Buyer Beware: Why Big Business and Veterinary Practices Just Don’t Mix

Corporatization is changing the world of petcare, and our pets are paying the price.

There’s no doubt that the quality of petcare has improved drastically in recent years. However, an emerging trend is threatening to undo all of the amazing progress we’ve made over the past several decades. The perpetrator? Big business.

Whereas most veterinary practices used to be run by individual providers, more and more corporations are seeing petcare as an opportunity to turn a profit off of people’s love for their pets. In fact, according to Bloomberg contributor Jason Clenfield, “corporations now own 15 to 20 percent of America’s 26,000 pet hospitals,” and consolidators are buying them up at breakneck speed.

The Trouble with Big Vets

To some, consolidated ownership of veterinary practices might actually sound like a good idea — after all, big businesses come with substantial resources, which in theory should mean better technology and advanced care options. Unfortunately, this simply hasn’t been the case.

In the vast majority of cases, these corporations take measures to limit the authority of the practitioner, which often gets in the way of their ability to administer quality care. In fact, it’s relatively common for parent companies to assign mandates that are meant to be carried out universally, regardless of an animal’s individual needs or best interests. While this one-size-fits-all approach may sound like a smart move on paper (particularly where budgets are concerned), in many cases the cons far outnumber the pros.

John Robb’s Story

Still not convinced? Consider the case of John Robb, an exemplary veterinarian who once aligned himself with corporate giant Banfield, the world’s largest animal hospital chain. Despite warnings from colleagues and peers, Robb went into business with Banfield because of the financial security it would provide for his family.

Unfortunately, Robb’s prosperity didn’t last for long. Now entangled in a bitter legal battle with Banfield, Robb claims that the corporation stole his hospital and “is turning animal medicine into an exploitative, even dangerous business.” According to Robb, Banfield and other businesses like it are committing ‘peticide,’ or “the systematic destruction of pets by corporations for profit.”

In 2012, Banfield claimed that Robb violated its vaccine protocols and then seized his practice. Robb’s defense? It’s true that he was giving some of his smaller patients half-doses of vaccines, but he did so after several of them had nearly died from vaccine-related reactions. Despite the corporation’s claims that Robb was operating dangerously, his practice’s mortality rate is significantly lower than many of the vets Banfield employs.

According to 2015 data, for example, Robb had a 100% survival rate in 2,241 canine dental procedures, whereas Banfield lost 747 dogs in five years, “about one death for every 2,000 dental procedures.” Although Banfield certainly operates on more dogs than Robb does alone, it also operates unnecessarily, often sedating dogs every year for an “annual cleaning,” which is an entirely elective (and often superfluous) procedure.

What You Can Do?

So, what can a concerned pet owner do? Although it’s unlikely that these corporate vet practices will disappear anytime soon, there are still plenty of high-quality, privately owned veterinary hospitals across the country to choose from. If going with an independent practice isn’t an option, arm yourself with information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, do plenty of research, and if you’re not comfortable with a particular diagnosis or procedure, get a second opinion.

Most importantly, you should share this story with your friends, family, and fellow pet owners. Many people aren’t even aware that this is happening, and educating one another is the first step in fighting back against corporate interests and subpar care. After all, your pet is a part of the family — not an annual earnings report.

Cats in the Cradle: How to Properly Care for Your Kitten

The cat’s out of the bag! Here’s the lowdown on basic kitten care.

As Abraham Lincoln once said, “no matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be kittens.” If you’re thinking about bringing one of these furry bundles of joy into your heart and home, here’s what you need to know.

Looking After Your Litter

Just like any other newborn, brand new kittens need plenty of tender loving care. If you’re raising the litter yourself, remember that kittens need much more attention and energy than their adult counterparts. Newborns will need to nurse fairly regularly (usually every 1-2 hours), although after around 3 or 4 weeks they can be weaned onto milk replacers and store-bought kitten foods. In addition to constant feeding, they also need constant attention. In order to teach them how to play well with others, try to make sure your kittens are socializing for at least a few hours a day.

If you’re adopting a kitten, check that it’s already gotten all of the necessary vaccinations, particularly if you have any other pets in the house. You’ll also want to make sure you’re all set up with a litter box, scratching posts, and other kitten-friendly toys. Your furry friend (and your furniture) will thank you.

Bringing Up the Baby

Once a kitten is between 8 and 12 weeks old, it’s ready to leave its mother and be adopted by a loving family. If you are that loving family, be sure that you’re introducing them to a safe environment, specifically by checking and re-checking that all other pets are healthy and up-to-date on their vaccines.

These first few weeks will play an integral role in shaping your kitten’s future behavior, so be prepared to spend a lot of time socializing and being hands-on. New experiences can be scary, so integrate them into your home slowly. Introduce them to being picked up slowly, and establishing a feeding and care routine that’s convenient for you and comfortable for them.

Toddler Training

Between three and six months of age, your kitten will become a little more independent, but will still want and appreciate your attention and physical contact. At this age, kittens are particularly playful, and if they have no other pet playmates in the house, it’s your job to keep them stimulated and entertained. From complex cat toys to basic hairbands, there are few things kittens don’t enjoy playing with — use your imagination!

Around this time, they’ll also be ready for their second round of vaccinations. Make sure you have a vet you trust, and try to acclimate your kitten to their carrier pre-visit in order to prevent any undue stress.

Continued Care

By your sixth month of kitten parenthood, you’ll probably have your routine down pat — so congrats, successful cat parent! Be sure to continue to play, nurture, and love your kitten as they grow into a happy, healthy cat. If you have any concerns, be sure to get in touch with your vet. Otherwise, enjoy every last moment with your kitten — after all, as those of you with human children know, they always grow up too fast.

Boarding Your Pet in NYC? Here’s What You Should Know

Finding temporary housing for your pooch can be a stressful process — but with this checklist in hand, it doesn’t have to be.

Breaking away from the city for a few days? Sometimes, taking your pet along for the ride is impractical, and alternate accommodations must be arranged. Since the safety and happiness of your pooch is at stake, it’s important to carefully consider your options when seeking out a boarding facility.

Evaluating a Kennel

With such a wide variety of kennels to choose from in the city, it’s important to conduct a thorough evaluation to find the facility that will best suit your pet’s specific needs. To narrow down the list, consult your veterinarian and ask local dog owners for their input.

After researching your options, be sure to visit each kennel on your list. While touring, you’ll inevitably form a strong first impression of the kennel. Is it clean and well lit? Will your dog receive individual attention, or is the kennel overcrowded? Pay attention to the way the kennel is organized as well as the attitude of the staff and the general disposition of its canine lodgers.

To conduct a thorough examination, ask the kennel’s employees about each of the following considerations during your visit.

● Security and Safety: The more secure the kennel, the happier you and your dog will be during your prolonged separation. There are many factors to consider when evaluating a kennel’s safety. For one, play areas should be kept clear of stray objects and chemicals. Primary enclosures, too, should be separated by sturdy dividers to ensure that your pet isn’t threatened by his canine neighbors. Finally, many dogs become disoriented in new environments, and oftentimes go “searching” for their owners. So, be sure the kennel has taken the proper precautions — such as sturdy gates and experienced staff on-hand — to prevent such an occurrence.

● Supervision: Some facilities shut down at 5pm, after which workers go home for the day. But as every owner knows, a dog’s needs don’t end with business hours. Therefore, choosing a facility with staff on-hand at all hours of the night is ideal.

● Cleanliness: Good hygiene should be at the top of your priority list. The kennel should be kept free from dirt, odors, and parasites with a regular cleaning schedule.

● Food: Maintaining your dog’s diet is even more important when he’s in a new environment. Before you make a decision, determine whether the kennel offers the right brands of dog food for your pup, or if you have to bring Fido’s food yourself. In addition to regular feedings, ensure that the kennel makes individual containers with clean drinking water available at all times.

● Health Care: While the only legally required vaccine for dogs is rabies, some facilities request that lodged dogs be up-to-date on all available vaccines. So, you might need to take a trip to the vet before dropping off your pet. Also, if your dog is taking medication, you’ll need to inform the kennel about his condition as well as the schedule for administering the meds.

● Exercise and Play: Each kennel has a different approach to exercise and play. If the kennel you select doesn’t provide a designated playtime, bring your dog’s favorite toy from home to keep him company.
● Comfort and Accommodations: Be sure your dog has an individual place to lounge and sleep comfortably. Some kennels provide resting platforms, bedding, or even full beds. Other measures for animal comfort, like lighting and temperature control, should also be considered.

While you examine each kennel’s facilities, bring your dog along so they can sniff around and get a feel for the place. You might also book daycare ahead of your trip to ensure they’re already comfortable with the new, temporary surroundings before you take off.

Prepare for Boarding

After booking the reservation, be sure to follow the proper drop-off procedure. Provide the staff with a written list of medications, allergies, and typical feeding times. For extra pampering, bring your dog’s food and a special toy, blanket, or bed.

Finally, and most importantly, be calm when handing off your dog to the boarding kennel. Your dog will perceive your mood and follow suit. Rest assured that you did your research, and that there’s nothing to worry about. You’ll be back before Fido knows it.

pet dental health

Preventative Pet Care: Tips for Long-Term Health & Wellness

To ensure your pet’s well-being for years to come, it’s crucial to plan ahead.

When it comes to long-term pet health, there’s no replacing an annual checkup with a veterinarian. But in the time between visits, conscientious pet owners can look after their pet’s physical and mental health by practicing effective preventative care. Doing so will help prevent disease — and reduce the possibility of unexpected medical bills.

Read on to learn more about how proper pet care practices will allow you to keep your trusty companion healthy and your veterinary costs low.


Keep Up With Annual Exams

Let’s start with the most important element of preventative care: regular checkups with the veterinarian. At your pet’s annual visit, the vet will go over the essentials: nutrition, weight control, dental exams, health screenings, and vaccinations. However, the biggest benefit of regular checkups is that your vet can detect common health issues before they become bigger problems.


Prevent Pet Obesity

As with humans, obesity in pets comes with health risks like diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. The number one cause of pet obesity is overfeeding, simply because pets need much less food than their owners usually think. For example, a small, inactive dog only requires about 185-370 calories a day, while a 10-pound cat needs 240-350 calories. So, think twice before feeding your pet scraps from the dinner table or tossing him an extra treat. A vet can provide individualized dietary suggestions based on your pet’s size, age, and activity level.


Preserve Those Pearly Whites

Perhaps the biggest secret to long-term wellness is monitoring your pet’s dental health. Though most owners never take a good look inside their dog’s mouth, over 80% of dogs suffer from some kind of oral pathology, which can include loose teeth, sore and infected gums, and rotting tooth sockets. These problems affect most domestic animals, from cats to rabbits, so buy a pet-friendly toothbrush and brush at least twice a week.


Check Ears and Eyes Weekly

Keep your pet’s senses intact by monitoring his ears and eyes regularly. You can easily clean your pet’s ears once a week with a natural pet product. Though eyes are a bit more sensitive, they should be checked daily for mucus buildup. If you notice a buildup, moisten a cotton ball and dab it in the corners of your pet’s eyes, avoiding direct contact with the eyeball.


Shampoo, Rinse, Repeat

Although you might associate shampoo with hygiene instead of healthcare, regular bathing is a vital aspect of any preventative petcare plan. For most dogs, bathing once a month works well enough, but consult your veterinarian to learn more about your pet’s individual needs. Cats, for instance, tend to self-groom effectively, but bathing may sometimes become necessary.

In addition to keeping your pet clean, regular bathing and grooming will bring your attention to any unusual lumps, bumps, or other skin conditions that may afflict your furry friend.


Pet-Proof Your Home

When it comes to pet health, here’s a tip: treat your house like you have toddlers roaming around. Products like baby gates, power strip covers, covers for electrical outlets, and safety locks for cabinets will keep your pet safe and your house clean. You might also try installing a pull-out trash can that your pet can’t get into and ridding your house of clutter (so Rex can’t gnaw on any miscellaneous items).


Because your pet’s mental well-being is just as important as his physical well-being, enrich your pet’s living space with toys and puzzles. This allows your pet to stay active and stimulated, especially while he or she is alone in the house.


Shoo, Fly!

Fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks aren’t just confined to the dog days of summer. Contrary to popular belief, parasites are a year-round concern for pet owners, and the risk of infection is high: a pet can swallow a single flea and end up with tapeworms.

To avoid this unfortunate situation, be sure to apply topical flea repellant products, cover any sandboxes or play areas, and consider a monthly parasite preventative medication for your pet — even in the dead of winter.

If you can remember all of these tips, your pet will surely remain happy and healthy for years to come — but don’t forget to keep in touch with your vet!


puppy care

Puppy Love: Raising Your Dog Right from Day One

The early days of pet ownership can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. With these tips in mind, you can help ensure your puppy is healthy and well-adjusted from day one.

With the great joy of a new furry friend comes great responsibility. You want to train and care for your puppy properly, but where to begin?

Not to fear. Remember, you’re not the only nervous one. As your puppy adjusts to its new environment, he’ll be looking to you for guidance, affection, and nourishment. If you adopt these five important measures after bringing your new pup home, you can set the stage for a long and happy relationship.


First Stop: The Vet

Whether your puppy’s arrived straight from the breeder or adopted from the kennel, a trip to the vet should be the first thing on your list.

At your puppy’s first visit, the vet will perform a general examination, administer vaccinations, and complete a de-worming procedure if necessary. If you plan to get your puppy spayed or neutered, schedule the procedure based on the vet’s recommendations. This appointment also offers an opportunity to address any lingering concerns or questions you might have about health considerations and dietary needs that are specific to the breed.


Crate and Barrel    puppy care

Though new owners may balk at the idea of confining their new furry friend to such a small space, housing a puppy in a crate is actually an essential element of housetraining. Although it may not look very inviting, the crate will actually function as a source of comfort and security for your pup.

To ensure your puppy’s new home is as cozy as possible, place a bed, water bowl, and a few hollow chew toys stuffed with food within the crate. At the farthest corner of the crate, cordon off an area for “elimination.” The puppy toilet area should be a square of artificial turf for rural and suburban pups, or concrete tile for city dwelling dogs. With this realistic simulation, the puppy will begin to associate the indoor potty area with the outdoor one.

Like all elements of house training, getting your puppy used to the crate will take a bit of time and effort. Place the crate in an area of the home he frequents, and encourage him to poke around by tossing in a treat and some favorite toys. Once he’s inside the crate, leave the door open at first, and never crate a puppy younger than six months old for more than two or three hours, except at night.


Establish a Schedule

Try to adhere to a regular schedule of feeding, walks, and potty breaks. Like humans, puppies need to be fed three times a day, so you can schedule his meal time around yours.

To potty train your puppy, you have a few options: take him out every two to four hours, after a lengthy confinement, or after waking from a nap. However frustrating accidents might be, never punish the pup for going to the potty when he shouldn’t. He’ll learn better habits from positive reinforcement tactics, so you should reward him for eliminating while outdoors.


Leash Training 101

Getting your puppy accustomed to walking with a collar and leash is no easy feat. Try walking him with a leash around your home or backyard before venturing further outdoors. Play with your pup while he’s on the leash, so that he’ll form positive associations instead of negative ones.

When walking, it’s important that your dog follows your lead, and not the other way around. If the puppy pulls at the leash while walking, simply turn and continue on in the opposite direction. In time, your puppy will learn who’s boss. As usual, reward him with praise to reinforce good behavior.


Make Your Puppy a Social Butterfly

It’s never too early to socialize your puppy with other humans and dogs. When you encounter friendly passers-bys on your walks, encourage them to interact with your puppy — you can even have them feed your him a small treat to reinforce the positive association. This way, he’ll learn to accept other people as friends, not foes.

A caveat: puppies have a tendency to nip and bite while teething. If your puppy motions to bite you, yell “no” to startle him, but don’t pull your hand away. Instead, let the puppy release the bite as your hand goes limp. To let the message sink in, ignore the puppy for 20 seconds before resuming play. In time, he will get the message that hard biting is wrong. In the meantime, keep chew toys on hand to satisfy the puppy’s teething needs.

Effective training is all about establishing good habits through frequent and positive reinforcement. By remaining loving yet firm, you and your puppy will most certainly embark on a long and caring partnership.

pet dental health

Make Those Canines Shine: The Definitive Guide to Your Pet’s Dental Hygiene

Proper canine dental care is essential to ensure a long and happy life for your pet.

Responsible pet owners know that proper nutrition, ample exercise, affection, and regular visits to the vet are all necessary to keep their furry housemates healthy and happy. In fact, most pet parents monitor their dog’s or cat’s well-being as vigilantly as they do their own.

Yet many of those same owners overlook a crucial element of pet health: dental hygiene. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats harbor some form of tooth decay or oral disease by age three. To avoid such decay, proper canine dental hygiene must start from a puppy’s very first days.


Read the Signs   pet dental health

Since your pet can’t tell you if they’re experiencing tooth pain, you should always be on the lookout for the telltale signs of dental disease yourself.

Twice a week, gently pull up your pet’s lips to examine her teeth and gums. Healthy teeth will appear white and clean, with no patches of brown tartar, and healthy gums will appear pink with no swelling. If this sounds like your pet’s mouth, you’re in the clear. But if you notice particularly foul-smelling breath, red and swollen gums, broken teeth, a mass on the gums or tongue, or excessive drooling, schedule an appointment with the vet immediately. Those may be symptoms of more serious dental problems.

Be aware of behavioral changes, too. If your pet avoids playing with a favorite chew toy or refuses to drink cold water, a dental problem may be the cause.

Pets are prone to the same dental problems as humans: gingivitis (gum inflammation), periodontitis (a disease of the oral cavity that affects the gum, bone and tissues around the teeth), pyorrhea (an inflammation of the gum and tooth socket that leads to loose teeth and pus); and plaque, which is a build-up of materials on the tooth enamel that can cause cavities and more serious periodontal disease. All of these health conditions must be addressed by a medical professional.


Healthy Mouth, Healthy Home (for Bacteria)

Your dog or cat’s mouth is warm and moist, making it a perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Most of these microscopic organisms cause no harm, but when a pet’s oral cavity is compromised by other problems, like plaque or tartar, the stage is set for serious health problems which may spread beyond the mouth. Toxins from dental disease can seep into the pet’s bloodstream, potentially infecting and damaging other vital organs, such as the liver, kidneys, and brain. That damage can be permanent and can even lead to death. So when you care for your pet’s teeth, you are ensuring her continued overall wellbeing.


Keeping Pearly Whites Pearly

A study from the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) estimates that 66% of pet owners fail to provide the proper dental care as recommended by veterinarians: an annual full dental exam and cleaning under anesthesia. Cleaning a cat or dog’s teeth is both time-consuming and intricate, so anesthesia is required for the pet’s comfort during this procedure. The vet may also take dental X-rays.

Some breeds, especially small and toy breed canines, are more susceptible to dental problems and may benefit from more frequent exams and cleanings.

Between those visits, you can practice good home care in the following ways:

  • Feed your dog or cat a dry diet, which reduces plaque and tartar. Never feed your dog or cat canned food or table scraps — those tend to worsen dental problems.
  • Brush your pet’s teeth with specially designed toothbrushes or a gauze pad wrapped around your finger. Use toothpaste made especially for pets. To get the pet accustomed to the process, start by massaging the lips in a circular motion, then move into the mouth and massage the gums and teeth, also in a circular motion. Be patient, as it may take weeks for your pet to accept this toothbrushing routine. Once he does, you should repeat the teeth cleaning two or three times a week.
  • Encourage your pet to gnaw on chew toys that require some effort to chew, like rawhide, rubber or nylon chewies. Regular teeth cleaning combined with use of a chew toy that promotes dental hygiene significantly reduce plaque and other dental deposits.

Always reach out to your vet or an accredited animal hospital (like University Animal Hospital) for advice on your pet’s dental care. We offer a full suite of dental services, from professional exams, cleaning, and advanced X-ray technology to tips for at-home care.

urban pets

The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your City Dog Happy & Healthy

Urban living and pet ownership don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Here are our tips for keeping your furry friends happy and healthy in the big city.

Owning a pet in the city requires a few logistical considerations that might not apply for more spacious environments. If you do decide to adopt a furry roommate, you must take the necessary steps to ensure that he’s safe and satisfied in his surroundings — here are a few of the most crucial items to tick off your list.


Pet-Proof Your Apartment

Think your dog can’t get into trouble in a 500-square-foot apartment? Think again. First, ensure that you are not harboring any houseplants that could be harmful if ingested. Jade, aloe vera, and rosemary can pose a particular threat. Be sure to check in with a vet for a longer list of potentially dangerous and common household plants.

While removing potentially harmful items from your apartment is relatively straightforward, you may face another challenge that’s a bit more difficult to address: a lack of space. While you may not be able to move into a larger apartment just for Fido, you can learn to cohabit peacefully in your tight quarters. For city dogs, proper crate-training is key to keep your dog (and your apartment) safe while you’re out and about. Make your pup comfortable by giving them a bed, some water, and a toy or two — in fact, if handled correctly, you can teach a dog to think of their crate as a safe and happy place, rather than as a punishment.


Close Quarters   urban pets

So you and your dog are getting along just great — but what about your neighbors?  If at all possible, try to choose an apartment with a friendly policy towards pets, so that your dog will have plenty of canine company — and you’ll be able to enjoy the camaraderie of fellow dog owners.

Then, with your very thin, shared apartment walls in mind, you’ll want to minimize the possibility of any pet-related disturbances. The sound of a dog running back and forth across the floorboards could very well drive neighbors up the wall, so opt for densely woolen rugs that insulate noise and can withstand wear and tear. Lonely pups also have a tendency to express their discontent with vocal yowls (which may not be very popular with your neighbors). In order to avoid this, maintain your pet’s high spirits with regular exercise and proper socialization.


Exercise, Exercise, and More Exercise

Everyone knows that keeping a dog healthy requires regular fresh air and exercise. However, without the luxury of spacious, fenced-in yards, urban pet owners must take a more proactive approach to keeping their dogs fit and happy. Many community parks feature “dog runs,” where local owners are able to unleash their pets and encourage them to socialize with fellow canine friends. Before taking your dog to public parks, however, you may need to obtain proof of vaccinations from your vet.

For larger, more active breeds, long brisk walks or jogs in the park may be the best way to maintain your dog’s health — plus, it has the added benefit of keeping you healthy as well! If your schedule doesn’t allow for one or two walks during the workday, consider hiring a dog walker to help fill in the gaps. Keep in mind that, because most city dog walkers handle multiple dogs at once, you should make sure your dog is well-socialized and able to travel in groups.


Playtime for Puppy

Doggie day care centers and pet spas are another great option for dogs with working owners. Many offer training, grooming, and health care for your pet, as well as numerous exercise and socialization opportunities. Before dropping your dog off for day care, research the requirements of the center, since most demand up-to-date vaccinations. Tour the facility to confirm it is a safe and suitable place for your pet’s needs, and leave emergency contact information with the administration.

At University Animal Hospital in New York City, we have years of experience caring for urban pets. We offer dog and cat boarding services at our Upper East Side location, with a vet on-premises 24 hours a day for medical care and supervision. Our staff will also take your dog out for a walk three times a day, with additional outdoor playtime in our cage-free area. You can trust us to take attentive care of your dog while you’re at the office or away on vacation, ensuring that your beloved pet returns home well-rested, well-exercised, and well-fed.

Air Travel Tips and Information

Air Travel Tips

If traveling with your pet is not an option, let them have a staycation with us. Whether it’s one night, one week, or more, your dog will enjoy our clean and comfortable facilities. We provide supervised and loving care around the clock. While you are away we will closely monitor your pet, ensuring his or her comfort and health. We have a veterinarian on premises 24 hours a day for boarding supervision, and can accommodate special medical boarding requests.

Rain, sunshine, sleet or snow, our kennel attendants walk each dog individually 3 – 5 times per day, just like you would at home. Our expert groomer, Gracia, is also available to give your pets the spa treatment with a full grooming before they go home. Call us today to book your space.

University Animal Hospital

(212) 288-8884

354 East 66th Street

New York, NY


pet travel

Bone Voyage! Everything You Need to Know About Traveling With Your Pet

Planning to bring your furry friend along for your next big adventure? Here’s what you should know before booking your flight.

As the holiday season kicks off, people will soon take to the skies in droves to visit far-flung loved ones. For many, a pet is as much a family member as a person, and you can bet that Lassie will be coming along for the cross-country holiday celebrations.

Flying with a pet requires careful planning, so if you’re bringing yours along for the ride, consider these precautionary steps before boarding the aircraft to ensure that both your pet and your fellow passengers are as comfortable as possible.


Routine Check Up

Before you take off, be sure to make a trip to the vet, who can ensure that your pet is healthy enough to travel and provide the necessary paperwork to confirm as much. Obtaining proper documentation from the vet can ease international travel significantly. Many countries have vaccination requirements, a full list of which can be found at the International Air Transport Association. Be sure to request a domestic or international travel certificate that lists the dog’s breed, country of origin and full vaccination history before you go.

Finally, if you know your pet experiences severe travel anxiety, consider the option of pre-flight sedation. Of course, you should only administer sedatives with the vet’s approval. If your pet will have a positive reaction to the medicine, you’ll be able to determine the correct dosage with your vet’s assistance.


Pre-Boarding Checklist    pet travel

Each major airline has its own specific guidelines for transporting pets. Pet owners must take numerous factors into consideration, from dog breed and size to whether the plane is already at pet “capacity.” That’s right — planes can only hold a certain number of dogs at a time, so ensure that yours makes the cut by planning for your trip well in advance. American Airlines only allows seven dogs per flight, and JetBlue caps the number of total canine and feline passengers at four.

Experts recommend that pet owners book their tickets as early as possible to secure seats in the cabin for themselves and their pets. In addition, watch out for airline fees, which can vary depending on whether your pet is traveling as checked baggage or carry-on cargo. Most flights charge about $125 for pets in the cabin, but prices for checked cargo can climb up to $250 each way. With this in mind, it’s best to book direct flights to avoid multiple fees — not to mention the discomfort of multiple takeoffs and landings for your pooch.


Flight Maintenance

Price aside, which is the optimal mode of pet transportation: carry-on or cargo?

One option is storing your pet in the under-seat carriers provided by many airlines. However, these are limited in size. If your pet is too large for a carrier, you can opt to transport your pet in the plane’s cargo hold — but it might not be an easy trip. Cargo conditions, which are subject to very hot and cool temperatures, can make an already taxing situation more stressful for you and your pet. So if your pet is compact enough to fit, you should try to bring him into the cabin with you.

One last thing to consider: airlines generally recommend that snub-nosed pet breeds, like pugs and Persian cats, avoid flying altogether. With their delicate and compressed respiratory systems, these pets are especially sensitive to cabin pressure changes, meaning that flying could be harmful to their health.


Know Your Pet

As the owner, you know your pet’s personality better than anyone. Some dogs and cats may take to the air like seasoned travelers. Others may be thrown off by a new routine, and find the experience too stressful. Only you, the pet parent, can make that final determination.

As a test run, animal expert Cesar Millan recommends putting your pet in an airline carrier and going for a drive to mimic in-flight conditions on the ground. He also suggests applying an “association scent” to your hands when you take your dog for a walk or at feeding time — for example, you might try lavender oil. Use the scent again on the plane, and your pet will develop a positive association with air travel.

Another tip? Take your pet for a long walk before heading to the airport. That way, your pet will be tired and use the flight as an opportunity to nap.

If you decide to forego the hassle and leave your pet at home, consider the dog and cat boarding services at University Animal Hospital in New York City. We offer 24-hour vet supervision, multiple walks per day, and additional outdoor play time in our cage-free area. We’ll take attentive care of your pet while you’re away, allowing you peace of mind as you enjoy the holiday festivities.

Praise Outranks Treats For Dogs | University Animal Hospital NYC

According to ScienceMag a recent study strongly indicated that dogs might actually prefer the praise of their owners over treats. Despite the long-standing use of treats and food by us ‘Hoomans’ to help train our canine companions it would appear that the positive reinforcement of a belly rub or a pat on the head is actually more effective in melting most of your fuzzy children’s hearts.

In the first half of the study (soon to be published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience) the brain activity of fifteen canines was monitored by researchers. After being shown a toy car the canines were then praised by their respective owners. Later, they were each given toy horses with a piece of hot dog. Of the fifteen dogs in the study thirteen exhibited a greater or equal response in the area of the brain associated with reward and decision-making when the reinforcement was praise from their owner vs. food/treats.

The second half of the experiment positioned the dogs at the start of a maze that forked in two directions. One led to a bowl of food and the other led the dog to his or her owner. Most of the dogs chose their owner over the food bowl. The dogs who chose the food were the same subjects who favored treats in the first half of the study indicating that some dogs are just food motivated.

Of course fifteen is not a large enough sample size to reach absolute conclusions but it gives us further understanding of the nature of the dog/owner relationship. The affection does appear to go both ways.

There are always skeptics who question the ability of our furry children to truly reciprocate the feelings of love we have for them but anyone who has returned to their dog from a long absence knows the reaction of their furry child. It’s pure excitement and joy. Watch this dog after he is reunited with his owner after being stolen from him two years before.

So dogs prefer praise. What about Cats?

Are cats on the same level as the canine companions we love so dearly or do they merely tolerate our existence in exchange for food? The latter is apparently much more likely if another recent study is any indication.

In February of 2016 BBC2 broadcast Cats V. Dogs, a television documentary that explored this question by measuring the level of oxytocin in cats and dogs. Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter produced in the brain when we feel an attachment to someone or something. Oxytocin levels in humans rise by up to 60% when we see someone we love.

Researchers tested saliva samples from ten cats and ten dogs before and after playing with their owners for a ten minute period. The dogs showed an increase of 57.2% after the playful interaction with their owners. For cats it was just 12%. In fact, only 50% of the cats tested showed any rise in their oxytocin levels at all. Moo (from the video below) appears to be the exception to the rule.

Again, these small sample sizes can’t back up definitive conclusions but they do seem to support the notion that most of our cats view us as food dispensers above anything else. Compared to dogs they appear to be fairly indifferent to us. As someone who has had multiple cats and multiple dogs I don’t think these theories are too far from the truth. Do I think my cats have loved me on the same level that my dogs have? Maybe — but who can be sure? Look at those glares…


This doesn’t look like satisfaction…


Maggie’s ‘friendliest’ expression. Seriously.





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