Category Archives: PawsCorner

Building a Pet First-Aid Kit

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: I read in a guide to cutting dogs’ toenails that “styptic” will stop bleeding if you cut their paws. What is that, and where do I get it? — Perry in Dallas

Styptic powder can be used on small nicks and tiny cuts to stop bleeding and reduce pain. That’s helpful when trimming pets’ toenails, which can be a traumatic experience for them, especially if you should trim a little too far up the nail and accidentally cut the quick. The powder is applied with a cotton ball or soft cloth. Most owners keep it right next to them as they trim their pets’ nails, so it can be applied immediately.
In fact, styptic powder should be an essential part of something every pet owner should have: an easy-to-access first-aid kit for their pets. You don’t have to buy a complete kit; you can assemble a few key items and store them in a tightly sealed plastic container.
In addition to the powder, a pet first-aid kit should have gauze and tape, a small bar of soap, a disinfectant like hydrogen peroxide or alcohol wipes, Benadryl (plain, with no ibuprofen or acetaminophen), cotton balls and disinfecting hand wash (for you). Its main purpose is to treat small cuts and scrapes, but you can add other items that you think are essential, including the veterinarian’s phone number, extra identification tags, copies of your pet’s shot records and a spare leash. More ideas can be found at the Humane Society of the United States’ website.

Leash Laws Are Sometimes Vague

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: I’m writing in reference to your recent column about training a “cool city pooch.” You’re forgetting that many cities have laws about tying up your dog to lampposts. Unless that “cool pooch’s” owner wants to pay a fine, he’d better forget about doing that.
– S.Y., via e-mail
DEAR S.Y.: That’s a good point: Pet owners should check city ordinances ahead of time before taking their pets out on a stroll. Are pets completely not allowed inside businesses by city law, rather than at the business owner’s discretion? Can you tie their leash to a lamppost, bike stand or outdoor table? Can a dog be unaccompanied or off leash at any time?
As a counterpoint, many cities’ leash laws are sometimes a bit vague on this point. Almost all require that owners keep their dogs under control at all times, and on a leash everywhere except in designated off-leash areas. Municipal buildings and schools are usually off-limits to non-service dogs, period.
Some cities, and an increasing number of businesses, are making more allowances for dogs. For example, some grocery stores and a few department stores in my area, like Home Depot, allow small dogs inside as long as they stay on a leash beside their owner and are well-behaved. However, it is up to the pet owner to learn what the rules are in the businesses he or she wants to frequent.
The most important point, beyond what’s written in leash laws or by businesses, is that pet owners be good citizens, and make sure their dog is safe and under their control when out and about.
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Doubts About Camping with Dogs

DEAR PAW4PETS: We’re planning a multi-family, end-of-summer camping trip and would like to bring our two dogs, Reilly and Quark. Our worry is that there will be several kids of various ages on the trip. Will our dogs be able to coexist with so many strange people?
– Bill and Stacy, Boulder,

DEAR BILL AND STACY: Bringing pets along on a camping trip can be a lot of fun, and the dogs could have a blast, but if it’s your first such trip, those are good questions to ask. How well socialized are your dogs? Are they accustomed to interacting with other dogs and with new people? Have they spent much time around children? If you’re not sure, it’s time to take them to the dog park or on a scheduled play date with other dogs to begin socializing them. You also need to ask questions of your fellow campers. How do they feel about the dogs coming along? Are any of them, or any of their kids, afraid of dogs? Finally, you need to find out about the campsite. Does it have regulations concerning pets, such as requiring them to be on a leash in certain areas? Does it allow them at all? (Some don’t, for various reasons.) If you have doubts about your dogs’ ability to handle lots of attention from a group of new humans, it may be best to leave them with a caretaker during this particular camping trip. Plan a camping trip just for yourselves and your dogs in the near future, to get them and you accustomed to the unique experience of camping together.

Paws Clap for GAF Fundraiser

An evening of festivity is being readied on Saturday, September 14, to aid our furry friends—a DJ, dancing, dance lessons, gift baskets and hot and cold hors d’oeuvres are part of the Groton Animal Foundation (GAF), “Cause for Paws,” a yearly wine- and beer-tasting fundraiser.
The event will be at the Shennecossett Yacht Club on Eastern Point from 4 to 8 p.m.; more than a dozen vendors and donors will participate, coordinated by The Grapevine in Groton.
The Groton Animal Foundation (GAF), a nonprofit organization established in early 2007, operates an emergency medical fund which provides extra medical care needed by the animals housed in the Town of Groton Animal Control Facility, helping the animals become more adoptable.
In addition, GAF enlists veterinary clinics to help with a veterinary-bill subsidies for Groton pet owners who are financially challenged. The Town of Groton area includes City of Groton, Groton side of Mystic, Noank, Groton Long Point, and Navy Housing. Approximately 80 animals have been helped yearly at the facility and eight to ten veterinary bills have been subsidized.
GAF has a “Heat Kills” educational program to deter pet owners from leaving their animals in cars during the summer. In addition, a reading program allows children to take home a library “animal book” to read and discuss at the libraries with an appropriate expert. The GAF Animal Pantry helps people obtain food for their pets.
In addition to GAF’s annual wine tasting, GAF’s main revenues are from donations from animal lovers, plus grants including the Mystic Rotary Club, the Community Foundation, a Pfizer Volunteer Grant and matching funds, and the feral-cat project of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture.
For more information, see
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Owning Your Own Pet Business

by Sam Mazzotta

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: I’m a pet owner (two cats, a very mellow Chihuahua and two parakeets), and for a couple of years now I’ve been thinking of starting a business as a dog walker or pet sitter. Some of my friends and my boyfriend are trying to talk me out of it, saying pet sitters don’t make any money, and it’s an undignified job. What do you think?
−MaryAnne K., Syracuse, N.Y.

pawscornerDEAR MARYANNE: If you think that you can be successful at something, then you probably can. I’m sure your friends are trying to talk you out of it because they care about you, but in the end, it’s about what you want. And frankly, caring for pets is hardly undignified — it’s an incredibly important job. There’s also high demand for quality pet care in major cities.
The most important part of starting your business is to do your homework — not just learning about pet sitting, but running a business as well. Sign up for small business or entrepreneurship classes and/or groups in your area (some are offered free or at low cost). Visit your local SBA (Small Business Administration) office to learn about federal programs and loans available to you.
Learn about the pet-sitting and dog-walking industry by checking out these organizations: Pet Sitters International ( and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters ( They offer resources, advice, training, online referral services, group health and dental insurance plans, and even certification.
One of the best things you can do is talk to pet sitters and ask questions. How do they provide quality pet care to their customers? What is the business climate like in your area? Learn as much as you can about running a pet sitting business.

Cold Weather Tips From ASPCA

pawscornerThe temperature is falling to frigid levels across the country, and the ASPCA is reminding pet owners that the cold weather can also be dangerous for our four-legged family members.

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind as the temperature drops:

“It is important to always walk your dog on a leash, but when it snows this becomes critical,” says Dr. Louise Murray, vice president of the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. “During a snowstorm, dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears her ID tags.”

Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a full coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. When it comes to short-haired dogs, consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck that covers his whole back.

“Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car, especially during extremely cold weather,” advises Murray. “The temperature in the car drops very quickly, and it is not a safe place for your pet to be unattended.”

Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect.

Paws Corner: Puppy-Mill Dog Not So Chipper

by Sam Mazzotta

Paws cornerDEAR PAW’S CORNER: This Christmas, we thought we bought the perfect puppy for our son. “Chipper” looked adorable and healthy at the pet store when we picked him out. However, a couple of days after we brought him home, Chipper got very ill; he was lethargic and vomiting. We took him to the vet right away, where he remains, recovering from several issues the vet said are typical of puppy-mill dogs. He also said that puppy-mill dogs can have behavioral problems as well. Now I’m not sure we should keep him. What should we do?
— Taken for a Ride in Pennsylvania

DEAR TAKEN: OK, first off, please keep Chipper. Even though he is not the perfectly healthy puppy you expected, it’s not his fault. Furthermore, you made a commitment to bring a pet into your home, and you should stick with that promise.
Second, you can complain about what happened. Complain to store management, write the corporate headquarters, if there is one, and complain to the Better Business Bureau.

Pet stores and breeders must be licensed by the USDA to sell pets, and are supposed to be inspected regularly. You can contact the local SPCA, the Humane Society of the United States ( or the ASPCA ( if you think Chipper came from a puppy mill.

Again, please keep him if at all possible. Too many puppy-mill dogs wind up in shelters, or are euthanized, due to health and behavioral problems that their owners didn’t want to deal with. If his health issues become overwhelming, talk to your vet about treatment and payment options. To head off potential behavioral problems, contact a dog trainer who has experience dealing with difficult dogs.

Paws Corner: The Right Gifts for Dogs or Cats

by Sam Mazzotta

My daughter and her family have two big dogs and a cat. I like giving gifts to the pets as well as my grandkids. Do you have any suggestions?
               —Tammy, via email

DEAR TAMMY: Anything that looks cozy, fun and safe for pets is a good bet. I’ve always appreciated even small gifts like a cute bandanna for my dog or small catnip toys for my cat. If you’re looking for gifts beyond stocking stuffers, here are some that most pet owners will appreciate:

Dog and cat beds: These range in price from about $15 on up to a few hundred dollars. Look for a sturdy fabric covering that is easy to brush fur from, and stuffing that can’t be easily pulled out and chewed on.
Cat furniture: From a simple padded windowsill seat to “kitty condo” play complexes that cats can wander through, cat owners appreciate these combination scratching posts and rest areas.

Travel safety: A number of products have come on the market to keep dogs and cats safe in the car, from traditional travel crates to adapted seat belts that keep Fido securely in his seat.

Toys: For your daughter’s big dogs, sturdy chew toys are probably welcome. I still really like Kong chew toys, which are nearly impossible to damage and can be filled with peanut butter or another treat. For cats, something beyond the catnip mouse could include one of Bergan’s “Turbo Tracks,” in which a ball inset in a round or figure-eight track scoots around with every swipe of the paw.

No matter which gift you choose, or if you decide to just give small, inexpensive gifts to your daughter’s pets, I’m sure they’ll be appreciated.

Fat Cat’s Off the Gravy Train

by Sam Mazzotta

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: My cat “Frank” has been classified as obese by the veterinarian. Frank doesn’t look that fat, and he moves around fine and plays a lot. How can the vet call him obese? Trying to get him to exercise more doesn’t work, either.
            – Susan J., Phoenix


DEAR SUSAN: Cats, like people, sometimes put on weight so gradually that it’s the scale that sounds the first warning, rather than looks or lack of activity. Frank may not seem too fat, and he gets around just fine, but that good health won’t last if the weight stays on him.

He has quite a bit in his favor. It sounds like Frank is a healthy cat who stays active. You can encourage this activity by increasing the amount of time you play with him — if you dangle a cat toy in front of Frank for five minutes every hour so, increase that to 10 minutes each time.

It’s also very important to follow the dietary guidelines set down by the veterinarian. Usually a pet diet involves reducing the amount of calories taken in each day. That means serving smaller portions at feeding time. Food treats must be avoided as well, so the extra calories don’t go straight to your cat’s midsection.
Keeping Frank’s weight down now will help prolong not only his life, but the quality of that life. Being obese will eventually lead to a host of expensive health problems — diet and exercise cost mostly time and patience.

Paws Corner: Proper Leash Training Can Prevent Tragedy

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: Last week a really tragic accident happened just down the street. Our neighbor was walking his 1-year-old German Shepherd, Champ, on a sturdy leash. The dog tended to tug on his leash or jump away from his owner when something grabbed his attention. Sadly, when the owner paused to let his dog sniff at a tree on the curb while he waved to a neighbor, Champ suddenly darted into the busy street. Before his owner could tug him back on the curb, Champ was struck by a car and killed almost instantly.
Please warn your readers to keep their dogs under control and on the sidewalk, even while on a leash, and to pay attention to their dogs during their walks. My neighbor is suffering terrible grief, and I hate to think of anyone else, or their pets, suffering from preventable accidents. — Sharon in Utica, N.Y.

DEAR SHARON: You’re right: While accidents do happen, many can be prevented by knowing how to correctly walk your dog on a leash. Reinforcing your dog’s basic obedience training, including sit, stay and heel commands, is an important daily task.
If you’re having trouble controlling your dog on the leash despite following common leash-training techniques, contact a professional dog trainer for group or private sessions so you and your dog will learn to walk together safely.

Wild Animals Pose Threat to Pets

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: A number of cats in our area disappeared this spring and summer, and I noticed the rabbits that used to plague our garden don’t come as frequently. A neighbor told me he saw a coyote crossing the street just before dawn recently, and I suspect it is the cause of many of these disappearances. Please warn your readers they need to protect their pets as wild animals are encroaching on well-populated neighborhoods. — Pat C., Weston, Mass.

DEAR PAT: That’s a very good point! As wild creatures lose more and more of their natural habitats, they are being seen much more frequently in the suburbs and even in urban areas. This goes beyond nuisance animals like raccoons and skunks: Black bears frequently wander into back yards in central Florida, and residents in urban Allston, Mass., are sometimes confronted by wild turkeys foraging along city streets. And coyotes and cougars have been reported in suburban neighborhoods in many parts of the United States.
Wild animals present a lot of risk to pets (as well as humans). Besides the threat of contracting rabies or other diseases, some predators find smaller pets to be easy, tasty prey.
Keep cats and small dogs indoors at night. If wild animals have been reported in your area, don’t let your pet out unaccompanied or off a leash, even during the day when no danger is apparent. Keep your pet’s vaccinations up to date.
If you have pets, like rabbits, that are kept outside, reinforce and strengthen protective fencing around their cages.

Finding Affordable Pet Health Care

DEAR PAW’S CORNER: Being a retiree trying to make ends meet, it’s been hard to pay for health care for my two Corgis. Are there free clinics in my area where I can get my dogs’ shots more cheaply? — Francis H., Oklahoma City, Okla.


DEAR FRANCIS: Low-cost and sometimes free vaccination clinics for pets are available at different times of the year across the country. These are held by public service agencies (such as county or city shelters), though some are privately sponsored. The clinics typically offer the immunizations required of dogs and cats (and sometimes other animals like ferrets) and license tags. Some also offer services like health checks and microchipping. Prices range from $5 to $25, on average.

The problem, of course, is finding one near you.

These days, the Internet is a great resource for locating announcements for low-cost clinics. However, not everyone has access to the Internet. And sometimes, the agencies or institutions sponsoring those clinics can’t advertise widely, or are hard to locate in an Internet search.

In these cases, your best bet is to regularly check locally published newspapers and magazines that focus on your community for announcements about upcoming clinics. Another way is to call the local shelters, or the city or county government, to find out if any such clinics will be held in the near future.

I’ll do my best to list upcoming clinics in as many locations as possible at In the meantime, keep checking with your local government or animal shelter for the next dates, times and locations of their low-cost clinics.