Now's a good time to launch a fresh offensive on fleas, especially in areas known for mild winters.
As you're planning your assault, remember that all the powders, sprays and baths in the world aren't going to help your pet if you don't hit the house and yard, too. Flea control works only when pets, house and yard are treated at the same time.
One of the best ways to organize the task is to send your pets out for flea treatment while spraying your house and yard with compounds with quick knock-down and long-term control potential. Products that contain insect growth-restricting hormones, such as Precor, are harmless to people and pets, but they prevent flea eggs from developing into biting adults.
Don't forget to make good use of your vacuum cleaner and washing machine while fighting fleas. Wash pet bedding and vacuum pet areas frequently to pick up adult and developing fleas. Vacuum up some flea powder at the same time to kill fleas in the bag, and change bags frequently.
With a big effort now, your pets could be mostly flea-free until the spring.
Another fall project for many people is changing antifreeze in the car, but it's a do-it-yourself project that can be deadly if proper care isn't taken.
Antifreeze is a sweet-smelling chemical that animals may be tempted to taste. Others may lick some off their paws after walking through a spill. The solution is so deadly that the amount licked off paws could kill a small pet within 24 hours.
The best way to prevent such a tragedy is to make sure antifreeze is kept off-limits to pets (and children!). Keep the chemical tightly sealed in containers, wipe up spills immediately and dispose of old fluid properly.
If you see your pet ingesting even the smallest amount, or exhibiting lack of coordination, weakness or vomiting, contact your veterinarian right away. Quick medical intervention is your pet's only chance.
The Christmas shopping season has arrived, and with it, the firs of a handful of gift books for pet lovers. The earliest -- and sure to be one of the best of the season -- is British veterinarian David Taylor's "The Ultimate Dog Book" (Simon and Schuster, $29.95).
The information in the book, although complete and informative, breaks no new ground, but the design and illustrations are nothing short of spectacular. The heart of the book is a breed-by-breed look at dozens of different dogs, each with a double-page spread dominated by a color picture so large that for the toy breeds they're practically life-size, and so sharp that the whiskers on a schnauzer can easily be counted. It's a pleasure to look at, and a useful reference text.
Since it's a British book, there are breeds that Americans aren't the least bit familiar with, like the Bracco Italiano, an Italian hunting dog that looks something like a rust-and-white-colored cross between abloodhound and a German short-haired pointer. Some breeds look different, like the golden retriever, which in England more closely resembles a stocky, long-haired Labrador retriever, and the Shetland sheep dog, which is more delicate than those preferred by American fanciers.
One change made by Mr. Taylor's American publishers was to add small pictures of ear-cropped versions of many breeds (ear cropping is banned as cruelty in England, as in much of Europe). Maybe comparing the pictures and seeing how lovely the dogs look without cosmetic surgery will nudge more than a few Americans to abandon this barbaric practice.
"The Ultimate Dog Book" is a great gift for any dog-lover, but the dog-lover who buys it had better buy two: one to give, and one to keep.
Q: Is there such a thing as a "wire-haired" basset houndSomeone told me they saw one on a TV show.
A: What they saw was probably a basset griffon Vendeen, long-haired French dog often thought to be related to the popular low-slung hound. According to fancier Kitty Stiedel, however, the breeds really share only their name ("basset" refers to their height) and their country of origin. "The basset griffon Vendeen is strong-boned, not heavy-boned," said Ms. Stiedel, secretary of the national breed club. "They're also not as long in body as the basset hound." The basset griffon Vendeen comes in two sizes, "petit" and "grand." In the United States, the petit basset griffon Vendeen (called the PBGV by its fans, especially those who aren't adept at French pronunciation) is a member of the American Kennel Club's "miscellaneous" class, although it will be moving into the "hound" group Feb. 1. The larger "grand" variety is not recognized by the AKC.
For a free pamphlet on the breed, send a self-addressed, stamped business-sized envelope to the PBGV Club of America, 8416 North 74th Place, Scottsdale, Ariz. 85258.
Bird-lovers are putting their pets at risk with seed-only diets, according to a report released at the American Veterinary Medical Association convention recently in Texas.
"All-seed diets are responsible for a lot of illness," said avian specialist Thomas Vice of San Antonio. "My advice to bird owners is to seek counsel from a veterinarian or reputable bird breeder to develop appropriate diet and ensure proper care."
Ms. Spadafori is a licensed pet trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o At Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278.