Healthy living isn’t limited to humans—your pet needs special care, too
This may not be surprising news if you’re one of the 72.9 million American households that counts at least one animal among your family members, but pets are just like people when it comes to health and well-being. Not only are more of us pet owners today, we’re interested in treating our pets as well as we treat ourselves. Natural pet food sales and products alone now comprise a $4 billion dollar industry, and some experts project this industry will grow by ten to fifteen percent each year.
Gone are the days of cookie cutter care; like us, pets’ brains and bodies are varied and complex. Nutrition, play, and physical and emotional health can all benefit from a think-outside-the-box approach, as these three local providers demonstrate.
Tabby and Jack’s
At Tabby and Jack’s, where owner Michelle Lonergan and her staff provide biologically appropriate diets, positive reinforcement dog training, holistic daycare and more, communicating in dog-speak is key.
“Dogs have a necessity to have a pack leader,” says Lonergan, adding that she fosters a positive work environment because dogs intuitively pick up people’s energy. “We’re very particular about who we hire because if he or she can’t take on that role, then one of the other dogs will. And then you’ve got trouble.”
It’s not a discipline thing, says Lonergan, it’s about a pecking order—dogs feel safest and happiest when they know exactly where they stand and just what is expected of them. That’s why Lonergan caps daycare at fifteen dogs (unlike doggy daycares that might take up to one hundred animals) and it’s why she groups sizes and breeds together. The dogs naturally form a pack, getting to know one another and their respective places in a calm and controlled, yet energizing and social environment that translates to well-behaved dogs at home.
“Dogs need direction. They communicate differently, and getting that message to them in a positive way is important,” says Lonergan. “They are so much happier if they know how to make you happy.”
What dogs eat is just as critical as how they socialize. Lonergan believes in a biologically appropriate diet, one that mimics how canine ancestors ate in the wild. Tabby and Jack’s carries six lines of raw, fresh, fully-formulated and ready-to-eat foods, eliminating the guesswork for human shoppers. She says it’s not enough to simply feed your dog, say, a pack of hamburger; in the wild, he would have eaten a whole animal with added components such as cartilage, a natural source of glucosamine chondroitin essential to hip and joint health, or stomach lining—tripe—loaded with enzymes that aid digestion.
“They instinctively eat those things because they know that’s what their bodies need. So when we have our domesticated canines, we need to make sure that their raw diets are balanced,” Lonergan says. “As a kid, I learned about all the garbage that’s allowed in pet food because there are very low standards industry-wide. As responsible pet owners it’s really our job to look at the labels and decipher what’s good and what’s not, which can be really overwhelming for somebody that is not familiar with the pet industry.”
Lonergan, who grew up helping out at the Rockford, Illinois animal sanctuary her parents founded before she opened Tabby and Jack’s in Fitchburg in 2007 and Middleton in 2014, says her store’s main mission is to educate people—especially about the ways her industry might fall short. When it has made sense to provide an alternative, she’s added services over the years like the holistic daycare, or the grooming services she now offers.
“Again, there’s an industry that isn’t regulated at all in the state of Wisconsin,” says Lonergan, who won’t groom more than two dogs in the same room at the same time, uses hand-held velocity dryers instead of cage dryers (which she calls “profitable” for groomers but “invasive” for dogs), and keeps “happy hoodies” on hand to muffle sound, easing a pet’s anxiety. “Anybody can groom a dog, you don’t have to be licensed or certified or have any training, so we set some different standards here.”
The grooming, daycare and nutrition, along with services such as positive reinforcement training and drop-in, owner-supervised playgroups, all serve to exemplify Lonergan’s holistic philosophy.
“We’re providing service for the complete dog,” says Lonergan, “mind, body and soul.”
UW Veterinary Care
When people visit their primary doctors or find themselves in the emergency room, there’s a fair chance a specialist will be enlisted or ongoing care will be needed. The same goes for animals, who are just as prone to injury or illness as their human companions.
“When clients come in to see one doctor, they often end up working with maybe two or three other services,” says Dr. Ruthanne Chun, director of UW Veterinary Care at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. “It’s definitely a team of people that will be working with your animal.”
At UW Veterinary Care, pets of all stripes—dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds, lizards, turtles, horses, cattle, camelids, you name it—receive world-class care spanning twenty different specialty areas. It’s something many people still don’t realize.
“One of the things that we have to offer that’s different from every other place is just the breadth of services and number of heads, hearts and hands that are on our animals and the people that come with them,” says Chun.
The idea of bringing one’s beloved pet to a teaching hospital might give some people pause, but that’s an unfounded misgiving. Just like traditional medical school, veterinary medicine is a four-year program with post-graduate internships, residencies and specialty training. In addition to the experienced, licensed and board-certified veterinarians—who all teach as they work—some may even be local vets who’ve returned to school to add a specialty to their practices. In fact many of the Madison area’s specialty veterinarians and technicians, from emergency vets to oncologists, were trained right here in this teaching hospital.
“We have more specialists and specialty services than any other veterinary medical hospital in Wisconsin,” says Chun of the essentially self-funded primary care, emergency and specialty referral services that are open the public twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. “Our veterinary medical students are in the hospital with us and they’re learning by listening, they’re learning by talking to the clients, by doing physical examinations on animals. Another part of training is learning what I can do as a veterinarian in practice and when should I refer to somebody to help me, because we’ve got the capabilities here to do that.”
With access to groundbreaking research, cutting-edge technology and specialists in fields including cardiology, oncology, neurology, dermatology, ophthalmology, dentistry, oral surgery, large animal reproduction and more, students are mentored by highly trained professionals, all of which can benefit your pet. Chun, whose specialty happens to be oncology, gives the example of cancer—many pet owners don’t realize animals develop cancer at essentially the same rate as humans. UW veterinarians not only perform surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immune therapy, they counsel on quality-of-life options and have board certified anesthesiologists who are also certified in acupuncture. Wisconsin’s veterinary medical school is internationally known for its clinical trials with dogs with cancer, and it’s one of only two veterinary hospitals in the world with a Tomotherapy unit.
Although routine preventive care and emergency services are available here, UW Veterinary Care’s main strength is working within the community as a tertiary care facility—again because, just like with humans, animals can suffer from chronic, ongoing health conditions such as heart issues, diabetes, kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more. Your pet may receive a referral from your trusted local vet, then head to UW Veterinary Care for highly specialized treatment from any one of a full roster of board-certified veterinary specialists.
“We really respect and appreciate all the practitioners that refer cases to us here in Madison,” says Chun.
When Lisa Hartman brought this successful, national pet-sitting and dog-walking service to Madison in January of last year, she knew her biggest hurdle would be educating the public as to what her unique service even was.
“My challenge was just educating Madison and the surrounding area that professional dog walking services and pet care outside of a traditional boarding facility exist,” says Hartman, owner of Out-U-Go! Madison, a franchise whose parent company was established in 1996. But she needn’t have worried. “I am proud and thrilled that the Madison area has responded so favorably to our business,” she says. “In our first year we have provided almost seven thousand pet visits. We have close to four hundred pet parents that we care for.”
Billing themselves as pet specialists, Hartman’s Out-U-Go! team provides individualized attention spanning a full range of residential pet-care services including dog walking, cat and critter care, overnight house-sitting services, pet taxi services and, of course, “belly rubs,” she laughs. It’s the perfect option for pets that don’t quite fit into the boarding model, or for families who only want doggy daycare once or twice a week, if at all. Out-U-Go! provides an affordable, professional, insured, safe and fun alternative or complement to existing services.
“A lot of people don’t even realize they have an option like ours,” says Hartman. “We’re a great alternative for dogs that might get overwhelmed in a daycare, or maybe they’re dog-aggressive or, for whatever reason, it just hasn’t worked out. That’s where we come in.”
To get started, Hartman visits potential “pet parents” in their homes, familiarizes herself with an animal and its needs, then matches each one by temperament and behavior to one of her thirteen vetted, trained staff members. Out-U-Go! staffers come out as often or as little as you wish—to feed the cat, scratch the bunny, converse with the bird or get the dog out for a potty break, physical exercise and mental stimulation. Out-U-Go! also provides house-sitting and overnight stays with pets, and keeps to a one dog-walker per household ratio.
“People might have a misconception that they have to use us every day,” says Hartman. “We are completely flexible and customized to whatever the pet parent needs.”
Hartman, a Wisconsin native with an MBA from Edgewood College, has also volunteered at the Dane County Humane Society (where she remains an active donor) and works with a number of rescue pets. She spent fifteen years creating customer experiences with human clients from her former life in the corporate world, and now works to bring that same top-level attention and care to canine and cat companions.
“Our accessibility and reliability set us apart in pet care,” says Hartman.