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What you can do to help your pet live to a ripe old age: Confinement

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Whiskers, Paws and Love Inc. Team

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    Keep Your Dog Confined

    Maybe you live in a rural area or a quiet neighborhood where everyone lets their dogs run loose. Maybe your dog always comes back home. However, it isn’t safe to allow your dog to roam free. There are many unintended consequences beginning with the fact that dogs who roam are more likely to get hit by cars or to be injured in a dogfight. Even on isolated roads, cars and trucks occasionally pass by. Even if your dog never crosses the road, that could change. Dogs that have been hit by cars account for a very high percentage of pets entering veterinary emergency clinics, and many do not survive. Dogs may chase and attack wildlife and other pets. An aggressive or defensive animal (whether domesticated or wild) might injure or kill your dog.

    While roaming, your dog can come across disease-carrying substances from animal feces, dead wildlife, and even other living animals. Ponds and puddles are breeding grounds for many intestinal parasites. Some algae on ponds can cause serious illness in dogs. Wildlife like bats, skunks and foxes are often sources of rabies. Leptospirosis, which is spread by wildlife urine, is a bacteria that can cause liver and kidney failure. Dogs instinctively eat what they find appealing. Sometimes this can lead to severe gastrointestinal upset and infection with things like salmonella or E.coli, or your dog may ingest a parasite. Intestinal parasites like hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, giardia and coccidia are all common in the environment. Many can cause your dog to become sick, often beginning with decreased energy and appetite. You may never notice this until the condition is serious. Parasites also include fleas and ticks which could cause illness. Ticks can cause serious blood-borne illnesses like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Ehrlichia (a bacterial disease). Fleas can cause anemia, severe skin infections and tapeworms.

    Many areas have laws with severe penalties for free-roaming dogs that get into trouble. If deemed a nuisance your dog could face confinement, removal, or disposal, including euthanasia. If your dog kills a person, inflicts serious injury to a person, or habitually exhibits dangerous behavior, he will be labeled as vicious. In that case, you may be ordered to pay for medical or physical damages and your dog will be euthanized.

    Your dog may wander too far one day and never come back. People might assume that your dog is a stray and take him to the pound or keep him for themselves, or he could be taken by a cruel person. Did you know that most serial killers, school shooters, and mass murderers tortured animals when they were children? Are you willing to take the chance of something like that happening to your dog? Of course, dogs love the novelty and excitement of being outdoors, but they are also social animals who crave attention and enjoy being inside. Letting your dog run around in a fenced backyard, or bringing your dog to a large, enclosed field or meadow to play is a perfect supplement to walking him. And, if your dog can play nicely, so is visiting a dog park.

    Keep Your Cat Confined

    Many people believe that cats who are allowed to roam outdoors have a better quality of life because hunting is normal cat behavior. The truth is indoor cats are just as happy as outdoor cats, and they’reconsiderably healthier. Even more significant is that they live much longer. The average lifespan of an indoor cat ranges from 10 to 20 years, while cats who go outdoors typically live only 2 to 5 years. The lifespan of indoor-outdoor cats is directly related to how much time they spend outdoors. More time spent outdoors roaming equals a shorter their lifespan.

    You might wonder why there is such a dramatic difference between the life expectancy of indoor cats versus outdoor cats? The reason is because uncontrolled outdoor access exposes your cat to a multitude of dangers. One of the greatest is traffic. Everyone knows that busy roads are especially dangerous, but it’scommon for cats to dart out onto a quiet country road before a driver has a chance to see them. 5.4 million cats get hit by cars every year in this country.

    Cats frequently get involved in territorial disputes between neighboring cats that lead to aggressive feline encounters frequently resulting in injuries. Depending on where you live, other animals/reptiles/insects they encounter are one of the biggest problems for outdoor cats. Dogs, cougars, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, groundhogs, porcupines, rats, scorpions, skunks, snakes, squirrels, and birds of prey (hawks, owls, and eagles) may attack outdoor cats. Several of those animals spread rabies. Even a small injury inflicted by one of these animals can be fatal if it gets infected.

    Cats who roam outdoors face an increased risk of contracting infectious diseases. Common serious diseases are Feline Panleukopenia (FP) - also known as distemper, Feline Leukemia (FeLV), Feline AIDS (FIV), Toxoplasma (one of the most common parasitic diseases which your cat could catch from hunting prey or eating raw meat), Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), heartworm, and rabies. Many of those diseases can be difficult to detect and, in the cases of FP and FIP, impossible to test for. The only sure way to prevent transmission of FeLV is to prevent exposure to infected cats by keeping your cat indoors and away from potentially infected cats. Most of these ailments are also highly contagious to other companion animals. (Because so many cats are allowed to roam and so many cat owners do not vaccinate them against rabies, cats are now the number-one domesticated animal to spread rabies to humans.)

    Other dangers to outside cats, any of which may use up one, or all, of their nine lives are:extreme weather; skin cancer due to increased exposure to the sun; getting trapped in someone’s garage or shed; hiding under the hood of a car; toxic substances such as slug pellets, anti-freeze, or rat poison; garden plants and flowers such as lilies or poinsettia; ticks, fleas, and worms; getting lost; being stolen and animal cruelty. Many people consider free-roaming cats to be pests. They are exasperated by cats marking territory by spraying, digging, or defecating in garden beds and children’s sand boxes, eating plants, and preying on songbirds and other wildlife. As a result, free-roaming cats have been shot, poisoned, and stolen by angry neighbors.

    Cat containment does not have to mean keeping your cat permanently in the house – nor does it require building an elaborate enclosure on your patio. Cats can be outside while supervised. If you have a back yard with a privacy fence, there is a product called ‘Cat Fence-In’ which is a flexible mesh barrier you can place on top of your fence to prevent cats from climbing out; and if you want to give your cat the best of both worlds, you can try leash-training.