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OUR ANIMALS, OURSELVES: When it comes to pets, Mother Nature knows best

June 28, 2019
By ANNOEL KRIDER , Lake Placid News

This past week I was reminded of all those alterations we impose onto our pets in the guise of an acceptable standard.

I was visiting a friend who has two cats and both were declawed. He was totally perplexed at why New York state recently passed a law that banned the declawing of cats because for his family the indoor cats were destroying the furniture and this was their only option.

I've heard that declawing really messes up the cat's psyche. Clearly if we had all the tips of our fingers, from the last knuckle up, cut off we wouldn't be too thrilled about it. This is exactly what is happening when the last bone on each cat's toe is amputated.

Article Photos

Australian Shepherd born without a tail
(Photo provided)

Declawing can lead to infection, lameness and possible back pain. It changes the way the cat's foot hits the ground. Like an ill-fitting pair of shoes this can lead to pain.

Cats may be less likely to use the litter box because it was painful after surgery when they scratched into the liter.

It may also cause cats to bite because they no longer have their claws to protect them.

I get it. Cats can cause a lot of damage. However it's a matter of making an effort to provide the cats with a variety of scratching posts, both horizontal and vertical, covered in carpet or cardboard. If you have an indoor cat you need to give it things to do for their sanity and just one scratching post isn't enough.

There are also deterrent sprays and tapes you can put on your furniture and if this doesn't work apparently there are plastic caps that can be glued over their claws. There are always solutions.

Another practice that I'm beginning to see some pet owners consider, now that the temperatures are heating up, is shaving their pets.

There are exceptions but generally speaking shaving your dog or cat in the summer is not a good idea. Again, the ingenuity of creation has it all worked out providing our pets with a natural cooling and heating system.

Their coats fill out in winter and shed in summer. Not only do they help protect against temperatures the coats also keep their skin from getting sunburn and equip them with a shield against the mosquitoes and blackflies.

Some dogs have been bred to have heavy coats and in certain cases, when showing extreme discomfort in the heat, a bit of trimming may be in order. However, leave at least an inch for protection. The trimming is probably best accomplished by a professional.

Consider frequent brushing which can aid in removing any excess undercoat. If it's really hot, keep the dogs out of your hot car, give it plenty of water, don't walk it on hot cement which can burn their paws and definitely take your dog for a swim.

Finally a practice that I have never understood ... tail docking. Years ago I was looking for an Australian Shepherd to adopt and soon realized that some Aussies are actually born with tails. The breed standard practice is to dock them shortly after birth. Why? I know there was once the issue of protecting the tail when a working dog was hunting or herding farm animals but research suggests otherwise. It's a practice that is now just a cosmetic procedure. A procedure that is often completed without the benefit of anesthesia. Just because the breed image has a standard format doesn't make tail cropping and for that matter ear cropping OK.

Tails are there for a reason and one important reason is communication. It's a subtle feature in the dog that demonstrates the emotions that lie within. The tail is the voice of expression whether it be aggression or friendship. Without a tail these feelings are, at first glance, difficult to articulate.

The American Kennel Club says these practices are "integral to defining and preserving breed character" but the American Veterinary Medical Association opposes docking and cropping.

If you plan on getting a puppy from a breeder whose tails or ears are generally cropped you do have a choice in the matter but make sure you let the breeder know before the puppy is born.

It's all about leaving Mother Nature to make the right choices for her animals. There is clearly a logic in everything she does. Once we 'alter' that process the balance of life is altered as well and not usually for the good. We've come to accept so many standards and traditions in our sphere of existence that are no longer appropriate. One has to start observing and making smart and compassionate choices. Choices that may go against the norm but choices that are right.

We have to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.

(Peter Singer)



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