Animal Care/Basic care

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Animals are a wonderful part of our lives. They bring us joy. They make us laugh. They give us unconditional love. They bring us sorrow when they leave us, but leave us with cherished memories of true friendship. 

But , many animals in our society are suffering. They are homeless and unwanted, abused and neglected. Some go hungry on our streets; others put to death in our shelters; and many suffer silently at the hands of their owners, who either don’t understand, or simply don’t care.

Environment[edit | edit source]

A parrot in a large environment which simulates life in the trees.

For some animals a good environment might be love and attention and a warm place to sleep. Other animals might need a place to hide and very little human interaction. Animals that are domesticated often thrive under human attention. Examples of domesticated animals are cats, dogs, and rabbits. Exotic pets generally do best when their caretaker focuses on providing an environment very similar to their natural habitat - an animal from the desert would do best in a warm, dry, and bright cage.

Food and Poisons[edit | edit source]

There are many substances that your pet can ingest that will make them sick, some of which can even be fatal.

Things that your pet should NOT eat or drink include:

  • Food high in fat
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Xylitol – found in gum and some peanut butter brands
  • Avocados
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Dairy products 

Animal Medical Care strongly encourages you to keep your pet on a pet-food only diet. Not only does it provide the best nutrition, it also helps keep your pet safe.

Poisons should be kept far away from your pets. Common sources of poisons include:

  • Rodenticides and insecticides
  • Antifreeze, bleach, cleaning products
  • Certain plants, including azaleas, daffodils and tulips, sago palms, and lilies
  • Prescription and over-the-counter medications 

If you suspect that your pet has ingested any of these foods, plants, or other products, contact Animal Medical Care to receive prompt treatment.

Extreme Temperatures[edit | edit source]

Summer Heat[edit | edit source]

In the heat of summer, pets are at risk for heat stroke, which can lead to permanent organ damage or death. Cats and dogs are not able to sweat and can have difficulty cooling off during the hotter months, so be sure to take a number of steps to keep them cool:

  • Provide cool water
  • Ensure access to rooms that do not get much sunlight
  • Exercise pets during the morning or evening, when it is cooler
  • Provide outdoor shelter from the sun
  • Do not leave pets in a car 

If your pet appears to be overheating, bring it indoors, provide cool water and apply cool, moist towels to its fur. Do not use ice water, as extremely cold water can cause blood vessels to constrict and hinder cooling. If symptoms are severe or don’t rapidly improve, contact AMC immediately for emergency treatment.

Winter Cold[edit | edit source]

Wind, snow, and ice during winter months also pose a danger to dogs and cats. The easiest way to protect them is to keep them indoors as much as possible. Staying warm consumes energy, so make sure that your pets have a little extra food and water.

Keep outdoor exercise brief and do it during the warmest part of the afternoon. Outdoor cats may seek warmth in the underbellies of cars. Before you start your engine, bang loudly on your hood and peek underneath the vehicle to make sure it's all clear.

Be sure to keep a watchful eye on your pets during the extreme temperatures of the year. If your pet appears to be affected by the temperatures, please contact Animal Medical Care to receive immediate attention.

Emergency Tips[edit | edit source]

Animal Medical Care wants you to be prepared in the event of an emergency. In all situations, keep your pet as quiet and calm as possible and keep it warm with a blanket or towel. Check for the three A, B, C’s of first aid:

A - Airway[edit | edit source]

If your pet’s airway is obstructed, do your best to clear any obstruction. Be careful, your pet may panic and bite you.

B - Breathing[edit | edit source]

If your pet does not appear to be breathing, try gently pumping the chest with the palm of your hand while feeling behind the elbow for a heartbeat or pulse. Close your pet’s mouth with your hand and blow into the nostrils by covering your pet’s nose with your mouth.

C - Cardiac function[edit | edit source]

If you cannot detect a heartbeat or pulse, try pressing on the chest with your palm five times and then blowing 1-2 deep breaths through your pet’s nose.

Although you should always contact Animal Medical Care (or Animal Emergency after hours) if your pet shows signs of distress, the following tips can help you help your pet until you can seek treatment.

Blood Loss:

First, follow A, B, and C above. If the bleeding is severe, try to stop it by applying a bandage. Most bleeding wounds require medical or surgical treatment within 4 hours to reduce the risk of infection and complications.

Burns and scalds:

Apply cold water to the area as quickly as possible. Cover the area with damp, cold towels. If the burn is from exposure to a caustic substance, rinse with cold water for fifteen minutes.

Eye injuries:

Try to remove any foreign body by gentling rinsing the eye with eye wash or contact saline solution.


Place your pet in a dark, quiet, confined area and immediately contact AMC. Seizures can be caused for many reasons, including eclampsia (where puppies get milk fever from their mother) and epilepsy.

Heat Stroke:

Signs of heat stroke include excessive panting, which can be followed by coma and death. Reduce your pet’s body temperature as quickly as possible with cool water. Avoid using ice or ice water but keep the pet wet while in transport to the vet. 

Food[edit | edit source]

Even though all animals need food, different animals eat different things. A cat is an example of a pet that only eats meat. A dog is an omnivore, it has a diet which includes plants and animals. Nutritional needs vary across the animal kingdom, and it is hard as an owner to figure out exactly what vitamins and minerals your pet might need. The easiest solution is to visit your pet store and buy food specifically designed for what animal you have. As a general rule it is a bad idea to feed your pet food that you eat - some of it may be poisonous to them.

Medical Care[edit | edit source]

Medical care is just as important for pets as it is for people. Many of the same health problem you have your pet can also suffer from (such as cancer, blindness, and even colds). Before you adopt an animal you should find a veterinarian nearby who can look after your animal. Most vets work with common domestic pets, if you are an exotic pet owner you should seek out a veterinarian who specializes in that species

Animal Medical Care strongly discourages you from feeding table foods to your pet. First of all, once you start, your pet will begin to hold out for table food and not eat a well-balanced pet food. Second, although we enjoy a variety of things in our diet, most pets actually prefer to eat only one food. Finally, many foods, including grapes, chocolate, and anything with xylitol (gum and some brands of peanut butter), are toxic to pets.

Exercise[edit | edit source]

Exercise is also an important component in your pet’s health. As a puppy or kitten, your pet needs lots of play time for proper muscle development. As your pet grows, regular exercise is essential for the physical and mental wellbeing of your pet. The need for movement and play is innately bred into dogs and cats. Their ancestors were natural roamers and hunters, and that drive is still present in your pet. 

If this need for exercise is not satisfied, a number of issues can develop:

  • Obesity
  • Chewing, digging and scratching of furniture and other objects
  • Hyperactivity
  • Lack of discipline
  • Aggression
  • Excessive vocalization 

You can exercise your pet in a number of ways including taking walks, playing fetch, playing with toys, and many other means. Giving your pet outlets for daily exercise will improve his or her behavior and physical health.

Be sure to manage your pet’s body temperature during the summer and winter, and match the amount of food and water consumed with the amount of exercise received.

Obesity[edit | edit source]

Obesity in dogs and cats has become an increasingly important issue in the United States. Studies by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention show that more than half of all dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese.

Common problems associated with pet obesity include:       

  • Lower life expectancy
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart, respiratory, and kidney disease
  • Cancer

Basic Pet Hygiene & Grooming[edit | edit source]

While your pet likely has some innate grooming skills, he or she likely could use a little help from you too. A little routine maintenance can go along way and preventing problems down the road.

Cleaning Your Pet’s Ears[edit | edit source]

Check your pet’s ears every so often to see if they are dirty. This is especially true for pets with lots of ear hair or floppy ears. If your pet’s ears appear dirty, clean them gently by wiping them with a cotton ball soaked in hydrogen peroxide.

If your pet’s ears smell, itch, or have a build-up that resembles dried coffee-grinds, contact Animal Medical Care so that we can treat your pet’s condition, which could include an infection, ear mites, or a host of other problems.

Bathing and Brushing your Pet[edit | edit source]

Whether and how often you bathe and brush your pet depends on your pet’s unique characteristics. Dogs who roll around in the mud, amongst other things, and then insist on sleeping in your bed at night may need to be bathed daily. Long-haired pets may need to be brushed more frequently to prevent matted hair and control shedding. Cats may only need a bath on the very rare occasion.

Animal Medical Care can help you determine a routine that is right for you and your pet. Moreover, we can help recommend safe and effective products depending on your pet’s needs. And, of course, if you’d prefer to leave it to the professionals, we’re always here to help with grooming too.

Brushing Your Pet's Teeth[edit | edit source]

Both dogs and cats can develop dental problems, like periodontal disease and gingivitis, that threaten their health. In addition to developing a dental treatment plan at Animal Medical Care, you can help by brushing your pet’s teeth daily – or at least several times per week.

All you need is a toothbrush and toothpaste designed specifically for dogs and cats. Some pet owners also find that finger brushes work well with their pets. Canine and feline toothpaste not only come in flavors that will appeal to your pet, but is also specially formulated. Please note that human toothpaste can make your pet sick.

If at any time bad breath persists, or if you notice swollen or red gums, contact Animal Medical Care to diagnose and resolve the problem.

Trimming Your Pet's Nails[edit | edit source]

Keeping your pet’s nails trimmed is important to prevent painful breaks and infections. Although establishing a nail trimming routing can be challenging at first, with some patience, you can actually train your pet to look forward to a nail trimming. A few tips:

  • Start, as young as possible, frequently handling your pet’s paws and then rewarding your pet with a special treat.
  • Once your pet is comfortable with paw handling, grab some clotting powder just in case and some high-quality dog or cat nail trimmers.
  • Take the time to carefully locate the quick in your pet’s nails. Always err on the side of leaving nails longer to avoid cutting into the quick.
  • Start by trimming a nail or two at a time over several days and again rewarding your pet with a special treat. Gradually increase the volume of nails trimmed in each sitting. 
  • If you do cut the quick, give your pet lots of treats and apply the clotting powder. Keep your pet calm and quiet until the bleeding stops.

If you plan to trim your pet’s nails, please let us know at your first visit, and Animal Medical Care will be happy to walk you through the process.

Introduction · Why Take Care of an Animal