Maintaining pet health records for the benefit of your furry friends

Keeping accurate records of your pet’s health information can play a vital role in quickly recognizing and identifying your pet’s health issues. Additionally, if your regular veterinarian were not available in an emergency, another vet would be working without any reference points and not know your pet’s normal vital signs (pulse rate, temperature) or any medication that was previously prescribed.

The following is a list of the minimum information you should retain in your pet’s health file:

Description of your pet. Photos as well as a written description of your pet will help identify him and prove proof of ownership in the event your pet goes missing. The photographs should show your pet from different angles to highlight unique markings. A copy of proof of ownership should be kept with your health records but keep your original in a secure place (licenses, adoption records).

Normal vital signs. Your pet’s temperature, pulse, and respiratory rate are important indicators of general health. If you can do it yourself, take these measurements a few times and record the data noting the time of day and ambient temperature. This will allow you to establish a baseline. Knowing what is normal for your horse, dog, or cat will allow you to quickly notice and respond to any abnormalities. If your veterinarian has a record of the pet’s vital signs, ask him/her for a copy.

Deworming. In addition to marking on your calendar when your pet is due for deworming medication (if applicable), make a note of which product is used each time. Some types of worms can become immune to the medication after a while. Your vet can provide advice specific for your pet and your geographic region.

Grooming. If you send your pet out for grooming, note the date of each visit and list the type of grooming that was done. This will help you to determine a plan for regular appointments in the future.

Vaccinations. Make a note of all vaccinations that your pet has received and the date on which they were given. Travel to certain parts of the country may be restricted if you do not have up-to-date records of vaccinations.

Medications. List any drugs your pet receives, along with the dosage, whether it’s an ongoing treatment or a short-term antibiotic. Note any side effects as well and report them to your veterinarian. You should also include any feed supplements on this list as they may have interactions with any prescribed medication.

Minor injuries. If your pet has had any minor injuries, make a note of when and how they were treated.

Veterinary visits. Record every veterinary visit including the reason for the visit, the treatment performed by the vet, and any treatment you must administer. Make a note to yourself to follow up with the vet if any diagnostic tests are performed.

Dentistry. If your pet has his teeth cleaned or removed, record this information. Note any other dental procedures.

A simple notebook with an annual calendar may be sufficient for recording information if you’ve only got one or two pets. Mashable has a list of apps that are good for recordkeeping for both dog owners and cat owners.

Many horse farms have a large calendar posted so that the humans know which days the veterinarian and farrier are scheduled to be at the stable. This is great for a facility that has horses with different owners. Rendaivu offers an app that allows horse owners and stable managers to record, organize, and search horse health records from a smartphone.

Keeping good records for your pets shouldn’t be a chore. There are many different ways to manage the information. Owners should speak with their veterinarians about specific medical record recommendations for their pets. Often vets will pass along free medical record sheets provided by animal health companies. These health sheets can be kept in a three-ring binder with other papers on which notes are taken.

Regardless of which method you use to record your pet’s health information (paper or electronic), leave a copy with anyone else who may care for your pet from time to time.

Remember, healthy pets are happy pets! If you have any preferred apps for managing the health of your pets, share them with fellow pet lovers in the comments.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2013

  • Unitasker Wednesday: Nail Perfect
    This gigantic doodad is to help you avoid painting your finger as part of the fingernail-painting process. But, you still have to clean the machine, it slows down the process, and it DOESN’T WORK ON TOES!

2012

  • Unitasker Wednesday: Easy 2 Pick Luggage Locator
    The flashing, sound notification, and vibrating don’t increase in intensity the closer you get to your bag. You’re simply made aware that somewhere, within 90 feet of you, is what you’re searching for. A wee bit cruel, if you ask me.

2011

2010

  • Getting your child out the door in the morning, on time
    If you have school-age children, you’re well aware that some mornings can be difficult. Even highly organized children have a few mornings each month where there is a melt down and things fall apart. Here are a few tips to help get your children (and you) out the door on time.

2009

A quick Friday link

It’s been a long week and I am so thankful it is finally Friday. Instead of putting up a long post today, I want to simply direct you to a fairly long interview I did with the financial website Mint.com.

In the article, I talk about how I got started working with Unclutterer, provide some insights on why we buy so much stuff, and then end with a little financial advice I’ve picked up over the years.

Expert Interview with Erin Rooney Doland on Uncluttering

Feel welcome to check it out and have a great weekend, everyone. Happy uncluttering!

The clutter we rarely notice

Our homes and offices can have everything in place and still be cluttered because some of those well organized things are actually things we could do without. We may not even notice the organized clutter because we’ve often lived with those things for quite some time.

Sitting on a bookshelf in my living room is a very nice music system, the components chosen with care about 15 years ago to replace a much larger system. But a few days ago, I realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had used it! I like music, but I don’t enjoy having background music on while I work, read, or do household chores. And if I did want music, I could choose some that I have in a digital format. Now I’m considering getting rid of the system because I’ve realized that, at least in my life, it’s just clutter.

Our lives change, but the things that fill our lives don’t always keep pace. I’ve had many people tell me they could never get rid of any of their books. But when we looked carefully at their bookshelves, they found plenty of books to give away because their needs and interests had evolved.

Here are some other types of clutter that can be hiding in plain sight: collections that no longer bring you joy, art that’s no longer to your taste, and pantry items you’ll never use because your style of cooking has changed. A nicely labeled bin of holiday decorations in the garage, attic, or basement is just clutter if you no longer choose to decorate for that holiday.

Similarly, you can have beautifully organized files full of papers there’s no reason to keep. My favorite example: My mother used to keep all her old utility bills, from an apartment in another state, neatly filed away.

Of course, we can have hidden digital clutter, too. We can have nicely organized computer files full of documents we’d discard in a moment if we remembered they were there. We can have useful apps organized on our smartphones alongside apps we haven’t used in years or will never use again.

Sometimes the hidden clutter is stuff we’ve purposely chosen to hide. Many people have never-used gifts hiding out in the back of closets or on shelves in the garage.

This hidden clutter doesn’t seem to be as problematic as the more obvious clutter, but it can still be worth tackling. My music system might as well be sold or donated (giving me a financial benefit) or given away to someone who will use it. And keeping our spaces uncluttered makes it easier to clean, easier to move, and easier to find storage space for the things we really do want.

If you decide to look for (and dispose of) the hidden clutter in your own spaces, I would recommend reading Erin’s post on strategies for seeing clutter. I’d be interested in hearing about what you find, so share your experiences with us in the comments.

Unitasker Wednesday: The Selfie Brush

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

If the dictionary were to have pictures instead of words providing definitions, the entries for vanity and absurdity would only need this picture:

The Selfie Brush is, exactly as its name implies, a brush for you to use when consumed with the process of taking a selfie.

Technically, it is a brush and a cell phone case and a mirror and an arm extender. Regardless of its multiple functions, however, it leaves us asking two questions that we feel make the Selfie Brush an undeniable unitasker:

  1. Why?!! WHY?!!!! WHY?!!!!!
  2. The more existential question, “Is this really how far we’ve fallen as humanity?”

Many thanks to Dave for stumbling upon this unitasker while reading an article on Engadget.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2013

  • Organizing for emergencies
    Although I hope you never have to go through a crisis, by following these organisational steps, you’ll be able to survive with much less stress.

2011

2010

2009

  • Unitasker Wednesday: Itzbeen
    It’s called the Itzbeen because it is a timer that tracks how long “it has been” since you last fed, changed, or put your child down for a nap. You know, in case your screaming live human infant isn’t a clue that you are neglecting him, or if it isn’t extremely obvious that the breathing lump of flesh next to you is your napping child.

Updating the kids’ school stuff landing area

Back in 2012, I described the “landing area” that my wife and I had created for our kids’ school stuff. After two years of use, experience pointed out aspects of our area that weren’t working well for us. We’ve since re-designed the whole space and the result is more efficient. Sometimes you need a year-long, hands-on trial to work out the kinks.

Making changes

In 2012, I wrote, “My wife and I have identified a small cabinet just inside the back door to our house … Now, the kids enter and just as they’re tempted to shed their backpacks, hats, gloves and coats like molting snakes, they see the table right in their path.”

First change, the cabinet has been replaced. It was bulky and took up a good chuck of the space in our house’s very small entrance. Plus, papers and such were getting shoved into the back of the cabinet where we wouldn’t find them for days. Today, we’re using a broad, flat (and inexpensive) table from IKEA. As you can see in the image below, we’ve used duct tape to mark off three sections: one per child. They know to put their important papers, assignment materials and anything that needs to come out of the backpack onto the table and in their “slot.”

Speaking of backpacks, in 2012 I wrote: “We bought a small, child-sized coat tree from a discount department store to hold two backpacks. It works great and, since the backpacks are all that the tree holds, it handles their bulk easily.”

The coat tree did not survive the year. Heavy bags toppled it over several times, and it was wobbly and unstable before the school year ended. Today, I’ve put sturdy, steel hooks into the wall. I picked these up at the hardware store for next to nothing. We’ve got them lined up vertically, so the tallest kid puts her back on the top hook, and the shortest on the bottom. Plus, since the kids are encouraged to empty the contents of their backpacks onto the table each day, their backpacks are a lot lighter than they were last year.

Three more wall hooks hold sweatshirts and jackets.

Also gone are the “inbox and outboxes” for home/school communication. These eventually got filled with pens and then pencils and then packs of gum and then, well, you get the idea. Today, the table serves that purpose.

Some things stay the same

We haven’t changed everything. I’m sad to report that we’re still assembling lunches and snacks early in the morning (I wish we could get in the habit of doing it the night before). And now, irrespective of when the lunches are made, I place them on the table in the kids’ “slots” with the understanding that the kids will grab them and place them in their bags themselves. Finally, the “library book basket” is still in place. It’s there to hold school library books and school library books only! I’m sure the school is as tired of sending me threatening library letters as I am receiving them.

We’ve also encouraged the kids to use the setup, just as we did last year. That amounted to literally standing them in the room, explaining the components of the landing area, and what they’re expected to do with their stuff in this space. I’m sure they’ll forget every now and again, but, hey, they’re kids, and that is to be expected.

Now that we’re a few weeks into the school year, I’m curious: how do you manage the kids’ landing area? Any improvements over previous years?

Part 3: An uncluttered back-to-school transition

In my opinion, one of the best parts of kids being in school is that it can bring more routine into their lives and yours. Years of research by social scientists strongly concludes that routines help children adjust better to new situations and also improves the overall happiness of a family. For the school year to run smoothly, routines are a valuable key, and schedules and calendars are a great way to get started creating this practice.

Although it might seem a bit cumbersome, I suggest each family have at minimum a shared calendar and a shared routine schedule. Then, each person in the family will likely want a personal calendar (and maybe even a personal routine) to keep track of things like homework, projects, and personal to-do items.

A family calendar

Whether digital or print, there needs to be a calendar everyone in the family can post items to and review together. In our house, we’re currently using a 17-month Chalkboard Wall Grid Calendar that Paper Source sent to me (it’s pictured at right). I’ve embellished extremely important dates with some Washi Tape, but mostly we just write shared events onto the calendar with a black pen — nothing too fancy or a pain to update.

I also continue to love Martha Stewart’s Chalkboard Paint Wall Calendar, and if we owned our home I would immediately paint this up on a wall. A big visual calendar provides lots of room to write important family events, as well as creates decoration for what might otherwise be a plain wall.

If your kids are older, a shared digital calendar like Google Calendar (great for all mobile devices) or Fantastical (for iPhone) might be a good alternative for you.

The most important parts of keeping a family calendar are 1. remembering to add items to the calendar, and 2. reviewing the calendar each evening so everyone in the family is in-tune with tomorrow’s events. In our house, we add important events to the calendar as they pop up and then review the calendar each night as a family before the kids take their baths. Some families choose to review the calendar during the evening family meal, which is also good for keeping conversations going. The only warning about talking about the calendar at dinner time is if you keep the calendar digitally it means everyone will come to the meal with an electronic device (this is a no-no in our house, but I know it’s not the same for all families).

For more information on calendars, read our in-depth article “Family calendars.”

A family routine

If you’ve read my book Unclutter Your Life in One Week, you know I’m a detailed routine planner listing specific times and tasks to complete each day. Currently, with a toddler at home full time, two adults who work primarily from our home office, and an elementary schooler with a lot of energy and a handful of extracurricular activities, our house would fall into complete disarray if we didn’t keep to such a regimented schedule.

I’ve heard numerous complaints over the years from people saying that routines are dull and kill creativity and fun. I find them to be the exact opposite. Because our family has routines in place for the repeated activities at home, the things that must get done do so without much effort or thought and then leave us free to enjoy ourselves the rest of the time. When we head out to the zoo or a festival or go on vacation, we live purely in those moments. We’re not thinking about dishes or laundry or other things we should be doing — because those things are done or scheduled to be completed at a specific time. Our free time is truly free because our routines make this possible.

I recommend creating a family routine in Excel or a similar grid-style software program. Include all seven days of the week and break down responsibilities to the house by time of day and who will complete the task. For variety, you can switch up who does what on different days, or you may choose to keep the same responsibilities with each person if that is easier for your family. As you crate your routine chart, be realistic about how much you can do and how long tasks take to complete. Time yourself for a number of days to make sure you aren’t underestimating the length of a task.

Our family routine chart includes items like packing lunches, creating weekly meal plans, grocery shopping, feeding and caring for pets, regularly scheduled lessons and appointments, laundry, dishes, chores throughout the house, and even who puts the trash can out on the curb for pickup and who brings it back. We also identify which load of laundry is done each day — clothes on Mondays, towels on Tuesdays, more clothes on Thursdays, and sheets on Fridays.

At the start of each month we review the routine chart as a family and add and subtract and make alterations as necessary. Everyone receives a printed copy of the routine chart on the first day of each month.

For more information on creating routines, read our detailed article “Routines can make even the most unsavory tasks easy” and check out pages 98-99 of my book.

Personal calendars

In addition to the shared family calendar, each person in our home (except for the toddler) has a personal calendar. Our son keeps track of school assignments and violin practice records in his pocket calendar provided by his school. My husband, who loves all things digital, uses Google Calendar. He uses Gmail, so it’s even easier for him to schedule items that come into his inbox because the programs are integrated. I’m a tactile person, so I use the Staples Arc Planner for my appointments and obligations. (And, on the off-chance you’re curious, I use the Emergent Task Planner by David Seah for my to-do list. I have an Arc Planner hole punch, so the pages fit right into my Arc Planner.)

The personal calendars my husband and I keep are primarily full of work-related items, but other activities are included. It can be easy to forget to put family-related items on the family calendar if you also keep a personal calendar, so I recommend scheduling into your daily routines a time to transfer relevant information from your personal calendar to your family calendar. If you keep a digital calendar, this is extremely simple since all you typically have to do is check a box indicating all of the calendars with which you would like to share the appointment.

How do you keep your family on the proverbial “same page”? What routines do you find to be the most helpful? What has worked for your family and what has failed miserably? Thankfully, in our home, we’ve found that the research about routines being beneficial has been accurate. As long as we keep to our routines, life runs much more smoothly than when we don’t. Our home is also at a fairly consistent state of order, which makes having friends over to visit extremely simple and helps to keep our stress levels low.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2013

2012

2010

2009

Uncluttering the sounds in our lives

“The sounds we live with should be useful, spiritually enhancing, or exceedingly beautiful. All the rest is clutter.” — Katherine Gibson, in Unclutter Your Life

When we think about clutter, we rarely think about sounds. But managing the sounds we let into our lives can definitely make our lives better. The following are some of the sounds in many of our homes and offices, along with ideas about how we can control or improve them.

Alarm clocks

For a long time, I woke up to an alarm clock with a pleasant chime. I’ve recently realized that my clock is a unitasker I may no longer need, and I’ve switched to waking up to music selected from a playlist on my iPad. Other people like the Philips wake-up light, which gradually lights up the room over a 30-minute period, so you may wake without an alarm sound at all. (But if the light doesn’t wake you, it’s followed by an alarm: natural sounds such as birdsong, or an FM radio station.) And these are just a few of the many choices available when it comes to alarm clocks.

Some people may need an alarm clock with a jarring sound in order to wake up. However, if you’re not one of those people, why not start the day with sounds you enjoy?

Ring tones and other alerts

I still have a landline, and I don’t like the standard telephone ring sound. Therefore, I’ve installed a Now and Zen Tibetan phone bell, which sounds quite pleasant.

In our digital lives, we have smartphones and other devices that alert us to calls, texts, emails, and more. That means figuring out which items are worth an audible alert, and then picking sounds that work for us. (Like Dave, you might enjoy Cleartones.)

Annoying sounds

Some items are inherently noisy, but we can at least consider the noise factor when making new purchases. When my garbage disposal broke and I had to replace it, I was amazed at how much quieter the new one was. One of the many things I like about my shredder is that it’s quieter than many others.

The sounds of those we live with

Conversation, laughter, song — these are some of the good sounds we might share with those we live with. And some sounds, such as a baby’s cry, are important for us to hear.

But sometimes we don’t want to (or need to) hear our family members. For example, does someone in the family play an instrument, which involves a lot of repetitive practice that drives others to distraction? When possible, try to provide a space where this practice can be done without everyone else having to listen. This might mean a room that’s away from where the rest of the family congregates. Soundproofing is another possibility.

The sounds of our surroundings

Sometimes we can control the sounds from outside our homes. While it’s never a sure thing, landscaping can be designed to attract birds or frogs. At certain times of year, I hear frogs croaking in my yard, and I love it; other people would find it annoying. People who find wind chimes to be “exceedingly beautiful” can often hang them outside their homes; people who don’t can remove any left by prior tenants.

Other sounds we can’t eliminate — such as noisy strangers sitting near us on an airline flight. If such sounds are a frequent problem, investing in noise-canceling headphones might be worthwhile.

Another unavoidable sound for some is ongoing street noise. While we can try to select apartments, homes, and hotel rooms without street noise, sometimes that’s not an option. In such cases, a white noise machine — or sometimes just the white noise of a fan — can be a big help. A more drastic and expensive option would be installing soundproof windows.

Yes, some of these solutions involve adding one more thing to our lives. But if that thing allows us to get a good night’s sleep, or if it allows us to concentrate when concentration is needed, it’s probably a worthwhile addition. Being an unclutterer doesn’t mean depriving ourselves of things that significantly enhance our lives.

Unitasker Wednesday: Beer Foamer

All Unitasker Wednesday posts are jokes — we don’t want you to buy these items, we want you to laugh at their ridiculousness. Enjoy!

This is the first time in a long time that I have no idea why anyone — and I mean not a single human being — would need this unitasker. Usually, I can think of one person with some kind of special need, but not with this device. Absolutely no one needs this. Introducing the pointless Beer Foamer:

For starters, when you pour beer out of a tap or a bottle or a can, it foams. Heck, just the natural movement of bringing a glass, can, or bottle to your mouth to take a sip makes a beer foam. There is no need for a special tool. Foam happens.

I’m seriously bewildered by this device. The most positive thing I can think to say about this confusing device is that it looks fun to use. Whirrrrrrrrrr!

Thanks to reader Kelly for bringing this unitasker (no-tasker??) to our attention. Wow.

A year ago on Unclutterer

2010

2009

  • Letting go of sentimental clutter
    Eight tips from The Arizona Republic newspaper to help you decide what of your emotional clutter needs to go and what isn’t clutter and should be displayed.