COMPANION ANIMAL BEHAVIOR PROGRAM
School of Veterinary Medicine
PROVIDE BASIC CARE SUCH AS
FOOD, WATER, AND SHELTER
The nutritional requirements for dogs and cats have been worked out carefully and have been incorporated into commercial diets as presented in reputable brands. Homemade diets rarely contain all the nutrients and vitamins/minerals that an animal needs for long term feeding. Veterinary nutritionists recommend that the diet you feed your dog should have been tested for your dog's life stage in AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officials) feeding trials, not just formulated to meet levels established by AAFCO. If a food has been tested in feeding trials, it will be stated on the package. The testing is broken down into trials for the different life stages since they would each have different requirements: growth, maintenance, lactation/reproduction.
The amount to feed depends on the animal and activity level. The amounts suggested on the dog food label are only guidelines which must be tailored to the individual animal. Some geriatric animals may need as much food as a 2 year old, but others may need to be changed to a lower caloric density diet, such as a senior diet. Others may have medical conditions that dictate what diet should be fed. To decide what and how much to feed your dog, consult with your veterinarian, especially where specific problems exist.
Obesity is the most common nutritional problem in companion animals. It can predispose to medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, orthopedic disease, skin disease, liver disease and creates increased surgical risks. Certain breeds are predisposed to being overweight, but any dog or cat can become overweight by having too much caloric intake for the energy expended. Since there is so much variation in body size, structure, breed, sex, and age between dogs and even cats, there is no reliable method of assigning an optimal weight. Therefore, an individual pet's optimal weight is generally judged by physical appearance using a few key criteria. For example, at an optimal body weight, a dog should have ribs that can barely be seen and can be felt without excess fat covering (you shouldn't have to dig to feel them). Dogs should have a "wast" behind the ribs when looking from above, and a tuck when looking from the side.
The solution for an overweight dog or cat is theoretically simple: decrease the number of calories taken in and increase the number of calories expended; the pet will lose weight. As a guardian, you have complete control over what your animal is able to eat. But as with dieting in humans, it is difficult to lose weight. The simplest method of decreasing weight is to cut back the amount of food you give the dog or cat with each meal. Often, people will feel that their animals are acting hungry if they are fed less than their normal amount. This is why "light" foods have been created. They allow you to feed the same amount or more food while still decreasing the caloric intake since they have a lower density of calories. Another problem is feeding treats which are often forgotten in the caloric count. Carrots or plain rice cakes can be used as low calorie substitutes for dog treats. Exercising dogs can also help by increasing the number of calories burned, but it is usually difficult to burn enough calories to make a dramatic difference if no decrease in caloric intake is made.
Dogs and cats should always have fresh water available. Bowls should be emptied and cleaned daily. Milk should not be a substitute for water and can cause diarrhea in many animals. Lack of water or only offering stale water can lead to dehydration and diseases associated with the kidneys or urinary system.
Never miss an opportunity to train! Your pet should always be asked to perform a command before receiving meals or treats. This is a great way to reinforce good behavior and build trust. Please click here for more information on being a leader.
As guardian of a dog or cat, you need to watch for changes in frequency
or character of urine and feces. An increase in water intake with accompanying
increase in urination can be a sign of disease. Also any straining, blood,
or change in consistency of urine and feces also requires a visit to the
Most areas below 5,000 (?) feet will have fleas at some time during the
year. Animals going outdoors at all without any flea control products will
almost certainly have some fleas. For many animals, fleas do not pose a serious
problem, causing only mild irritation and carrying tapeworms. But for others,
fleas may cause allergic reactions causing severe itching and hair loss, even
leading to self-mutilation. Also people in the household may be affected by
flea bites. There are currently many products available that can treat the
environment and/or the animal to prevent flea problems. Each has different
advantages and disadvantages. Since products change quickly and many are available
through your veterinarian, discuss your situation with your veterinarian to
find the right products for your pet.
When dogs and cats spend much of their time outdoors, it is more difficult
to control parasites, and to notice problems in urination or defecation.
If you have outdoor dogs or cats, be sure to periodically monitor them. Dogs
and cats need protection from the elements and weather. Shelter such as a
doghouse or shed should be available. Be careful with pets allowed outdoors,
especially on holidays such as July 4th and Halloween. See box on indoor vs.
Depending on the breed of dog or cat you have chosen, you may need to
groom daily to only occasionally. It is important in breeds with dense undercoats
to brush out shedding loose fur that leads to matts in the coat. Matts prevent
air from reaching the skin and can lead to skin disease or trap grass seeds,
which can dig into the skin. A professional groomer can help keep your dog
or cat's coat clean and well-kept. Nails need to be trimmed periodically,
including dewclaws which can grow back into the pad if allowed to grow excessively.
You should check your dog's body daily for lumps, cuts, swelling, or any other changes. Your veterinarian may find abnormalities that you miss, but generally animals have their veterinary physicals only once a year. Animals can't describe their difficulties, so it is important to be alert and spot problems early, and seek veterinary attention when needed. A home check-up should include looking in the ears, mouth, and between toes if your dog is prone to foxtails (grass seeds).
Declawing is a permanent surgical procedure, termed tenectomy, where the
last bone, or phalanx, and claw of each toe on the cat's paw is removed.
It is frequently done on the front feet to prevent cats from scratching furniture
or people, after which the cats usually are kept indoors. Even with pain medications,
the procedure undoubtedly creates pain and soreness for a few days. Other
options are available such as methods of behavior modification, Soft Paws
R, frequent nail trimming, using toys that do not allow a caretaker to be
accidentally injured, or referral to a behaviorist. Ask your veterinarian
for options before considering surgery, since this procedure cannot be undone
once performed. However, some people view it as preferable to allowing the
cat outdoors. (See Understand
your animal's behavior: Provide appropriate scratching areas)
A good rule-of-thumb for the number of litterboxes to have is the number
of cats you have plus one. This is because litterboxes also can be a potential
source of conflict between multiple cats or your cat will prefer not to
use them and use a corner of your house instead. They should be placed in
quiet areas of the house, not in high-traffic paths. Cats are generally quite
fastidious and do not like to use litterboxes that are not clean. Certain
cats may prefer one type of litter, litterbox, or liner in their box. In
general, the majority of cats will prefer the sand clumping type litter without
a liner. Be careful of using this type of litter with young kittens who after
4 weeks of age begin roaming and exploring by licking and cleaning themselves.
This litter when eaten expands and can be fatal if enough is ingested. (See Understand your animal's behavior:
In the past, dogs were allowed to roam freely without supervision. Over
time, caretakers have come to understand that dogs should be kept on leash
or confined within yards/houses for their safety as well as the safety of
the public. Many cat caretakers have followed the same trend. Many people
believe that cats are a more wild species who require time outdoors for
their happiness. Some of these people also feel they are willing to have
a cat that has a shorter lifespan if the cat is happy. Others believe that
indoor cats can be just as happy and do not even wish to go outdoors when
raised indoors from kittenhood. Some caretakers deal with behavior problems,
such as scratching of furniture and urine marking or inappropriate elimination
by allowing their cats to go outdoors rather than try to treat the behavioral
There are many disadvantages to allowing cats outdoors which include: