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The welfare and protection of pets

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Owners of pets have duties and responsibilities to them. It is essential to know the rules to follow for their well-being and their health even before acquiring a pet.

Being aware of all these elements makes it possible to anticipate the arrival of the animal well and to avoid any financial and / or environmental inconvenience that could lead to the bad choice of abandonment.

With an average life expectancy of 11 years for dogs and 16 years for cats, it is important to realize that acquiring a pet is a commitment over several years.

What is a pet?

A pet is defined in the law as any animal held by a person for their enjoyment. In 2018, there were around 62 million pets in France, of which 55% were fish and 30% were dogs and cats. Nearly 2 out of 3 French households have a pet.

How to contribute to their well-being?

The animal welfare was defined by the World Organization for Animal Health . It includes respect for five fundamental freedoms, including freedom from hunger, thirst, fear and physical and thermal stress, freedom from pain and disease, freedom to express normal behavior of its kind thanks to a suitable environment.

Guaranteeing the well-being of your pet means meeting its physiological and behavioral needs, and providing it with the necessary care. This implies providing him with a good diet, suitable living conditions, regular preventive care (vaccination, treatment against parasites and worms), good hygiene, but also spending time with him (games, walks … ).

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Several practices are thus prohibited, such as:

not to feed an animal to its hunger;

do not treat him;

tie up a pet, except under certain conditions;

surgical procedures for non-curative purposes, such as ear trimming (there is an exception for tail trimming in dogs as well as for convenience sterilizations);

the abandonment of the pet by its owner.

Sanctions are set to combat animal abuse, ranging from the removal of the animal to fines and prison sentences.

From 2020, the Government will step up its action against the abandonment of pets, in particular by preventing impulse purchases.

In January 2020, the deputy Loïc Dombreval was given a six-month mission to propose other measures to fight against the abandonment of pets and to fight against mistreatment. For example, failure to comply with the mandatory identification of cats could be punishable by a fourth class fine.

Identification, an act of protection

Identification can be done using two methods:

by tattooing letters and numbers on the skin of the inner side of the pinna or on the inside of the thigh;

by an electronic chip the size of a grain of rice, injected under the skin. The code, consisting of 15 digits, can be read using a special reader and will allow the animal to be identified.

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Whatever the method, the principle is to assign a unique number to each animal and to register it in a national file with the contact details of the owner. It is also possible to connect directly to the national file of dogs, cats and ferrets to report a new phone number, a change of address (even temporary during the holidays) or the death of an animal. The Europetnet site allows owners to find their pets throughout Europe.

Giving an identity to your animal is to facilitate its search in the event of loss and reduce the risk of theft, it is also to avoid euthanasia if it is taken to the pound. An identified animal has a 90% chance of being returned to its owner compared to only 15% if it is not.

At what age should he be identified?

for dogs, identification is compulsory from the age of four months;

for cats, all specimens born after January 1, 2012 and over 7 months old must be identified.

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Choosing a Veterinary Hospital For Your Pet: 5 Basic Questions

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Every few weeks, my exotic pet hospital in New York receives a call from a desperate exotic pet owner somewhere far away seeking advice about their sick pet. Sometimes it’s about a reptile, sometimes about a bird or bunny. The caller might be from the Midwest, Canada, or even from another continent. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is little we can recommend over the phone, and we generally advise pet-owner to take their animals to an exotic pet-savvy veterinarian to be examined. While there are several great resources online directing people to terrific local vets who are comfortable treating exotic species, for some people in certain remote locations, exotic pet veterinarians can be hard to find. What are the most important things to look for when you are seeking out care for an exotic pet vet? Here are 5 essential considerations:

1. How many (snakes, birds, ferrets, rabbits, whatever species) has this vet ever treated?

While the practice may not always make perfect, it certainly makes better. The more of any given species a veterinarian sees, the more likely that he or she is to recognize the disease and be able to recommend the appropriate treatment. Most vets receive little to no training in school on exotic animal species, so if they really want to learn about how to care for these animals, they have to seek out information on their own. These vets who take the initiative to go the extra mile to learn about exotic pets are the vets you’d want to see.

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2. Is the veterinary hospital set up to accommodate exotic pets?

While many cat and dog hospitals will see exotic pets, they often do so because they are the only game in town. Many cat and dog hospitals will only treat an exotic pet when no one else will, and the pet is really sick. You can really tell whether a veterinary hospital is set up to treat exotic pets if they have some of the basic equipment and supplies needed to do so, such as a small scale that weighs in grams for weighing little exotic pets or a tank for safely enclosing a reptile. If they have no equipment specifically designed for treating and examining typically smaller exotic patients, it is likely they don’t treat many of them.

3. Are the veterinary technicians comfortable handling exotic patients?

Knowing how to safely handle exotic pets is truly an art that takes years to master. Most exotic animals are prey species that become stressed when restrained. No matter how good a veterinarian may be at the medical care of exotic species, without great technical staff to comfortably hold these animals, that vet cannot perform great medical care. By just watching how veterinary technicians restrain and manipulate your exotic pet, you can get an idea about how often they actually handle exotic pets. Technicians and veterinarians trained in exotic pet restraint should be relaxed and have a plan on how to pick up and hold your pet. If they are floundering around trying to figure out how to catch your pet, their experience is very likely limited.

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4. Are the veterinarians and/or the veterinary staff members of any exotic pet professional organizations?

There are several professional exotic animal groups, such as the Association of Avian Veterinarians, the Association of Exotic Mammal Veterinarians, and the Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians, to which many veterinarians who are interested in exotic pet care belong. These organizations provide continuing education to veterinary professionals, and typically, individuals who want to remain knowledgeable in exotic pet care will join one or more of these groups to stay current. Veterinarians who belong to these groups typically display the organization’s logo on a decal in their hospitals’ window or printed on their hospitals’ client literature. Each of these organizations have websites, too, that list current members geographically. If a vet has taken the time and money to join any of these organizations, then he or she at least has a strong interest in exotic pets.

5. Does the veterinary hospital provide care for exotic pet emergencies?

This is something most exotic pet owners don’t think about until they are faced with their own pets’ emergency. While a few animal hospitals have veterinarians on call and technicians who remain in the hospital overnight to care for critical cases, the most veterinary hospitals are not open 24/7 but have arrangements with local 24-hour emergency clinics to care for their patients overnight and on emergency basis. However, while local emergency clinics are generally happy to take in dog and cat emergencies, they are not always equipped to handle exotic pet emergencies. When choosing an animal hospital to care for your unique exotic pet, be sure to ask the veterinary staff exactly how they handle exotic pet patients with emergencies after hours. If they have no contingency plan, they likely treat very few exotics. Just as your dog and cat vet should have a plan for after-hours emergencies, so should your exotic pet vet. This is perhaps the most important question to consider when choosing a doctor for your beloved pet. Don’t be afraid to ask it. The answer could be the difference between life and death.

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3 “Silent” Killers of Cats

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When it comes to caring for your cat, I have a few simple recommendations:

  • Maintain a safe environment (keep him indoors)
  • Feed a high-quality food (e.g., a meat-based protein)
  • Think about preventive care (e.g., an annual physical examination, laboratory tests, and the appropriate vaccines)
  • Provide lots of affection and exercise

By following these basic tips, you can help keep your four-legged, feline friends healthy–potentially for decades! But as cat guardians, you should also be aware of five “silent” killers in cats. By knowing what the most common silent killers are, you can know what clinical signs to look for. With most of these diseases, the sooner the clinical signs are recognized, the sooner we veterinarians can treat them.

1. Chronic kidney disease

One of the top silent killers of cats is chronic kidney disease (CKD) (This is sometimes called a chronic renal failure or chronic kidney injury). These terms are all semantically the same, and basically mean that 75% of both the kidneys are ineffective and not working. Clinical signs of CRD include:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urinating
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • Weight loss
  • Bad breath (due to toxins building up in the blood and causing ulcers in the mouth, oesophagus, and stomach)
  • Lethargy
  • Hiding

Thankfully, with appropriate management, cats can live with CKD for years (unlike dogs where CKD usually progresses more rapidly). Chronic management may include a low-protein diet, frequent blood work, increasing water intake (e.g., with a water fountain or by feeding a gruelling canned food), medications and even fluids under the skin (which many pet guardians do at home, once properly trained).

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2. Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is an endocrine disease where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. This is seen in middle-aged to geriatric cats and can result in very similar clinical signs to chronic kidney disease including:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased water consumption/urination
  • Vomiting/diarrhoea
  • Weight loss

However, as hyperthyroidism increases the metabolism of cats, it causes one defining sign: a ravenous appetite despite weight loss. It can also result in:

  • A racing heart rate
  • Severe hypertension (resulting in acute blood loss, neurologic signs, or even a clot or stroke)
  • Secondary organ injury (e.g., a heart murmur or changes to the kidney)

Thankfully, treatment for hyperthyroidism is very effective and includes either a medication (called methimazole, surgical removal of the thyroid glands (less commonly done), a special prescription diet called y/d® Feline Thyroid Health) or I131 radioiodine therapy. With hyperthyroidism, the sooner you treat it, the fewer potential side effects or organ damage will occur in your cat.

3. Diabetes mellitus

Another costly, silent killer that affects cats is diabetes mellitus (DM). As many of our cats are often overweight to obese, they are at a greater risk for DM. With diabetes, the pancreas fails to secrete adequate amounts of insulin (Type I DM) or there is resistance to insulin (Type II DM). Insulin is a natural hormone that drives sugar (i.e., blood glucose) into the cells. As a result of the cells starving for glucose, the body makes more and more glucose, causing hyperglycemia (i.e., high blood sugar) and many of the clinical signs seen with DM. Common clinical signs for DM are similar to those of Chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism and include:

  • Excessive urination and thirst
  • Larger clumps in the litter box
  • An overweight or obese body condition with muscle wasting (especially over the spine or back) or weight loss
  • A decreased or ravenous appetite
  • Lethargy or weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Abnormal breath (e.g., acetone breath)
  • Walking abnormally (e.g., lower to the ground)
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Treatment for DM can be costly, as it requires twice-a-day insulin injections that you have to give under the skin. It also requires changes in diet (to a high protein, low carbohydrate diet), frequent blood glucose monitoring, and frequent veterinary visits. With supportive care and chronic management, cats can do reasonably well; however, once diabetic complications develop (e.g., diabetic ketoacidosis, hyperosmolar, hyperglycemic syndrome), DM can be life-threatening.

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Should my pet be tested for COVID-19?

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If your cat or dog is coughing, the good news is that it’s probably not due to COVID-19. Experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) agree that COVID-19 is predominantly a human illness, and it’s unlikely for pets to be infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. There are many types of viruses that can make cats or dogs sick. So, your veterinarian will check your pet to make sure that the symptoms aren’t being caused by a more common virus or other health problem.

Opinions about testing pets for COVID-19 are changing as we learn more about the virus and cases around the world. Public health authorities and veterinarians are working together to determine if an animal should be tested. Right now, there’s no evidence that dogs or cats can spread the virus to people. But there is growing evidence that in rare cases people may be able to infect animals. In the past month, two dogs and a cat in Hong Kong, a cat in Belgium, and a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City were found to have been infected. In each situation, there was exposure to a COVID-19 positive person.

If your cat or dog is sick, the best thing to do is speak with your veterinarian. Be sure to let them know if your pet has been exposed to anyone who has COVID-19. Your veterinarian will let you know what to do and will work with public health authorities to determine if a test is recommended.

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