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Family Matters: Crafts with Your Pup


Crafts with Your PupIt’s no secret that our pet pups have our hearts.

This is especially true in the case of my dog, Astro, and my boyfriend, Paul. Astro loves Paul like nothing I’ve ever seen. Sure, Astro LIKES me, but he LOVES Paul. Every evening, when Paul pulls into the driveway, Astro hurtles off his chair and runs to the back door, so he’s the first one to greet Paul when he walks through the door.

After we finish eating dinner, Astro is waiting to take his place next to Paul on the couch. He lays his head on Paul’s lap and stakes his territory with a (large) paw across his legs.

Astro talks to Paul, making sounds in a language clearly only the two of them understand.

So, this Valentine’s Day, Astro is making a little present for his favorite person: Paul.

We’re going to dip his paw in acrylic paint and stamp paw prints on a canvas for Paul. All you need is a fresh white canvas and some non-toxic acrylic paint in a color of your choice. Get your dog comfortable and relaxed. Spread newspapers on the floor and place the canvas on top. Squirt paint onto a paper plate or bowl. Have your dog lay or sit next to the canvas. Dip his paw into the paint and press onto the canvas. Repeat until you have a pattern you like. You can do the same with poster board and place it in a frame.



Family Matters: Staying Safe


Staying SafeYour small pet is exactly that, a small pet, so special care must be taken to keep hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats and other teeny creatures safe.

First of all, don’t let them run free. Keep them contained in a safe cage, roaming area or enclosure. This reduces the likelihood they’ll get stuck under or in furniture or stepped on by a larger creature.

Design a play area for them in a safe, enclosed space. Use cardboard boxes to create a playscape, but be sure to check for holes so they can’t escape. They are also likely to chew on cardboard, which could also lead to an escape route.

Don’t overestimate their climbing ability. Yes, your furry friend will likely tackle an incline or more vertical surface, but they’re not adept at climbing and can fall back, leading to spinal injuries.

Do not put their cages in direct sunlight; it’s too much for your small pet. Same with drafts, they can catch cold easily.

Finally, don’t mess with your nocturnal pet during the day. He wants to sleep and might not be so gentle in letting you know.



Family Matters: Putting Your Pooch on a Diet


Putting Your Pooch on a DietYou might not have been the only one to overindulge during the holidays; your dog might have gotten a bit fluffier as well. It’s easy for pups to sneak treats during the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and the colder weather is making exercise more difficult.

To tell if your dog is overweight, feel around his ribs and spine. You should be able to locate both with only a thin layer of fat separating the skin from the bones. If you can’t find the ribcage, you have an overweight dog.

Don’t worry; it’s pretty easy to take care of on your dog. After all, your dog can’t raid the freezer at midnight for that gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream you have hidden in the back.

First of all, know the correct portion size for your pup. Consult your vet; they should be able to tell you quite easily how much you should be feeding him.

If necessary, cut back on the amount of food he eats. You might also have to evaluate the kind of food he eats and make a change appropriate for overweight or less active dogs.

Limit or restrict treats entirely. Just like with people, they can be empty calories. Use other rewards, like hugs or cuddles, for incentive.

Take your dog for a walk! It’ll be good for both of you.



Family Matters: Keeping Your Cat at a Healthy Weight


Keeping Your Cat at a Healthy WeightWe’ve all seen the grumpy cat memes where the fat cat is generally disgusted with life, but it’s not such a laughing matter in reality.

Cats can be prone to obesity because they don’t tend to get a lot of exercise.

First, talk to your vet about how many calories your cat should be consuming each day. This might be far fewer than you think.

Secondly, rethink the way you feed your cat. If you have food available to her all day every day, of course she’s going to want to eat it. Consider portioning out small amounts throughout the day, then removing uneaten food until it’s time to feed again.

Next, look at what kind of food you’re giving your cat, and have a discussion with your vet over what is the best for her needs. Read labels carefully. Just because a food says that it’s made from real meat doesn’t mean there’s much actual meat in the food, and cats thrive off of lean protein.

Try to get your cat moving by playing with her toys, giving her a scratching post or a place to climb, and by tossing objects for her to pounce upon.



Family Matters: Music To Your Ears


Music To Your EarsDid you know that your pet bird probably loves music?

We know birds sing, but that’s not even the kind of music we mean.

Letting your bird listen to music can make him a happier, healthier pet.

First of all, don’t play music too loudly. Nothing you play loudly will sound good to your pet bird. Keep the volume low, and experiment with what kind of music he likes to listen to. Nature sounds might be inviting to some birds, while others might like classical tunes.

Play it softly near their cages, especially if your bird is anxious or high-strung.

While you can let your bird listen to music for his enjoyment or to soothe him, don’t keep it on all the time or he will become dependent on the white noise.



Family Matters: Dog Ear Infections


Dog Ear InfectionsDogs can get ear infections, too.

Just like humans, a dog’s ears can ache and cause them quite a bit of misery.

Canine ear infections are often caused by bacteria or yeast. Ear mites, unkempt or excessive hair, moisture or ear wax, foreign objects, allergies and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) can all contribute to your dog developing an ear infection. Another risk factor is due  to the fact that a dog’s ear canal is mostly vertical (unlike the human ear which is horizontal), and it’s easy for debris and moisture to be retained in the ear canal.

Signs of an ear infection in your dog include:

  • Scratching of the ear or area around the ear
  • Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
  • Odor in the ear
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusts or scabs on the inside of the outer ear
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Rubbing of the ear and surrounding area on the floor or furniture
  • Head shaking or head tilt
  • Loss of balance
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles
  • Hearing loss

Luckily, ear infections are easily treated. Your vet might prescribe an antibiotic and a topical ointment.

To help prevent ear infections, keep your dog’s ears clean and dry. Check them frequently for debris, mites or the sign of anything unusual.



Family Matters: Chinchillas


ChinchillasAmong small animals that make good pets are chinchillas!

Chinchillas are related to squirrels and originally hail from Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Chile. They were originally prized for their very soft fur.

While small and the perfect size for an indoor cage, chinchillas require a lot of exercise and dental hygiene because their teeth continue to grow during their entire life span. The temperature in their cage should also always be between 60 and 70° F. While they need lots of light, their cages cannot be in drafts or direct sunlight.

Chinchillas stay clean by taking dust baths frequently, so you will need to provide a special dust made of fine pumice for them to use a few times a week. If they get wet, they need to be dried immediately so their fur doesn’t grow fungus or get infected. However, their thick fur resists parasites like fleas, and it reduces loose dander. A chinchilla is a good choice for an owner with allergies, as they are hypoallergenic.



Family Matters: Quiet Your Bird


Quiet Your BirdScreaming and screeching can be a problem with many pet birds and a deterrent to keeping a feathered friend as a pet.

However, there are several techniques that can be used to help quiet your pet bird.

First of all, just know that birds are naturally noisy creatures. They need to be loud to communicate with their flock. Sometimes, they’ll screech at sunrise or sunset or if the room has filled with people. Sometimes they scream or screech because they are ill or not feeling well. Fear, a change in environment or a change in caregiver can also make your pet bird screech.

As a bird owner, your goal should not be to eliminate bird noises but to reduce them to a more tolerable level. Yelling back at your bird, hitting the bird or the cage, leaving him isolated, spraying her with water, or withholding food will not help control your pet’s screaming, but it will serve to only increase the stress on the bird and make the screaming worse.

When your bird stays quiet, a reward, like a toy, a treat or something he loves, is the best motivator. Speak to your bird in a quiet voice and have a regular command or prompt, like a soft shushing noise, to indicate that he should quiet down.

If the bird is screaming when he’s left alone, provide a radio or other soft background noise for comfort and distraction.

Be consistent with your rewards and training, and it will pay off in a quieter, calmer bird.



Family Matters: Exercise for your Cat


Exercise for your CatWhile cats have the reputation for napping, the truth of the matter is really that they need a good amount of exercise.

Exercise for your cat improves muscle tone and decreases appetite, but it also helps increase their life span.

You probably don’t want to walk your cat on a leash (although they can be trained to do so), so you have to get creative with other ways to keep your cat moving.

Provide a tower for your cat to climb. Jumping up onto it or down from it, or climbing up, keeps your cat active.

Play with him. Rolling a ball back and forth across the floor and letting him chase it, or throwing a favorite toy for him to pounce upon, are fun for both you and your cat.

Play with a flashlight or laser pointer. Your cat will have fun chasing the light (don’t point it into his eyes!).

Drag a small toy by a string and have your cat chase after it.



Family Matters: Age Appropriate Birds


Age Appropriate BirdsSome birds are great companions for older adults, and some birds are tailor-made for kids.

If you are bringing a bird into a household with small children, some experts recommend a canary or finch as being the best bird for kids.

Why is their song a little sweeter?

Well, they don’t desire a ton of human contact, so they’re better for kids who aren’t adept at handling a bird. Canaries have a sweet voice, which children tend to like. Canaries can be kept by themselves, but you’ll need to buy a finch in a pair, so he has a friend.

Another kid-friendly bird is a cockatiel, which are not hyper and whistle well. These birds don’t like staying caged for long, so an older child might be better-suited to taking him out and playing with him.

Parakeets are great for older children, too, because they have a sophisticated vocabulary, and they are not too large. Plus, they don’t mind a smaller cage, which is well-suited for a child’s room.

The Pionus, a type of parrot, is another good choice. They are sweet, friendly and rarely bite.

Finally, a Meyers parrot is a quiet, calm variety of parrot. They don’t bite often, and they can form a loving relationship with a lot of different people.



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