Keep furry friends healthy, happy, and well-behaved with petkeeping advice from Martha.
Every pet owner dreams of furniture that repels hair, resists tearing, and can be cleaned easily. One material with these qualities is leather. Look for top-grain, semi-aniline leathers; scratches are disguised on such pieces because the hide is dyed through and then treated for additional protection and color consistency. If you prefer fabric, the best choices are tightly woven microfiber or microsuede. Avoid materials that feel loosely woven or thin, and look for terms like "high grade" and "tightly woven" on labels. Consider hues similar to your pet's hair as well as patterns, which can camouflage spots. Also think about what fits your cleaning style, and make sure the care any given piece would need seems reasonable. Finally, place an old towel or sheet where the family dog or cat likes to lounge, and simply toss the cover in the wash as needed.
The Federal Aviation Administration lets airlines decide whether dogs can fly in the passenger cabin. Check with a representative or consult the airline's website for cost and availability information. Dogs must be at least 8 weeks old and fully weaned, and they often have to remain in a carrier (which counts as a carry-on) during the flight. Look for one that is leak-proof and sturdy, has cross-ventilation, and lets the dog shift position. Regulations aside, do what you can to keep your dog calm: A few weeks before, get her used to the carrier by placing food and toys inside. At the airport, take her for a walk before putting her in the crate, so she'll be tired and relaxed. In lieu of a tranquilizer, try a natural alternative, such as Bach's Rescue Remedy. And don't feed the dog just before takeoff -- pets can experience motion sickness, too.
A vaccine is the only way to protect your pet from kennel cough, or bordetella, a highly infectious respiratory illness spread among dogs through sneezes and saliva. Because the vaccine must be given annually, the best way to ensure that your pet is protected is to keep her shots up to date. Despite its name, kennel cough isn't something your dog is likely to catch at a kennel, as reputable establishments require vaccination. What's more likely is exposure from a neighborhood pooch whose vaccination has lapsed. Symptoms -- a persistent, hacking cough and a runny nose -- can take up to two weeks to surface. In the meantime, limit contact with other dogs. Also, take her to the vet; your dog may need medicine to ease the symptoms, which last 7 to 10 days.
You can cross restaurants, supermarkets, and beauty salons off the list of places you may visit with your pooch. Health codes ban dogs from such establishments (unless you have a service dog). When it comes to other destinations, always check ahead, even if you're planning to visit a close friend. But before you ask, take an honest look at your pet's behavior. You may think her manners make her Westminster-worthy, but if she has accidents, barks, or nips, reconsider. When heading to a place that does welcome dogs, bring paper towels, plastic bags, and treats. For all-day excursions, pack a portable water bowl.
How much cold your pet can tolerate depends on her size and the thickness of her coat, among other factors. Watch your dog for signs of discomfort. Is she shivering? Whining? She's probably cold. Get her inside, and have her fitted for a coat that covers her back and abdomen. Use dog bootees to guard against injury: Snow and ice can cut the pads of dogs' feet, and salt can cause painful stinging. Antifreeze is also a risk; the substance is toxic, and licking it off can harm pets. If you don't outfit her with shoes, wipe her paw pads well when you get home. And remember, pets lose most of their body heat from the bottoms of their feet, their ears, and their respiratory tract. So even a well-dressed pup will catch a chill if she stays outside too long.