Guest Post by Johnathan David Sometimes the thought of owning a cat or dog can be a little daunting to those who are new to being a pet parent, especially those with allergies. Baby steps with a small animal, such as a lizard, is a great way for those with busier schedules who would really like to have a pet to take care of. Not only that, but these five types of lizards are also great for children who want to learn the basics of animal husbandry and easy enough for parents to care for when the child is away at school. 1. Crested Gecko Life span: 5–10 years Length: 5–8 inchesUVA/UVB light: optionalBest qualities: calm, curious Reptile fanciers find this lizard one of the easiest to care for of all the beginner lizards in the pet store. They are curious animals that love to climb around all sorts of surfaces with their sticky toe pads and have a relatively high tolerance for handling once a bond has been established. If they feel threatened, the crested gecko will drop their tail but it won’t grow back like many other lizards. They do not require a UVB/UVA light bulb to maintain normal body functions nor a very high level of humidity, however, it should never drop below 50 percent. An enclosure that is taller than it is long is best because of their climbing abilities. You can enhance their playground with several branches and ledges. Crested geckos can live in pairs; however, having two males together increases the risk of both of them becoming territorial and hurting each other. 2. Bearded Dragon Life span: 4–10 years Length:18–22 inchesUVA/UVB light: requiredBest qualities: hardy, calm This lizard is the classic go-to for those who want to start with a sociable, larger reptile. They are able to be handed and some are known to seek out their caretaker for gentle pets along with their head and back. They are a reptile that prefers to have a territory to themselves so one beardie per cage is required to avoid any injuries and stress. As omnivores, they need a diet that is high in a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, and insects. Their living requirements are on the larger side because of their length, needing a glass enclosure that is a minimum of 36 square feet with rocks and branches for them to climb on. You do not have to worry about not being able to hang out with your beardie as they are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day time. 3. Leopard Gecko Life span: 6–10 yearsLength: 7–10 inches UVA/UVB light: optional Best qualities: inquisitive, expressive These smaller lizards are most at home in dry, desert-like environments where they can roam across the sand and bask on rocks. They are curious and vocal about their needs, sometimes nipping at others to get their point across. Leopard geckos are able to live together up to three in a minimum 20-gallon tank; however, it is best to have only one male or all females to avoid fighting. Because they are nocturnal, they don’t need a UVB or UVA light bulb like other reptiles to stay healthy. A space where they can bask in a warm light and cool off is enough for them to stay happy in their enclosures. These geckos have the ability to drop their thick tail to escape from any perceived or real threats, so avoid handling them until you have formed a bond with them after a week or so. 4. Green Anole Life span: 4–8 yearsLength: 8 inches, head to tail tip UVA/UVB: required Best qualities: small, independent You might have seen one of these guys in your backyard while you were gardening, as they are native to the warmer, southern areas of North America. They have the amazing talent to change their color from a bright emerald to a muddy brown in response to temperature, stress, and to camouflage themselves. While they can live in small groups together, each group should only have one male because they can be territorial over their foliage-heavy home. Only needing a couple of crickets or mealworms every other day and a semi-tropical environment that can be achieved through misting their cage every day, these little guys are quite easy to take care of for the beginner lizard parent. Be careful when handling them, as they can become easily stressed and drop their tail. Minimal handling is best until you’ve established trust and a bond with your anole so they can perch on your hand or shoulder. 5. Blue Tongue Skink Life span: 15–20 yearsLength: 18–24 inchesUVA/UVB light: recommended Best qualities: large, gentle The largest of beginner lizards, the Blue Tongue Skink is a wonderful ground dwelling reptile that is happy to bask in the sun as much as they like to burrow under leafy debris. Their bright blue tongue is as striking as their scale colors, along with how comically large their head is compared to the rest of their body. This reptile has a gentle demeanor and can tolerate long sessions of handling once a friendship has formed between caretaker and lizard. Their enclosures have to be longer than they are tall with plenty of spaces they can curl up under to cool off or hide. They are omnivores that enjoy a variety of vegetables with a large side of small insects. Johnathan David is a herpetologist with a decade's worth of experience caring for exotic pets since graduating with a degree in animal welfare. A reptile lover from childhood, he has years of experience in herpetoculture and has cared personally for geckos and skinks.
Guest Post by Aaron Smith CBD oil is a fairly new product that was just recently federally legalized in the United States. In 2018, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (aka the Farm Bill) legalized CBD that is derived from hemp and contains no more than 0.3 percent THC. Though many states are still in a gray area on where they stand about CBD products and their use, in most states CBD is legalized for medical use. This includes medical uses for humans as well as pets. As with anything that’s new to the market, research is somewhat limited, but there are studies and clinical trials that are currently available and ongoing. CBD uses for dogs and cats You may be wondering what CBD oil even does for man’s best friends. CBD products are required to have a very limited amount of THC, which means they won’t get your pet high and won’t have the harmful effects of marijuana on dogs and cats. Pet owners use CBD oil or oil-infused products to help with the following canine and feline health issues: Anxiety and stress Arthritis and mobility issues Cancer-related nausea Inflammation Pain Seizures As a concerned pet owner, you’ll also want to know the science behind CBD oil products. What studies have been conducted that prove CBD has the properties to provide relief for your pet? What are the side effects if any? And, what are the short and long term effects of giving your beloved pet CBD products? CBD treatment for pain and mobility in osteoarthritic dogs On July 23, 2018, a study was published online that looked at the safety, side effects, and effectiveness of ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA oil in the treatment of dogs with osteoarthritis (OA). The study was conducted using a placebo-controlled group in which the veterinarians assessing the dogs and the pet owners were blinded to which dogs received the actual CBD oil or the placebo. Over a duration of four weeks, the dogs were given either CBD oil or the placebo every 12 hours. Veterinarian assessments and pet owner questionnaires were completed before and during the trial. The results For the dogs that received the CBD + CBDA oil treatment, the veterinarians’ assessments revealed a decrease in pain and the Hudson activity scores showed an increase in activity. The pharmacokinetics, or metabolization of the CBD oil, revealed no visible side effects in the test subjects, and the owners also reported no side effects. Even so, the study suggests that 2 mg of CBD twice daily can help increase comfort and activity in dogs with OA. The effects of CBD treatment to reduce seizures in dogs A small study conducted by Colorado State University during 2016–2017 was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and focused on the short term effects of CBD oil to reduce seizures in dogs. This study also included a placebo control group of 14 dogs, while an additional 12 dogs were given the actual CBD treatment. All of the dogs suffered from idiopathic epilepsy, which affects 5.7 percent of dogs worldwide and is the most common canine neurologic condition. Over 12 weeks, the dogs were given either the CBD oil or a placebo twice a day in addition to existing antiepileptic treatments. The results McGrath, a neurologist at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital who helped conduct the study stated, “We saw a correlation between how high the levels of CBD oil were in these dogs with how great the seizure reduction was.” Based on the research conducted, 89 percent of dogs who received CBD treatment in the trial had a reduced frequency of seizures. The alkaline phosphatase levels in the CBD group were also found to be elevated. No adverse side effects were reported. A safety assessment of CBD on healthy cats and dogs Medical research on the effects of CBD on cats is very limited compared to studies conducted on dogs. However, a study was published online in October of 2019 that looked at the effects on healthy cats and dogs over a 12 week period. As with the previous studies, the animals were given 2 mg of ElleVet CBD +CBDA oil, orally, every 12 hrs. The results Though one cat had a rise in its ALT liver levels, the rest of the test subjects showed no clinically significant alterations. After the cats were dosed orally with the CBD oil, they showed excess licking and head shaking, but it's likely they just didn’t like the feel/taste of the CBD oil in their mouth. The chemical analysis for the cats also showed that the oral absorption rate was far lower than that of the dogs. This leads one to believe that the dosage for cats will differ compared to dogs and more research is needed to fully understand the cats. Do your research According to the clinical studies and medical research that has been conducted so far, some types of CBD oil are indeed safe to give to your dog or cat. It is imperative to purchase your CBD from a reputable retailer as there are some illegitimate companies marketing products that have not been tested and may not even contain CBD. Though more long-term research should be conducted, veterinarians agree that CBD oil is a safe treatment for many health issues like pain, anxiety, and mobility issues. Pet owners across the country chime in with their own testimonials to the relieving effects of CBD on their pets. “Not all companies have the same quality of cannabinoids where CBD and CBDA are two critical molecules and the majority do not even test to get the correct dosing for your pets," said Christian Kjaer, CEO and cofounder of ElleVet Sciences. "We created ElleVet Sciences because we want more data and research on cannabinoids and pets to find out exactly how these products work and can be improved. We've worked with Cornell University, the University of Florida, and several experienced veterinary specialists to conduct studies and love seeing how CBD and CBDA can help dogs, cats, and other animals. But it's also important that pet owners know that not all CBD products are equal.” If you decide to give CBD products to your pets, be sure to do your research on the manufacturer. A reputable company will have a Certificate of Analysis or COA. This tells you about the quality, potency, solvents, microbial analysis, and if testing has been done for pesticides or heavy metals. Companies with high-quality pet CBD products should also be able to provide peer-reviewed studies supporting the PK (Pharmacokinetics) or dosing, safety, and efficacy of their products. Going organic in the case of CBD products is also a good idea because hemp plants tend to absorb any chemicals used on them, like pesticides. The best regulated quality will also be from down-home, USA growers. Pick a trustworthy company, and you can feel good about treating your pet with CBD oil products. Aaron Smith is a writer and copy strategist for several companies and nonprofits. He often covers topics important to pet owners, and is a dedicated dog dad to his three pups: Buddy, Roxy, and Kaya.
Guest Post by John Woods Allergies and dogs? Not an ideal combination. Watery eyes, runny noses, sneezing, itching, rashes. . . the list goes on. If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from allergies, you are probably interested in finding out about hypoallergenic dogs. A hypoallergenic dog is simply a dog that is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than other dogs. Many people mistakenly believe they are allergic to dog hair, but they are actually allergic to a protein found in the saliva and urine of dogs. As long as dogs continue to pee and drool, there’s no escaping the allergic reaction. The reason we react when we come into contact with the hair of animals or simply live in the same environment is because when dogs groom themselves, they transfer the reaction-causing protein to their skin, fur, and hair. What’s so special about hypoallergenic dogs? They still drool and pee, don’t they? They do, but they usually shed less than other dogs, meaning less rogue hair in the environment. They often have curly coats which trap shedding hair and dander, and they often require more regular grooming which can keep allergens at bay. Hypoallergenic dogs also usually have hair as opposed to fur. If you want to enjoy the benefits of owning a dog, without the headache of annoying allergies, enjoy this list of the top five hypoallergenic dogs: Bichon Poodle A curly coat crossed with a curly coat — it’s looking optimistic for allergy sufferers. Both the Bichon Frise and Poodle are deemed hypoallergenic in their own right, so when they are mixed, it's not surprising they make our list. Both coats trap dust and dander, reducing how much is shed into the environment. They do fall high on grooming maintenance for the same reason, but at least this keeps the allergens at bay. Most owners clip their Bichon Poodle into a Teddy Bear cut for lower maintenance, but they still need brushing three to four times a week. Feisty, affectionate, and playful, a Bichon Poodle makes a great companion. Labradoodle This is a designer cross breed which results from mating a Labrador with a Poodle, loved for their friendly nature and the athleticism of both breeds combined. Labradors shed a lot, so ensure your Labradoodle is more Doodle than Lab if you are trying to keep allergies at bay! Goldendoodle Just as popular as the Labradoodle, the Goldendoodle is a result of mating a Golden Retriever with a Poodle. Later generations are slightly more predictable but be mindful of first-generation. Goldens are excessive shedders, so if your Goldendoodle is more Golden than Doodle, you may instead have tumbleweeds of hair, everywhere. The poodle coat produces the hypoallergenic dog. Portuguese Water Dog We can thank Barack Obama for the rise in popularity of these guys. They are docile, intelligent, and obedient. Classed as a medium in size, this pure-bred was a historic worker. They are deemed hypoallergenic as they simply don’t shed as much as other dogs; however, they still produce dander so they can still cause reactions for allergy sufferers. They tolerate kids and pets when raised with them, so they are great additions to active homes. Hairless Chinese Crested Unlike the name implies, the Chinese crested actually comes in two varieties — Powderpuff and Hairless. But even the hairless still have tufts of fur on its paws, tail, and head. The Powderpuff is totally covered, boasting a long, soft coat. The reason it is deemed hypoallergenic is simply that, even with hair, it sheds less than other dogs. They are loving, playful, and loyal companions. But remember, they have skin so can produce dander, which can cause a reaction in allergy sufferers. The bottom line It’s clear that no dog is totally allergy-safe, but certain breeds are less likely to cause a reaction. Be mindful if you are considering a crossbreed, especially if one of the parents are heavy shedders. First-generation mixed breeds can be unpredictable, so you may be better searching for a later generation, for example, the puppy from two Labradoodle parents who both have the poodle type coat. Research any breed before bringing them home just to check they’re likely to fit in with your lifestyle. John Woods is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a graduate in Animal Behavior and Welfare, and a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America.
If you're a first-time owner, you will soon wonder how you ever lived without a cat in your home. While cats are often labeled as aloof, indifferent, and withdrawn. Cat owners will tell you that cats make excellent companion animals. Cats are incredibly affectionate, loving, and sensitive to human emotions. Plus, they're a lot less work than a dog. While many people want to bring a pet into their home, life often keeps us busy. Whether you're dealing with work, school, dating, or family life, it can be challenging to commit your time to a high-maintenance pet. That's why we've put together a list of low maintenance cat breeds that are magnificent companion animals but don't require a ton of maintenance. Japanese Bobtail Coat length: Short, MediumTendency to shed: LowGrooming needs: LowSocial needs: High What we love about the Japanese Bobtail is its dog-like personality. This breed loves to play — one of its favorite games is fetch — and loves to do tricks for treats. While it is an active breed, Japanese Bobtail owners don't have to worry about grooming maintenance. This breed doesn't shed too much and its short fur is easy to keep clean and knot-free. This breed loves a set routine. As long as you spend plenty of time playing with them, life should be pretty easy. Japanese Bobtails are highly intelligent, so pet owners should make sure to provide plenty of games and toys to help keep this breed mentally and physically stimulated. Conclusion: The Japanese Bobtail does require a lot of social interaction and exercise, but doesn't require a ton of grooming maintenance and usually keeps itself busy throughout the day by exploring or playing with toys. The Japanese Bobtail is a good option for someone who doesn't mind coming home and spending a few hours playing fetch. Bombay Coat length: ShortTendency to shed: LowGrooming needs: LowSocial needs: Moderate The Bombay cat is friendly and easily adapts to change. Unlike other cats, the Bombay seems to have a signature walk. The cat almost seems to sway as it walks, resembling an Indian black leopard. This breed isn't known for shedding and its short black coat is relatively easy to maintain. Curious, active, and adaptable, this breed is excellent for those with young children. They love to play outside and their favorite spot in the house is usually near a window. After the Bombay is done playing, you can find them spreading themselves over their owner's laps for a nice long nap. Bombays are highly intelligent and will play fetch with their owners. However, this breed needs to have a dedicated family to help keep this cat from getting bored. Bombays love to learn tricks, play games, and are intrigued by interactive toys. Conclusion: Yes, this breed does need someone who is willing to spend some time playing and keeping this cat entertained. However, once its social needs are met, the Bombay is a calm, relaxed, and affectionate cat. Plus, the fact that it requires little grooming maintenance is great for those with a busy schedule. Scottish Fold Coat length: Short, MediumTendency to shed: HighGrooming needs: ModerateSocial needs: Moderate A sweet and delicate breed, the Scottish Fold is a great family member. Less active than other cat breeds, owners will have to make sure this cat gets enough exercise (as this breed can easily become overweight). Scottish Fold owners will also need to brush their cat throughout the week to avoid knots from forming. This breed is charming and will show affection toward all family members. If you're single, this breed's quiet and calm personality makes for a great roommate. While they love to be around people, Scottish Folds are highly adaptable and don't mind being left alone. However, if someone is home, the Scottish Fold will happily follow them around and keep them company. Conclusion: The Scottish Fold makes for a great roommate and family cat. Whether you're in a small apartment with no other pets or a large family home with multiple pets, this breed is capable of adapting. They don't mind being left alone but tend to stick close to anyone who is home. This cat breed does tend to shed and its owners will need to brush its fur to keep the coat shiny and healthy. Russian Blue Coat length: ShortTendency to shed: LowGrooming needs: Low Social needs: Moderate The Russian Blue is an ideal fit for a busy young family. Social and even-tempered, this breed does great around adults and children. Its soft and dense coat doesn't require constant upkeep — meaning you won't be needing to visit the groomer every six weeks. Additionally, the Russian Blue does not shed as much as other cat breeds due to the lower levels of glycoprotein Fel d 1, making this an excellent choice for those with family members who are allergic to cats. While this breed is independent enough to take care of itself while the kids are at school and the adults are at work, don't be surprised if your cat wants to play as soon as you walk through the door. They are fairly social and will often follow you around the house. The Russian Blue is a brilliant breed and needs a surplus of toys that keep their mind and body busy. They have a strong natural hunting instinct and love playing with feathered fishing poles. Conclusion: Although the Russian Blue is fine being alone for long periods of time, you'll need to keep them busy with plenty of mind-stimulating toys. Otherwise, they may get into trouble. Along with that, the Russian Blue is a social cat, and they'll want your attention as soon as you get home — however, you won't have to spend hours grooming your cat, so you can spend that time playing. American Shorthair Coat length: ShortTendency to shed: ModerateGrooming needs: ModerateSocial needs: Low The perfect companion for a single adult or a family. This breed has an easy-going, relaxed personality, and can often be found bathing in the sunshine. Even with its short coat, this breed does need to be brushed daily. If owners neglect to brush their American Shorthair, this breed will develop knots. The American Shorthair is a quiet cat that doesn't mind being left alone. You'll often see a Shorthair sitting or laying nearby their favorite family member, but only on occasion will you see them on someone's lap. Shorthairs are great at playing by themselves, whether they find a string, feather, or crumpled up piece of paper, they'll happily entertain themselves for hours. Conclusion: Although you may need to spend a few hours a week brushing the American Shorthair's coat, you don't need to spend a lot of time keeping this breed entertained. The Shorthair is happy to find toys or take an afternoon nap in the sun. While it's an exciting time bringing in a new feline family member, it's extremely important to find a cat that has a temperament that correlates well with your lifestyle. If you're busy and can't spend every waking moment catering to your cat's needs, then it's best to avoid a high maintenance breed. Don't get a Persian if you don't want to take it to the groomers every few weeks. Don't get a Sphynx, Javanese, or Korat cat if you aren't a fan of yowling at 2 a.m. Owning a cat is a rewarding experience — mentally, physically, and emotionally. There are numerous stories about cats helping people get through tough times. If you struggle with daily stress, anxiety, or depression, a purring cat can actually lower your blood pressure and help slow down rapid breathing. One study even found that owning a cat will reduce the risk of a heart attack and stroke by more than a third. If you're wondering if getting a kitten or cat is the right choice, we can help. It is. These furry companions are an excellent addition to any household. There are even hypoallergenic breeds for those with allergies. If you're still on the fence, we recommend volunteering at your local shelter or fostering an older cat to see if a cat is the right pet for you.
Not surprisingly, puppies have significantly different nutritional requirements than dogs. They undergo a phase of rapid growth and development – even more so if they are a large or giant breed. Their small bodies need high levels of certain nutrients to survive and thrive. Let’s look at puppy dog food in a little more detail to figure out what we need to feed and when and how this compares to adult dog food. Puppy weaning A puppy is weaned from its mother by the time it goes to its new home, generally around 8-10 weeks of age when it is eating solid food and is fully mobile. It’s developed so much in those early weeks and it doesn’t stop there. All this rapid development is fueled by the nutrients we feed our pup — specifically, protein and fat. Importance of protein Protein does the most work in any body. It is needed for cell structure, function, repair and growth. As your puppy grows, it uses huge amounts of protein. For that reason, a good quality puppy food is high in protein. Puppies need at least 12.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, but a good guide is to choose a puppy food with a guaranteed protein analysis of at least 22 to 30 percent, even more if possible. Importance of fat A good quality puppy food will also have a solid fat content. Fat should compose at least 8 percent of a puppy’s diet. It is a vital source of energy, and essential fatty acids are crucial in brain function — higher amounts have even been linked to improved trainability. In short, puppy food should have a high protein and high fat content. However, if you own a large breed, there are other things to consider. Large breed puppies need a reduced calcium content. They should also have reduced calories to avoid unnecessary weight gain. Due to their rapid growth, their bone structure is less-dense, so we need to be super-careful we don’t put unnecessary pressure on them. Large breed foods should have no more than 4.5 grams of calcium per 1000 calories. Calories in puppy food Not all puppy foods are higher in calories; it may just mean that you feed more of it. Generally, puppy food is provided four times per day, which reduces to around two when they are fully matured. Follow the manufacturer's guidelines for the amount you should feed. Top tip: Check whether the amount stated on the guidelines is per day or meal. Some newbie owners make the mistake of taking a daily allowance as a “per meal” allowance which results in massive over-feeding! When your pup is fully matured, its nutritional needs change. It will be fully developed and will have reached a plateau of activity. Mature dog food A fully matured dog still requires protein, but less of it. General guidelines suggest that a dog needs 2.62 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. A fully matured dog still needs fat too, but again this reduces to around 5 percent of its diet. Check the label that the guaranteed analysis meets this. This is a significant reduction from those puppy needs. If, however, your dog is highly active, its nutrient needs will be higher. Working dogs like gundogs, hounds, hunters, search and rescue, or sled dogs will require a higher protein, fat, and carbohydrate content, simply because they are asking more of their bodies. Protein supports muscle growth and repair, and fat has been linked to injury prevention. The general rule of thumb for highly active or working dogs is at least 28 to 32 percent protein content and around 25 to 32 percent fat content. Maximum nutrients in dog food We’ve mentioned the minimum amounts to look out for in a puppy and dog food. Some high-quality food will have higher contents — don’t be put off by this. Generally, if a dog is overeating protein, it will excrete it and you’ll notice loose stools. If this happens, simply consider a different content ratio. Ideally, in both puppy and dog foods, the first ingredient on the list will be a protein source and an animal source at that. What to avoid Avoid food dyes, additives, preservatives, fillers, and ingredients like xylitol which is toxic to dogs. Monitor the weight of your dog throughout its life. You should always be able to see a waistline and your dog should have an hourglass figure from a bird’s eye view. While you shouldn’t be able to see their ribs, you should be able to feel them. The dog’s weight and condition will tell you whether you are feeding it what it needs. Complete diet A complete food will meet all of the dog’s needs. If it is losing or gaining weight without any changes to diet, or you notice changes in behavior or demeanor, seek advice from your veterinarian. Puppy food is specially formulated to meet the needs of a rapidly growing pup. It meets the huge protein needs for growth, development, and repair. It also has good fat content to provide all that energy and help the puppy learn new skills and behaviors. Puppy food should be fed until your puppy is fully matured. Dog food, on the other hand, accommodates for a plateau in development and activity. While adult dog food still needs to meet nutritional needs, a mature dog doesn’t need nearly as much as it did as a puppy. The activity level and lifestyle of your dog will largely dictate the food you choose to feed; more active dogs will use more protein and fat and can efficiently utilize cooked carbohydrates for energy. Monitor your dog’s weight, behavior, and overall health; this will give you the best indication that it is getting what it needs. As always, if you have any concerns about what you are feeding your pooch, speak with your veterinarian. Guest writer John Woods is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a graduate in Animal Behavior and Welfare, and a recognized author by the Dog Writers Association of America. Further Reading: Dog Food Decisions How to Switch from Puppy Food to Adult Dog Food Expert Advice on Transitioning Your Dog to a New Food The Best-Ranked Dog Food Companies Choosing Dog Food: 4 Things That Trump Breed-Specific Labels
Have you ever seen someone in a store with a dog claiming it’s a service animal — meaning the dog needs to remain with the owner at all times. Or have you ever heard of landlords who argue with tenants about their emotional support animals?The terms service dog, therapy dog, and emotional support dog are often used interchangeably. However, each of these dogs has different roles, responsibilities, rights, and training. To clear things up, we asked the experts to explain what having a service, therapy and emotional support dog means and requires. What is a service dog? Service dogs are defined by the ADA as a dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person's disability. The dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability. For example, a person with diabetes may have a dog that is trained to alert him when his blood sugar reaches high or low levels. How do I know if a service dog is right for me? If you feel a service dog could help you, the next step would be discussing this with your doctor and/or any treating therapists. Your doctor is the only one who can determine if you meet the legal definition of disability and whether you would benefit from having a service dog. Make a list of the tasks you think the service dog could help you with. Can my dog be a service dog? If you are hoping to train your pup as a service dog, the first thing I would do is meet with a trainer who trains service dogs. A good trainer will help you assess and evaluate your dog for public access work. Service dog work is not for every dog. It involves significant training beyond basic commands, as well as public access commands such as ignoring people, food, pets, and being able to keep a calm focus on you in case of a medical alert. Less than 5 percent of dogs are cut out for service dog work, and many “wash-out” during training. How long does it take to train a service dog? Training a service dog can take a long time, a year or more of training. The easiest route is to find a company that already trains service dogs and meet to review your needs. Some amazing organizations are Canine Companions for Independence, Good Dog Autism!, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Tackett Service Dogs. However, more organizations are available as well. What else should I know about service dogs? It is a felony to fake a dog as a service dog and in some states, it is punishable by a fine and jail time. If you’re looking to bringing your pup with you wherever you go, there are many pet-friendly establishments across the world.-Nicole Ellis, a Certified Dog Trainer and Pet Expert with Rover.com What is a therapy dog? A therapy dog offers comfort to people with various physical and emotional issues. They are often used in situations where people who are facing stress and grief need their spirits lifted. They can often visit nursing homes and hospitals, along with children’s reading groups. How do I find out if a therapy dog is for me? A therapy dog is not for an “individual” person, as that would be an emotional support dog. A therapy dog works with a handler, usually the person who owns the dog. The two become a team, with the handler being the dog’s advocate. It is usually owners who feel the dogs have the temperament to work in a therapy situation. The owner also has the interest to pursue working in the various hospital, nursing home and school environments. -Kim Paciotti, Founder of Training Canines, LLC Can my dog be a therapy dog? Pet owners play an important role in determining their pets’ aptitude. They have to make an honest evaluation. Ask yourself the following questions: Can you handle unusual smells or being around sick patients in discomfort? Are you willing and able to follow the rules set by the program of the facility? How much time would you be able to set aside for visits? One visit a week? One visit a month? Would your pet really enjoy this or are you doing this for you? Can you afford that as well as the other things involved like gas and vet visits?After answering these questions, it’s time to have a look at the pet. Not every pet is suited for this kind of work. They all have different personalities, and maybe they don’t share your views on visiting strangers. Here are a few useful questions to evaluate the pet: Does it have good manners? Even around new people? Is it at least one year old? Does it have a clean bill of health and up to date rabies shots? Does your pet like to travel? Are you sure your pet won’t mind being excessively petted, hugged, or even tugged by kids or adults? How long does it take to train a therapy dog? You must check out the local registration and certification process and requirements. Before getting started, it’s good to know your pet is a match for this work. Good manners are essential. For example, your dog can’t bark at people, run towards them or jump on them Dogs in this atmosphere have to stay calm and relaxed, despite unusual noises or smells. Make sure you and your dog meet the requirements for this work before going any further in the process. There will usually be an online or workshop ‘course’ to complete as a pet handler. Here you will learn how to make sure you, your pet, and the people you visit stay safe at all times. Every organization has its own procedures for making visits, so you will also have to learn how their processes and procedures. It’s important not to rush the process or skip steps. Make sure you understand and are able to follow through on the information received during the training. Also, now is a good time to make sure your pet is ready. Pay a visit to the vet to make sure all is in order and up to date. What else should I know about therapy dogs? The people who establish these programs put in hours of effort and research to match the perfect animal to every human or home in need. Of course, we are not saying that a dog, rabbit or cat will make the whole world healthy again. However, reports prove that in 91 percent of animal-assisted cases, there have been marked improvements in both mental and physical conditions.-Suzie Cyrenne, Co-founder of HomeoAnimal What is an emotional support animal (ESA)? An emotional support animal offers comfort to people who are suffering from mental health conditions. These conditions can include (but are not limited to) anxiety, depression, PTSD, and certain phobias. How do I find out if an emotional support animal is for me? To determine whether you qualify for an emotional support animal, talk to a licensed mental health professional. If they determine an ESA would be beneficial for you, they will write a letter to prescribe an ESA. For the letter to be valid, the prescribing doctor must identify you as their patient, say you have a disability, and specify that your ESA helps you with that disability. It must also include their license number, contact information, be on their letterhead, and be no more than a year old. Can my dog be an emotional support animal? Since ESA's don't require any specific training, any dog can be an ESA. However, if you plan on taking your ESA with you on planes, you should make sure you have an ESA that is well-behaved and can handle the stresses of navigating an airport and flying. How long does it take to train an emotional support animal? Unlike service animals who go through rigorous training, emotional support animals do not require specialized training. What else should I know about emotional support animals? Unlike service animals, ESA's are not permitted in all public locations. They are allowed on planes as per the Air Carrier Act and have access to all rental housing under the Fair Housing Act. If you plan on taking your ESA to any restaurants, hotels, shops, or other public locations you should call ahead to make sure they are allowed, otherwise you may be turned away.Many websites will certify your pet as an ESA for a fee. Some even say they will add your pet to an ESA database and send you a card or vest for your dog. There is no federally recognized database for ESA's and ESA's are not required to wear vests; you just need the prescription letter from your doctor to verify their ESA status. These sites are essentially a scam, and they make it harder for people who need an ESA to prove they need one because they cause more intense scrutiny for ESAs. If you aren't under the care of a licensed mental health professional and are just getting making your pet an ESA so you can fly with them or have access to rentals that are not pet-friendly, please reconsider.-Ashley Jacobs, CEO of Sitting for a Cause
Pet owners may notice some changes to their local PetSmart store soon. BC Partners and a few other private equity firms offered $8.7 billion for control of the retail chain's assets. PetSmart accepted. It was the largest private equity deal of the year so far. The second largest, Blackstone Group's acquisition of Gates Global, was worth little more than half of it. PetSmart is said to have acted under the pressure of its shareholders, some of which will gain millions of dollars as part of the deal. Those shareholders will probably approve the acquisition soon, before the deal is finalized. In the meantime, PetSmart (PETM) stock is climbing. Cutting costs and revamping online sales are some of the goals BC executives will work towards in the future, but they say the company is already prepared for growth, noting a growing pet product industry. PetSmart board members also recognized the success and potential of their company, thanking their employees for having a role in it. Pet Smart sells pets, pet food, toys and accessories and offers veterinary and grooming services. It competes with stores like Wal Mart, Target and Amazon in the retail pet supplies market and employs around 54,000 people working at 1,387 stores. There is no indication of what specific changes PetSmart's new owners plan to make.