surgery. Your vet will need extensive ultrasound and x-ray studies to get an idea of where the obstruction is before they do the surgery. Once in surgery, your vet will have to make a rather large incision so they can access the majority of your pet’s GI tract.

This surgery is a bear because of the risk of sepsis when working with the lower portions of the digestive tract. The recovery takes days in ICU and then weeks at home. Prevention is definitely the best medicine here!

Bad Nutrition Advice

There’s a lot of talk about better nutrition and how it can affect our longevity. We all want our pets to be with us for as long as possible, so their nutrition has become increasingly more important too.

Avoid advice that says to make your own food out of a limited number of ingredients. First, you should always be sure of the safety of the ingredients themselves and then be sure that your dog or cat is getting all the nutrition they need to thrive. Just like our diets, dogs and cats need a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and proteins that can be difficult to get from a small variety of food.

If you are set on making your own pet food, more power to you! Just be sure to consult your veterinarian about what sort of supplements you’ll need to ensure proper nutrition.

Bad Health Advice

There’s a lot that can go wrong with your dog or cat that can end up being very expensive to address. They can get hurt, get sick, or even just need a dental cleaning. Don’t take a redneck engineering approach to your animal’s health. If it feels wrong or like a shortcut, take your pet to the vet and get it worked out professionally. The longer you wait the worse the problem can get.

What’s the worst pet advice you’ve ever received? Did you take it and then realize, or was it obviously wrong? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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