Should my pet go to events?
Many people like to bring their pets to SCA events. However, pets do not have much choice as to whether they are going on a trip. Think on the following questions and ideas before deciding to take your pet with you to the next event.
Is your pet adventurous and friendly? A good way to check this is to take the animal out on walks in areas where there are many other people and animals. Even observing them at the veterinarian (see below) can provide valuable insights as to whether your pet would enjoy the experience of an event.
Is your pet fearful of certain people or animals? If your pet is shy, fearful or aggressive around certain people (i.e. children, people with handicaps, men with beards, etc.) or other animals then perhaps you should leave your pet at home.
Is your pet fairly tolerant of pain? Accidents happen at events - tails get stepped on, hairs get pulled, and if your pet snaps or scratches then it could lead to a miserable event for both of you.
Is your pet more of a homebody or does it like sleeping at other locations? This may be crucial as to whether your animal can attend overnight events.
Is your animal afraid of loud noises? The sounds of fighting and the snapping of banners in the wind can drive some pets to distraction.
How old is your pet? Younger animals adjust better to the idea of travel than older pets, and older pets also may have medical problems which could be exacerbated by the stress of an event. Animals who are too young to have finished their vaccines may be exposed to diseases at an event, and should stay home.
It is very important to know that your animal is healthy before taking it to event. Every pet should have a yearly physical examination by a veterinarian, even if it has seemed perfectly healthy for the past year. Pets should also be current on their vaccinations before going to a location where disease may be present. For dogs, necessary vaccines are rabies and a distemper combination vaccine. Given that many events are held in areas that are conducive to ticks, a Lymes disease vaccination would also be advisable. For cats, a rabies and upper respiratory (PCR) vaccine is enough, though if your cat goes outdoors on a regular basis it may be advisable to have the cat vaccinated against feline leukemia and feline infectious peritonitis. Flea and tick control is also necessary to think about before you bring home any unwanted guests from the site. There are many excellent products out on the market, but it is important to get something that prevents against both fleas and ticks. Frontline(TM) is a liquid that goes onto the back of the pet's neck and ties itself up with the oils on the skin, covering the entire animal. It kills both fleas and ticks for a 1 month period. Another advisable combination is Advantage(TM) and a Preventic(TM) collar. The former is another liquid like Frontline(TM), but it just kills fleas. A Preventic(TM) collar actually repels ticks as well as killing any that do dare to crawl on your pet. Advantage(TM) must also be applied on a monthly basis.
Please do your part to prevent unwanted pets in the world and spay or neuter your pet. Not only will prevent your pet from contributing to overpopulation, but it does have beneficial side effects. Spaying female animals before they are a year of age significantly reduces the chance of breast cancer, and eliminates the chances of uterine infections or ovarian tumors. Neutering male animals decreases the chances of prostate disease and may reduce unwanted aggressiveness and urine spraying. Both procedures make pets more focused on their owners rather than that sexy critter on the other side of the eric.
You should get your pet used to the idea of travel well before the event. For many pets, the best way of traveling is in a carrier. A carrier must be sturdy and well ventilated, and large enough to allow the pet to stand up, turn around and lie down. The carrier can also be used as a "home away from home" at the event. While at home, leave the carrier out in an area where the pet can investigate. Make the carrier a desirable place by putting food treats and toys inside. Once the pet is comfortable around the carrier, put the pet inside with more food treats for a short period of time. Gradually lengthen the period of time the pet stays in the carrier. It is important that the carrier not be seen as a place of punishment or as a signal for a trip to the vet, but as a fun place for treats and rest. Once your pet is comfortable in the carrier, take them out to the car, and turn it on, and just sit in the running car for a minute or two. Gradually start driving the car, first for short distances (around the block) and gradually increase to longer trips.
If you have a dog, please have it obedience trained before you take it to events! This allows socialization to other people and animals, and gives you control over your dog. There are few things more embarrassing than having to apologize to a beautifully-dressed lady who your dog has jumped on with their muddy paws, or explaining to the rather irate knight that your dog chewed up his favorite sword. A well-trained dog is a joy at events, and all it takes is some pre-event training to prevent these mistakes.
Part 2 of Period Pets will deal with packing for your pet and travel tips.
Dr. Shanna Compton is a small-animal veterinarian who practices in San Jose.
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