Along similar lines, families are often tempted to get a bunny at Easter time. Rabbits do make great pets, but don't buy one on impulse without doing the research to make sure it's the right pet for your family. Again, the majority of "Easter bunnies" end up at our animal shelters several months after the holiday. The best recommendation: Buy cute and cuddly - and carefree - stuffed animals for your children at Easter time.
Q. We had an appointment to have my dog spayed and she came into heat. Do I need to put off having her spayed and for how long?
A. While it is possible for your dog to be spayed while she is in heat, most veterinarians will ask you to postpone the surgery, as it is an easier procedure when she is not in heat. Vaginal discharge and vulvar swelling should diminish after 11-20 days. (However, some dogs can stay in heat for more than a month!) You have to make sure to keep her away from unneutered male dogs while you are waiting. Male dogs have an unbelievable ability to find females in heat. They have even been known to jump six-foot fences to get into the back yard of a waiting female.
Q. My dog takes a glucosamine supplement for arthritis. I have noticed that there are different brands of it and am wondering if there is any difference?
A. Many people are giving their pets supplements (often called nutraceuticals) for conditions such as arthritis and allergies. The variety of nutraceuticals, dietary supplements and herbal remedies just keeps growing and growing, both for pets and for humans. Unfortunately there is no regulatory body for these products - they are neither foods nor drugs, so they are not regulated by the FDA. Studies have shown that some of these products contain variable quantities of the active ingredients, some contain impurities, and some even fail to dissolve when ingested. So how do you know that you're getting what you pay for? Some general guidelines are:
* Price - if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Cheaper compounds are usually of lesser quality.
* The bottle should have a lot number and expiration date.
* Ingredient list - ingredients should be listed by order of weight.
* There should be good instructions for use.
* The bottle should have the name of the manufacturer and a telephone number for questions or problems.
* The National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) is an industry group which has a close relationship with the FDA and member companies are likely to have better quality products.
* Remember that phrases such as "veterinarian recommended," "veterinarian approved," and "veterinarian formulated" are for marketing purposes and have very little meaning.
People often ask me if they can buy human supplements that have the same ingredients as those for their pets. The answer is yes, subject to the same caveats as above. Also, you need to be sure you're giving the right amount; if in doubt, check with your veterinarian.
--Dr. Heidi Strand is a veterinarian for the East Bay SPCA in Dublin. She has lived in the Tri-Valley for 10 years with her family and an assortment of four-legged friends. Questions can be mailed to 315 Diablo Road, Suite 100, Danville 94526; or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column runs every other week.