Tags Posts tagged with "Cats"

Cats

A black dog at Kent Animal Shelter sits in one of the buildings closest to the Peconic River. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kent Animal Shelter has always been close to the Peconic Lake. Maybe too close.

The 47-year-old facility was built on River Road in Calverton less than 50 feet from Peconic Lake, which leads to Peconic River. As the lake flows into the river, so does the Shelter’s wastewater.

In 2012, the shelter began its process to get a waiver to expand its five-building facility and install a new septic system to avoid contaminating the Peconic’s surface water. According to Pamela Green, executive director of the shelter, the shelter also wants to tear down two of its building and construct one, approximately 10,000 square foot building closer to River Road. The hope is that relocating these buildings will put 300 feet between the shelter and the water, which will limit the amount of wastewater dumped into the Peconic Lake and river.

But Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said the shelter doesn’t qualify for the waiver for its prospective projects. Although Amper said the society doesn’t oppose the shelter’s projects, he said the facility’s desire to move closer to River Road infringes on Long Island Pine Barrens’ core preservation area. According to Amper, construction is not permitted by law in that area to help “protect the Island’s purest source of water.”

“The only way anyone can get a waiver is to demonstrate that they have no beneficial use of the property absent the waiver, or that public health and safety depends upon the construction occurring in the Pine Barrens core,” Amper said. “Kent does not meet that requirement, and if the waiver were granted, it would create a dangerous precedent for others who want to develop in the Pine Barrens core.”

Amper claimed that the shelter’s new proposed septic system would discharge 2,700 gallons of wastewater daily into the land’s underground aquifer. However, Green said the wastewater isn’t in close proximity to the aquifer for drinking water, as the wastewater goes into the Peconic.

Peconic Lake is located several feet from two of Kent Animal Shelters’ buildings. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Peconic Lake is located several feet from two of Kent Animal Shelters’ buildings. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Currently, the shelter wants to demolish its kennel, which rests on the river bank, as well as the small cottage located across from the kennel. The shelter also wants to relocate its clinic and include it into the nearly 10,000 square foot building, alongside a new kennel and cat facilities. One of the cat facilities, also on the bank of the Peconic, houses senior cats that will live out their lives at the shelter.

Thus far, the shelter has received permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Health Department.

“The last hurdle is the Pine Barrens commission,” Green said, about Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.

Where the commission differs from the Pine Barrens Society is that the commission decides whether the shelter will receive the waiver to expand its facility and upgrade its septic system. The commission is comprised of County Executive Steve Bellone (D); Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R); Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter (R) and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (D). A fifth individual will be added at a later date.

Amper said the society reached out to these supervisors, who are in the Pine Barrens towns, hoping that at least one of these officials will help provide the shelter with two to three acres of property for the shelter to expand and install a new septic system.

Green added that the Pine Barrens Society is threatening the commission with a lawsuit if the commission grants the shelter a hardship permit, which Green believes the shelter is eligible for as parts of the shelter are dilapidated and won’t be useful once the shelter cannot use the facility.

But Amper said this is a standard procedure. He also said even if the commission likes the shelter’s proposal, they can’t legally grant a waiver to the shelter to build on the area.

“If the commission is allowed to say, ‘We don’t care what the law says; we just like this project,’ then there’s no protection of the core area and the underground water supply,” Amper said. “The commission can’t make the law nor can they make decisions that contradict the law. It’s not that any of us dislike what they’re proposing; it’s not the value of the project, it’s where they’re proposing to build it.”

Romaine denied to comment on the issues and process the shelter is experiencing.

“As a member of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, it is not appropriate for me to comment at this time regarding an issue which is still under consideration,” Romaine said in an email.

The commission will vote on whether the shelter will receive a waiver on Oct. 21, at the Pine Barrens Commission meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall, according to Amper. The shelter will need three out of five votes to acquire the waiver to go through with its reconstruction plan, including the installation of a new septic system.

“We’re trying to prevent [surface water contamination] from happening by putting a new septic system and removing the channel off the river and abandoning the leaching field,” Green said. “This would be an upgrade for the environment.”

by -
0 686

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

In the Aug. 13 article we focused on the causes of chronic otitis externa (external ear infections). This article will focus on treatment. First, relieve yourself of the guilt that you did not treat the “infection” correctly. If your pet has chronic ear infections, that usually indicates some predisposing factor (usually genetic in origin). Second, get over the frustration of assuming that because we veterinarians use the term “ear infection” that if treated once, it will never return. 

Chronic otitis externa is a problem that can be managed, not cured.  Therefore, general maintenance of the ear is much better than waiting for things to get out of control. Talk to your veterinarian about ear cleaners, or if you look for an ear cleaner at the pet store make sure it states that it is a cleaner and a drying agent. This means it will have some isopropyl alcohol and usually propylene glycol to not only break up the wax but also to dry the lining of the ear canal.

Those dogs (or cats) that produce excessive wax should have their ears cleaned regularly (once to twice weekly).  If your pet’s ears are really inflamed/infected, you will need medication from your veterinarian to get things under control. However, once the infection clears up, maintenance cleaning is imperative. I have many a pet owner tell me how guilty they feel about cleaning their pet’s ears because they know it hurts and the pet runs away.

However, these same owners usually wait until there is a full-blown infection. Therefore, it is much easier to clean the ears when there is no infection, as compared to waiting until the lining of the ear canal is inflamed and sensitive.  Remember, “an ounce of prevention…”

There are some cases that get so out of hand that your veterinarian may suggest sedating your pet to obtain samples for testing (ear cultures, etc.), as well as a deep ear flush to evaluate the ear drum and the middle ear behind it. Although the problem may originate in the external ear canal, it can progress to a middle ear infection (otitis media) and systemic medication may be indicated. 

Talk to your veterinarian about exploring the underlying causes of the ear infection. As we discussed in the previous article, it is estimated that 80 to 90 percent of recurrent ear infections are secondary to allergies. Newer, more accurate blood tests can diagnose food allergies, seasonal allergies or both. Avoiding certain foods (including treats), as well as managing seasonal allergies can decrease (or sometimes eliminate altogether) the need for cleaning the ears at all. 

As a last resort, there are two surgical procedures that can be performed in severe cases. The first is called a lateral ear canal ablation. This procedure reconstructs a portion of the external ear canal so it more resembles a human ear canal. This allows better airflow and makes cleaning and treatment easier.

The second procedure is called a total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy, or TECA-BO (pronounced, “teeka-boo”) for short. This is reserved for end-stage ear canals where over the years so much scar tissue has developed, no medication can be introduced into the canal. This procedure involves removing the entire external ear canal and part of the middle ear as well.

A percentage of patients lose their hearing, but it will eliminate a significant source of chronic pain. The good news is that in almost every case, the patient is deaf before the surgery secondary to chronic disease. 

I hope this sheds a little light on a confusing (and sometimes frustrating) disease in pets. 

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 16 years and is pictured with his son, Matthew, his dog, Jasmine.

Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center hosts 18th annual Pet-A-Palooza

The Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center in Huntington held its 18th annual Pet-A-Palooza event over the weekend, featuring cats, dogs, a Chinese auction, live entertainment, face-painting and more. The weekend-long event at the Warner Road shelter is a celebration of all things furry and friendly.

 

Maddie is a 7-year-old lab/collie mix who loves kids and is a laid-back couch potato. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

He’s gentle and kind and loving, Valerie Sanks, of Rocky Point, explains. He’s got a Frank Sinatra debonair-style class, he’s well mannered, good in the car and loves people, especially children. His name is Bravo and, sorry, ladies, he’s not human. But, he’s still a great catch — or should we say fetch — with the capacity to love unconditionally.  He also isn’t taken, and he could be yours.

Brookhaven Town will be waiving its animal shelter fees on Saturday, Aug. 15, in honor of a Clear the Shelter event that seeks to encourage adoptions of the shelter’s many dogs and cats.

Joe, a volunteer, hangs out with pit bull/lab mix Huckleberry. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Joe, a volunteer, hangs out with pit bull/lab mix Huckleberry. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Sanks, a Brookhaven animal shelter volunteer and dog owner, said dogs like Bravo who have lived in the shelter for extended periods of time often have trouble getting adopted because of factors beyond their control, like age, injury and appearance. 

Bravo, a terrier mix, is estimated to be between 7 and 9 years old and has cropped ears.  He was originally adopted from the shelter in 2011, but when his owners fell on hard times in 2014, he was brought back and is now in need of a new home.  “He has every odd against him for getting a home,” Sanks said, but despite this, “he’s very sweet and very mellow.”

Sanks also volunteers at the Riverhead and Southold towns’ animal shelters and described herself as “a firm believer in town shelters.” She referred to the staff at the Brookhaven shelter as “an incredible group of workers.”

“When a dog needs something, people use their own money to buy it for them,” she said. “Town workers, on their day off, come down to the shelter just to walk the dogs.”

While the town and volunteers are trying to get more people to adopt the animals, Sanks said additional volunteers are always needed.

Bravo, a sweet pit bull/terrier mix, enjoys the outdoors. He was adopted but came back to the shelter when his owners fell on hard times. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Bravo, a sweet pit bull/terrier mix, enjoys the outdoors. He was adopted but came back to the shelter when his owners fell on hard times. Photo by Talia Amorosano

“Volunteering is needed immensely,” she said. “Especially when you have a shelter that could hold 80-plus dogs.”

Volunteers spend outdoor time with the dogs, take them on walks and give them treats, but helping out is not limited to direct interaction with the animals.  Sanks noted that even things as simple as dropping off a jar of peanut butter, a toy or a warm blanket or towel can do a great deal to ensure that these animals remain happy and healthy.

“The most exciting day is when we have a volunteer meeting,” she said. “After the meeting is over, everybody goes to get their dogs and I stand in the parking lot and watch all the volunteers come out. It is the most beautiful thing anyone could ever see.”

Brookhaven’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is located at 300 Horseblock Road, Brookhaven. For more information, visit the center online at brookhaven.org/animalshelter or call 631-451-6950.

by -
0 722

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

“Ooooooh … those itchy ears. My dog or cat is constantly scratching or shaking its head. I feel terrible for them and it sometimes keeps me up at night. My vet calls it an ear infection. It clears up on the medication but once finished it keeps coming back. Why does this happen?”

That is the million dollar question (actually, I’m sure millions of dollars are spent on ear infections every year).  To call every dog or cat that comes in with itchy ears an ear infection is misleading. 

These pets have otitis externa, and “otitis externa” literally means inflammation (not infection) of the external ear canal. Although we veterinarians commonly dispense medications with antibiotics and antifungals in them, the bacteria and yeast we are treating are considered natural flora (in the ear canal at all times in lower numbers).

So why do we get “flora gone wild”?  Usually some other primary trigger is involved and the infection is secondary overgrowth. Examples are parasitic infections (ear mites), pets that swim or get baths and get water (and shampoo) in their ears, ear tumors (both benign polyps and cancerous tumors) etc.  However, the most common cause of recurrent otitis externa is allergies. I consulted with a veterinary dermatologist, and she estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of all recurrent otitis externa in dogs is related to allergies. 

To understand why an allergy would cause such problems in the canine and feline ear canal we first have to describe the anatomy. Unlike a human ear canal, which has a shorter external component in a horizontal direction only, the canine and feline external ear canal is much longer and has both a vertical and horizontal component. Therefore, there is a much greater distance from the opening of the ear canal to the ear drum. This shape and extra distance plays a critical role in otitis externa.

Also, the healthy ear canal is lined with three types of cells: epithelial cells (those similar to skin), ceruminous cells and apocrine cells (cells that produce earwax).  Just like the epithelial cells of the skin, these cells will be replaced every few days. The new cells push the old (dead) cells out to the entrance of the canal, and the small amount of earwax produced in the healthy ear migrates out with the dead epithelial cells.

However, if the lining of the ear canal becomes inflamed, it narrows due to swelling and excessive earwax is produced. This not only overwhelms the ability to clear the wax, it also leads to a warm, dark and moist environment and allows the normal bacteria and yeast to overgrow and a true ear infection is produced.

This will clear up with medication but, if your pet is exposed to the same trigger, it will come back again. Certain breeds such as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, shar-peis and many others may have complicating factors such as hair in the ear canal, floppy ears, narrow ear canals or a combination of these things. Now, this does not mean that every member of these breeds is guaranteed to have chronic ear infections, rather it means that if you have a member of these breeds and they have even low-grade allergies the ears can spiral out of control quickly.

In my next article I will describe how to manage chronic or recurrent otitis externa.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 16 years and is pictured with his son, Matthew, and his dog, Jasmine.

Supervisor Ed Romaine makes friends with a dog at the town animal shelter. Photo from Brookhaven Town

By Talia Amorosano

Brookhaven Town is reducing adoption costs at its animal shelter this month.

According to a recent town press release, the Brookhaven Animal Shelter and Adoption Center on Horseblock Road will offer discounted adoption fees through June. While the fees are normally $137 for a dog and $125 for a cat, they have been dropped to $60.

The lower fee includes a free neuter or spay for the animal as well as a free microchip, vaccinations, heartworm test and animal license.

The reduced price is partly the result of renovations that are currently taking place at the shelter.  The shelter’s website notes that “pet overpopulation is of great concern” and that it is especially important for some of the animals to be adopted during the next four to six weeks because kennels will be renovated during that timeframe.

The shelter has also invested in new air conditioners, freshly painted walls and new floors.

But Martin Haley, Brookhaven Town’s commissioner of general services, said adoption discounts like this one are common throughout the year regardless of special circumstances like construction and renovation, because the shelter staff is constantly trying to incentivize adoption.

As of Monday, there were 78 animals in the shelter.

Haley said the number fluctuates every day and the shelter’s goal is to keep the population manageable. He said the animals can become difficult to manage at numbers of 80 to 100, but it varies on a case-by-case basis with animals’ spatial and behavioral needs.

According to Haley, most of the animals currently housed at the shelter are dogs, but there are also about 30 cats and kittens available for adoption.

The shelter is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays; from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays; and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. It is closed on Wednesdays.

Anyone interested in adopting a pet may call the shelter at 631-451-6950 or visit www.brookhaven.org/animalshelter for more information.

by -
0 664

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I recently authored a two-part series entitled “A Long (and Fat) Winter’s Night,” with ideas on the management of the obese patient. However, if your pet is not obese but the long winter has affected them, what do we do? Stiff, creaky joints may make it difficult for him or her to rise. Just doesn’t seem to be able to finish those long walks (or even have the willingness to take them).  These are difficult to see in our aging babies but are also something that can be addressed. Physical therapy along with low-impact exercise can be helpful in not only improving our pet’s mobility and stamina but also has a positive effect on their sense of well-being.

Before I discuss physical therapy and low-impact exercise specifically, I would recommend that all pet owners visit their veterinarian’s office to rule out possible underlying or concurrent disease. This may be something that you already do during an annual wellness exam. However, if you’ve missed a few years, please do make an appointment to have your four-legged family member examined and consider some basic diagnostics (if warranted) such as blood work, X-rays, etc. If all is well, then let’s get started.

The one good thing about physical therapy (unlike missing a dose of medication) is every little bit helps. If you can perform certain exercises and therapies only once daily instead or more often, remember every little bit helps.

Heat Therapy and Massage: It has been shown that heat therapy causes vasodilation and improves circulation to tissues. This increases tissue oxygenation and transportation of metabolites. It has been proven that five to 10 minutes of heat before physical therapy and exercise can reduce joint stiffness and increase range of motion. Make sure to use a blanket or towel as an insulating layer between your pet’s skin to prevent burns. After heat therapy, gentle massage therapy manipulates muscles and tissues around joints to reduce pain, stiffness, muscle knots/spasms, increase blood flow and promote relaxation.

Range of Motion and Stretching Exercises: This type of exercise helps improve joint motion and flexibility in patients. Simple flexion and extension exercises are excellent. Find a part of the house where your pet will feel most relaxed and least likely to try to get up and move around. Manipulate each affected joint only as far as your pet will tolerate initially but hold for 15 to 30 seconds at full flexion and again at full extension. Repeat the process for three to five repetitions.

Low-Impact Exercise: The most accessible (and most commonly used) low-impact exercise is controlled leash walks.Controlled leash walks (slowly at first) will help to achieve the most normal gait possible. Slow walks increase flexibility, strength and weight bearing. After slow walks have been mastered, then we can increase the pace, incorporate gentle inclines or different surfaces (e.g., sand) to further develop endurance, strength, balance and coordination.

Swimming: Swimming is somewhat controversial in veterinary medicine. Some believe swimming (because of the non-weight-bearing component) is the ideal at-home exercise for older patients. Others believe the movements are too “herky-jerkey” and could lead to hyperextension of already arthritic joints. First, access to a pool that has stairs that the pet can walk in and out of is important (this eliminates swimming in the ocean or above-ground pools). Make sure active swimming only continues for five minutes before taking a break. It would also be a good idea to purchase a pet-specific life jacket to ensure that if your pet does tire there is no risk of drowning.

There are other physical therapy modalities such as therapeutic ultrasound, therapeutic laser, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), underwater treadmills, etc. Unfortunately, these modalities are neither readily available nor inexpensive so I thought I would concentrate on therapies one could do at home. If interested in more advanced therapies, make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss them.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 19 years.

Veterinarian reflects on family business

The Huntington Animal Hospital, located on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station, is celebrating 63 years. Photo from Dr. Jeff Kramer

A four-year-old boy’s dream of being a veterinarian and following in his father’s footsteps has led to decades of business success.

The Huntington Animal Hospital is celebrating 63 years of business, and owner Dr. Jeff Kramer, who is living his lifelong passion, plans to mark the milestone with a special client appreciation day on June 6.

From the time Kramer, 61, was brought home as a baby from the hospital to his bedroom, which now serves as the exam room in Huntington Animal Hospital on Walt Whitman Road, he has been surrounded animals and the veterinary office.

“Growing up all I was ever going to do was be a veterinarian,” Kramer said in a recent interview. “I was always going to be a vet, there was never any other options.”

The animal hospital that Kramer owns once served as his childhood home and his father Mort Kramer’s veterinary office, which is where he got first-hand experience working in the field. The younger Kramer would hold animals, clean cages and observe as his father performing daily duties. Every free second he had was spent working with his dad, Kramer said.

“I’ve worked in this animal hospital since I was a little boy,” Kramer said. “I skipped Saturday morning cartoons and came here.”

Huntington Animal Hospital's Dr. Jeff Kramer is hard at work doing what he does best — helping animals. Photo from Kramer
Huntington Animal Hospital’s Dr. Jeff Kramer is hard at work doing what he does best — helping animals. Photo from Kramer

Kramer attended Johns Hopkins University and then went on to attend veterinarian school at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where he worked hard to fulfill his dream of becoming a vet.

After graduating from veterinary school, Kramer spent time living in Virginia and working at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  He then returned to Huntington Station where he teamed up with his dad and worked at the family’s animal hospital. Once his dad retired, Kramer took over the business and has been operating it ever since.

“It has been an all-around wonderful experience, giving back to people and providing the animals and people with care and help,” Kramer said.

In the past Kramer has treated ferrets, guinea pigs and hamsters, but the practice now treats cats and dogs. Kramer said the staff would treat other animals if they came in.

While he loves treating dogs and cats, he said a big part of his job is treating their owners and helping them cope through difficult times. Through his more than 30 years running the practice, he said he has seen some sad cases that are just part of the job.

“It’s hard to see a dog and cat that has been hit by a car,” Kramer said.

The veterinarian said his job is very rewarding and he loves helping animals and owners. He said he loves giving back and providing animals with the care they need.

“It’s a wonderful profession,” he said. “I’m very very lucky to be a veterinarian. I’m one of the family doctors, that’s my favorite part.”

Sal Migliore, an owner of four cats, visits Kramer regularly and has been for the last three years. He called the veterinarian a good person who is very caring with animals.

“He is our Dr. Doolittle,” Migliore said. “He is a doctor for animals. We don’t know what we would do without him, we have so much faith in him.”

Next week, at the June 6 client appreciation day, people will get to meet a dog trainer, groomer along with Kramer and his team. Attendees will also be able to enjoy snacks and drinks, Kramer said.

“It’s really saying thank you to our Huntington Animal Hospital family,” Kramer said.

by -
0 1077
Smithtown Animal Shelter. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

The director of the Smithtown Animal Shelter will be stepping down from his position at the end of next month, town officials said.

Town Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) publicly announced the resignation of shelter Director George Beatty, 62, at a Town Board meeting last Thursday night, citing the recent death of Beatty’s wife as a catalyst to his decision to vacate his post. Beatty, who has been at the helm of the shelter for more than 30 years, has been at the center of controversy for many months in Smithtown as residents have consistently used Town Hall meetings as public forums to question his conduct, leadership and performance.

“I know many people would like to know the status of the animal shelter’s supervisor, Mr. Beatty,” Vecchio said at the Town Board meeting. “Two weeks ago, he lost his wife. It put some burden on him, as he takes care of his grandchildren.”

Vecchio said Beatty submitted his letter of resignation to the board earlier this month intent on retiring as of June 30. The audience at the meeting started applauding and cheering. The letter, dated, May 19, was short but concise.

“I have enjoyed working for the town of Smithtown and its residents and very much appreciate all of your support,” Beatty wrote in the letter. “I will miss working at the animal shelter, and if I can be of any assistance during the transition, please let me know.”

It was unclear who would be replacing Beatty, officials said. Town Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) took on the role of animal shelter liaison earlier this year and has been working with an advisory board she established to enhance care at the shelter, usher in building improvements and work toward a 100 percent adoption rate.

She said at the meeting that Beatty had been working closely with her advisory board of experts, which included animal welfare experts Lucille DeFina and Diane Madden and animal welfare attorney Elizabeth Stein, and was helpful in moving the project forward.

“We’ve been meeting regularly with him,” she said. “George has been absolutely cooperative and we’ve been working together for some time.”

Residents have been accusing Beatty of animal neglect at the shelter and called for his removal from the facility. Beatty blamed a lot of the accusations on misinformation, rebutting claims that his shelter was not clean nor doing enough to care for and promote adoption of the animals.

He said over his nearly three decades at the helm, he has seen the Smithtown shelter’s population shift from a dog-dominated census to a cat-centric group now because of his team’s hard work.

An online petition at www.change.org also called for Beatty’s resignation. The online petition, which also links to a Facebook page calling for change at the shelter, blamed Beatty for animal neglect and requested the town form a committee to choose a new director, independent of the civil service list.

The shelter director said the petition was rooted in misleading information.

“I’m very truly upset — I was mortified by it,” Beatty said in a previous interview. “It would have been of no use to speak. I feel our side was very well spoken and professional. But as for the opposing side, it was apparent to me that they only wanted to believe what they wanted to believe. Nothing I said could have put them to rest.”

by -
0 730

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

I recently read an article in Time magazine entitled, “The Mystery of Animal Grief” and found it fascinating. The author, Jeffrey Kluger, referenced evidence that crows and elephants hold “wakes” for their fallen mates, and female chimpanzees have been known to carry their dead young sometimes as long as two months. This forced me to ponder the fact that as much as I know how people feel about their pets dying, how do pets in the household feel? And how can we get them through the grief?

Yes, it is proven that dogs and cats grieve after the loss of both another pet and a human owner. However, dogs and cats see this loss as more of a change in the dynamic of the pack or pride. If we can understand that concept, it will make it not only easier to tolerate their behavior but help them through this difficult time as well. Remember, we are grieving also; behaviors that do not make sense to us might make us less patient during these stressful times, as well as create lifelong behavioral issues for our pets.

The biggest mistake made in interpreting (or misinterpreting) any animal behavior is anthropomorphizing. Anthropomorphizing refers to giving human characteristics to things not human. Dogs and cats are not furry little humans, and we should not expect them to act as such. When dogs and cats grieve, it is usually for a much shorter period of time (sometimes as little as 3 to 5 days), and, in some cases, they do not grieve at all. If the pet that has passed was the dominant partner, the surviving pet may have been repressed (and now suddenly thrives). Do not resent this lack of remorse but rather realize what stress this pet was going through up until this time. Also, the more dominant pet may show no grief and this is normal also.

What to do? In the immediate aftermath, let the pet grieve. If your dog or cat is still eating/drinking normally and somewhat active, give him or her 3 to 5 days to adjust to the change in the “family” dynamic. In cases of severe grief, positive training may be the release he or she needs.

Positive training is really just setting aside some time for activity or interaction at the same time every day either with the guidance of a certified trainer or just the two of you. Positive training could be long walks, trips to the park for off-leash exercise, playing with toys (if your pet is more active),  short walks to the mailbox or grooming/massage (if your pet is less active). In rare cases, medications like anti-depressants are necessary.

What about adding a new pet? It is recommended to not replace a deceased pet immediately. Many dogs and cats are just as happy to live out the rest of their lives with just humans, so it may not be necessary to get a new pet. If you do decide to get a new dog or cat, make sure that you know the new pet will get along with the existing one. Consider getting a new pet of opposite gender even if the previous one was of the same. This will help to reduce the risk of fighting.

It is never easy to lose a member of the family, but I hope this article gives some general information on both the way that pets grieve as well as how to help them through this difficult process. Remember, each case is different, so consult your veterinarian for specific questions or concerns.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 17 years.