By Dr. Bruce Little
Every spring brings with it, National Pet Week, a tribute to the pets that share our daily lives. The week of May 6-12 has been designated as National Pet Week this year. The theme for the event is the same as it was last year, “A Lifetime of Love”, and is meant to reach out to pet owners and veterinarians alike to spread the concepts of responsible pet ownership and the need for preventive veterinary care for our pet family members. National Pet Week was originated in 1981 by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Auxiliary to the AVMA to promote responsible pet ownership and recognize the human-animal bond. Since that time, National Pet Week has flourished into an event that has brought veterinarians and pets to elementary schools, college campuses, nursing homes, hospitals and Veteran’s Administration facilities to bring joy, entertainment and knowledge to the participants who utilize those facilities. National Pet Week benefits many groups of people and organizations; however, the primary recipient of the results are the pets themselves, be they dogs, cats, horses, birds, gerbils, fish, or any other animal that serves to make the lives of family members more gratifying.
Each year the AVMA Auxiliary, which is made up of spouses and significant others to veterinarians, conduct a poster contest and a writing contest for children. These children are notified one year in advance to give them ample time to create their submissions. Each year many entries are received for the judges to see and pick the winner. The winner of the poster contest for this year was Gracie Babin of Hammond, Louisiana, who was a fifth grader when she submitted her artwork shown above.
The winner of the writing contest was Spencer Williams of Baton Rouge, Louisiana who was in twelfth grade when he penned the following poem that won the writing contest.
Barks, Purrs, Tweets, Neighs
Pets speak love many ways.
Chirps, squeaks, bellows, trills
Pets give you so many thrills!
Croaks, coos, quacks, clicks
Pets will reward you with a shower of licks!
The organizers of National Pet Week have chosen to celebrate “A Lifetime of Love” again this year as the slogan to help pet owners foster responsible pet ownership, recognize the human-animal bond, and increase awareness of the need to see your veterinarian for preventive measures regarding your pet family member. Providing your pet with regular preventive care is the key to a healthy and long, enjoyable life for your pet. If you purchase or adopt a new pet into the family, choose wisely and commit to care for that new addition for its lifetime. Owning a pet is a privilege, but the benefits of pet ownership come with responsibilities. Don’t purchase an animal of any kind without regarding the time commitment, costs for preventive healthcare and food, energy required, living environment and willingness to provide responsible management of the pet. Select the pet that’s right for your family’s lifestyle and make a commitment to that pet for its life. Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship. Before buying or adopting a pet from any source, the family must determine what type of pet would best suit the family life style and living environment into which the new addition to the family will be brought. Most all puppies are cuddly and cute while young; however, all puppies that are properly nurtured grow into adult dogs. The size, breed, age, disposition, need for space and other criteria must be weighed judiciously before taking a pet home. The primary reason many pets are given up to shelters and rescue operations are unfulfilled expectations. It is important to make informed decisions by including all members of the family in the choice of pets. The first order of business upon acquiring a new pet into the family is to socialize that pet. Introduce the pet to people outside the immediate family as well as to other pets or other animals that might encounter your addition. Recent studies indicate that punishment-based training methods, also called aversive training, may do more harm than good because they may cause increased fear and anxiety in you newly acquired pet. Positive training rewards the pet with a treat when they perform the actions that are desired. Exercise and learning are a part of all training for pets. Walking the dog or allowing it into a safe enclosure outside to play and explore benefits its health immensely.
Vaccinations against the major diseases can save lots of dollars and create comfort for your pet by protecting them against transmissible diseases. Annual examinations for parasites and the utilization of parasite control to prevent your pet from infestation will save money overall. Annual examinations for tumors can be much cheaper to treat and resolve if caught early rather than delaying until the tumor has encroached upon more vital tissues and must have expensive surgical techniques to remove it. Routine dental evaluations can identify teeth and gum problems in their infancy and are much cheaper to treat than if the condition has progressed to an advanced state. One of the most beneficial preventive measures that you can provide for your pet is maintaining its proper weight. Prevention is almost always cheaper than treating your pet for any disease or condition. An annual examination by your veterinarian is important in assuring that all these precautions and conditions are under control with your pet. National Pet Week is a great reminder each year that a trip to your veterinarian is necessary for preventive healthcare and administration of proper vaccines and parasite control.
Despite the hard work of shelters and rescue facilities it is estimated that millions of dogs and cats enter America’s shelters each year, and more than half of them will never leave alive. Most animals are there because they have health issues and euthanasia is performed as a humane gesture, many are there because they are untrainable or too aggressive to be included in a family setting and most are there because families were not ready to accept the duties of responsible pet ownership. Be sure you want a pet added to the family before adopting, then choose the appropriate pet for your family living situation and enjoy the many benefits of pet ownership. It should be a long-lasting and beautiful relationship for the entire family, including the newly added pet.
Severe weather conditions such as blizzards, tornados, hurricanes, wild-fires and man-made disasters such as chemical spills or nuclear spills, terrorism or bio-terrorism are constant reminders that none of us live in a protected zone from emergency and disaster preparedness needs. Do not wait until it is too late. Create an emergency plan and disaster kit with the items you might need to survive several days without electricity, water or food. Preparing ahead of time and acting quickly are the best ways to keep you and your family out of danger. In case you are not at home when the emergency strikes, place stickers on the front and back doors of the house to notify neighbors, fire fighters, police, military units and other rescue personnel of animals on your property. Disasters can strike at any time and at any place. Written instructions, both for emergency first responders and family members may save time and lives. Lives, money and anxiety can be spared with proper emergency and disaster planning. And that makes for a better life for all family members, including the animals.
Give your pet a lifetime of love! Thanks to better care, pets are living longer today than ever before; but, as pets get older, they need extra care and attention. Regular veterinary examinations can detect problems in older pets before they become advanced or life-threatening and improve the chances of a longer and healthier life for your pet. Remember, dogs and cats do not age at the same rate as humans, and they get into their middle years and old age much quicker than humans. The different life stages require different needs in caring for our pets. We have a legal and moral obligation to care for the health and well-being of the pets we keep in our households. If we give them proper care, they will give us “A Lifetime of Love” in return. And that, is what makes the human-animal bond so precious! For more information go to: