A new survey looks at the financial sacrifices that Americans are willing to make for their pets. On average, American pet owners spend $1,560 per year on just their pet’s routine care, including feeding, grooming, boarding and scheduled visits to the vet, based on an average monthly cost of $130, according to a Harris Poll conducted by telephone for the American Institute of CPAs.
That's a substantial amount when you consider that more than half of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings (according to a recent GoBankingRates survey), AICPA notes in a press release. “Owning a pet can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it’s also a long-term financial commitment,” said Greg Anton, chair of AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “It is important to incorporate both routine and unpredictable pet expenses into your budget to help ensure your own financial plan will not be disrupted.”
About 54 percent of Americans have a pet in their home. Nearly a quarter of pet owners (23 percent) said the cost of pet ownership is more than they expected. Food, toys and routine care are predictable costs, but there are additional expenses, such as emergency medical care or boarding, that can arise without warning. If an emergency expense were to present itself, 76 percent of American pet owners said they would make financial sacrifices to pay for it, according to the release. Seventy-nine percent said they would stop eating at restaurants and 67 percent would give up their vacation to pay for pet related expenses if they were in a difficult financial situation. Sixty-one percent of pet owners said they would sacrifice their cable and TV streaming services to pay for their pet expenses. And 35 percent would even sacrifice their cell phone plan. A little more than one-third (37 percent) said that they would sacrifice contributions to their retirement account to pay for pet-related expenses, putting their own future financial well-being at risk. And 27 percent would forgo paying their credit card bill to pay for their pet’s expenses, leading to potential penalties, interest rate hikes and a lowered credit score.
Individual pet owners said that to pay for emergency expenses they would be willing to give up "everything in the house" or their "quality of groceries" and would even "cut back on the amount of money spent on grandchildren," the release explains. A few pet owners went all in, saying that they’re willing to "give up anything" to ensure their pet is taken care of. “As you consider bringing a pet into your family, understand that you’re making a substantial investment of both time and money,” Anton said. “The costs of your ‘new family member’ will go far beyond bringing them home, so it’s important to budget for the lifetime of the pet.”
To help Americans fully understand the financial commitment that comes with bringing a pet into their home, AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers these tips:
- Be honest with yourself financially. If you are struggling to pay off your student loans and have credit debt piling up, does it really make financial sense to get a pet? Pets are great but they are meant to help relieve stress, not add to it due to financial difficulties.
- Do your research. Though the cost of routine care may be predictable, it varies widely from animal to animal, and even from breed to breed, across the spectrum of family pets. Know ahead of time the probable cost of care that will come with your companion.
- Make a budget: “pre-pet” and “post-pet.” Include all related expenses, such as food, treats, leash, crates, tank (for fish, lizards, etc.), toys, vet visits, grooming and other services such as boarding and day care. If your pet will require a habitat powered by electricity, be sure to factor in the impact it will have on your utility bills.
- Be prepared. If you’re worried about unforeseen costs, use an emergency savings calculator to help you regularly set aside funds, or consider getting pet insurance.
- Buy in bulk. Items such as food, treats and preventive medicine can be purchased in bulk, reducing the overall cost per unit.
A neurosurgical team at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has successfully performed a first-of-its-kind brain surgery on a female adult Northern fur seal in an attempt to address her worsening neurologic condition. Ziggy Star is recovering well at her permanent home at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn.
Ziggy was first seen at the Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals at Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University in September for a progressive condition that was causing severe neurologic episodes, difficulty moving, reduced training response, and cluster seizures. An MRI revealed an accumulation of cerebral spinal fluid in the brain—hydrocephalus. Mystic Aquarium took in Ziggy approximately four years ago after she was found stranded on the California coast and deemed non-releasable by the federal government. At the time, she had an MRI that showed some neurologic abnormalities. She received treatment, but her symptoms continued to progress at a concerning rate, with the seizures emerging more recently.
“The MRI taken recently by our team showed that the brain was disappearing due to the excess fluid, and it was significantly worse than the last study four years ago,” said Ane Uriarte, DVM, Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Neurology. “After discussion with Mystic’s veterinary team, we determined the best option to prevent further deterioration of the brain and to improve Ziggy’s symptoms was to surgically place a shunt to drain the excess fluid, relieving some of the pressure on the brain.”
While the procedure couldn’t reverse damage caused to the brain by excess fluid, if successful, it could stop the progression of Ziggy’s condition, improving her quality of life, level of responsiveness, and mobility. Unable to find documented cases of hydrocephalus being surgically managed in pinnipeds, veterinarians relied heavily on their experience treating the condition in other animals, combined with extensive review of the skeletal structure of the fur seal to determine where to enter the skull and place the shunt.
The team present on the day of the surgery included veterinary anesthesiologists, neurosurgeons and zoological medicine specialists from Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, as well as zoological medicine specialists from Mystic Aquarium who serve as Ziggy’s primary veterinarians. Ziggy’s trainers helped to keep her calm and comfortable throughout transport and recovery. Mystic Aquarium brought in a boarded anesthesiologist who specializes in marine mammals. A marine mammal’s “dive reflex” can often lead to alterations in heart rate, blood pressure, and respirations when under anesthesia, which can make anesthesia more challenging than with a dog or a cat.
The surgical procedure involved placing a shunt catheter through the skull and into the brain. The catheter was then positioned underneath the skin through the neck and passed down to Ziggy’s abdomen. A valve controls the flow of excess cerebral spinal fluid from the brain to the abdomen, where the body absorbs it. Post-surgery, the veterinary team confirmed that the shunt was placed correctly via CT scan. Ziggy had a slightly prolonged recovery after the procedure due to seizure activity that was successfully managed. She was transferred back to Mystic Aquarium once she was stable. Ziggy is currently living in an off-exhibit habitat at Mystic Aquarium, where she is being monitored through her recovery and rehabilitation.
They say treat labels should be more explicit and provide more detailed information on ingredients and energy content to prevent dogs becoming overweight or obese and at increased risk of conditions like diabetes. Dog treats represent the fastest growing segment of the pet food industry. European regulation states that dog treats should be labelled as 'complementary feed' and sets out rules for labelling to provide adequate information for consumers.
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines also state that daily treat intake should not exceed 10% of a dog's energy needs (known as maintenance energy requirement or MER). But little is known about the nutritional value of treats and their impact on the dog's diet, health and wellness, despite the popularity of such products. So researchers led by Giada Morelli at the University of Padua in Italy, set out to compare the nutrient composition of different categories of treats and to verify whether daily intake recommendations on the label were in accordance with WSAVA guidelines.
They identified 32 popular dog treats available in pet shops and supermarkets (five biscuits, ten tender treats, three meat-based strips, five rawhides [dry bovine skin], twelve chewable sticks and six dental care sticks). Products were analysed for levels of minerals, starch, simple sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and the amino acid hydroxyproline (a component of collagen).
They found that three out of four (76%) of treats contained between four to nine ingredients, and that ingredients were not precisely described on the label. For example, biscuits and dental sticks had 'cereals' listed as the first ingredient, while tenders, meat strips, rawhides and chewable sticks had 'meat and animal derivatives' listed first.
Almost half of products mentioned 'sugars' on the label's ingredient list and all contained varying amounts of minerals. The most calorically dense treats were biscuits, whereas the least calorically dense were dental sticks. When caloric density was expressed as kcal/treat, rawhides were the most energy-dense products, followed by chewable sticks and dental sticks.
When manufacturers' feeding instructions (number of treats/day) were followed, on average, biscuits accounted for 16% of MER for dogs of any size; rawhides exceeded 25% MER for small-sized dogs and 18% MER for medium-sized dogs. Chewable sticks surpassed 10% MER for all size dogs, reaching 16.9% MER in small-sized dogs. Only feeding instructions for dental sticks remained below 10% MER for every dog size.
This is the first investigation to categorise dog treats and determine their nutrient profile," write the authors. They point to some study limitations, such as the small number of treats that were analysed in each category. Also, these results may not be representative of all products worldwide given the wide number of dog treats available on the market.
Nevertheless, they say their results suggest that treat labelling should include more information on the ingredients used, and that producers should reconsider the feeding instructions they provide on labels, especially for small dogs. Caution should also be adopted when considering treats for dogs with specific ingredient sensitivities or in dogs with conditions such as heart failure and kidney disease due to their potential high mineral content, they add. Finally, they say future studies should sample a greater number of products to provide more precise data.
As winter continues in the Northern hemisphere, temperatures drop and just like for humans, the lifestyles of cats change. Cold weather can have a negative impact on the well-being of cats in a number of ways, but luckily there are steps that you can take to mitigate these effects.
Winter impacts cats that spend any appreciable amount of time outside the most, and the combination of low temperatures, wind, and snow/ice can predispose cats to hypothermia and frostbite. The best way to avoid these problems is to keep cats indoors at all times. For those cats that cannot be kept indoors, it is important to provide shelter from the cold, wind, and precipitation by either providing access to purpose-built shelters or to indoor environments with adequate bedding (straw is a good choice, avoid newspaper, cloth, and hay), food, and water. Measures should be taken to prevent the water from freezing (i.e. solar water heater, using thick plastic bowls rather than shallow ceramic bowls), and if possible, the shelter should be raised off the ground to avoid body heat loss into the ground. Its also important to realize that cats burn more calories to stay warm in the winter, so feeding them a bit more than during the warm weather months will help them avoid losing weight.
Another issue to consider is automotive hazards that cold weather may expose cats to. Since car engines generate heat and outdoor cats are constantly seeking warmth, cats can be injured when they seek warmth in the wheel wells and/or engine compartment of cars and owners unknowingly start their cars and drive away. It’s a good idea to check the wheel wells of your car and to either honk your horn or bang on the hood of your vehicle before starting it, to prompt any cats that may be seeking shelter in the engine compartment to leave.
Finally, winterizing cars with antifreeze places cats at risk, because antifreeze is extremely toxic to cats if ingested, and its taste is attractive to cats. To minimize this risk, be sure to keep all antifreeze well contained and out of reach of cats and to clean up any antifreeze spills and leaks promptly.
By taking these simple steps, you can help cats experience a better quality of life during cold weather.
A stallion’s fertility can be assessed in part by evaluating both the motility and the shape of the individual sperm cells. Laboratories dedicated to this delicate task often use different staining methods to microscopically evaluate the structure of sperm cells. A recent study, however, shows that staining method and evaluator experience could impact the evaluator’s impression of sample quality, potentially resulting inaccurate evaluations.
“When assessing stallion spermatozoa, laboratory technicians typically consider three main regions of the cells: the tip of the sperm cell that penetrates the mare’s egg, called the acrosome; the main part of the sperm cell or head containing DNA; and the midpiece that connects the head and tail,” said Laura Petroski, B.V.M.S., staff veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).
According to the research team, three different staining techniques can be used to assess spermatozoa morphology. Variability in staining technique, in addition to the individual evaluator’s experience or opinion, can introduce errors into the microscopic analysis of semen samples. To test these potential variances, samples were collected from 40 stallions of different ages and breeds. Each sample was subsequently analyzed using three different staining procedures (DiffQuick, eosin-nigrosin, and SpermBlue) and two different evaluators. One evaluator was deemed novice and the other experienced.
Although poor dye fixation was observed with SpermBlue, all three stains were equally useful in identifying morphologically normal spermatozoa. In contrast, the authors noted that “significant differences between evaluators were observed in the classification of some anomalies affecting mainly the midpiece and the tail.” In other words, the novice evaluator misjudged or misclassified certain morphological abnormalities.
“Many factors impact the quality of a stallion’s ejaculate, including season, age, and diet. Certain nutritional supplements also support and possibly enhance stallion fertility, including vitamins A and E and omega-3 fatty acids,” advised Petroski.
She added, “The supplement EO•3 is a rich source of DHA and EPA, and supports sperm concentration, motility, and viability.”
There’s so much more to being a wildlife rehabilitator than a simple love of wildlife. Wildlife rehabilitators provide treatment and care to injured, sick or orphaned native species until they are well enough to be released. According to the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association (NWRA), the primary duty of a wildlife rehabilitator is to examine injured wildlife and provide medical care and therapy to help them recover to the point at which they can be released. Typical duties may include feeding, cleaning cages, record keeping, accounting, fundraising, answering phone calls about injured animals and educating the public.
The wildlife rehabilitator should have a good working knowledge of wound management, fluid treatment, the nutritional needs of various species, and humane restraint and capture procedures. Depending on their geographic location, rehabilitators may work with many species including deer, raccoons, woodpeckers, eagles, hawks, pelicans, herons, turtles, snakes, seals, hummingbirds, ducks, owls, bats, frogs, ferrets, geese, and swans.
Wildlife rehabilitators can work for various governmental agencies, nonprofit groups, zoos, and humane societies. They may also have another primary occupation, working as a veterinarian, veterinary technician, zoologist, or biologist. Rehabbers can elect to specialize or work with a variety of species. Some rehabilitators are involved with specialized emergency response teams that travel to areas where animals are in distress. The areas to which they are dispatched often include locations affected by oil spills, hurricanes, or wildfires.
Wildlife rehabilitators must be licensed by the state and/or federal government to work in the field. There are many rules governing the care and capture of wildlife. You will need to get in touch with the appropriate agency to obtain the necessary permits. The best place to start seeking advice on the permit issue is generally the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Many wildlife rehabilitators have a degree in biology, animal behavior, animal science, or zoology; though a college degree is not required to work in this field. They also usually initially intern with experienced wildlife rehabilitator to gain a good foundation of hands-on experience. Volunteering with a wildlife veterinarian or at a large wildlife rehabilitation facility is also a great way to learn.
The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council (IWRC) offers professional certification to those who pass the Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator (CWR) exam. Recertification is required every two years and is achieved through continuing education credits at seminars, conferences, and training classes. Many wildlife rehabilitators work from home and receive little or no financial compensation. Volunteer positions with nonprofit organizations are also common. For wildlife rehabilitators that are employed by an organization, salary is usually in the $25,000 to $35,000 range. Ask someone in the field and you’ll hear “I’m not in it for the money. The reward is in the release of a healthy animal.”
Salary can vary widely, depending on experience, geography, skill sets, etc. SimplyHired.com reports an average salary of $51,000 for managers and/or directors; Indeed.com cites salaries as high as $90,000. Wildlife rehabilitation is one of the more recently established animal career options and has expanded to include more paying positions in recent years. According to NWRA surveys, demand for wildlife rehabilitation services has steadily increased throughout the years and is expected to continue to grow.
Pet obesity is on the rise for the seventh straight year, according to data from insurance provider Nationwide.
Nationwide members filed more than 1.4 million pet insurance claims in 2016, of which 20 percent were for conditions and diseases related to pet obesity, amounting to more than $62 million in veterinary expenses, according to a press release. The boost obesity-related claims represents growth of 24 percent over the past four years.
Excessive body fat increases the risk of preventable health issues and may shorten the life expectancy of dogs and cats. Nationwide recently sorted through its database of more than 630,000 insured pets to determine the top 10 dog and cat obesity-related conditions. The results:
"Obesity can be detrimental to the livelihood of our pets," Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide, said in the release. "Pet owners need to be aware of the quality and amount of food or treats they give their furry family members. The New Year presents a perfect opportunity to create regular exercise routines for our pets and begin to effectively manage their eating habits to avoid excess weight gain. Scheduling routine wellness exams with your veterinarian is an effective way to get started on monitoring your pet's weight, particularly for cats."
In 2016, Nationwide received more than 51,000 pet insurance claims for arthritis in canines, the most common disease aggravated by excessive weight, which carried an average treatment fee of $310 per pet. With more than 5,000 pet insurance claims, bladder or urinary tract disease was the most common obesity-related condition in cats, with an average claim amount of $443 per pet.
Despite the growing popularity of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retail still rules when it comes to pet food sales.
That's according to Packaged Facts’ new report Pet Food in the U.S., 13th Edition.
Fully 93 percent of cat owners and 88 percent of dog owners bought pet food in a store in the last year, the company writes in a blog post about the report. And in fact, 81 percent of cat owners and 76 percent of dog owners buy all of their cat/dog food in a store without pre-ordering it elsewhere.
Of all the demographic groups, millennials are the quickest to embrace e-commerce for pet food purchases, Packaged Facts reports. That includes ordering through a website or app and purchasing online for store pickup.
Bushfires in Australia destroyed buildings and threatened lives on Saturday as a heatwave in three states brought temperatures strong enough to melt the bitumen on a highway.
A fire raging out of control set several structures ablaze on the outskirts of Melbourne, the country’s second largest city, and the capital of the southeastern state of Victoria.
The state’s emergency management commissioner, Craig Lapsley, said hot temperatures had combined with dry weather, strong winds and a wind change to create dangerous conditions.
About 400 homes lost power and 50 fires were reported across Victoria on Saturday, although many were small and were extinguished.
Emergency warnings were issued both in Victoria and in the nearby state of South Australia, where authorities advised residents of a rural area to seek shelter in buildings from an out-of-control fire.
Experts consider such a move to be safer than running the risk of getting trapped in the open if the fire suddenly changes direction.
Total fire bans took effect from midnight as Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania braced for dangerous fire conditions caused by temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104°F).
Australia is prone to deadly blazes, thanks to its combination of remote terrain, high summer temperatures and flammable eucalyptus bush.
In 2009, the worst bushfires on record destroyed thousands of homes in Victoria, killing 173 people and injuring 414 on a day the media dubbed “Black Saturday”.
A Florida contractor says he was attacked by a bobcat inside a woman’s condo, but the animal’s owner says her feline is no predator, just a 10-pound domestic longhair kitty named Calli.
The contractor, Marcos Hernandez, filed a lawsuit in Tampa on Dec. 19, alleging condo owner Christine Lee illegally kept a bobcat inside her unit. He said a bobcat scratched him on May 16, causing serious injuries after he entered the condo to conduct a fire safety inspection.
Hernandez was in the condo alone, Lee said, something that shouldn’t have happened. She said an employee from the building was supposed to accompany him inside.
According to the lawsuit, Hernandez said he was attacked by an unleashed bobcat and suffered permanent injuries. He’s seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages. Hernandez said Lee had a duty to provide a safe environment and failed to warn him about the bobcat.
Lee said that’s nonsense. She only has a fluffy, tortoiseshell-colored housecat and a sleeker black cat named Max. She doesn’t know which cat may have scratched Hernandez, but Max’s color would likely rule him out.
She has not yet retained an attorney.
“I’m not denying he got scratched, what he was doing to get scratched, I don’t know,” she said, adding that when she arrived home that day, Calli was “cowering and scared.” Max was underneath her bed.
Calli, who is 3 1/2, is friendly, Lee said. But “just like any animal, she is guarded. If they feel threatened, they may attack, scratch or bite.”
Soon after the incident, she was informed by building management that Hernandez had been scratched, but she hadn’t heard of the lawsuit until this week, when the Tampa Bay Times first wrote about the case and took a photo of Calli. Hernandez is also suing the condo building’s owner.
Lee said she has never owned a bobcat.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wild bobcats in the state are about twice the size of a domestic cat, up to about 35 pounds. They are tan to yellowish brown, with dark spots.
Through the latest hunting season, Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife workers used deer, bear, elk, grouse and other animal decoys to catch poachers.
But they’re not just simple decoys. They’re lifelike, made with real animal pelts and controlled by a remote control. The legs bend, the heads turn and the tails wag.
"They seem real," said WDFW Sgt. Shawnn Vincent, showing Q13 News the deer decoys used to catch hunters in Skagit County. Often times, the deer decoys are used to catch hunters who are out after regulated hours.
During the season, hunting is allowed from about 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., depending on the month. Many poachers will go out after dark and use the spotlights on their car to temporarily blind the deer, making them slow to react . This is a poaching technique known as spotlighting.
It's effective, but illegal. It's also easy to spot. Fish and wildlife officers will put the robot deer on the roadside, wag its tail, and wait for poachers.
"We put (the decoys) on forest roads, anywhere people hunt," Vincent said.
The decoys are covered in real dear skin. The eyes glow in the headlights. It's only after a poacher shoots the deer and it doesn't move that the hunters know something is wrong. "They know something is up after they shoot," Vincent said.
Wildlife officers go out often during the hunting season, which runs from September-November. Often, they don't get any poachers. But a few times, multiple parties have shot the deer in one night.
Six people were caught with the decoy deer this season in Skagit County alone. Vincent said dozens of poachers have been caught across the state. Vincent said decoys are a great way to keep a healthy big-game population.
"Our populations - our deer, our elk, whatever in this state - they're not at the highest right now," Vincent said. "They've definitely been higher." He sees cracking down on illegal shooting as a way to maintain a harvest for the future.
"Poaching and people going out and taking these illegally, it's taking away from the youth, the kids, everyone else," Vincent said. "This is just one way of combating that."
Anyone who spots a poacher is encouraged to call 911 or their local WDFW office.