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Interview With Vet Marty Becker, Author 'Your Dog: The Owner's Manual'

Tips on caring for your canine family member

Q. What should we know about these zoonotic diseases?

A. You want to take extra precautions:

  • Never mix the dogs' dishes with the human dishes in the sink. Wash them somewhere else, in a utility room or a laundry room.

  • Stay current on preventive health care programs. For example, leptospirosis is a disease that can be transmitted from people to pets and from pets to people. When you vaccinate your pet with the DHL vaccine that protects against that, as well as get the other regular vaccinations as recommended by your vet, you're protecting your human family as well.

  • By using lifetime parasite control, for internal parasites like worms, and for external parasites such as fleas and ticks, you're keeping heinous hitchhikers out of the house.

Q. Your mantra is, "Maximize the benefits of pet ownership, and minimize the risks." And you stress hand washing, something so simple but vital.

A. Yes. When you're done playing with your pet or handling your pet, it's really important that you wash your hands. And of course after feeding your pet or picking up after them, you absolutely must wash your hands. Frankly, you just can't wash your hands enough these days.

Q. Let's talk about the healing power of pets.

A. The way it works is intimacy. You don't get the healing power from a dog that's out in the backyard most of the time — a dog you only see once in a while. You get it from close physical contact. When you rhythmically stroke your pet, when you're sitting there at night and they're next to you, after just one to two minutes there's a biochemical spa treatment that takes place in your body. You get this release of oxytocin, the hug hormone, and serotonin, the happy hormone or the brain hormone, and prolactin, the active ingredient in chocolate that gives you that kind of rush. The great thing is, the dog gets it, too. So it's reciprocal, not parasitic.

Q. How can we save money when it comes to pet care?

A. I know what people are going through when it comes to cutting costs. We've all made changes to be a little more careful, and you can save money without shortchanging your pet. One of the biggest wasters of money is buying extremely expensive food. Veterinarians don't see nutritional deficiencies when dogs come to the hospital for treatment. Never. But they do see cases of nutritional excesses all the time.

Next: How often should you bathe your pet? >>

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