Q: I am looking for a year-end gift for my daughter's elementary school teacher who loves animals. Can you suggest something special?
A: If your daughter wants to show her appreciation by giving her teacher something memorable, let me share a few of my favorite ideas.
1. Adopt the teacher's next class by providing a subscription to Kind News, an 8-page magazine that inspires children to learn about animals and think about why treating animals and people with respect and kindness is important. Kind News, which is aligned with national teaching standards and easily incorporated into the curriculum, is published five times during the school year.
The publication is available as Kind News, Jr. for kindergarten through grade 2, and Kind News for grades 3 to 6. A classroom subscription, which includes 28 copies and a Teacher Guide, costs $30 per year. Contact the publisher, RedRover, a national animal welfare nonprofit organization, at https://kindnews.redrover.org or 916-241-3513.
2. Donate a flock of chickens in the teacher's name to Heifer International to help children and families around the world become self-reliant. Chickens produce eggs, which provide children with much-needed protein and their families with income from selling the extra eggs. As the flock grows, recipients give some of their chickens to neighbors, so your gift helps multiple families.
A flock of chicks costs $20; other animals are also available for donation. The gift includes education in environmentally sound, sustainable agricultural methods. Contact Heifer International at https://www.heifer.org or 855-948-6437.
3. Please excuse the shameless promotion in this last gift idea. My books, Ask the Vet: Answers to Your Most Important Dog Questions, and Ask the Vet: Answers to Your Most Important Cat Questions, are available in paperback ($9.99) and digitally ($6.99). Visit https://askthevet.pet for more information.
Q: My dog Daisy takes medication for her heart disease. The veterinarian recommended chest X-rays or an echocardiogram with the cardiologist to monitor her heart function, but I can't afford either at this time. Without them, how will I know if her heart disease is getting worse?
A: Monitor Daisy's sleeping respiratory rate, or SRR, the number of breaths she takes per minute while she's sleeping quietly. Count how many times her chest expands on inhalation, gets smaller on exhalation, and then pauses; each cycle is one breath.
Don't count when she's actively dreaming and her body is twitching, or when she's breathing fast because she's especially warm after falling asleep in the sun.
Research shows that healthy dogs and those with stable heart conditions have SRRs under 30 breaths per minute. An abnormally high SRR can predict the onset of congestive heart failure, the term used when the heart becomes so weak that fluid backs up in the chest and sometimes the abdomen, and breathing becomes difficult.
Check Daisy's SRR daily for a week to establish her baseline. Then monitor and record her SRR every few days. If you see the number increasing, return to daily monitoring.
If her SRR climbs above 30 for two or three days, call your animal hospital to schedule an appointment. Your veterinarian may decide to transition Daisy to a prescription heart diet, change the dose of her heart medicine, add another medication to improve her heart function or recommend additional testing.
Lee Pickett, VMD, practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Visit https://askthevet.pet to buy the Ask the Vet books.
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