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Oh, my aching muscles...
There are many great sources of information 
and products for our pets on the web.

By Diane Dash

Muffy's coughed up another hairball and Dexter is chewing Grandma's new orthopedic shoes. Your parakeet is sneezing, your fish seem lethargic and that normally bright-eyed and bushy-tailed silly wabbit seems depressed. What do you do, what do you do?

Many of us with "multi-cultural" families have a variety of species that all need tending to. Since consulting a vet or behaviorist for each symptom or odd behavior can be costly and time-consuming (not to mention stressful for the patient) perusing a pet-related web site can be the first step in determining an appropriate course of action for whatever ails your little darlings.

There are several online resources with an abundance of information about common health and behavior problems. Each of the following sites stresses that their goal is education, and is not meant to replace veterinary care. If your pet has severe symptoms such as rapid blood loss or labored breathing they should be taken to a licensed vet or animal hospital immediately.

Veterinarypartner.com is a spin-off of the Veterinary Information Network (vin.com), an online resource that provides veterinarians and the veterinary industry with information and tools that address the needs of a veterinary practice. The lay person web site is a great way to educate oneself on common medical conditions and treatments. Explanations of frequently prescribed pharmaceuticals are covered along with information on proper dental care, animal dermatology, pet nutrition and the dangers of antifreeze or noxious house plants.

Ailments ranging from bladder stones, allergies and cat scratch fever to irritable bowel syndrome, marijuana toxicity and nicotine poisoning are explained in terms that the medically-challenged can understand.

There is also an "Ask a Vet" feature which allows users to interactively pose questions to a qualified professional. A section for those of you with scaled rather than furry companions offers a wealth of reptile-related facts and advice, in other words, there's no need to worry if your iguana spends all her time either eating or basking in the sun.

Did you know the most common disease of adult dogs and cats is dental disease?

Healthypet.com is run by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), which provides standards for hospitals and pet health care services. This site offers tips on how to choose a veterinarian or animal hospital, such as asking for a tour of the facility, or verifying that gas anesthesia is used and its lab equipment is modern and up-to-date.

AAHA accredits hospitals based on criteria such as contagious disease protocols, radiology services and staff continuing education and training. The site allows searches for local approved hospitals in addition to information on parasites, senior care, and FAQ's on dogs, cats, exotics and topics such as pet health insurance. There's also a coloring page with printable posters and a display of past coloring contest winners' artwork.

Did you know animals can develop cancer from secondhand smoke?

Peteducation.com is operated by Drs. Foster & Smith, founders of the well-known pet product catalog and online business. Their site offers 2800 articles on pet health and well-being ranging from care and training to travelling with your bird and estate planning for nonhuman family members.

This site contains some interesting resources including a dictionary of veterinary terms, training videos on topics such as how to properly clean your dog's ears, and a conversion chart for apothecary and fluid equivalents. It also provides information on alternative and holistic medicine including commonly used vitamins, herbs, and natural supplements such as acidophilus, which can replace the "friendly" bacteria often killed by antibiotic use.

Think you know a lot about animals? This site also offers quizzes to test your "pet IQ."

 Did you know Dalmatians are born without their spots?

Animed.org is produced by the ASPCA. This site provides general information on common health and behavior issues for dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, fish, gerbils, rats, ferrets, mice, guinea pigs and hamsters. The ASPCA's site is very focused on issues such as how to choose the right companion and then keep them in the home. Problems such as digging or barking, or the best way to give cats oral medications are addressed. Felines who need regular medication generally require a few tools, one being a good towel to wrap them in. A pill popper can also be a smart investment. As someone who's been inadvertently bitten while someone else clamped their jaw shut on my fingers to keep the offensive object out of their throat I highly recommend this purchase ($5.99 at PetSmart).

If you have birds, use only non-Teflon cookware. The fumes from self-cleaning ovens and Teflon- or Silverstone-coated pans can kill them.

Did you know rabbit and rodent teeth grow continuously?

As with our own health, learning as much as we can about how to keep everyone healthy will also keep everyone happy. The more you know about your pet's medical, nutritional and behavioral needs the better off you'll both (or all) be. Try these sites out for yourself, you might be surprised at what you'll learn. And don't forget to play and cuddle with your creatures. That's the best and cheapest preventative medicine of all!

Diane Dash works to educate the public about animal issues and how they affect human beings. She has seven years shelter experience and many more as a voice for the voiceless and furry, feathered or finned.

paw.gif

veterinarypartner.com

healthypet.com

peteducation.com

animed.org

The internet is a great place to learn about dog and cat health.

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