Is your cat’s or dog’s coat a little on the dull side? This can happen from excess dust, a recent illness, or just old age. Try a little something from your fridge to make your pet’s coat shine.

Rub a scant tablespoon of mayonnaise into your cat’s skin and fur, then wipe him clean with a damp washcloth.

For your dog, you can rub one to five tablespoons  into his coat before you give him a final rinse in his bath. Let the mayo sit for five minutes, then give him his rinse. The fur may have a little leftover slickness, but let that sit. Give him a final wipe off with an old towel when you’re ready to go out for your next walk (an hour or so later is best).

The mayonnaise rub should give your best buddy a shiny coat while helping to keep fleas away (the heavy mayo smothers the little buggers).



Arthritis is no more fun for pets than it is for people. The symptoms (and treatments) are similar, but there’s a big difference—your pets can’t tell you when they’re hurting.

Dogs and cats actually try to hide their pain because animals in the wild know that weakness makes them a target. You have to be a bit of a detective to recognize the signs—a stiff walk…a favorite couch that they no longer use…a groan when they lie down.

About 20% of middle-aged dogs and cats have arthritis in at least one joint, and nearly all will be affected at some time in their lives. The good news is that arthritis often can be prevented—and pets that already have it can get relief without taking drugs. Steps to take…

• Check your pet’s weight. A recent study found that 53% of dogs are overweight or obese. Among cats, the percentage is even higher. Why it matters: Those extra pounds accelerate degenerative joint disease, the breakdown of cartilage that surrounds the joints. Cartilage damage triggers the release of inflammatory chemicals that cause pain and stiffness.

You don’t need a scale to know if your pet is overweight. You have to look and feel. When you look down at your dog or cat, you should see a pronounced waist behind the rib cage. Viewed from the side, the abdomen should be tucked up and not hanging down. You should be able to feel the ribs under a thin layer of fat.

If your pet is overweight, there won’t be much of a waist…you’ll barely feel the ribs…and the abdomen will be rounded rather than tucked.

Because dogs and cats come in different sizes, you can’t count on the portion guides that are listed on food labels. In general: If your pet is overweight, start by reducing food amounts by about one-fifth. Keep at that amount for a few weeks. If your pet still seems heavy, reduce the portions again.

• More exercise. Along with weight loss, exercise is the most effective way to prevent and treat arthritis. Regular exercise increases synovial fluid, the natural lubricant that allows joints to glide rather than grind. Exercise also reduces pressure by strengthening the muscles that surround the joints.

It’s usually easy to get dogs to exercise—just snap on a leash and take a walk. Cats need more encouragement—or at least something that engages their interest such as a ball or a moving piece of string. Walk/play with your pet for at least 10 to 15 minutes a few times a day.


The standard arthritis treatments for dogs and cats include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by veterinarians. I recommend drugs only as a last resort. You usually can treat arthritis with natural—and safer—remedies. Best choices…

• Homeopathy. This is a system of medicine that uses extremely small doses of natural substances to alter the body’s energy. I have found it to be quite effective in my practice. It’s my first treatment choice because it causes no side effects and can help reduce cartilage damage and inflammation.

Homeopathy is complicated because there are hundreds of potential remedies and doses and because the treatments vary widely from one pet to the next. You can give the remedies at home, but only after they’ve been chosen by a veterinary homeopath. Examples: If your pet limps when it first gets up, but the stiffness improves with movement, your veterinarian might recommend Rhus toxicodendron. Arthritis that gets worse in cold/damp weather might respond better to Calcarea carbonica.

To find a veterinary homeopath, go to TheAVH.org/referrals.

• Physical therapy. Moving the limbs in certain ways can markedly reduce pain and improve your pet’s ability to stand, walk and run. When your pet is lying on its side, for example, you can gently grip the knee and move the leg through its full range of motion. Your veterinarian can recommend exercises for different joints. You might be advised to work with a veterinary physical therapist who might use specialized equipment (such as underwater treadmills) to get your pet moving.

• Gelatin. Over-the-counter joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin are effective but expensive. I usually recommend an unflavored gelatin such as Knox, available in any grocery store. Gelatin contains collagen, one of the materials used by the body to manufacture cartilage and bone. Studies have shown that it improves flexibility and can relieve joint pain. Add about one teaspoon of the gelatin powder to your pet’s food every day.

• Bone broth. This soup has the same bone-building effects as gelatin, and pets love the taste. You can make it yourself by slow-simmering chicken, pork or beef bones until they’re soft and fall apart. (It might take up to two days—using a slow cooker is best, as it can stay on safely for that length of time.) Strain the broth carefully so that no bone bits remain. Store the broth in the refrigerator, and give your pet a little taste with each meal.

• Acupuncture. Stimulating acupuncture points can increase circulation and boost painkilling chemicals in the body. Use the Internet to find a certified veterinary acupuncturist in your area. A session typically costs between $30 and $50. Your pet may improve after a single session, but you’ll probably be advised to schedule two sessions a week for a few weeks, followed by occasional maintenance sessions.

• Orthopedic beds. Who doesn’t like a cozy bed? Large dogs in particular do better when they sleep on a firm mattress. You can buy orthopedic pet beds in pet stores and online that make it easier to stand up…have memory foam for extra support…and are heated to keep joints limber.

Also: Elevated food and water bowls, which are available at pet stores and online, can help pets with neck or back problems.


Visits to the veterinarian can cost pet owners a pretty penny, but there are situations when pet owners can safely avoid vet bills by treating their pets themselves or by taking action to prevent dog or cat health problems. Among them…


The over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medication diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is a safe and effective motion sickness treatment for dogs and cats that become nauseated on trips, just as it is for humans. As an added benefit, Benadryl causes drowsiness, calming pets made anxious by travel.

The challenge is getting the dosage right—most pets are significantly smaller than people, and they require lower doses. One milligram of Benadryl per pound of body weight is a reasonable rule of thumb, but start with a much smaller dose—perhaps one-quarter of a milligram per pound—when you give a pet Benadryl for the first time. Though this medication makes most pets and people drowsy, it causes the opposite reaction in a small percentage of users. Discontinue use if the animal becomes hyperactive.

Helpful: To get dogs and cats to take medications, you can put soft cheese, bread or peanut butter around a pill or add liquid medicine to canned pet food or other food that your pet enjoys.


Signs of ear infections in pets include redness and swelling around the ear, loss of balance, red or yellow discharge from the ear or persistent ear scratching and head shaking. Once a pet develops an ear infection, a trip to the vet is required. But pet owners can help prevent ear infections by cleaning pets’ ears when needed. Look for accumulations of black-looking material or other matter.

Lie the dog or cat on its side. Ask a family member to help hold the pet down if it is large or feisty. Fill its ear with mineral oil, massage the area, then fill the ear with warm water to rinse out the oil. Ideally this process should be repeated three times with each ear, letting the pet shake its head to clear out the liquid after each filling of mineral oil or warm water.

Do this ear cleaning in the bathroom or outside. Otherwise the mineral oil and earwax could stain furniture or carpets.


A widespread weed, known as foxtail or grass awns, has aggressive seeds (awns) that stick to pets’ fur and burrow into skin, causing infections or abscesses.

In some cases, grass awns work their way into an animal’s chest or abdominal cavity, causing serious lifelong health problems or even death. Both dogs and cats can be affected, though problems are less common with cats, which often can remove grass awns while grooming. The best solution is prevention—regularly mow lawns where pets spend time and keep pets out of tall, weedy grass.

When a pet does get into tall grass, examine the animal very carefully and remove any seedpods and stickers. A trip to the veterinarian is required once a grass awn gets into the pet’s skin.


If a dog exhibits a dry and hacking cough that becomes worse when temperatures drop in the evening, the cause probably is kennel cough, which typically lasts two to three weeks. Kennel cough is spread like the common cold, so any contact with an infected dog potentially can transmit the disease. There’s little point to bringing a dog with kennel cough to the vet right away—as with the common cold, there is no cure.

To help relieve the cough so that you and the dog can get some sleep, try Robitussin DM, the same OTC medicine that you might use yourself. This won’t cure the underlying problem, but it can at least calm the cough for a while so that the pet—and everyone else in the house—can relax and sleep through the night. One teaspoon is a reasonable dose for a large dog…one-half teaspoon for a small dog. If the cough persists, it’s probably worth a trip to the vet.


Cats use their tongues to groom their fur, and some fur inevitably is ingested. While most ingested fur simply passes through the cat, some of it can remain in the stomach, becoming a hair ball.

If you have reason to believe that your cat has developed an intestinal blockage—an empty litter box suggesting constipation, for example, or repeated retching without producing a hair ball—put undiluted Carnation concentrated canned milk in its dish and let it drink. Soon after, the cat will have loose stools, cleaning out the intestines. If symptoms persist, see a veterinarian.


Plastic food and water bowls often are to blame when dogs develop these symptoms—some dogs are allergic to chemicals found in plastics. If so, switching to a stainless steel or ceramic bowl should solve the problem.

See a vet if the dog has not been eating from plastic bowls or if you make the switch and don’t see any improvement within two weeks or so. Plastic bowls don’t seem to cause these problems for cats.


What happens to your pet if something happens to you? Without proper planning, there is a very real chance that a beloved pet will be euthanized shortly after your death. From the perspective of the court, pets are treated as property, not loving companions.

Even asking an estate-planning attorney to include a pet in an estate plan sometimes is not enough to protect that pet.

What you need to know…


In recent decades, many states have enacted “pet trust statutes.” These pet trusts relate only to animal provisions in wills. In theory, these trusts provide assets for the pet’s continued care. Unfortunately, they have some potentially dangerous drawbacks. Pet trusts written into wills…

  • Are not enforced until the probate process is complete, which can take months or years. Pets might be euthanized long before then.
  • Often are legally unenforceable. Example: You could leave your pet and the money to pay for its care to an heir in your will, but nothing in the law prevents that heir from pocketing the money and sending your pet to the pound.
  • Do nothing to ensure the care of pets when their owners are alive but in a coma or otherwise unable to look after their animals.
  • Are not honored in every state. Even if you live in a state where they are honored, the trust could be thrown out if you happen to die while in a state where they are not.
  • Can be overruled. Courts sometimes step in and overrule pet-care provisions in wills.


Pet-care estate-planning tools that leave less to chance…

Freestanding pet trust—that is, a pet trust not included in your will—avoids all of the problems described above if properly constructed. These trusts are not cheap, however. An attorney is likely to charge $1,500 or so to draft the trust, and assets must be set aside to fund the trust.

Helpful: It can be difficult to find an attorney who has experience with these trusts. Ask your state bar association to recommend attorneys who specialize in animal law, then call these attorneys and confirm that they have experience drafting pet trusts.

Pet Protection Agreement (PPA), which I created, is a legally enforceable document signed by both the pet owner and a pet guardian (someone who agrees to care for the pet if the owner cannot) that ensures continuing care for your pet. PPAs can be completed without the assistance—and expense—of an attorney, using a form available from LegalZoom for $39. (Go to LegalZoom.com, then select “Pet Protection Agreement” from the “Wills & Trusts” section. Some proceeds from the sale of this form go to charity.) PPAs need not provide assets to the pet guardian for the pet’s care, though they can do so. The signed PPA should be notarized.


Whether you opt for a freestanding pet trust or a PPA, take the following steps to help ensure your pet’s safety…

Clarify who owns the pet. Your whole family might love and care for the animal, but for the purposes of estate planning, one family member should be the pet’s legal owner.

Helpful: If any adults living in the pet’s household are not named in the pet trust or PPA in any capacity, ask them to sign the trust or PPA document, too. Their signatures help confirm that they are aware of the document and that they agree that another family member is the pet’s legal owner.

If you adopted your pet, confirm with the organization from which you adopted it that you are the animal’s legal owner. Some breed-rescue organizations officially continue to own the animals that they place with families.

Example: Ellen DeGeneres felt that she had to give up her dog, Iggy, because it did not get along with her cats. DeGeneres’s hairdresser’s family loved Iggy and wanted to adopt the dog—but the breed-rescue organization from which DeGeneres had adopted the dog swept in, took Iggy away and gave him to a different family.

Include as many successor pet guardians as possible. By the time you are no longer able to care for your pet, the person who agreed to care for it in your place might have passed away…moved into a condo that doesn’t allow pets…or entered a relationship with someone who is allergic to your pet. Secure agreements from additional friends and relatives stating that they will take in the pet if your primary pet guardian cannot. List these successor pet guardians in the PPA or trust. Successor pet guardians do not need to sign the agreement, but I prefer that they do.

Include multiple ways of contacting each potential pet guardian—landline and cell-phone numbers, e-mail and mailing addresses—in case some contact information changes.

Helpful: Consider naming an appropriate animal organization to serve as a successor pet guardian should your pet guardian and successor pet guardians be unable to take in the animal. Confirm with the organization that it is willing to serve in this capacity.

Make sure that the pet trust or PPA includes all of your pets—even those you acquire after the document is completed. List and describe each of your animals in the document but also include the phrases “all my pets” and “this includes any other animals I have at the time this trust/pet protection arrangement is enacted.”

Have the trust/PPA take effect when you “are unable or unwilling to provide for the pet’s care.” These documents often are written to take effect when the pet owner is “incapacitated,” but that term is best avoided—it sometimes opens the door for a court to step in and arrange a pet guardian. The wording “unable or unwilling” keeps this decision in your hands.

Get copies of your pet trust or PPA into many hands. Give copies to all trustees, pet guardians and pet successor guardians listed in the document. Also give copies to your pet’s veterinarian, your neighbors, your family members, your dogwalker and anyone else who might be present and willing to act on your pet’s behalf when you cannot.

Ask all of these people to check in if they hear that you’ve been hospitalized (or have died) to make sure that the pet is OK. By taking these steps, you can rest assured that your pet will have a community of care that follows it as it ages.


How to Break Your Pet’s Bad Habits

Does your dog ignore you when you call its name? Does it jump on you when you walk in the door? Does it pull at its leash when you go for a walk?

Before you blame your dog, consider that the way you train and interact with your dog could be at the heart of the problem. Many widely used, seemingly sensible dog-training strategies are not very effective—some actually are counterproductive.

Here, nine dog-training mistakes…

Mistake: Calling your dog to you by yelling its name. Dog owners say their dogs’ names so often and for so many different reasons that dogs can become uncertain what to do when they hear their names. Some dogs start ignoring their names entirely.

Better: Select a word like “Here” or “Come” that you will call to your dog only when you want it to return to you. Call out this word in a friendly tone, not a stern command as many dog owners do. A stern voice could make your dog think you’re angry, discouraging it from rushing to your side. Reward the dog with a treat when it responds properly to your recall word. (You can phase out these treats once your dog responds reliably, but don’t do so too quickly. Coming when called takes time to cement.)

Do not use this recall word only to call your dog for things that it doesn’t like, such as going back inside when playtime ends. Your dog is much more likely to come when called if it often receives something nice when it does, such as praise or food.

Mistake: Pulling back when your dog pulls at its leash…or letting yourself get pulled along. This teaches the dog that straining at a taut leash is normal and acceptable.

Better: When you walk your dog, carry dog treats and a “clicker”—a small device available in pet stores that makes a clicking sound. Immediately sound this clicker whenever the dog walks next to you with a slack leash as it is supposed to, even if it’s just for a few steps, then quickly reward with a treat. The clicking sound marks the good behavior in the dog’s mind, and the treat is a powerful reward for a job well-done.

When your dog pulls at its leash, stop and don’t budge until the dog either turns around to see what’s wrong or just stops in its tracks. Continue this process until your dog is reliably walking by your side, and then slowly wean down from the frequent click and treating. Because the great outdoors is filled with distractions, you’ll probably have to use the clicker and treats for several weeks before you can begin weaning.

Mistake: Chasing a dog that grabbed something it shouldn’t have. If you chase your dog when it picks up something that it isn’t supposed to have in its mouth, you increase the odds that the dog will engage in this misbehavior again. Dogs love to play chase with their owners.

Better: Get a dog treat, squat down to the dog’s level, and call the dog to you. When the dog approaches for the treat, place it in front of your dog’s nose and say, “Drop it.” Reward the dog with the treat when it does drop it.

Similar: If your dog gets loose, don’t chase after it—your dog can probably outrun you and likely will enjoy the chase. Instead, get the dog’s attention, then run away from it. This might cause the dog to change its game from running away from you to chasing after you, making it easier to calmly take hold of your dog when it catches up to you.

Mistake: Giving a jumping dog attention. Dogs that jump up and put their front paws on people crave attention. They will continue jumping as long as their owners give them attention—even if the attention they’re receiving is just hearing their owners tell them, “Get down.”

Better: Walk away from the jumping dog without making eye contact or saying a word to it.

Later, when the dog is calm, start to teach it to sit when you cross your arms across your chest. Many dogs tune out verbal commands when they get excited, but most still notice body language.

To teach your dog to respond to a crossed-arm sit command, start by combining the verbal sit command with crossed arms. Provide treats when the dog responds. Then eliminate the verbal command and use the crossed-arm signal alone, still rewarding with treats.

Once your dog masters the crossed-arm sit command, instruct house guests to use it, too. Otherwise they might accidentally give the dog attention when it jumps up, undermining the training.

Mistake: Letting your dog use old household items as chew toys. If you let your dog chew on an old flip-flop or towel, don’t blame the dog when it chews up your new flip-flops or towels, too. Dogs generally can’t figure out the difference.

Better: Never let your dog chew on anything that could be mistaken for something you don’t want it to chew on. Limit your dog to products made for dogs, including toys and bones.

Mistake: Failing to notice that a puppy is about to go to the bathroom inside.

Better: If you can hustle the puppy outside before it relieves itself, this will help the puppy figure out that outdoors is the proper place to do its business.

What to do: When your puppy becomes distracted and wanders away from people, dog toys and/or other dogs, quickly take it outside—there’s a good chance that the puppy is about to heed nature’s call.

When the puppy must go to the bathroom inside—when you’re away all day at work, for example—provide grass-textured pet potties, not smooth-surfaced potty pads. The feeling of the artificial grass underfoot can help the puppy learn that it is supposed to use the yard to relieve itself.

Mistake: Yelling at a barking dog to get it to quiet down. Making noise is not an effective way to convince a dog to stop making noise. Your dog might think that you’re joining in on the fun.

Better: Look for the reason behind the barking and address it. Examples…


  • If your dog barks to defend its territory against animals and people that it sees nearby, block its view. You could do this with curtains, fencing, landscaping or opaque window privacy film, available in home centers, that temporarily adheres to windows. You don’t have to cover the entire window, just the lower section that is in the dog’s sight line. You can gradually lower the privacy film until you don’t need it at all.



  • If your dog barks to get your attention, ignore the dog until the barking stops, wait a few beats and only then see what it wants. Eventually the dog will figure out that barking will not get it attention, though you might have to put up with considerable barking until this message gets through. Stay strong—many dogs try barking louder just before they finally give up on barking. You also can teach your dog the “hush” command. Say, “Hush,” and when the dog stops barking, give it a treat.


Mistake: Waiting for misbehavior to become entrenched before acting to correct it. The longer you tolerate a dog’s misbehavior, the harder it will become to alter.

Better: Correct misbehavior when you notice the dog doing it a second time. Once could be a fluke…twice suggests that this is a habit.

Mistake: Using pain to train. Choke chains and other training tools that hurt dogs might suppress misbehavior, but they don’t change the way the dog thinks. If your dog lunges at other dogs, for example, a correction from a choke collar might convince it not to, but your dog still might feel antagonism toward other dogs and react when you’re not around.

Better: Provide treats when the dog behaves properly, rather than pain when it does not.

Source: Victoria Schade, author of Bonding with Your Dog: A Trainer’s Secrets for Building a Better Relationship and Secrets of a Dog Trainer: Positive Problem Solving for a Well-Behaved Dog (both from Howell Book House). Based in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, she was the featured trainer on the Animal Planet TV show Faithful Friends. LifeOnTheLeash.com

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