PULLMAN, Wash. — A team of animal experts and alumni from Washington
State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine offers the following top 10
healthy ways to show your pets the affection they deserve this Valentine’s
Day and every other day.

Avoid chocolate — Treats are a large part of showing your pet love, but people
often overdo it or feed their pets the wrong thing, according to Russell Tucker,
veterinary radiologist in WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Dr. Tucker
suggests breaking from the normal human tradition associated with Valentine’s
Day — giving chocolate. He urges people not to feed their dogs the sweet treat
we all love. “Chocolate contains a chemical that is a potentially fatal toxin to
dogs,” Dr. Tucker said.

Teach your dog to sit — “Teach your dog to sit,” explains Catherine Ulibarri, a
WSU associate professor and animal behaviorist. “Sitting is a basic command
that makes your dog defer to you, which decreases anxiety. Sitting and lying
down are both calming positions. If your dog is sitting, it will listen to you for
what to do next.”

Watch for trends in your pet’s health — “Look for trends,” urges Joanne
Murphey, an instructor and veterinary clinician assigned to WSU’s Veterinary
Teaching Hospital community practice service. “Any changes in your pet’s
thirst, activity, or weight, however subtle, can indicate common geriatric
problems as they age. Many conditions are treatable and can enhance your
pet’s quality of life.”

Ensure dental health — Dr. Murphey also noted that, “Brushing your dog’s
teeth everyday to prevent bad breath and prolong good health for his or her
gums and teeth is important. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to do this
simple and effective task.”

Exercise your dog — “Dogs evolved to run and exercise and they love it,”
explains Gena Silver, a resident in WSU’s veterinary neurosurgery program.
“We kill our pets with kindness by feeding table scraps. We leave them out in
the elements thinking they are satisfied, and we don’t take an active role in
their exercise on a regular basis. This Valentine’s Day, love your pet by
adopting a regular exercise routine for them.”

Keep dogs out of the back of pick-up trucks — “The best way to treat your dog
with love and compassion any time is to simply not allow them to ride in the
back of an open pick-up truck,” said WSU veterinary orthopedic surgeon
Steve Martinez. “The potential for danger is too great. The dog is not
protected from injury should an accident occur or if they jump out of the truck
bed. I see and treat these dogs all the time and it is usually a completely
preventable experience.”

Schedule regular veterinary check-ups — “The best way to show your pet
love is to schedule regular veterinary check-ups annually,” urges Graham
Swinney, a veterinary internal medicine specialist with WSU’s Veterinary
Teaching Hospital. “This can help minimize major health problems later in life.”

Be cautious with human pain medications — Think your pet is in pain and
some of the pain relievers around the house may help? “Think twice before
giving any of these medications; some of the pain relievers commonly used by
people can be highly toxic to dogs and cats,” says Rance Sellon, a veterinary
internal medicine specialist in the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
“Ibuprofen (Motrin) can cause serious gastrointestinal bleeding in dogs, and
acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be fatal to cats, and occasionally dogs. Always
consult a veterinarian before giving any over-the-counter medications to your
pet.”

Avoid overfeeding — The single most common preventable veterinary medical
issue we see in dogs and cats is obesity,” explains Terry Schneider, an
instructor and veterinary clinician assigned to WSU’s Veterinary Teaching
Hospital community practice service. “Ask your veterinarian to advise you on
proper feeding, recognizing obesity before it develops and weight reduction if
it is a problem in your pet.”

When traveling, don’t forget your pet — “People who travel with pets should
check with their veterinarian first and ensure they have the proper
vaccinations, documentation, and a method of identification in place in case
the pet is lost or stolen,” urges Kathleen Connell, a 1991 WSU veterinary
alumna and Washington’s assistant state veterinarian. “Your pet may need a
current health certificate, and I urge people to always keep copies of their pet’s
documentation with them when they travel. And when it comes to
identification, nothing beats the redundancy of tags and a collar coupled with
a permanent microchip inserted under the animal’s skin.”

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