So You Want A Goldfish Part III: Tank Set Up

Now that you have your gravel and your plants and decorations ready to go, take them all over to where you have decided to set up your tank, but before you put in even one drop of water, I want you to play a little game with me called “Let’s Clean the Tank.” In this game we get to act like preschoolers and do a lot of pretending. Stay with me now, because this isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Once you put all of the necessary items and water into your tank, you aren’t going to be able to move your aquarium without taking everything out again, including the water, so this is actually an important step of the initial set up of your goldfish home.

Grab whatever tools you will be using to clean your tank and pretend to do the cleaning. Get that vacuum to the bottom and move it around the imaginary gravel, “clean” all four sides of the tank, pretend to change and check the filters, and pretend to plug them in. Were you able to do everything without too much trouble? Was it hard to reach the back of your tank? Did the filter get caught between the tank and the wall? If any part of the tank was hard to reach, you might want to think about moving things around a little. Make sure you can reach every area easily. If everything is accessible, you are ready for fish “furniture” and decoration.

Once you have washed out the inside of your tank, you are ready to add some water. Water anywhere is okay for use, but if you are using city water, you must add a chlorine remover or the water must be left to stand for at least 24 hours so that the chlorine disperses completely.  Fill the tank tank 1/3 of the way with water, and put the gravel in next. Pouring water in last stirs up too much debris, even if the gravel has been washed, and especially once the tank is established.


A long shot of my tank, showing the perspective that my fish have as they swim from one side to the other.

Tank Set Up

Now we have come to the fun part! You get to be the moving company and interior decorator for your fish Most people with aquariums slope their gravel so that there is a taller pile of it in the back and a smaller pile of it in the front. You won’t do this if you have an under gravel filter, but if you are using above gravel filters it is a perfectly acceptable, and often preferable, practice. Not only does it give your fish the uneven depths that they would find in the wild, but it helps you in cleaning. Anything dropping to the bottom of the tank will eventually roll to the front, making it easier to make quick vacuum runs more frequently, though you should regularly vacuum your entire aquarium when needed. Sloping the gravel this way also displays your items at different levels, meaning that you can see more of what you have planted or placed inside, increasing the aesthetic appeal for anyone viewing your fish.

Putting plants and decorations in before the gravel guarantees that they are in a secure place, on a flat surface with the weight of the gravel holding them down. Putting plants and decorations in after means they are easier to move around. Whichever way you choose to add your decorations, make certain the objects are stable enough that when your fish swims around them, they do not become trapped or caught in something that falls over from their movement.

Typically, taller plants go to the back and smaller plants are placed forward. You want a balance with plant placement; something that gives your fish a feeling of safety, but also displays as much of your tank as possible for anyone who has come to view it. Too many large plants at the front will also block the light that enters your fish tank from the room. One larger plant blocking an intrusive light would be acceptable, if the rest of the tank were allowed to have light entering freely. In my setup, I have all of my large plants in the back and one specifically blocking some of the light that comes from the window. I prefer to give my fish access to a minimal amount of natural light by placing my tanks with one small fraction of their surface so that it gets early morning sun. This wakes the fish in a natural way before I come barging in, flicking on light switches and literally pestering the poop out of them.

I’m not going to give you a map of where to put your plants, air producers, rocks, floating toys, or anything else that you decide to use for your landscaping. That is all up to your personal aesthetics, just look at what you have, play around with your setup and find something that looks appealing to your eye and will be stimulating to your fish. Give them a place to hide, but don’t smother them so much that they can’t move or be seen. Believe it or not, once your fish feel settled in your household, they will actually WANT to interact with you. My Nix and Hydra actually get upset if we are across the room from them for too long and begin spitting and knocking things around to get our attention. Fish are schooling animals and you will become part of their school in some way or another, especially with goldfish, who are more intelligent than most people give them credit for.


The gap between the air stone and large plants behind it provides Nix and Hydra with shelter and casts shadows when the sun shines in for a few hours each morning.

Once you have everything just right, you can fill the tank the rest of the way, turn on the filtration systems… and hurry up and wait. Yep, I said wait. It is much too stressful for your fish to be suddenly dumped into a freshly created environment, no matter how well you have cleaned and prepared it. Imagine having a giant snatch you up and without warning, drop you into his massive Jacuzzi. Sure you could get used to it eventually, but I bet you’d be in a little bit of shock for a while before that happened.

Give the filters a chance to settle any tiny particles that you missed and naturally adjust the pH and temperature. Make sure the water coming out is as close to the surface as possible. It should be a water flow, not a water fall. When you have let everything run for 24 hours, it is safe to get some bacteria into your tank. This is the good stuff that comes from gravel in a tank that is already established. You only want a handful of this gravel and you will place it in with your own. If the gravel is different and you don’t want it to stand out, you can bury it in a pile under what you already have. If it is a safe size for your fish, and if you are happy enough with its appearance, you can mix it right in.

Because I have kept tanks for so long, I have rarely needed to go to an outside source for this step, but if you have no idea where to turn for this, ask the store where you buy your fish. I prefer to get some gravel and plenty of extra water from the tank that the fish were in at the store. Theoretically they are used to this bacteria already and you are not introducing anything new, like illnesses, that could have come from other tanks. If you have picked out healthy fish from a healthy aquarium, the handful of gravel you get for them should be just right.

Introducing Your Goldfish

Once all of this has been done, you can introduce your goldfish into your tank. Moving in is one of the most serious parts of goldfish care. This is the easiest way to transfer diseases, shock your fish into illness, or worse. The first week in their new tank is when your fish are the most vulnerable. When you bring your fish home from the store, ask the clerk to double or triple bag them and keep your fish in those bags until you get them into your house. Remember that in that tiny bag they have nowhere to go and no way to protect themselves from the intensity of the sun.


No education here, just fun as Nix photobombs my underwater camera.

We all know the trick about floating your bag in the established aquarium water so that the water in the bag slowly becomes the same temperature as the water in the tank. What most people do after that is cut a hole in the bag and dump the fish into the tank. It is important to remember the bacteria levels in the water will not be the same as those your new fish has experienced in its previous home. It is very necessary to help your fish adjust to this new chemistry in a healthy and stress free way. To do this, open the bag carefully and add a cup of the aquarium water to the bag. Close the bag and let your fish adjust to that new bacteria and chemical balance for a good 10 minutes or more. Open the bag again, remove one cup of the water from the bag and dump it out in the sink, into a bucket, into your plant, anywhere EXCEPT into the fish tank, then add another cup of water from the tank into the bag, close and wait some more.

Once you have waited a total of 20 or 30 minutes for both of these water changes, pick up your fish net, hold it over a bucket or some other container, and gently pour your goldfish into the net, letting the water drain out and be collected in the bucket below. (I do NOT suggest doing this over the sink or plant because if your fish gets frisky, you don’t want it in the drain, or flopping around in the dirt.) Why are you doing this instead of dumping the bag into the tank? If there are any diseases in the water from your store, they will go into the bucket and you have severely minimized the risk of transferring these illnesses to your aquarium. You can now put the net into the tank and let your new fish swim happily into its established home. These steps should be taken any time you move a fish from one aquarium to another, even in your own home.

Now you can settle down and enjoy your new family members. You might think this is the end of my fish keeping lesson, but it is really only the middle point in your journey through goldfish care. If you can’t wait to read my next post on feeding and behavior, I highly recommend getting the book, Goldfish: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual by Marshall E. Ostrow. I have used this book as a reference many times in the past and continue to use it as a reference for this series of posts.

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

Introducing Our New Associate Editor!

Today I am very excited to tell you that we have a new Associate Editor,

Doug White!

Doug White

Doug came to work for us at Your Pet Space in April of this year, and quickly has become one of our best all around dog handlers, front desk assistants and merchandisers!  Many of you reading this have interacted with Doug at the front desk on Monday or Tuesday evenings, checking your dogs in or out.

Here is even more about Doug:

Doug has worked in customer service for over 24 years, with 13 years of that experience being at Chuck E. Cheese’s. (And, yes, he wore the mouse costume throughout that adventure). He has four little four-legged munchkins in his family named Peeta, Clyde, Oreo, and Peggy Sue. After adopting Clyde from Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in 2013, he began volunteering for the organization. This experience ignited a passion for learning about different dog breeds and individual dogs’ varying personalities. Doug is a huge country music fan, an avid reader of sci-fi/fantasy/horror, and a (very) amateur gardener and hiker.

Doug plans to sit for his Professional Animal Care Provider exam in October, and we have no doubt he’ll pass with flying colors!



1) Purchases content
2) Promotes the publication to be an editorial and commercial success
3) Manages the magazine so that it provides readers with high quality content
4) Defines the editorial positions/hires new editors
5) May assist with posting content to the site

Jessica/Managing Editor

1) suggests ideas, receives article pitches
2) assigns article ideas to the editors
3) handles problems, keeps the editorial staff on schedule and answers questions from department editors
4) determines the importance of articles and what goes up in what order
5) May assist with posting content to the site

Doug/Associate Editor

  1. Assists the Managing editor and the Publisher with…
  2. Writing, editing, story selection
  3. Receives and sifts through the submissions and sends the best to the Managing Editor, who will confer with the Publisher on selections
  4. Posts selected content to the site

I’m very excited for those of you who will get to interact with Doug for the first time.  He’s a lot of fun, and very kind and caring to our pet cadets!

Again, Congratulations, Doug!

Introducing Our New Managing Editor!

Today I am very excited to tell you that we have a new Managing Editor,

Jessica Smith!

Jessica came to work for us at Your Pet Space just before Christmas last year, and we couldn’t have asked for a better holiday gift!  Many of you reading this have interacted with Jessica as my second at the front desk at Your Pet Space, spoken to her on the phone or received a few of her e-mails.  Perhaps you’ve even read some of her writing on pets, which shows up regularly here in our online magazine, or seen her charming Instagram posts that include your pets, all smiling and trending.

Here is even more about Jessica:

Having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her two gold fish, Carrot Cake and Winchester. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore.

Thanks to client John Hesse’s endorsement, Jessica will also be sitting for her Professional Animal Care Provider exam in June, and we have no doubt she’ll pass with flying colors!



1) Purchases content
2) Promotes the publication to be an editorial and commercial success
3) Manages the magazine so that it provides readers with high quality content
4) Defines the editorial positions/hires new editors
5) May assist with posting content to the site

Jessica/Managing Editor

1) suggests ideas, receives article pitches
2) assigns article ideas to the editors
3) handles problems, keeps the editorial staff on schedule and answers questions from department editors
4) determines the importance of articles and what goes up in what order
5) May assist with posting content to the site

I’m very excited for those of you who will get to interact with Jessica for the first time. I have found her a pleasure to work with in every capacity, as she treats every single pet, whether here at the facility or in print, as if it were her own.

If you haven’t yet seen her writing, a couple of her previously submitted articles are here:

My Dog Has Allergies: Now, What?

Feeding Dogs Human Food: How To Change Your Ways

Congratulations again, Jessica!

Do You Want A New Cat? Here Are A Few Things to Know.

Your best friend has a cat, your sister just got two kittens for her kids, and even your mom took in a cat…so you decide to get a cat too! You’re probably thrilled as you scroll through the photos of cats up for adoption at your local animal shelters, and you should be! Keep in mind that there are a few questions you should consider. Will I have enough time to dedicate to my new cat as they settle into their new home? Will my cat be friendly to my guests? Should I get a more independent breed? These are all very important questions, but before you begin selecting cat breeds and picking out combs and collars, start doing research to figure out how much adopting your new cat will cost you. Most of the following information is from the Simple Dollar’s Pet Ownership Costs Guide.

Every cat deserves a cozy bed to call their own!

Initial Cost

The initial cost for your new cat is your adoption or purchase fee, vaccination fees, and cat equipment. One of the perks about cats is that they are generally less expensive than dogs, especially when it comes to illnesses or injuries. The costs are much, much lower! When it comes to adoption, the breed of your desired cat can affect the adoption price dramatically, especially if you purchase your new cat from a breeder. For instance, an American Bobtail can cost between $500 to $700, whereas the average price of a Maine Coon is $1,000.

But if you adopt a cat from your local shelters, you might only be charged between $50 to $175 for your adoption fee. Luckily, some shelters will even provide a microchip, a spay or neuter operation, and vaccinations for your new cat without charge.

How much am I worth?!

If you’re adopting a kitten, the veterinarian will probably insist on a few vaccinations that will protect your cat later in life. These vaccinations include feline leukemia, rabies, panleukopenia, and calicivirus. Keep in mind that each vaccination can cost between $50 to $100, and you may have to pay an additional fee for any booster shots. Heartworm prevention medication is very important for cats because there is not an approved medication for heartworm treatment for them. Make sure to get the prevention medication, especially if you live in a Northern or Tropical area.

Once you finally bring your new cat home, you can start buying cat equipment for them! Some basics are a water and food bowl, cat food, a cat box with a scooper, cat litter, and a cat bed. If you feel that you want to get more for your cat, there are cat houses, scratching posts and window perches that you can purchase for your cat. Some stores even sell treats like Catnip Grass and mouse toys. If you want to purchase more cat tools, here’s a list!

  • Collar
  • Cat Litter Deodorizer
  • Name tag and your name, address, and phone number
  • Non-toxic Cleanser
  • Undercoat brush
  • Nail Clippers
  • Feline toothpaste and toothbrush 

Medical Care

If you adopt a cat from a shelter, you may be charged for their spay or neuter operation. And if you take in a stray, you will need to schedule your cat’s operation soon. Some people are against spaying and neutering, but according to Spay USA, both genders benefit from the operation. Female cats won’t have heat cycles, the chance of uterine, ovarian, and mammary gland tumors can be reduced or eliminated, and it helps reduce the number of stray cats roaming without a home. For male cats, neutering at a young age eliminates spraying or marking of territory, it lessens their desire to try to roam outside, chances of prostate and testicular cancer reduce, there can be a decrease in aggressive or hostile behavior, and they may be better behaved.

Neutered, and more handsome than ever!

During their recovery stage, remember to keep your home quiet and peaceful, try to prevent them from jumping and running for at least two weeks, do not allow them to lick their incision, and check their incision daily to make sure there is no redness, discharge, or swelling. If there is, take your cat to the nearest animal hospital immediately. Make sure to keep up with regular check ups as frequently as you can to keep them as healthy as possible.

Depending on the breed of your cat, you may be faced with specific medical issues. Because of selective breeding, breeders often decide to pass on specific traits and many purebred cats are prone to medical concerns because of this breeding method. Balinese cats may suffer from Nystagmus (a neurological disorder which causes rapid eye movement), Lymphoma, Megaesophagus, Aortic Stenosis, Asthma and Amyloidosis (a disease that happens when a type of protein called amyloid is deposited in body organs).

Devon Rex cats can suffer from Urticaria Pigmentosa (a dermatological problem that causes sores that become crusty on their body), Hip Dysplasia, and Congenital Hypotrichosis (hereditary baldness).

These cats look very different from each other, and they have their own health issues to go with their unique looks.

And the Himalayan cat suffers from Seborrhea Oleosa, Feline Hyperesthesia (a nervous system disorder), Progressive Retinal Atrophy, or Dental Malocclusions (cat’s teeth don’t fit well together). Regardless of your cat’s breed, remember to schedule your cat for routine (annually or biannually) veterinary visits; but remember to put aside funds for unexpected accidents or illnesses that may occur. If you adopt a cat who turns out to have physical or mental disabilities, you may have to seek specific professional medical care for your cat.


Although feeding may seem like one the easiest parts of being a cat owner, it can be a more difficult process then some owners anticipate. Ideally, you should feed your cat a medium to high quality food. Avoid Science Diet, Fancy Feast, and Iams. Some of the best diets you can provide for your cat are raw, homemade food, human-grade canned food, or Blue Buffalo dry food. Visit Better Life Natural Pet Foods for even more detailed information and personalized help for your cat’s feeding.

Your cat would be more than thrilled to have an all-natural diet!

Keep in mind that cats can develop allergies to food that is most frequently fed to them, so remember to keep your cat’s diet flexible, especially if you’ll be feeding them dry food. Cats mostly develop allergies to beef, seafood, soy, wheat gluten, lamb, corn, and dairy products. If you notice itchy skin, vomiting, hair loss or scratching, take your cat to a veterinarian and change their diet.


Some people forget that their cats need grooming, the same way we need to groom ourselves daily. Your cat’s hair length can generally determine the routine you create for your cat. A shorthaired breed like an Egyptian Mau, Burmese, American Shorthair, or a Savannah cat may have to brushed once or twice every two weeks. A longhaired breed such as a Persian, Ragdoll, Birman, or a Somali cat should be brushed every day. If you decide to give your cat a bath, you may expect a few scratches. If you decide to take your cat to a professional groomer, you may be charged between $30 to $50; but you can also purchase cat bathing wipes for your feline instead of water and soap. Remember to clean your cat’s ears to prevent infections from growing wax, and to keep their claws trimmed to avoid splintering of broken claws.

Fredrick Douglass and his dad enjoying some outdoor playtime.

If you use the TSD Pet Cost Calculator, you’ll be able to roughly calculate what your first-year costs for your new cat. For instance, I put in the information for the most recent addition to my family, Fredrick Douglass. With his vaccines, cost of food, toys, a litter box, bowls, collar and harness, and the amount of days I travel a year, it’s calculated that I will spend about $985 a year on Frederick Douglass.

Test it out for your new pet, and good luck finding your purr-fect pal!

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at

Too Hot to Trot: Summer Conditions in Horses

Summer may be the favorite season for many, but for horse owners, it can create several challenges. Equines become hot much more quickly than humans do, and the effects can have serious consequences if they aren’t managed correctly.

The horse’s body has evolved over time to cope more easily with cold weather conditions than with the heat. It is, therefore, essential that owners provide the right care for their horses during summer months to keep them in good health.

In this article, we look at four conditions associated with hot weather, how to spot the symptoms, and what action you should take.

Itchiness is a common symptom seen in several of these conditions.


What Is It?

Anhidrosis is a Greek word, which translates to “without sweating.” A horse with this condition is incapable of sweating, and those that suffer from it are also known as non-sweaters, puffers, and dry-coated horses.

What happens is that the sweat glands become over stimulated and then shut down completely. The exact cause is not known, but it is common in horses that have been moved to hot and humid climates.

The condition was first recorded in the 1920s when the British moved their racehorses and polo ponies to colonies such as India and Malaysia and noticed that they didn’t sweat.

Horses, like humans, cool their bodies through sweating. When they are unable to do this, their body temperature remains high, which puts them at risk for heat stroke. It is very dangerous and it can potentially result in death.

It affects horses of any age or breed, whether they are exercised or not, but dark horses tend to be most susceptible.

This horse with anhidrosis is getting a cooling rinse-off after exercising.


If your horse suffers from anhidrosis, he will display some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Coat that is dry and hot to touch after exercise
  • Laboured breathing during and after exercise with flared nostrils
  • High temperature
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lethargy and exhaustion
  • Poor coat that is thin and patchy
  • Facial hair loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decreased water consumption

What Action to Take

If you think your horse has anhidrosis, your veterinarian will probably do an intradermal terbutaline sweat test. Diagnosing the condition is much easier than controlling it, but it can eventually disappear.

Here are some ways that you can manage a horse with anhidrosis during the summer months:

  • Ride when the temperatures are cooler, either early in the morning or late in the evening.
  • Take frequent breaks during riding and note how hard your horse is breathing. Watch that he doesn’t overheat.
  • Compete at cooler times of the year, as most shows will be held during the daytime in summer.
  • After exercise, move him into some shade and cool him down by splashing cold water on his body, neck and legs. Scrape the water off and repeat the process.
  • Turn him out during the night.
  • During the day, keep him in a well-ventilated barn with fans.
  • Ensure fresh water is consistently available.
  • Give electrolytes.

If the condition persists and your horse continues to suffer, the only way to cure anhidrosis is to move him to a cooler climate.


What Is It?

Dehydration happens when the loss of fluids from the horse exceeds the fluid intake from food and water.

It is caused by either persistent diarrhea or extreme sweating during strenuous exercise. A horse can lose 10 to 15 liters (nearly 4 gallons) of sweat in one hour, especially when it is hot and humid, and they may struggle to cool down afterwards.

This horse is trying to stay properly hydrated.

As a result, the horse loses vital fluids and electrolytes. Electrolytes perform many functions in your horse’s body and have the same elements as seawater:

  • Sodium (Na)
  • Magnesium (Mg)
  • Calcium (Ca)
  • Potassium (K)
  • Chloride (Cl)

The danger of dehydration is that sometimes it can be difficult to detect. If left untreated, it can lead to conditions such as colic, kidney failure and azoturia (an abnormal excess of nitrogen compounds in the urine).


To check if your horse is dehydrated, pinch a fold of his skin and then let it go. With a properly hydrated horse, the skin will instantly spring back into place, but if he is dehydrated, it will take a few seconds to return to normal.

Other symptoms include:

  • Frequent, shallow breaths
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Gums not pink
  • Dry skin and mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Urine dark colored with a powerful odour
  • Thick and sticky saliva
  • Tucked-up appearance

What Action to Take

Prevention of dehydration is better than a cure.

An average horse’s body contains approximately 70% water, meaning he will usually drink between 5 to 15 gallons of water daily, depending on the amount of exercise they are receiving and the climate.

It is, therefore, vital that clean, fresh water is continuously available.

Adding apple juice or molasses to the water is also a good idea. Once your horse is familiar with the taste, you can add it to the drinking water at shows, as many equines are reluctant to drink when they are away from home.

These guys aren’t at home, but it is crucial for them to have access to water wherever there are.

Ensure that your horse has free access to salt, either loose or via a salt lick, to encourage him to drink and replace lost minerals and electrolytes. Also, many veterinarians now suggest feeding electrolytes daily all year round.

With mild forms of dehydration, offer your horse two buckets of water; one with electrolytes and one plain, allowing him to choose.

Make sure your horse stands in the shade and cool him down by cold hosing. More severe cases will require immediate veterinary treatment, giving fluids via a nasogastric tube.

Sweet Itch

What Is It?

Sweet itch, also known as Pruritus Threshold, is an allergic reaction in horses triggered by the saliva of biting insects, such as midges, lice, black flies and horse flies. Allergies and infections can also be a cause.

With this condition, the horse suffers unbearable and extreme itchiness.

The condition is more common in areas that are prone to bugs, such as ponds, swamps, and bogs and is made worse by hot and humid weather.

A horse suffering from sweet itch, in search of relief, can rub hair completely off the afflicted area, breaking open the skin, which can then become infected.

It affects any part of the horse’s body but is mostly found on the belly, face, back, mane and tail.

All of these flies would certainly BUG me!


If you think your horse has sweet itch, he will display the following symptoms:

  • Mild to severe rubbing
  • Loss of mane and tail hair
  • Bald patches
  • Sections of sore, swollen, open and broken skin which may bleed

What Action to Take

During spring and summer, protect your horse from biting insects by:

  • Spraying fly repellent on him
  • Use fly masks and sheets
  • Stable from 4 pm to 8 am when biting insects are most active
  • Use a ceiling fan in his stable
  • Do not stable him near woodland or boggy areas
  • Cut sweet foods from your horse’s diet
  • Add garlic to feed (the smell deters insects!)

When treating sweet itch, it is essential that you consult your veterinarian who can then do a skin scraping to diagnose the cause.

Medication, such as steroids or antibiotics, may be administered along with the appropriate creams, lotions, and shampoos.

Your veterinarian can advise you accordingly as to what is the best cause of action for your horse.


What Is It?

Sunburn, also known as Erythema Solare, is the burning of skin due to over-exposure to UV radiation and it can be extremely painful.

Any horse or pony can get sunburned, but grays, Pintos, Cremellos, Appaloosas, and those with white face and leg markings or pink muzzles, are most susceptible. Foals and yearlings are also particularly prone.

Sometimes you have to protect your horse from the sun’s harmful rays in style!


When an unprotected horse has exposure to the sun for a length of time, he is likely to show the following symptoms:

  • Skin that appears red and painful
  • Skin is hot and sore to touch
  • Skin is dry and cracked
  • The skin bleed or be weepy
  • Blisters
  • Patches of hair loss
  • Inflammation
  • Peeling of skin

The symptoms of sunburn can lead to dehydration and stress in your horse, caused by the heat and pain, and it may result in colic or liver damage.

Burning rays can damage the skin, cause scarring, and continuous overexposure may lead to skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, whereby cancerous growths appear on or around the eyelids.


Protect your horse from the sun by:

  • Stabling during the day– Keep your horse in a well-ventilated stable during the hottest part of the day. If your horse must be out, ensure that he has proper shade.
  • Sunscreen/sunblock– There are many brands that are formulated for horses, or you can use one for humans that are at least 30 SPF. Products containing zinc oxide are particularly useful. Using brightly colored sunscreen is a helpful indication as to when it is wearing off and needs re-applying.
  • Protective clothing– There are several sun-blocking fly sheets, fly masks (some with a flap that reaches to the horse’s nose for extra protection), and hoods available on the market now.

If your horse does have sunburn, treat it the same way you would treat your own. Using Aloe Vera sunburn treatments are very soothing and help to heal your horse’s skin. Otherwise, antiseptic ointments such as Sudocream are also good.

If the sunburn does not appear to be healing, contact your veterinarian who may prescribe an antibiotic cream or ointment.

If you have protected your horse against sunburn and he still shows symptoms, there may be individual plants that are causing toxicity and photosensitivity to him. Call your veterinarian who can identify any plants in the area that may cause a sunburn-like reaction.

Also, it is possible that any medication your horse is on may cause the same symptoms and must be investigated by your veterinarian.

By taking these preventative measures, you should be able to keep your horse cool, hydrated, happy and healthy during those long, summer months.

Alison O’Callaghan, our Equine Editor, is a professional horse riding instructor and has owned many types of pets. When she is not riding horses or walking her dog, she loves to write about animals. If you’d like to contact Alison, you can email her at 

Feathered Springtime Visitors

The cold winter has ended, and we are in full bloom for a gorgeous spring season. With this changing of the season, we are not only going to see the beautiful colors of blossoming flowers, but also the colors of fabulous plumage on our wild birds. Many different birds are migrating in from their winter territories to travel up north to their nesting grounds and summer homes. Many of our yearlong residents are even changing their colors in preparation for this lovely season. The reason why many of these birds are changing colors and heading this way is for nesting. The bright plumage and various singing patterns help these birds find mates. Soon after the birds pair up, they will settle down and, based on their unique instincts, begin to nest, lay eggs, and raise their young.

For many birds, this system may occur only once per season or it can happen multiple times through several broods of chicks. Each species of birds is special and they all have their own unique methods when it comes to nesting season, but knowing who is nesting, what will be happening, and where to look for these nesting birds will help us enjoy our feathered friends during this season. We can even help their growth! This article will discuss the different types of birds that we may expect to see here in the Las Cruces area, as well as different backyard feeding that we can offer to increase the chances of viewing these colored beauties and seeing their young hatchlings.

Mourning Dove nesting on an outside light.


One of our all-time favorite migrators has to be hummingbirds. These fleeting birds with brightly colored feathers are some of the most popular birds at our backyard bird feeders. So simple and easy to feed, it’s a breeze to catch a glimpse of one from your flower bed or nectar hummingbird feeders. Hummingbirds begin migrating back up through our area by mid-March from their winter habitats in Central and South America. Over 330 hummingbird species have been identified in the Americas, but only about 16 of these species will travel up through North America. The species that travel north do so in search of their nesting sites. As they travel this long journey, hummers will continuously be looking for food. A hummingbird will be able to drink at least 2 times their body weight per day. Offering nectar is a great way to assist these hungry hummers and give you a chance to view them more closely. It is also very easy to make your own nectar at home instead of constantly purchasing it.

The recipe is: 4 cups of boiling water mixed with 1 cup of regular table sugar. Just stir the sugar into the boiled water until the sugar is dissolved and then let the nectar sit until room temperature before filling the feeder.

An example of a leak proof hummingbird feeder.

Use feeders that have either red flowers or red lids instead of nectar dyed red. Hummingbirds can only see the color red, so many stores sell premade nectar that is dyed red. This can be much more harmful to the birds. It is best to stick with clear nectar and red feeders than to risk harming the birds with food coloring.

Features to look for when purchasing a hummingbird feeder include:

  • Red coloration
  • Easy to clean (must be cleaned before refilling to prevent bacteria)
  • Easy to fill
  • Easy to hang
  • The nectar ports should be above the nectar surface to preventing dripping
  • Ability to add an ant moat or other deterrent to prevent ants from entering your feeder

The main species of hummingbirds we will spot in and around Las Cruces are: Broad-tailed Hummingbirds, Black Chinned Hummingbirds, Anna’s Hummingbirds, Rufous Hummingbirds (arriving in July), Calliope Hummingbirds, and Magnificent Hummingbirds. Offering a hummingbird feeder and having flowering plants will help you attract hummers to your yard. Displaying a nesting ball made of natural cotton and other nest-safe materials will help the female hummers build a nest. If you see a female hummingbird collecting nesting material, you will see her immediately fly back to her nest site and you might be able to watch the young hummers grow.

Four common male Hummingbird species found in New Mexico: Top Left: Broad-Tailed Hummingbird Top Right: Anna’s Hummingbird Bottom Left: Black Chinned Hummingbird Bottom Right: Rufous Hummingbird


Orioles are very shy birds, and they are also very colorful. The males will show off bright orange or yellow plumage and will sing a sweet song high up in the tree tops. Orioles travel up from Central and South America to our area by early April to mate and nest. Orioles are very fond of places with tall trees and plants in wide open areas. Places like parks or backyards with a few tall trees interspersed with open fields and a steady water source are their favorites. About the size of a robin, orioles really enjoy nectar, fruit, and insects. It is possible to see an oriole drink the same nectar as hummingbirds from a hummingbird feeder. You can always purchase a separate feeder specifically designed for orioles. These will be orange versus the typical red of hummingbird feeders.

The nectar recipe for orioles is the same as hummingbird nectar due to the high chance of a hummingbird drinking from an oriole feeder. Some references will state that orioles like less sugar in their nectar than hummingbirds but, if a hummingbird accidentally drinks this nectar, it will be quite detrimental for them. There is no harm involved for an oriole to drink a slightly higher concentration of sugar.

A male Bullock’s Oriole eating an orange.

Fruit is also a great attracter to orioles. Displaying an orange cut in half with the juice side up in a wide-open space where the flying bird may see it is an excellent way to attract orioles to your yard. The bright fruit and juicy pulp of an orange is one of the oriole’s favorite treats. By putting these oranges out by late March and in the beginning of April, the first oriole migrators will want to stop by to re-energize in your yard! Other treats that orioles love include grape jelly, fruit or bug flavored suet, and live mealworms.

The orioles that nest in our area include: Bullock’s Orioles (West side of town), Scott’s Orioles (East side of town), and sometimes Hooded Orioles. An oriole’s nest is shaped like a hanging sock. A very intricate construction, their nests can be hard to spot as they are precariously hidden towards the top of a tree and then may not even be seen until autumn. When an oriole nests in your area, they may very well come back year after year. The oriole you see today might just be the same one who visited you last year.

Western Kingbirds

While not a feeder bird, western kingbirds are always an exciting sight when they arrive. Migrating up from Central American wintering habitats, the western kingbird is looking for nesting sites in open plain areas. Commonly seen perching on trees and wires, the western kingbird will show off their bright, lemon-yellow belly and soft grey backs. While these birds will not be enticed by any birdfeeders in your yard, other factors will attract them. An outdoor water source such as a birdbath or pond is a great attracter. The water will attract all sorts of birds, especially out here in the New Mexico desert. All living things need water and, when in an arid environment, many different creatures, such as insects, will flock to a water feature. Kingbirds love to eat insects. They are quite a sight to enjoy when they are chasing down their prey. Preforming amazing aerial acrobatics displays, kingbirds are a very entertaining summertime visitor.

A western kingbird perched on a wire in search of flying insects.

Resident Nesting Birds

Many of our local desert birds will not leave our general area for nesting, and it can be very exciting to watch them courting and raising their young. We can always help out these birds by offering foods that are high in calcium. This will help the males color their feathers, it will produce higher quality egg shells, and it will later assist chick bone growth. It is very easy to find healthy foods that are high in calcium. Many different kinds of suet will have calcium added to it. If you’re struggling to find food with calcium, try offering eggshells. Eggshells from your regular grocery store eggs are an excellent source. To prepare the egg shell for your birds, you will first need to sterilize them. Rinse the empty eggshells thoroughly with water, then place them on a cookie sheet and bake them at 250°F until the shells are dry and brittle. You may then crumble the baked egg shells and display them on a flat surface outside for the birds to find.

Our local birds that are very active right now include: quail, doves, mocking birds, and the lesser goldfinches.


Quail are currently establishing territories and nesting. The male quail will stand on a wall or tall branch singing his loud call to notify other quails of his established territory.  The female will incubate her eggs in a shallow nest hidden on the ground for about 21 to 31 days. After the quail chicks hatch, they need to learn how to walk and run very quickly so they don’t become vulnerable prey. The quail chick’s development is much faster than that of other birds because they are able to forage and eat their own food just days after hatching. Other avian species are dependent on the parents to provide food. As the quail chicks grow, they will continue to stay with their parents and other quail to form a group called a covey and they are commonly seen walking in a single file line.

Male Gamble’s Quail checking on his young chicks.


Doves have adapted to our cities and our suburban environments and they can (and will) build their nests just about anywhere. The main dove species that we will commonly see nesting here in Las Cruces are Rock Doves (which are also known as pigeons), White-Winged Doves, and Mourning Doves. A dove’s total time in a nest from incubation to fledging will be about 40 days. The dove chicks are completely dependent on their parents when they first hatch. Young doves will commonly fall out of nests when first learning how to fly. The best thing to do when spotting a fallen chick is to leave it alone and wait to see if the parent is nearby. Just like learning to walk, they may have to fall a few times before learning to fly. Offering a seed blend that is high in millet scattered on the ground or in a ground tray will really help these nesting birds!

A chart of what to do when spotting a young bird on the ground.


When mockingbirds are looking for a mate, the male will first establish a territory and then find the highest perch within his territory where he begins to sing. To attract a female, the male mockingbird will sing all day and all night. Sadly, there is not much we can do to assist the lone bachelor, but we hope he doesn’t choose to sit outside our windows to sing his lonely song at night.


Goldfinches join the mockingbird as birds who make a display for the females. The lesser goldfinches are a non-migratory inhabitant of our desert. Known for their gorgeous yellow plumage, the goldfinch will only display this colorful array twice a year and will otherwise wear a more olive-yellow plumage. The goldfinch will molt in the early spring to their much more vibrant name sake as this helps the male attract a mate. Offering fresh nyjer (thistle) seed in your feeders will help these birds have brighter and more colorful feathers.

Discovery is the thrill of the hobby of birdwatching! Many different bird species will increase their activity during this spring and summer. You can attract and view both the migrators and permanent bird residents by providing appropriate nectar, food or nesting materials in your yard.

Ashley Gurnea, our Avian Editor, is a certified bird feeding specialist at Wild Birds Unlimited. A graduate from New Mexico State University, Ashley earned her bachelor degree in the field of Animal Science. She completed an internship at an exotic animal park, working with animals ranging from camels to porcupines and a variety of birds such as parrots and cockatoos. This love and curiosity of aviary has led her to her current position at Wild Birds Unlimited in Las Cruces where she remains up to date with local wild feeder birds. Growing up in a home where animals have always been present, Ashley is now a self-proclaimed “Corgi Countess” due to her love and adoration for her tricolor Pembroke welsh corgi, Colin.  Bring up anything corgi or bird related in a conversation and Ashley will be happy to share her many photos. Feel free to ask her about pet birds, and visit Wild Birds Unlimited for questions on wild birds! Ashley can be reached at

What to Know Before Getting A New Dog: Part II

In the first installment of this series, we discussed the initial cost of getting a new dog (purchasing the dog, picking out the equipment you’ll need, and training costs), medical care and emergency medical care for your dog, and the cost of feeding. For this segment, we will be discussing the costs of individual dog breeds, selecting the right breed for you, the possible cost of a dog throughout their entire lifetime, and how to reduce the overall cost of your new dog without impacting their quality of life. Again, most of this information will be coming from The Simple Dollar’s amazing Pet Ownership Costs Guide.

This gorgeous, pure-bred dachshund certainly wasn’t cheap.

Dog Breed Costs

If you’re thinking of purchasing a dog from a breeder, odds are you already have an idea of what kind of dog you want. This is both good and bad because some dog breeds cost significantly more than others and many breeds have specific health issues that are unique to them. It is important to know about these individual issues before taking the plunge with your new pet. The Pet Ownership Costs Guide lists dog breeds from least expensive to most expensive, and the results might surprise you. These prices are estimates, and they can increase even more depending on the pedigree, certifications, and locations of the breeders. Among the lower priced dogs are the American Foxhound, Beagle, Golden Retriever, and Miniature Schnauzer all ranging from $400-$800. These are some of the least expensive dogs that you can get from a breeder, and they still cost more than some people’s monthly rent for their home or apartment.

More expensive dog breeds can cost up to 10 times that of the less expensive breeds. Pharaoh Hounds, Chow Chows, and Rottweilers can cost between $2,000-$3,000, while Tibetan Mastiffs and English Bulldogs can range between $8,000-$9,000. Ironically and very unfortunately, these more expensive breeds are also the ones with much shorter lifespans. For example, English Bulldogs often have breathing problems, skin issues, and joint problems that cause them to have an average lifespan of only eight years. To top it all off, because of their extensive selective breeding, English Bulldogs can no longer breed on their own and over 80% of English Bulldog puppies must be delivered by cesarean section because the mother cannot deliver on her own without risking her life.

Somebody spent a pretty penny on this handsome fella (and his sweater).

Finding Your Dog

This being said, you can certainly purchase a dog from a breeder as long as you are aware of the expenses involved, and you are willing to provide dedicated care for the health issues that might come with your selected breed. You should also consider the dog’s age, your age, and your home environment before purchasing a new dog. For a more detailed breakdown, read Claren Wilson’s awesome article, Finding The Perfect Dog.

You can also check out Animal Planet’s Dog Breed Selector to see if the dog you have in mind will actually be the best breed for you. Each dog has it’s own unique personality and needs, but these sources will help you narrow down your search and help you find your perfect fur-ever friend.

Total Lifetime Cost of a Dog

With all of these facts, numbers, and warnings in your head, it’s finally time to go over the total cost of your dog for their entire life time. This cost is just an average, and it is assuming that your dog will live to the max age of their breed. Considering the initial cost, adoption, equipment, training, medical care, feeding, and the costs of breeds, the total expense for a dog’s lifetime is quite high. This cost can range between $1,760-$34,300 with the average cost being about $18,030.

“I’m worth HOW MUCH?!”

Of course, this amount will be spread throughout the years of your dog’s life, hopefully somewhere between 10-13 years. You will spend large amounts of money when you first adopt your dog, and it should level out a bit once your dog reaches adulthood. The prices will skyrocket again once your dog becomes a senior due to the health issues that come with aging.

Getting a new dog is so full of fun, love, and cuddles that it’s easy to forget how serious it really is. You are adding a new, furry member to your family and you should make sure that you have the appropriate time and resources required to give your bundle of joy the best life they can possibly have.

Reducing the Cost

Even though some people may not be able to afford it, every single person deserves the chance to love (and be loved by) a dog. Because of this, there are some ways that you may be able to slightly reduce the cost of owning a dog without sacrificing your dog’s quality of life. The Pet Ownership Costs Guide offers some methods to reduce the financial burden of owning a pet.

The first thing you can do is adopt a dog from a shelter instead of buying one from a  breeder. This will reduce the cost significantly, as shelters typically charge less than $200 for dogs, they are already spayed or neutered, they have at least their first round of shots, and they are typically already microchipped.

“I may not be a pure-bred, but I deserve a home too!”

The Pet Ownership Costs Guide also explains “If you’re struggling to provide for your pet, there are national programs that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need. The Humane Society provides a full list of these programs, including a state-by-state breakdown. Some only provide assistance for the treatment of specific diseases, while others provide funds to spay and neuter your pet.” There are also non-profit organizations that “provide assistance to pet owners in need. Many shelters have on-site veterinary care for low cost. Organizations like Red Rover allow pet owners to apply for financial aid if they can’t afford veterinary care, while crowdfunding programs like GiveForward are aimed at pet owners.”

Lastly, a great way to reduce the cost of owning a dog is to take steps to prevent illnesses and diseases such as heartworm, parvo, tooth decay, gum disease, fleas, ticks, ear infections, rabies, and kennel cough. These can be prevented by making sure your dog gets its vaccinations on time, takes heartworm preventative, has clean teeth and ears, and is given a full snout-to-tail assessment at least once a week to catch any bumps, tenderness, or foreign objects before they have a chance to become a serious problem. You can use this form to keep track of any changes that you find in your dog. It takes a little bit more work, but it will improve your dogs health, it will increase your connection with your dog, and it can potentially reduce the cost of vet bills if you find something early.

This old guy is happy and healthy.

In Conclusion…

The most important thing to learn from this series of articles is that adding a new dog to your family is something that should be taken very seriously. Not everyone has the time, money, or resources that are required to responsibly own a dog, so adopting a new dog should not be a spur of the moment decision. I firmly believe that every dog should be given the best life possible, and it is often hard to admit that the best life for them may not be with you. If you love dogs but find that you currently don’t have the resources to own one, you can always volunteer at an animal shelter like Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary to help animals in need, and to get your daily dose of fuzzy cuddles. Keep your head up, do what you can, and do it all for the well-being of the dogs that you love so dearly.

Jessica Smith, Associate Editor, having been raised in a household full of dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, and all things furry, Jessica’s love of animals has only grown over the years. She is currently volunteering for Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary in her free time when she isn’t out and about with her ridiculous pit bull mix, Annabel Lee, or taking care of her two goldfish, Carrot Cake and Winchester. She is also putting her literature degree to use by working as an editor for a local online magazine, Independent Noise. While she has no plans for the future, she knows that it will be filled with fur and fiction galore. You can e-mail Jessica at

Affectionate Cat Breeds

Do you want an affectionate lap cat? Here are some wonderful breeds to consider!

British Shorthair

This cat most commonly comes from England, Scotland, and Wales. These cats are one of the oldest breeds in the world, dating back to the first century A.D. In the early nineteenth century, the English practiced selective breeding to attain a grey-blue coat so they could call the cat “British Blue”. In 1871, the Crystal Palace in London featured this “new” breed, which was organized by Harrison Weir who was also known as “The Father of the Cat Fancy”. This “new” breed was the British Shorthair. During World War II, the British Shorthair was cross-bred with Persians to keep the breed alive, and after the war, breeders began to reestablish the “British Blue” coat. By the 1970’s, the British Shorthair was formally recognized and registered by the International Cat Association.

Harrison Weir and his British Blue Shorthair.

British Shorthairs are known to be quite loving with their families, and they are best with adults and older children. They are also quite welcoming toward strangers and will often approach them spiritedly. As kittens, they are as lively as other breeds. They are known to keep to themselves, but they are still relatively curious while young. They are easy-going cats who love to sit by their owners, and they are moderately active.

This breed’s coat color is one of its major features. Owners have said that their cat’s fur has a plush and soft texture. The “blue” color is the most prevalent, but these cats have also established other patterns and colors such as black, white, warm brown, golden, cinnamon, and cream colored coats. They have strong, broad bones, and they have a  rounded head and large eyes that typically have a deep orange color.

British Shorthairs shed very little and have little to no dander, making them a great pet for cat owners who may be allergic. They are not very loud, but they are quite large cats. A healthy weight for a female is between eight and thirteen pounds, and a male’s healthy weight is between twelve and nineteen pounds! The typical price of a kitten can range from $800 to $1,575, and they have a lifespan between thirteen and sixteen years.

A gorgeous Blue British Shorthair.

Some genetic diseases that British Shorthairs are disposed to include Gingivitis (this is when calculus forms at the gum lines and leads to gums becoming inflamed) and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, which affects the left ventricle (this ventricle is in control of getting oxygenated blood to their lungs and pumping it into their aortic valve). When this ventricle is compromised, it affects that cat’s heart’s ability to pump blood into their aorta, giving less oxygenated blood to other parts of their body.

If you’re interested in adopting a British Shorthair, you can visit Rescue Me! British Shorthair Rescue on Facebook, or search the breed in Pet Adoptions Over Stock.


The Napoleon cat, also known as the Minuet cat, is a new breed according to The International Cat Association. This cat breed was created by well-known American Kennel Club judge, Joseph B. Smith. Smith was inspired by Munchkin and Persian cats, and he wanted to create a breed that seemed purebred and unique. They were originally named Napoleon cats due to their short legs that are inherited from the Munchkin’s DNA, and their name also refers to the famously short Napoleon Bonaparte.

How can you resist this little guy?!

Owners of these unique cats say that their cats are very playful and social, incredibly intelligent, and compliant. Their tempers are like those of their Persian family members, which are known to be passive, human loving, and snuggly pets. As one of the friendlier cat breeds, they are known for greeting their owners, not being aggressive, and for being gentle with children and adults. They are not very vocal, and this could be attributed to their adaptability and because they seem not to have the need to demand attention.

These cats have coat colors ranging from a mono-colored orange, bi-colored gray and white, and tri-colored golden, gray, and orange. They are long haired cats, so be prepared to groom your Napoleon cat often if you plan on owning one…or a few. Who wouldn’t want more than one?! Although they have short legs, these cats can still leap, play, hunt, and run like all other cats; it doesn’t affect their dexterity. Like Persians, Napoleon cats have inherited a thick coat, dense bone structures, and round eyes and face. Napoleon cats have a lifespan between eleven to fourteen years, and should weigh between nine to ten pounds, and a minimum of five to six. The price of a Napoleon kitten can range from $800 to $1,200.

Just a couple of cuddly kitties.

Napoleon cats are predisposed to similar diseases that their Persian ancestors are affected by, such as Epiphora, which is an overflow of tears from the cat’s eyes. This happens when there is not enough drainage from the tear film of the eyes, leaving some Napoleon cats with dampness underneath their eyes. This can also result in the Stenosis of Nasolacrimal Ducts, which causes the complete blockage of their tear ducts. For the ducts to be cleared, it would require a veterinarian to place the cat under anesthesia and flush out their ducts manually. Persian cats are at risk for Polycystic Kidney Disease, which can be passed on to the Napoleon cat through their DNA. If owners are interested in breeding their Napoleon cats, it is important to make sure they are tested for the PKD1 gene (the gene that carries the Polycystic Kidney Disease defect), and to only breed them if your Napoleon cat’s PKD1 gene comes back negative. If you are interested in adopting a Napoleon cat, visit the North Texas Cat Rescue’s website.


In the 1950’s, black panthers inspired breeder Nikki Horner to breed a cat that would be like a tiny black panther. By combining the American Shorthair and Burmese breeds, the Bombay cat was created in 1965! However, it wasn’t until 1979 that the breed was registered with The International Cat Association.

Breeder Nikki Horner and a perfect example of a Bombay cat, Baby Kitty!

Owners of these cats, including myself, rate these cats as being perfect for families, and great with other pets. Bombay cats can live peacefully and happily with children, dogs and other non-dominant cats. They are so lively and loving towards humans, both familiar and new. This breed is usually calm, but they can be very playful, too. These are one of the easiest cats to teach to play fetch, and they are typically very patient when it comes to learning how to walk on a harness. Their owners say that these cats are friendly and affectionate with them, but this breed tends to bond closely with one human and can be quite indifferent to others living in the household.

These cats fashion only one look: all black coat, toes, and nose, and yellow, green, or copper eyes. These cats look similar to Burmese cats, but they have a larger bone structure, longer limbs, and a longer body overall. They have round faces with brilliantly colored eyes, and their black coat is sleek, shiny, and soft to the touch. Bombays have a maximum life expectancy of nineteen to twenty years, and a minimum of thirteen to fifteen years. A healthy weight for these cats is a minimum of seven pounds, and a maximum of ten pounds. Bombay kittens can cost between $500 to $750.

Bombays really do have a striking appearance.

These cats don’t shed as often as a long-haired cat would, but they still require regular brushing. They have a very loud purr, as well as loud cries as most Bombays don’t like to be left alone. When it comes to their health, the breed doesn’t have any serious gene mutations that would pass on to their litter, making them an overall healthy breed. If you are interested in adopting a Bombay, visit Rescue Me, Bombay.

Even with all of these different breeds, rescues, and breeders that provide these specific cats, it is important to first check with your local shelter and see if a rescue cat could be the right fit for you. Visit Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary to see if you can rescue an affectionate cat and give them their fur-ever home.

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at

Why Pet Care Certification Matters

Do you know what type of pet care certification the staff at your daycare facility has obtained?  What about your pet sitter?  You likely checked into the proper certifications for your child care provider, or those folks who care for your elderly parents.  And people often ask pet care providers about being insured and bonded, but seldom about the knowledge and best practices of people who care for our pets—our beloved, furry family members.

Many people don’t realize that several years went by—and many, many new pet care facilities were established during this time–in which the only animal care certifications available for our industry were simply pieces of paper you bought on the internet.  Nowadays, thanks to organizations such as the IBPSA and PACCC, and companies such as PetTech and The Dog Gurus, real training and actual certifcations are available, by means of real courses and testing centers.

And yet, there are still many facilities today that don’t bother to obtain them.

CPACP certs

Your Pet Space is proud that our owners are the only two people in the state of New Mexico that are Certified Professional Animal Care Providers (CPACPs).  In the words of PACCC, we are “members of an elite group of pet care professionals who have successfully demonstrated comprehensive pet care knowledge and passion for pet safety”.

The Professional Animal Care Certification Council (PACCC) recently conducted an independent certification exam locally for pet care providers. The exam content was created by a team of industry expert volunteers under the guidance of the Professional Testing Corporation (PTC), the third-party testing organization that administered the exam and certified the results.

To initially qualify to take the CPACP exam, Dave and I had to meet minimum education requirements, have a minimum of 500 hours of experience, and provide letters of reference from veterinarians and other pet care industry professionals, as well as some of our clients. The in-depth 125-question examination covered animal care topics including health, nutrition, dog fight and bite protocol, on-leash and off-leash interaction, sanitation, dog behavior and temperament, dog body language, dog training, animal and handler safety, vaccination protocol, workflow management, pathogen control, emergency and quarantine protocols, air quality standards, staff management expectations, and much more.

Our PACCC certification is only a part of what Your Pet Space will be doing to create a growing team of independently certified pet care professionals. We look forward to the next opportunity so our staff can sit for their initial exam, and Dave and I for the next level.  We are so proud to be able to demonstrate through PACCC’s independent certification our dedication to pet safety for our clients and community.  Pets are family members, and their ‘parents’ should feel confident they are receiving the highest level of care.

First Aid And CPR certs

In addition to our PACCC certifications, all but our very newest staff have trained with an instructor in pet First Aid and CPR via PetTech.  We rarely have to use any of our first aid skills, and it would be super rare to need to use our CPR knowledge—but we have it…just in case.

Group of dogs

Xena, Garrett and Marley relax in our Super Nova module, while Morgan and Finn are in the Space Cadet and Shooting Star areas.

What Are Best Practices For Daycare/Boarding Facilities?

1.)  Assessment of all new dogs (and periodic re-assessment).  Contrary to what some facility owners believe, not all dogs are suited for or enjoy daycare.  Our Assessments inform us at the outset of a dog’s tolerance for the stress of new situations, who his best playmates are, and what type of play is suitable for him.  The initial Assessment Day teaches the dog that Your Pet Space is a safe place to play, even with new dogs and people, and that Mom and Dad always return, whenever they come to see us.

2.)  Appropriate dog playgroups for size and age.  Inside, Your Pet Space offers a small dog play area called The Tribble Zone, a senior dog area: The Milky Way, a puppy play area for our Space Cadets, a Shooting Star area for jumping dogs and the Super Nova module for larger, active dogs with a chasing playstyle.  On the exterior, we have the large outside yard, The Mesosphere, and a smaller dog area called The Stratosphere. Most important: There are never more than 10 dogs in a single playgroup.

3.)  Appropriate staff to dog ratio.  We ask our clients to try to either call to schedule the day before their dog is coming, or schedule on a recurring basis (the same days each week) so that we can ensure we have an adequate number of staff inside to safely supervise the dogs.  Proper certification educates facility owners to allow for 1 person for every 10 dogs, on average.  Sometimes, we provide even more staff, if we have a day with very active groups.

speak dog

4.)  Proper knowledge of dog body language.  In any facility, the staff on site must be able to head off behavioral issues (fights and bites) before they occur.  This is accomplished by understanding of the body language dogs routinely display while playing, when they’re stressed, and especially when there is about to be an altercation.  A daycare facility is not like your average dog park, where unknown dogs are turned out into an area together without assessment, division of sizes/ages, proper supervision and little or no knowledge of how dogs signal their intentions to one another.  In this sort of situation, dogs are often expected to “work it out” on their own—resulting in a fight.  Certification ensures that almost all of the time, this will not happen with us.

5.)  Proper knowledge of pet health and safety.  In order to gain CPACP status, Dave and I were required to understand how to inhibit transmission of zoonotic and vector borne disease as well as parasites within our facility, as well as demonstrate our knowledge of proper sanitation procedures on a day to day basis.  Also, there was a testing section devoted expressly to the safety of and escape plan for pets and staff within our facility due to an emergency.

trauma kit

Questions To Ask Yourself

In closing this article, I’d like to speak directly to that person reading this and thinking, “Well, I’ve taken my dog(s) to the same place for years and there has never been a problem.  Besides, it’s closer/cheaper/hours are better.”

Let me ask you this: How many incidents at an uncertified facility are ok?  How bad do they have to be before they’re a concern for you?  Would you rather pay a certified pet care provider or pay the vet when your pet is hurt or becomes ill?

If you live near Your Pet Space in Las Cruces, know that we do provide transport, home care for all types of pets, and offer many discounts for our services.  We will even work with you on drop off and pickup times.

So make sure your pet is safer….in a PACCC.

For more information about PACCC and independent certification, visit

Joy Jones

Joy Jones, Publisher, is also the Vice President of Your Pet Space, a cage free dog boarding facility serving the greater Las Cruces, NM area. Her urban fiction book Indigo was recently published. When not working at Your Pet Space, she writes a metaphysical column, as well as humor. You can e-mail her at or follow Your Pet Space on Facebook.

Finding the Perfect Dog

I began writing this to help senior citizens find the right dog. As I wrote, I realized that the information is beneficial to people of all ages who are looking for a dog. Companion animals (cats and dogs in particular) provide multiple health benefits to all individuals. The health benefits can include an increase in physical activity, social support and interaction, and a decrease in cardiovascular disease and depression. It seems that, on almost a daily basis, scientists are finding more benefits to having a dog or cat, which can be seen on both the animal and the human side of the relationship. However, as with any human-animal interaction, there are possible downfalls.

Am I the perfect dog for you?

All too many times, people get a new dog and the person and dog are not a good match for each other. The American Kennel Club (AKC) categorizes breeds of dogs into seven different groups; herding, hound, non-sporting, sporting, terrier, toy, and working. Breeds fit within each group based on the original job that they were bred to do. For example, the dogs in the sporting group are ones who are bred to assist hunters, the herding group is bred to protect and move livestock, and the terrier group is bred to go after rodents. In modern times, people breed dogs mostly for companionship rather than to do a job. However, the breeds still have some common behaviors that were originally bred into them when they needed to do a job effectively. Within each breed (Border Collie, West Highland White Terrier, Rottweiler, etc.) each individual dog has its own unique personality and temperament. When it comes time to get a new dog, the breed should play an important role in the selection process. For example, Huskies were originally bred to pull sleds long distances. Because of this, teaching a Husky to walk on a loose leash can be much harder than it is for other breeds, so they not ideal for a person with back issues or with shoulder, arm, or hand problems.

I have an 80-year-old client, let’s call her Debby, (names have been changed) who has a 1-year-old Border Collie named Thor. Debby has an older Pekingese, and she got Thor so she could have someone to walk. Debby’s doctors told her that, to help with her medical issues, she should be more active to decrease her pain and increase her blood circulation. Therefore, Debby wanted a more active dog to help keep her active.

Border Collies can be great dogs (for the right person).

If you’re unaware of typical behaviors in Border Collies, here are the basics: Border Collies were (and still are) bred to herd sheep. This allows a rancher to move flocks of sheep much easier, and it is less stressful for the livestock than herding with horses can be. Border Collies are extremely active, intelligent dogs that need constant training, exercise, and mental stimulation. I was called in to work with Thor because he was digging up Debby’s back yard, barking incessantly with complaints from the neighbors, jumping on people, and he could not be walked because he pulled. Thor is behaving the way he is because he is not getting the physical and mental stimulation required to keep a Border Collie happy and out of trouble. Because of this, Thor and Debby are not a good fit for each other. I do agree with Debby’s doctors that, the more active she becomes, the healthier she will get. Unfortunately, Debby hasn’t become more active with Thor, since he is currently so unruly that he cannot be handled.

If you’re looking for a dog, I highly recommend consulting a local trainer or behaviorist to help you find the perfect dog for your lifestyle. Some of the questions to ask yourself before you get a dog are:

What will your life be like in 5-10 years?

The average lifespan for a dog is 10+ years. If you are older, are you willing to accept that your dog may outlive you? If they do, what will happen to the dog? Also, do you see yourself moving into a smaller house or across the country?

These guys would like to know the plan for their futures!

Will you be getting the dog by yourself or with someone?

If you live with someone, make sure they are just as dedicated to having another dog as you are. If everyone in the house is on board, it makes adding a new family member much easier.

How much time can you dedicate to your dog?

If you’re retired, you may be at home frequently, but does that mean that you’re constantly with your dog, or will they be in the backyard by themselves most of the day? If they’re in the house, are they kenneled or do they have some freedom to roam around?

Can you afford to own an animal?

The cost to purchase a pure-bred animal can be extensive, but it is also important to remember that other costs are involved in having a dog. Food, veterinary care, supplies (leash, collar, tags, bowls, toys, beds, kennel, etc.), and training can all add up very quickly. These are all things that are constant and sometimes may be more expensive than others. For a more detailed break-down of the costs, check out the article What To Know Before Getting a New Dog: Part I.

Do you have support from others if you’re working late or traveling?

Sometimes, traveling has to happen. What are you going to do with your dog while you’re out of town or if you have to work late? Are you going to hire someone to come over to your house to take care of your dog? Are you going to pay a facility like Your Pet Space to board your dog while you’re gone? If you have a long day is your dog going to stay home alone or go to daycare?

She doesn’t want to have to spend 8+ hours a day in her crate.

How much household destruction can you handle?

Dogs, especially puppies, can easily destroy items in your house. Whether they are peeing or pooping in your house, chewing on your couch, or playing and knocking over breakables, are you willing or able to handle this?

If you already have a pet, is that pet likely to accept a new house mate?

Adding another animal into your house can be stressful for the pets you already have. If you have a cat and you get a new dog, will your new dog chase the cat? Also keep in mind the age(s) of the animals; if you have a 15 year old dog who has mobility issues, adding a puppy could cause more problems for your senior dog.

What do you hope to get out of the relationship with your dog?

Are you wanting a dog to cuddle with you? Do you want a walking buddy? Are you wanting a dog to do visitation work, become a therapy dog, or do agility? Do you want to do a lot of training? Knowing your goals for your future dog will help you find the best dog for your needs.

This dog is doing very well in his training classes!

Do you have the time and resources needed for proper training?

Some dogs take more training time than others. Are you willing to spend the time needed to give your dog everything they need, both mentally and physically? Are you willing to hire a trainer to help you one-on-one if you’re having issues that you cannot correct? Are you willing to remain consistent with your training?

What breed or mixes of breeds should I get?

Even if you’re planning on adopting, look at the American Kennel Club (AKC) website to get detailed information on a variety of breeds and their individual needs. Some dogs need more grooming than others, some are more fit for apartments, and others aren’t good with kids. Talk with a trainer, behaviorist, or veterinarian for their input on what breed(s) may be best for your lifestyle.

Should I get a puppy or an adult dog?

Many people want a puppy. Younger dogs take more training and they take more time to work through typical puppy problems like potty training and chewing. Getting an adult dog or a senior dog may be more fitting to your lifestyle. An adult dog is more likely to come with some known basic training, such as potty training. A senior dog is also a great companion for someone who wants to take slow walks every day, but spend the rest of the time relaxing on the couch.

Should I adopt or buy a dog from a breeder?

If you know me, I am all for adopting. Rescue dogs make wonderful family members, but I am not here to preach. If you want to purchase from a breeder, make sure you do your research and make sure they are a reputable breeder. You should avoid puppy mills, pet stores, or anything that seems “sketchy” as much as possible.

How do I pick the right dog?

To find the right dog, spend time answering and thinking through the above questions. Do some research. Most importantly, take your time. Just because you go out one day looking for a dog, that doesn’t mean you need to find one that day. A lot of the time when people make an “in the moment” decision, they end up with a dog that is not a good match, much like Debby and Thor. Are you wanting another Labrador Retriever because you had one a few years ago that was absolutely amazing? Remember, even dogs who are the same breed have their own individual personalities. Just because you had a lab who loved to go hiking and could be trusted off leash, doesn’t mean another lab will be the same way.

Do you feel right about it?

Are you feeling pressure to get a dog? When you meet the dog, you should know without a doubt that this is the right dog. Follow your gut.

Every person is different. Every dog is different. There is no one way to find the perfect companion. The above is meant to help people narrow down their thoughts and help in beginning the process of finding the right dog. Your fur-ever friend might just find you when you least expect it. Good luck!

Claren Wilson is the head trainer at Cloud K-9 Dog Training Services. She is a certified professional dog trainer knowledge assessed (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers. She is also a distinguished graduate from New Mexico State University where she completed her Bachelor Degree in Animal Science with an emphasis in Companion Animals. Before staring Cloud K-9, Claren worked at a veterinary clinic in Corrales, NM and was a trainer at Petco. While at Petco, Claren became a dog training mentor and received her AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluater certification. Claren is Pet First Aid and CPR certified. You may email her at, call her at 575-524-2041, or visit her website,