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Fetching Help for Your Pets

April 19, 1999|Marla Bolotsky

My dog Cleo is outgoing, affectionate and adorable, but she's got one flaw: a recurring ear infection (otitis externa, to be precise). We've tried ear medications, antihistamines (it may be caused by allergies) and restricting her diet to expensive dog kibble (venison). But the ear infections persist.

I decided to check out the Web to see what help was available, and while I didn't find a cure, it was reassuring to know that Cleo's veterinarian was right on target. I also located some excellent online resources for pet owners.

The American Veterinary Medical Assn.'s Web site, http://www.avma.org/care4pets/, is easy to navigate and a good resource for information. The association has good general health information, safety tips, seasonal health issues, and poison control information. You'll also find detailed health information on cats, dogs and horses, all written by veterinarians.

I learned, for example, that mosquitoes can transmit heartworm disease to dogs, and that I should schedule my dog for a heart checkup during mosquito season. There's a comprehensive Pet Loss section that deals sensitively with this topic, including hotlines across the country that can help you cope with the death of a pet. There's information on such topics as how to know when it's time to euthanize your pet. The site also provides a short list of reference books on losing a pet, some written for children.

The veterinary association was one of just a few sites with an animal health news section. There I read about new cancer treatments for cats and dogs. If you want more detailed news, you can click on the Journal of the AVMA and read what your vet is reading. I also discovered an easy-to-read vaccination chart and detailed vaccine information at http://www.avma.org/care4pets/genvacs.htm#999.

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I was most impressed with the association's "Kid's Korner." You can print out pet pictures for your children to color. And there's a "Petpourri" feature--a collection of activities designed to teach children that pets need food, water, shelter and exercise, that pets are dependent on people for their existence, and that pets need love. If you have a favorite story about your pet, you can send it in for consideration as the association's "Pet Story of the Month."

The Morris Animal Foundation at Iowa State University has been studying animal health since 1948, and its Web site (http://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org), is a fountain of information on research into behavior, disease and illness. One article, "Study Hopes to Increase Successful Puppy Adoptions," was particularly interesting. The study looked at ways behavioral problems in dogs can be corrected to make them desirable pets and to reduce the estimated 2.1 million dogs that are put to sleep annually.

Thinking about bringing a new pet home soon? To avoid making a spur-of-the-moment emotional decision, check out the American Kennel Club's "Buying a Puppy" (http://www.akc.org/buyapup.htm) and the veterinary association's "Selecting a Proper Pet," (http://www.avma.org/care4pets/buyppet.htm), for a realistic description of the responsibilities of pet ownership.

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And if you decide to bring that pet home but can't think of a name for it, check out http://www.FindaPet.com/petnames.htm, which lists the 10 most popular names in different categories: cutest ("Waggles" and "Muppy Mia"), most creative ("WWW" and "Carpediem"), and little terrors ("Shred," "Taz" and "Genghis Khan"). If none of those suits your new companion, there's a list of 2,000 dog names at http://www.petrix.com/dognames.

Cat lovers may already know that Cornell University has a Feline Health Center that is a good source on everything about cats. The center's Web site (http://web.vet.cornell.edu/public/fhc/FelineHealth.html) has a rather bland academic look to it. So after you enjoy the little kitten scamperingacross the home page, don't expect much more in the way of graphics, color or layout. You'll find such information as the risks and benefits of vaccines, diabetes prevention and treatment for cats, and tips for caring for an older cat.

Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine (http://www.vet.cornell.edu) also provides information on dogs and horses, and one of the best sets of animal health Web links I've yet to find.

Worried about fleas? According to the "Alternative Vet," you should be. At this site (http://www.altvetmed.com) you'll learn that 10 female fleas can generate more than 267,000 offspring in just one month! This site also gives you suggestions for how to keep the little critters at bay protecting your pet, house and yard.

I also found the AltVetMed to be a good resource on pet dental care (http://www.altvetmed.com/dental.html). Imagine what your teeth would look like after months or years of not being brushed. AltVetMed's offers a solution: Give your dog raw meat treats. That's right, the site explains that tough cuts of meat contain connective tissue that acts like doggie dental floss. Who would have thought?

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According to a recent survey of pet owners conducted by the American Animal Hospital Assn., 30% of pet owners turn to the Web for information--and not just about cats and dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (http://www.aspca.org) has information on how to care for "pocket pets": hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and rabbits. Got an iguana or a box turtle? The American Animal Hospital group's Pet Care Library has care tips for unusual pets at http://www.healthypet.com/Library.

So, in honor of National Pet Week, May 2-8, I think I'm going to brush Cleo's teeth, or maybe just give her some raw meat!

* Marla Bolotsky is managing editor and director of online information for the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. She can be reached by e-mail at marla.bolotsky@latimes.com.

* Your Health Online runs every other Monday in Health.

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