Thursday, April 30, 2009

Adopting a Special Needs Pet

I live with a wonderful, happily “normal” American Staffordshire Terrier named Skye. But Skye has special needs, and adopting a pet with special needs is not for everyone. You need to do your homework and make sure this is a task you want to undertake, because no matter how much you love this animal, some days may feel like a chore to you. I have been very lucky and don’t feel that Skye is any burden at all, but some of the sites I did research on mention that a pet with special needs is just that. They mention that you may have emotional issues after adopting a pet with special needs. They also mention that you should remember to give yourself a pat on the back when you need one, because after all you have taken on an animal that may have issues, and you are to be congratulated for shouldering the responsibility.

Most of my dogs had special needs of one kind or another. My first dog lost a foot in a lawn mower accident. Smokey Bear had issues with a certain type of person after being beaten by his owner’s boyfriend. So your special needs pet may not have a medical problem; it could be emotional or psychological as well.

You need to make sure you are financially able to take care of their needs in addition to your own. If your special needs pet requires regular vet visits to monitor medication amounts in their blood, or tests to make sure their organs are functioning normally, you need to be able to cover any fees this entails. I will tell you now, there are a lot of pet insurance companies that will not cover pre-existing conditions. I found that out before I even adopted Skye. If your special needs pet must sleep in a crate at night or have a crate when traveling, can you afford it? If they need any special equipment to be able to move around, you need to consider the fees for purchasing the equipment. Will there have to be adjustments to that equipment as your special needs pet ages?

If you choose to travel with them, you need to make sure that your special pet is welcome where you are going. If they are on medication, you need to have enough for your trip and several extra days, in case your return home is delayed. The same thing goes for their food if they are on a special diet. Traveling with a pet with special needs can be like traveling with a human baby. Along with a regular leash and collar you need to have the food you are feeding, any medication they are on and an enclosure they can rest inside safely. If they are on other supplements or need special water, you need to have that with you too.

If you are unable to travel with your special needs pet, you need to find someone who can take care of your pet. The person you choose should be responsible and able to medicate your pet if they need any shots or special medications. They should also be able to get your pet to the vet in a timely manner if the need arises.

There are many joys associated with adopting a pet with special needs. While we have encountered some issues with Skye, they were not insurmountable. Someone recently asked me if I would adopt Skye again, if I were given the chance to go back. My answer was a resounding “Yes.”

Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Skye, My Special Needs Dog

I have mentioned my American Staffordshire Terrier Skye in several of my articles. Some of you may know of her health issues, but I thought I would share them with you because dogs, cats and other animals with special needs need loving homes too.

I was not going to get another dog for a while after losing my last AmStaff Smokey Bear to old age at over 19 years old. I live in the country and have done so for over ten years now, with never a qualm of being in the “boonies,” as some of my friends call it. However, a violent crime a few miles from my house changed my thinking and after discussing it with my boyfriend, we began looking for another dog to share our lives with.

I found a breeder who had a retired AmStaff that needed a home; however, after discussing her with the breeder I found out that the dog’s handler wanted to adopt her, too. I didn’t feel right about taking her away from the only family she had ever known, and the breeder understood. The breeder mentioned she had another dog that needed a home, but she was hesitant because this dog (Skye) had special needs. Skye is a beautiful representation of the American Staffordshire breed. However, when she turned a year old and went into season for the first time, she began having idiopathic juvenile seizures.

What this means is that she began having seizures for no apparent reason. Skye was checked for epilepsy and did not have it, but that didn’t keep her from having seizures. The breeder had taken Skye to not only a regular vet, but a homeopath as well, and Skye had even been to the state university’s veterinary college to try and figure out what was wrong with her. Skye had grand mal seizures in clusters, which means that she had the most severe seizures and for hours at a time. The breeder mentioned that the seizures had gotten so bad, sometimes she would spend the night next to Skye’s crate to try and keep her calm. Some nights she would kiss Skye good night and say a prayer that Skye would still be here in the morning.

After hearing this story, I am sure you are saying “What were you thinking?” It may be hard to understand, but I had no other thought than to give this special girl a safe, caring, loving home of her own. Don’t get me wrong, I did lots of research into not only seizures but epilepsy as well, as that was the best information I could find that explained seizures and why they happen. I spoke with family and friends to get their opinions of whether or not they felt I was up to the task. I spoke with a trainer, who knows not only me but all the other AmStaffs I have lived with that had special training issues. I also spoke with a friend that said “Run like hell in the other direction,” so this story is not without its detractors.

I even spoke with an animal communicator to see how Skye felt about leaving the only home she had ever known. Speaking through the animal communicator, Skye said she couldn’t understand why she was still at the breeder’s. She knew that other dogs had gone home with families and didn’t know why she hadn’t. I asked Skye if she knew why she had seizures and got a surprising response: Skye thought all dogs had them and thought it was normal, but couldn’t tell me why she had them. I asked the animal communicator to ask Skye if she had any questions for me. Skye did, and what she asked me made me cry. Skye wanted to know if she didn’t live very long if I could still love her as much as I would love another dog. I asked the animal communicator to please tell Skye that I would love her if she was with me for three days or twenty years, but that I was aiming for the twenty year range. I also asked Skye if she wanted to come and live with me and she answered “Yes.” This was important to me, because she was coming from a place with a huge back yard she could run in safely to a place where we had no dog fences yet and where she would have to be walked on a leash until we could remedy the situation.

The breeder had a few requirements for me as well. I had to go for an interview to see if I would be able to handle an AmStaff to her satisfaction. A handsome boy named Henry helped me with that one. Henry got nosy and I didn’t back up or walk away, I just pushed him back and treated him as I would have treated any of my other AmStaffs if they got bossy. I passed the test and after learning about Skye’s requirements I got to bring her home with me.

We go to Skye’s vet every six months for blood tests, so her medication levels can be checked. She also has blood tests to make sure that her kidney and liver functions are normal, because the medication she is on can affect that also. Skye is completely off of Phenobarbital now but is still on Sodium Bromide, which keeps her seizures in check. Actually, my sweet Skye is closing in on her year and a half anniversary of being seizure free, and we have been blessed to never have seen one.

I believe that with love and faith all things are possible, and I have been blessed with a dog that proves it to me every day.

Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Funny Things Cats Do

I love my cats for many different reasons. Number one would have to be because they are such amusing creatures who always make me laugh. There is seemingly no end to the funny things cats do. Then too, their curiously eccentric ways leave me shaking my head, wondering why they do the things they do. I think all cats must lie awake at night, dreaming up odd behaviors that we humans can’t possibly comprehend. To be sure, life with my three crazy cats is never dull. 
I’ve never understood why all my cats all come running at the sound of the can opener. I feed them Felidae cat food, and the can has a pull-tab lid. I’ve never opened a single can of cat food with the can opener, and yet somehow it became associated with cat food. I have gone outside to open a can of vegetables, because I don’t like explaining to my cats (yet again) that I don’t have any cat food and it isn’t time for their dinner. They simply don’t accept this explanation. All my cats must have super-sonic hearing though, because they still hear the can opener even when I use it outside. 
You’d think with a cat’s notorious dislike of water, the sink would be the last place you’d find them curled up for a snooze, but you’d be wrong. In fact, so many cats like to sit or lie in the sink, that there’s an entire website devoted to posting pictures of cats in sinks! And why do cats always follow you into the bathroom every time you go in there to do your business? Worse, they usually push the door wide open when you’re indisposed. Rocky also likes to come in and sit on the edge of the tub when I take a shower. When I’m drying off, he wants to help by licking my leg. Um... thanks anyway, Rocky. 
My cats also find the weirdest places to sleep, like the tiniest box that makes you wonder how they even wedged themselves into the box in the first place. They turn up their noses at the nice cat bed I got them and sleep in places that look (to me) like the most uncomfortable spot imaginable. Mickey will also open my kitchen drawer, dig out some of the dishcloths and towels, and sleep on the remainder of them in the drawer. Crazy cat! I’ve learned not to leave my bottom dresser drawer open even an inch, because he will reach in, hook each sock with his claws and fling them out onto the floor. Actually, I often leave my sock drawer open on purpose because it’s fun to watch him do this, and I get a kick out of seeing all my socks littering the bedroom floor. 
Of all the funny things cats do, the chasing of the tail is probably the most commonplace. All cats chase their tails, and no one really knows why. Round and round they go, and when they finally catch their tail, there’s that ever-brief pause and a look that says, “Now what?” before they let it go, only to chase it again. Huh? And why must kitties lie on top of your newspaper, magazine or book every time you try to read? These things are certifiable cat magnets! It doesn’t matter if you’ve just finished playing with them or petting them, the minute you try to read something your cat will be splayed all over it. Same goes for trying to use the computer. It’s impossible to type with a cat blocking your view of the screen. Worse, cats all know exactly where the “delete” key is, and they love to step on it the minute you’ve finished writing something important. Hmmm. If I could just teach Mickey how to type, I could go curl up in the kitchen drawer for a nap while he wrote my next blog.

Monday, April 27, 2009

How to Travel With Cats

Unlike dogs, cats usually don’t like riding in cars. Whereas many dogs adapt easily to traveling and can go on road trip vacations with you, cats are usually much better off left at home. In fact, most cat owners usually only take their kitty for a car ride when it’s absolutely necessary, such as for visits to the vet. There are, however, times when traveling with cats is unavoidable. I experienced such a time when I moved to another state a few years ago. I put my belongings on a truck, loaded my three cats in carriers and into the back seat of my car, and away we went. From this road trip, I learned firsthand what to do, and what not to do, when faced with the need to travel with cats. 
Careful planning is essential if you are to have any hope of a good experience when traveling with cats. As early as possible before your trip, make a list of supplies you’ll need to obtain, purchase them, and put them in a safe place. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute for supplies, nor do you want to discover mid-trip that you forgot something indispensable. A sturdy cat carrier is a must, because cats do not travel well in cars and can get under your feet, claw your legs or otherwise become a dangerous distraction. I prefer the heavy-duty plastic cat carriers that have open-weave metal doors for air circulation. When traveling with cats for long distances, you need a cat carrier that allows some fresh air into it. I like to put a soft towel on the bottom for cushioning. 
You will also need to bring food and water, bowls, kitty litter, scooper, plastic bags for waste, and a litter pan. They sell small litter pans made for kittens, which are perfect for travel. I poured some kitty litter into a gallon milk jug, which was more convenient than lugging along a big, heavy container of litter. You might also want to pack one or two of their favorite cat toys. This will provide something familiar with their scent, and give them something to play with in the motel. Your cat may or may not feel like playing, but at least they will have the option. 
I learned the hard way that it’s probably not a good idea to give your cat very much food before you set out on your travels. I was cruising merrily down the highway, singing along with the three-cat harmony coming from the back seat, when suddenly I smelled something awful. My worst fear had become reality; Rocky had diarrhea in his carrier. Suffice it to say, I fed him very, very little for the remainder of this two day trip. Some cat’s digestive systems are highly sensitive, and stress combined with the movement of the car can wreak havoc on their stomachs. Hence, it’s wise to just feed them very small amounts of food until you arrive at your destination.
The one thing I debated about buying and bringing along is a leash and body harness. Cats are notoriously anti-leash creatures, but I now realize this is an essential supply when traveling with cats. Further, you should practice putting it on your cat and taking it off before your trip, so you will be familiar with how to use it – because there’s a good chance you will need it. I had to stop at a rest area after Rocky had his “accident.” This rest area didn’t have a lock on the door, so I put the harness and leash on Rocky, and tied the leash to the sink while I cleaned out his carrier, and then him. If he had been running loose in the room and someone opened the door, I likely would have never seen him again. 
If you find yourself faced with the need to travel with cats, I hope these tips will help you have a smooth and safe trip.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Adopting Older Dogs and Cats

Older dogs and cats are often overlooked as pets when you enter into a shelter. But, the truth is, they are often the best bet when it comes to adoptions! Enjoying the company of a dog costs nothing. You don't have to pay each time you spend time with your dog, you don't have to drive anywhere - it is wonderful pleasure right there in your own home.
Take a look at an older dog or cat on your next trip in. Then remember that they:
  • They are already house-trained. No more mopping floors five times a day or going through frustrating crate training. 
  • They are focused. You will have their full attention when it comes to training. 
  • They are easier to settle into a pack: Often the older dogs and cats are much calmer and have an inherent sense of pack. 
  • Your dog doesn't care that you lost your job or your savings. He loves you no matter what.
  • Dogs and cats are relatively inexpensive to feed, you can bathe your dog with a hose in the backyard, and if you adopt a mutt, you may have fewer veterinary bills.
  • If you can't afford to travel, the "I am gone too much" excuse is no longer valid.
  • Frisbees and balls are cheap, and if you videotape them, you might just win $10k on America’s Funniest Videos.
  • Petting a dog lowers blood pressure, thus saving on medical bills.
  • Your dog or cat doesn't need a fancy vacation to be happy- she is satisfied with a walk in the park or lying on your lap as you read a book. 
Please consider adopting an older dog or cat - so many are being turned in to the shelter due to "cost" or "lost our home and had to move into an apartment".
We especially need adopters for the older dogs who have been in a family environment for their whole lives and find themselves scared and confused in a kennel in the shelter. These old souls are the sweetest and the best! Seniors are by far my favorites.
For more reasons on why “Seniors Rock!”, visit www.srdogs.com.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A “Coat” of Many Colors…

Tabby, Calico, Gray – okay, well gray is kind of easy, but you get the idea. What kinds of colors are available for cats? And how do you know what you have? We have the answers for you.
Interesting Fact
Tri colored cats are almost always female. About 1 in 3000 are males, but they are almost always sterile. This is due to the genetic factors required to create the color pattern. It’s no reason to avoid neutering your cat though!
Solids
Typical “solids” are just that – one solid color. There are really four basic colors, but they can vary in shades. The colors are white, blue (which is really gray), black and “red” which is the official term for “orange”. 
Tabbies
Tabbies are one of the oldest, and most common, patterns. They can become complex though.
  • Striped: Striped tabbies look similar to tigers, but are often called “Mackeral Tabbies”. 
  • Classic: These cats have a round color pattern, similar to a target. They are one of the most common patterns. 
  • Spotted: These cats have spots that resemble a cheetah, but are more commonly found in breeds like the Ocicat and American Bobtail.
Bi-Colors
  • Tuxedo: These are the kitties with glossy black coats and white socks or white bib. 
  • Other Bi-colors: There are other bi-colored cats that may include gray and white or red and white, or even brown and white colors. 
  • Points:
  • “Points” are darker shades at the ears, tail, and/or feet of a cat. The Siamese is known for this type of marking. A white cat with brown “points” is known as a sealpoint.
Tri-Colors
  • Calico: These cats have separate solid color blocks. They may be “diluted” which results in a very angelic looking kitty or could be in blocks similar to a tabby, which creates a very colorful cat. 
  • Tortoiseshell (aka Torties): These tri-colored cats have several shades of color that are all blended together in an intricate, muted pattern.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Being Your Pet’s Advocate

As pet owners, we are responsible for our pet’s care and feeding. This includes veterinary care as well. While we don’t actually provide the care itself, we are responsible for making sure our pets have regular vet visits, that their vaccinations are up to date and that their overall health is good. You don’t need to use the most expensive vet you can find, but you need to make sure the vet you pick understands your pet and their specific individual needs. 
If you have children, you probably looked long and hard to find a pediatrician to fit their needs. You should look at your pet’s veterinarian in the same light. For example, will the office hours fit in with your schedule? Do they have emergency hours or are they open on Saturdays? Are they open to alternative forms of treatment, if that is what you are interested in? Will they listen to your explanations or will they expect you to follow what they want you to do?
On Easter Sunday evening I found a lump the size of a medium sized egg under Skye’s jaw. I was flabbergasted as I had just put a new collar on her four days before and there was no lump there then. After calming myself down, I immediately called the breeder to discuss the situation. The breeder felt that it was probably an enlarged lymph node. We discussed the options, as Skye’s regular vet is about an hour an a half away. So we decided that I would call the local vet I had used for my other dogs and see if he could see Skye on Monday morning. 
Here is where being your dog’s advocate comes in. I kept Skye’s original vet because they knew her history and when I had an initial interview with my local vet about Skye when she first came to live with me, he was questioning why she was not on more modern drug therapies for her seizure issues. The local vet felt that Skye would be better served if she was on a more modern drug and not one that had been used since the turn of the twentieth century. I felt that you use what works and if an older drug was keeping her from having seizures, I was not going to play with her medications. So I personally felt more comfortable with going back to the original vet Skye had and we go back to him every six months for her blood tests.
I was able to get Skye in to see my local vet on Monday afternoon. I have gotten to know Skye’s body language pretty well and she was uncomfortable about being at the local vet’s office. While we were waiting to see him, Skye began pacing around the exam room like a tiger in a cage at the zoo. Not only that, she began to shed profusely, not just a few hairs here and there but lots of hair. It looked like I had never brushed her at all. Pacing and shedding are both signs of stress, so Skye my normally calm, people loving dog was not having a good time; and we hadn’t even seen the vet yet.
When we got to see the vet, he aspirated the lump under Skye’s jaw and after looking at a slide determined that it was not a lymph node, but an encapsulated abscess with no draining tracts, as he found pus in the sample. In laymen’s terms, Skye had gotten something under her skin and her body trying to protect itself, walled the foreign body off much like an oyster with a grain of sand in itself does. I was told that it had probably been there for two to three weeks. I found this hard to imagine and explained about the new collar and the fact that I would have notice something to the vet but he felt that I could have missed it.
Now I am having doubts about my care of this wonderful dog and how could I have not seen something? I asked the vet what he would suggest and he felt that the lump should be removed. The vet put Skye on amoxicillin for the infection. So I scheduled Skye for surgery for two days later and went home with her. I called the breeder as soon as I got home to discuss what the vet had mentioned. I discussed my misgivings and feelings and she said she would call the vet that Skye had been seeing and would get back to me.
Please remember this: As your pet’s advocate you are entitled to a second, even a third or fourth opinion, whatever it takes to get and keep your pet healthy. Don’t stop at just one if you are having doubts or issues with what you are being told. The hardest part is that you have to get past your own emotions and do what is best for your pet, and if you are not happy with the first diagnosis or have questions, get a second opinion. As your pet’s advocate you have this right, and this is the most important thing to remember.
This story has a happy ending. I was able to get Skye in to see her regular vet. It was not an abscess, it was an enlarged lymph node and Skye did not have to go under anesthesia, which could have sent her into a seizure, though I did not know that at the time. We still don’t know what caused the infection, but now my little girl is just as sassy and demanding as she was before she got sick, and I learned first hand what being your pet’s advocate means.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day is April 22, 2009

Earth Day is upon us and CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods is committed not only to pets, but to our environment as well. So, what’s all the ruckus about? Well, to keep it simple – Earth Day was designed to bring awareness of our world into our living room. The protection of our animals, as well as our pets, comes down to our commitment in saving our environment.
 
Did You Know?
  • The patron Saint of ecologists is St. Francis, who also happens to be the patron saint of animals.
  • Earth Day is celebrated in more than 175 countries.
  • After Christmas and Halloween, Earth Day is the largest celebrated holiday in schools.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to watch TV for three hours –the equivalent of a half gallon of gasoline.
  • More than 20 million Hershey's Kisses are wrapped each day – 133 square miles of tinfoil. All that foil is recyclable.
  • The Peace Bell, made from coins donated by school-children to further peace on our planet, is rang every Earth Day at the United Nations.
  • More than 100 billion plastic bags are thrown away each year in the U.S., the equivalent of dumping 12 million barrels of oil. More than 1 million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from them.
  • If all U.S. households installed water-efficient appliances, we would save more than 3 trillion gallons of water and more than $18 billion per year.
  • Plastic doesn’t biodegrade so it can persist for centuries. All the plastic that has ever been made on earth is still around and will exist long after we’re gone.
  • In 2007, 56 percent of the paper consumed in the U.S. was recovered for recycling — an all-time high. That’s nearly 360 pounds of paper for each man, woman, and child.
Find out where the nearest Earth Day celebration is to you and learn what you can do to help the environment that we all count on!  Visit the Earth Day website today.

Humans Aren’t the Only Ones with Weight Issues

Humans aren’t the only ones with weight issues these days. Our companion animals are fighting obesity too, but with proper feeding, exercise and the right food they can lose weight too.    
This is the success story of Rubie a medium sized lab/chow mix that had a weight problem. She should weigh between 65 to 70 pounds according to her owner, Shari. In November of 2006 during a vet visit, Rubie stepped on the scale and weighed a whopping 105 pounds. 
When Rubie joined Shari’s household she was a four month old stray that had been dumped after Christmas of 1998. There were two other dogs in the household that Shari was free feeding and as that seemed to work for them, she continued doing it for Rubie too. After two moves and adding a few more dogs, Rubie’s weight kept climbing steadily. Shari jokes about catching her older brother feeding Rubie a sandwich and wanting to blame him for Rubie’s weight gain. Every time her brother had a sandwich he felt the need to give Rubie one also. Shari’s heart would break when friends would come over and comment on how heavy Rubie was.
The breaking point came in 2006 after her chart topping 105 pounds. Rubie now had arthritis, and struggled with walking up stairs, standing and just reaching around to clean herself. Shari knew she had to take a hand in Rubie’s weight loss if she wanted to have Rubie around for a while. The vet at the clinic put Rubie on a prescription diet and told Shari that she had to stop free feeding and feed only twice a day. In December of 2006 Rubie was down to 102.6 pounds, but Shari had expected to see better results than she did. The problem 
was that Rubie was the only dog on the prescription diet and she would try and bully the other dogs away from their bowls so she could have what they were eating. So Shari had to watch her like a hawk to make sure that didn’t happen. By February of 2007, Rubie was down to 97.8 and then in August she was at 96.6 pounds. However that was only a weight loss of 8.4 pounds and Shari felt that something else had to be done.
So Shari contacted her local pet shop Paw Prints, to have them help her research different foods to see if she could change Rubie’s situation. Shari wanted a food that she could feed all the dogs that would promote good health for all of them and one that they would all like. Shari decided to try feeding CANIDAE Platinum. She was feeling bad about having to cut down Rubie’s ration of food to 1 cup in the morning and 1 cup in the evening, so she added green beans to add fiber and try to fill Rubie up. Rubie loved the green beans and thought she was getting special treatment. According to Shari, Rubie has a lot to say when it is time to be fed. 
Shari continued to feed the CANIDAE Platinum and began to notice a difference. Rubie’s weight began to drop, not only that her energy level increased and Shari also noticed that Rubie along with getting healthier was feeling better. Instead of looking like a walking shelf, Rubie now had hips again and her skin and coat improved too.
When Shari took Rubie back to the vet’s office on October 3, 2008 and Rubie got on the scale, she was down to 71 pounds, a weight loss of 34 pounds. Shari and the vet were amazed and very excited. The vet praised Shari and told her that it was her efforts on Rubie’s behalf that made the difference. Rubie was back to the vet for another weigh in on January 17, 2009 and she is now down to 67.2 pounds, which is a total weight loss of 37.8 pounds. 
There have been other benefits for Rubie as well. She is now playing with her ball like a soccer player, can climb stairs with ease and running and playing like the puppy she used to be. Shari feels that because of Rubie’s weight loss, Rubie has gained back several years of her life. Not only that, Shari feels that CANIDAE Platinum has helped her other dogs as well. The vet has told Shari that she can now level off Rubie’s food, as her weight is perfect now. 
And Shari has a few words for the rest of us, “I just have to say to all of you out there that think you are depriving your family’s pets, because you think you are starving them, GET OVER IT. I did, and it paid off big. We as pet owners really need to take a better look at whet we are feeding our animals and whether we are doing what is in their best interest. Rubie is truly a success story for our family and we wanted to share our story with you.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pets and the Economy

Let’s face it, the economy isn’t just hard on the human population these days. Many animals are being left behind or abandoned on the streets or given up at shelters because their owners can no longer afford to take care of them. This is a sad fact of life. However there is a bright spot for our unfortunate animal friends, there are places like Cat Adoption Team. In October of 2008, CANIDAE Pet Foods donated several hundred pounds of dog and cat food to the Cat Adoption Team for their shelter.
Cat Adoption Team has a monthly Cat Food Bank for cat owners who find themselves in need. Since the food bank began in June of 2008, CAT has distributed 4,500 pounds of food according to Kim Christiansen who is CAT’s Development Manager. She goes on to mention, that amount of food feeds an average of 69 cats per month. The lines at their food bank every month is evidence that the financial downturn is affecting pet owners.
Even despite a snow storm that shut down the shelter for four days, CAT was able to make their adoption goal of 3,250 cats. Not only that, by being able to team with donors, more cats can stay at home with their owners, and costs in the shelter are kept down with food donations and the fact that they are able to assist the pet owners in their community. By performing almost 3,000 spay/neuter surgeries CAT is also serving the community, as there are less feral cats on the streets and less kittens taken to shelters, because their owners can’t support them.
If you are an animal lover like me, you can contact your local shelter to see if they need volunteers. If you have extra space in your heart and home, you might even ask them if they have a foster program you can get involved in. Sometimes even a donation of old towels you don’t use any more can make a difference. The point I am trying to make is that no matter what you have, whatever you can give can help, even if it is just cuddling a little bundle of fur that needs a hug.
If you would like to donate to Cat Adoption Team, or would like more information about them, visit their website at www.catadoptionteam.org.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring Flowers and Sick Animals

Spring is in the air and for many of us - it’s planting season. What type of flower garden is the best for you and your pets? 
Many flowers are toxic to our favorite felines and canines, and it is important to be informed on which plants to avoid when you have pets. 
Spring Flowers
During this time of the year, you really want to avoid common Easter plants such as lilies, chrysanthemums, crocus and tulips. These plants can cause severe abdominal pain, excessive drooling, and even death. Crocus and amaryllis are two more to avoid this year.
You’ll want to avoid Castor bean plants, which produce a toxin known as Ricin and can be life-threatening. Kalanchoe is another no-no around pets, and those beautiful Oleander trees are toxic as well. Oleander can even cause heart problems, hypothermia and death. The Sago Palm, one of my personal favorites, is also toxic to dogs and cats, causing liver failure, depression and seizures.
Indoors or Out!
Azaleas or flowers of the Rhododendron family contain grayantoxins, which can produce vomiting, drooling, diarrhea, weakness and depression of the central nervous system, so stay away from those. Cyclamen has a similar effect. Schefflera, Pothos and Brassaia actinophylla are toxic as well, so stay away from those too.
What can you grow safely around pets? 
Stay tuned for the next update and we’ll share the ten best plants for pets and families.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Planting Pet Friendly Gardens

Gardening with Pets
You might think it’s not possible to have dogs and cats, as well as a garden, whether that garden is indoors or out. But, you can have the best of both worlds if you are willing to follow some simple rules. 
Safety First: Be very cautious about soil and fertilizer. Many organic fertilizers are made out of bone meal, blood meal or fish emulsion, which can smell like dinner to a curious dog or cat. 
Minimize Mulch: If you have a dog, avoid cocoa bean mulch in the garden or keep your dog in areas of the yard where you don't use this mulch. Safer alternatives include bark, grass clippings and fall leaves. 
Location, Location, Location: Plan your garden. Your goal is to keep pets out, keep plants in. This can be done by simply planning the layout of your garden. Plant hearty, thick perennials along the outer border so if Fido oversteps his boundaries, he’s not doing any damage. The more delicate plants should be in the center of the garden. 
Keep Kitty At Bay: Cats go wild for catnip (Nepeta catoria), which is a member of the Mint family. Catmint (Nepeta faassenii and related species) is another favorite. Fortunately, both are tough plants that seem able to withstand feline attention, so keep them in a separate area away from your garden, or on the outskirts of the garden. On that same note, avoid having any bare areas of soil around the garden. While it may look nice to humans, it is simply too tempting as a litter box to the stray passerby. 
When In Doubt, Fence It: Occasionally, it’s just easier to fence the area off. If you have a very determined feline or very nosy pup, it’s best to just fence the area off.
Following these simple rules will help alleviate your frustration, keep your pets safe, and if you’re lucky – discourage other pets from entering. If you continue to have problems, we’ll be addressing that in an upcoming issue of Responsible Pet Ownership.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The History of Dog

The ancestry of the dog can be traced back as far as sixty million years. Beginning with the Miatis, the small weasel-like creature is thought to have demonstrated the first characteristics of the animal now recognized as Canis lupus familiaris, or “dog” to you and me. It is this creature that evolved into the earliest wolf.
Every dog we have was bred over centuries to create what we now know as breeds. And guess what? The new “designer breeds” are just more attempts at breeding the perfect mutt.
And yet, all are a result of... you guessed it – the wolf.
Even the most popular purebred is actually a crossbreed. A Yorkshire terrier was crossed with an Australian terrier to produce the Silky Terrier. The Bulldog was crossed with a Mastiff to get a Bullmastiff. The Doberman is a result of a German shepherd being crossed with a German Pinscher, and later crosses with the Greyhound, Weimeraner and Black and Tan Manchester terrier further refined the breed.
So when you think about spending thousands of dollars on a “purebred dog” or a “designer breed”, take a deep breath, cleanse your mind, and walk on over to your local shelter. Chances are good, they have the “designer” type you want and no breeding is necessary....

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why Do Cats Spray?

Both male and female cats are capable of spraying and it is done as a form of scent communication. When cats spray they leave pheromones behind for other cats to find, and they are usually marking their territory. Cats will mark their territory more in times of stress or if they feel threatened. Marking is done by spraying a small bit of urine on a vertical surface and male cats can begin marking as soon as they reach sexual maturity, which can be as early as five months of age.
Unfortunately, what they feel is their territory can include your house, car, yard or your neighbor’s yard, even if that neighbor is several blocks away. While male cats tend to spray more than females, females are capable of spraying as well. While some believe that spaying or neutering a cat may solve the problem that is not always the case. I have a large orange cat, Marmalade that was neutered before he was an adult, and he had never sprayed anything in his life. However, when the males in the neighborhood come into our yard and leave their scent markings, he will endeavor to cover them up by spraying on top of where the other cats have gone. It would be the same as you marking your belongings with a permanent marker to let others know that they are yours.
I was recently talking to someone who mentioned that the cats in the neighborhood are frequenting his yard and marking on his property. In reaction, his cats had begun spraying in the house. This can be a common occurrence especially in the spring when males are looking to mate, though a cat can and will spray all year long. A female will sometimes spray if she is ready to mate and this lets the male cats in the neighborhood know she is available. Even a spayed female can attract the attention of an intact male just by marking her territory.
There are several reasons that your cat may be spraying. If there is a strange cat in the neighborhood, your cas may feel the need to mark his own territory. Introducing a new cat to your household can be another reason for spraying, and your cat may spray for as simple a reason as they don’t like the litter you are using in the litter box. Cats may also spray if the litter box is not clean enough for them. If your cat is spraying while in the litter box and if you have a litter box without a cover, you might consider getting one to keep the walls around the box from getting sprayed. Stress in the household like a new baby, visitors or even taking a vacation or business trip and coming home can make a cat spray as well. Other reasons for spraying could be a loss of a family cat, a student going off to school, moving household furniture or a change in your schedule if the cat is bonded to you.
You can use a black light to find the spots where the cat is urinating. Some pet shops even have them for rent. Then you want to use a cleaner that uses enzymes to clean the spot. You do not want to use ammonia to clean the area, as the active ingredient in cat urine is ammonia and that defeats the purpose. If your cat continues to spray in one area, consider putting a covered litter box there to help alleviate the situation. I have also heard that if you put vinegar on the spot after it is cleaned, that may help. The purpose of the vinegar is to replace the cat’s scent with your own, and the vinegar represents your own urine. 
I have one male, Rocket that has been spritzed so many times with our handy water bottle dissuader, that he will actually come and tell me he wants to go outside to spray. While he will still spray inside the house on occasion, it is usually in a place that is easy to clean. While I am not complacent about the situation, I have accepted it for what it is: communication pure and simple. Spraying urine is a natural function for a cat, though it may seem distasteful to us, especially if done inside the house. We all love our animals, and with understanding can come change.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blog Sponsor Helps Police Canine Units and Avalanche Rescue Dog

CALIFORNIA AND ARIZONA POLICE CANINE UNITS
CANIDAE Helps to Take a Bite Out of Crime

Robert Bemis, Regional Sales Manager for CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods, was approached by the Pomona Police Department recently regarding the department's Canine Unit. Earlier this year, the unit lost a Belgian Malinois patrol dog named Buddy to his battle with canine cancer. The department needed to replace Buddy with a new 
dog, but budget constraints and a lack of donations made it difficult.
CANIDAE has a long history of supporting both local and pet related causes including an ongoing series of fund raisers for the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation. "We were very saddened to hear of Buddy's death from canine cancer. We're very involved with raising funds to treat and prevent cancer in dogs so we are very sensitive to that issue. We wanted to help," Bemis said.
"This not the first time we have worked with law enforcement," Bemis continued. "I'm working to finalize a narcotics dog sponsorship for the Sumerton Arizona Police right now, and CANIDAE has been supporting law enforcement agencies across the country by providing food for their canine units for years."
CANIDAE officially donated the Belgian Malinois, named Baco, to the Pomona Police Department's Canine Unit this past March. The newest member of the Police Department's canine unit, he is in his fourth week of training and getting ready to begin patrol duties with his handler. The 3 1/2 year old Belgian Malinois has shown he's energetic, alert, brave and sociable with his handler, Officer Theo Joseph.
"Buddy's death caught everyone by surprise", said Sgt. Mike Ellis, who oversees the Police Department's canine program. "Because the dog's death came suddenly, no one was able to plan for a replacement," Ellis said.
The donation from CANIDAE came at a critical time for the department, but now the Canine Unit must prepare for the retirement of another dog, Rocky, who will retire in about three months after 11 years of service.
People interested in contributing toward the purchase of Rocky's replacement can attend the Eagles' taco nights, which begin at 6 p.m. Mondays at the Eagles Lodge, 954 W. Mission Blvd., Pomona.
Checks can also be made out to the "Eagles K-9 Fund" and mailed in care of Sgt. Mike Ellis to the Pomona Police Department, 490 W. Mission Blvd., Pomona, CA 91766. Donations will be forwarded to the Eagles.

COPPER MOUNTAIN SKI PATROL
CANIDAE Sponsored Rescue Dog Helps Ski Patrol Team Ensure A Safe Mountain Experience

"Last week I had the opportunity to watch Cascade, a CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods sponsored back country avalanche search dog at work. Cascade is a 3-year old Golden Retriever that is handled by Chris and Hanna Sutton of Copper Mountain Ski Patrol in the beautiful Colorado Rockies," said Chris Milliken, Regional Sales Manager for CANIDAE.
Copper Mountain Ski Patrol in Colorado is one of the larger patrol teams in the county. The staff consists of 60 full-time patrollers, 100 volunteers who work as Slope Watch (the folks who tell you to slow down on groomers and other high-traffic runs), 20 medical volunteer professionals (doctors and nurses who donate their time on the mountain to increase Copper’s medical response force), and 15 high school students who assist in most patrol operations.
The avalanche dogs Cascade, Tucker, Tracker, Eddy, and Bridger round out the team.
Chris Milliken recently had the opportunity to watch Cascade participate in a training exercise. "It was great to see Cascade proudly sporting the CANIDAE Pet Foods patches on his vest. Cascade is a true testament to the results of feeding CANIDAE, from his great looking coat to his ability consistently perform in these high-pressure situations," Milliken said.

Mixed Up Mutts, Designer Dog Breeds

Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about designer breeds, dogs that are “designed” or “bred” to obtain a specific result. An example might be the “Labradoodle”, a supposedly hypo-allergenic dog. You can either go online and buy one for thousands of dollars or you can take a drive down to your local shelter and find one for less than $100. 
I’m a big fan of designer breeds. In fact, I have three in my office with me right now – Roscoe is a Beagledor (essentially a 60 lb beagle), Cheiss is a Chaussie (Australian shepherd and chow), and of course Tristan is a Wolote (a very rare, coyote/wolf/shepherd). 
The cool thing about designer breeds is you get to name them yourself! 
“Designer Breeds”
I watched some people in the park the other day. A woman was watching a beautiful dog chase and successfully catch every ball his owner threw. The dog dove into the lake like a champ, refused to chase the ducks, and was in all – a perfect canine gentleman. She approached the owner, asking what breed the dog was and where she could find one of her own.
The man proudly proclaimed, “Why, he’s an Aussiedor! A rare, very expensive breed. In fact, there are only two breeders in the US that I’m aware of.” He went on to pass along the contact information for his breeder and the woman left, anxious to begin her hunt. 
And yet, he’s simply describing a dog that is a mix between an Australian Shepherd and a Labrador. I was at the shelter yesterday where I saw three of them.... Each was adoptable that day for $85, yet she’ll likely pay a breeder over $1,000 if she doesn’t do her homework. 
What’s In A Name? 
They sound lovely and exotic. And expensive. Here are just a few examples: 
Ba-Shar (Basset Hound crossed with a Shar-pei)
Brusselranian (Brussels Griffon crossed with a Pomeranian),
Corillion (Papillon crossed with a Pembroke Welsh Corgi)
Imo-Inu (American Eskimo crossed with a Shiba Inu) 
Wee-Chon (Bichon Frise crossed with a Westie) 
What kind of designer dog do you have? Leave us a comment and tell us all about it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to Save Money on Cat Toys

Kittens are naturally more rambunctious than adults, but all cats love to play. Even “senior” cats enjoy playing with their favorite toy in-between naptime. Consequently, cat toys are an important element of good feline care. Cat toys do more than just entertain your kitty, though; they also give your cat an outlet for excess energy, provide needed exercise (especially important for indoor cats), and can be a fun way to bond with your cat. However, this doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune on toys for cats. 
Since how to save money is on just about every person’s mind nowadays, I wanted to share some economical ways to keep your kitty entertained. There are basically three ways to spend less on toys for cats. The first one is seasonal: shop the after-Christmas clearance sales at your local pet stores. Most carry an inventory of holiday gifts for pets, such as stockings filled with cat toys or individual items that have a holiday theme. Last year I came home with a huge bag of cat toys that were 75% off, and I paid less than $10 for all of it. 
My three felines probably have enough cat toys to last a lifetime now. If not, my second idea for how to save money on cat toys involves buying inexpensive items that cats love to play with. My favorite of these is ping pong balls, which have an unpredictably wild bounce that cats find irresistible. If you buy them in bulk, they can cost as little as 25 cents each, and also won’t get stepped on later. Straws are another feline favorite in my house. I found this out after I caught my cat Rocky stealing them right out of my drink! He loves to flip the straw up in the air and try to catch it. 
If your cat enjoys catnip (some do, some don’t), you can buy some fabric and catnip to make homemade catnip toys. Little pillow-shaped catnip toys are what I usually make, because they’re incredibly easy to assemble. Just cut out two squares of fabric (about 3”), sew three sides closed, fill it with catnip and sew the fourth side shut. If you don’t like to sew, you can also fill a child’s sock with catnip, tie a knot in it and voila! Instant homemade cat toy.
My third idea for how to save money on cat toys (and my personal favorite) involves using readily available materials found in your home. Once you understand what makes a good cat toy – things that roll, bounce, simulate “prey” or make noise – the potential for free homemade cat toys is practically limitless. Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and throw it across the room for your cat to chase. My sister’s cat will even bring it back, over and over. None of my cats will fetch the paper ball, but they will run after it and bat it around for a bit. 
A piece of string or twine is the ultimate cheap cat toy. My cats will chase a string around the house for hours, and they’ll jump up for it if I dangle the string several feet from the floor. I also like to tie one of their furry mice to the end and drag it around so they can chase after it. It’s very important, though, to always put the string away when you’re done playing, because your cat might swallow it and become ill. 
Paper sacks are another classic cat toy that doesn’t cost a penny, and I’ve never met a kitty that didn’t like to get into them and rustle around. If you have 35mm film canisters, you can fill them with anything that rattles, such as pebbles, pasta or beans. Just make sure the lid is on tight before giving it to your kitty. Boxes are another great free cat toy. You can even construct a kitty playhouse by fastening several large boxes together. Cut out holes for your cat to walk through and stick their paws through, and place the box upside down on the floor. 
Empty toilet paper tubes make excellent toys for cats. I have a similar tube that is thicker, sturdier, and about half the length. I can’t remember where it came from initially, but I saved it because I knew my cats would enjoy playing with it, and they do. Before you throw anything away, you should always ask yourself if the item might somehow become a cat toy. There’s a very good chance that it can, and your kitty will have just as much fun playing with his homemade cat toy as he will with a store-bought one. That’s the beauty of cats – they’re easy to please, at least when it comes to their toys!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Boxer, Breed Profile

I grew up with Boxers, though one at a time. When I was a little girl, my dad who was in the Air Force was stationed in Texas. We had a brindle colored boxer whose name was Duchess (Dutchie) then; and there are pictures of Mom, Dad, Dutchie and I playing on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico. According to my mom, Dutchie and I were pretty much inseparable. She slept on my bed every night; she even chose to have her puppies on my bed. While I didn’t realize it at the time, it was an honor for me that Duchess felt safe enough to have them in full view of the world and not somewhere hidden away in a closet where she could keep them safer. I was only between one and two years old when she had them, so maybe she felt it was easier to keep watch on all her charges if they were in one place, as she counted me as one as well.
The Boxer is a breed that was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904 and is a member of the Working group. It can trace its bloodlines back to a Mastiff type dog called the Molossus. The Boxer we know today was developed during the nineteenth century in Germany. The Boxer’s popularity has been steady but has grown in the last few years and the Boxer is now the sixth most popular dog breed according to the AKC. The Boxer has been used in the past as a guard, a courier during war time, a cart dog, a companion and hunter of large game. Today the Boxer is used as a police dog, for search and rescue, in military work, for performing tricks, in Schutzhund and competitive obedience trials. The Boxer needs to be exercised daily, though they can live in an apartment, as long as this requirement is met. 
The adult Boxer should weigh between 53-70 pounds (24-29kg) with the bitches being the lighter, and size range for males should be between 22 to 25 inches and bitches should be between 21 to 24 inches at the withers. Their life span is usually between 11 and 14 years. They can to be troubled by hip dysplasia and epilepsy. Cardiomyopathy and other heart problems have also been reported. They can also suffer from allergies. They have a short coat that is easy to care for, and we used to use a bristled palm brush or a rubber mitt for the best results when brushing ours. A daily brushing is good during the shedding season, but they don’t need too many baths unless they get dirty. Fewer baths and frequent brushing will help keep the natural oils in the dog’s coat.
According to the breed standard of the AKC the temperament and character of the Boxer is as follows: “Instinctively a hearing guard dog, his bearing is alert, dignified and self-assured. In the show ring his behavior should exhibit constrained animation. With family and friends, his temperament is fundamentally playful, yet patient and stoical with children. Deliberate and wary with strangers, he will exhibit curiosity, but, most importantly, fearless courage if threatened. However, he responds promptly to friendly overtures honestly rendered. His intelligence, loyal affection, and tractability to discipline make him a highly desirable companion.”
In my opinion a boxer is a great family dog. I grew up with three different boxers; Duchess the first, Jayne, and Duchess the second. Both of the Duchess’ were raised from puppies and were easy to train, Jayne on the other hand was gotten as an adult, and was too much for my parents to handle. So training for this breed should be a must. My parents ended up giving Jayne back to the breeder with the promise of a puppy to come. That puppy was Duchess the second, and she was another of my playmates.
Boxers love their humans and are especially wonderful around children and both of the Duchess’ were no exception. Dutchie the first saved us from an inmate of a mental hospital about 20 miles to the north of us. He had walked away from the facility and no one saw him leave. We were inside the house playing and my mom was home, so there was no “real” danger, but Dutchie didn’t know that.
While my mom was calling the police, Dutchie put herself between us and the door the man was standing outside, and raised a “Holy ruckus”, as my mother described it later.
Dutchie (the second) used to try and “save” us when we went swimming in the pool in the backyard. We would swim underwater and she would race around the pool barking for us to come back up, before throwing herself in to grab one of us by the hair and try to drag us out of the pool. She taught herself to jump off the diving board after seeing us do it, and she would dive to the bottom of the shallow end after a ball if we tossed it for her. She even taught herself to climb out the vertical ladder in the deep end of the pool, instead of swimming back to the shallow end where she could exit via the steps.
I have wonderful memories about the special Boxers in my life and can heartily recommend them to anyone with the time and love to give them. They are great playmates and babysitters that never let us out of their sight. They never tired of playing with us when we wanted to play and didn’t have a human playmate. The most important thing that they helped teach me was unconditional love, and for that I am truly grateful.
Leashes and Leads, at 6214 Fourteenth Street NW in Byron, Minnesota is hosting a Meet & Greet on April 18, 2009 from 11:00pm Central Time to 3:00pm Central Time. So if you are in the area, stop by to meet the Boxer. You can find out more information by contacting Leashes and Leads at (507) 282-2710 or going to their website.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lessons I Learned From My Cats

Have you learned any lessons from your cat? As a writer, I am always looking for interesting things to write about. My dogs have taught me many things and as I got to spend part of my Saturday this past weekend outside doing chores, I was able to watch my cats at length. I realized watching them that they have taught me lessons too, if I take the time to see what they are.
When you have a chance to watch cats outside en masse, you can learn many things. While they will sleep with each other, when they are outside they truly are independent and in their element. They hunt and play and race around so fast that you worry that they may run into something because they are going so fast. Yet at the same time, cats are graceful and move with a fluidity that a ballet dancer would admire.
My cats have taught me patience, persistence, love, caring and a selflessness that borders on sainthood. I have learned patience watching a mother cat carry her kittens back to safety after I have shown them where the cat food dish is. The kittens are being weaned and they come downstairs to eat, but the stairs to the attic are a bit steep and just a bit too much for them to handle all at one time yet. So they cry in the kitchen and their mother comes down and carries them back up to the attic where she can hide them away from the toms that though they are altered, still want nothing to do with kittens.
They have taught me patience when I am watching them chase a leaf or feather around the yard outside. One cat will bat their toy of choice; another one will race in and carry it off. Sometimes a third cat will get involved in the chase, but the first cat will seldom give up the chase and go and find another leaf or feather to play with. I have watched them play this game for hours, without getting bored. It seems to me that it would almost be easier to go and get another toy to play with, but they want the one they started with and usually the first cat playing isn’t the one to get bored first.
I have learned love, caring and selflessness from cats with litters, who share the responsibility of raising all the kittens. If a kitten is crying because they need to eat, and their mother is not available, usually another cat will step in and lay down to allow the kitten crying to be able to nurse. I have watched them clean another cat’s kitten, and if the kitten is too small to go to the bathroom on their own yet, the adult queen will clean there too.
I have also learned persistence from several of the cats, which if left outside and they want to be inside will bang on the door with a paw or like Tiger (my most persistent) will actually climb to the level of the door window, hang on the door molding by the toenails of one of his paws and bang on the window with his other paw. I have never actually timed him, because I know someone is outside that wants to come inside, so they get let in. I find the most interesting thing about Tiger is, that no one else does it so no one else taught him, he figured it out on his own. Imagine my surprise the first time I went downstairs to see who was knocking at my door, only to be met by Tiger’s face when I opened it.
Last but surely not least, they have taught me to remember to go out and play every once in a while. We all need to be recharged and it is so easy for the cats to go out and play. If I want playtime for a game of ball with Skye or to watch the cats outside, I have to make sure it gets into my schedule. Thanks to my cats and Skye, I now take the time to do just that, because I have found that even I need a break from the office or my chores every now and then. Even a fifteen minute break watching the cats, can put a smile on my face and we could all use a smile or a chuckle now and then.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to Train Your Cat to Use a Scratching Post

I share my home with three felines, and am continually reminded of the old saying, “Patience is a virtue.” Don’t get me wrong – I adore my cats and love having them in my home. But cats are stubborn creatures that can test the patience of a saint. My cat Rocky decided early on that my wall-to-wall carpet was his own personal, giant-sized scratching post. As you can imagine, that didn’t work for me, and I made it my personal mission to put an end to his carpet scratching ways. 
To successfully train your cat to use a scratching post in lieu of your carpet or furniture, you need to first understand why they scratch. Most people believe a cat scratches to sharpen its claws, which is true in that scratching removes the outer portion of the claw to reveal a sharp new tip. But cats also scratch to claim territory and mark their turf, both with visible signs of claw marks and the scent glands on their paws. They also scratch for exercise and stress relief, like a feline version of Yoga or Pilates. Lastly, cats scratch because it’s a natural behavior that feels good. 
As you can see, there’s no point in trying to get your cat to stop scratching, because it won’t. Instead, you can re-direct its impulse to scratch to a more appropriate place, aka, the cat scratching post or scratching pad. Nowadays, there’s a large variety of scratching post materials and styles available, from carpet to sisal to corrugated card board. The most important thing you should know is that you might need to try several different kinds before you find the scratching surface your cat prefers. 
Also keep in mind that some cats favor vertical scratching surfaces, some prefer horizontal surfaces, and some will use either. My own battle with Rocky’s inappropriate scratching was prolonged because I tried to force him to become a vertical scratcher. Secondly, I thought that getting a carpeted scratching post would discourage him from scratching my carpet. After much trial and error, I realized I was wrong on both counts. He now uses his carpeted scratching post, but only because I turned it sideways so he could scratch horizontally. 
There are several tricks you can use when training your cat to use a scratching post. First, resist the urge to put the post in a little-used corner of your home. Your cat wants to mark his territory where he spends most of his time, which isn’t (usually) the bedroom closet or the laundry room. You can gradually move the scratching post to a less visible location once it’s been accepted by your cat as his territory. Ideally, you should set up posts in several different locations, so that when the urge to scratch strikes, there is one handy.
Encourage your cat to check out the scratching post by offering him treats near it. Hold the treat up near the post or put it on the post so that your cat’s paws touch the surface of the post to get the treat. Toys that dangle from a string are another great way to train your cat to use a scratching post. Play with your cat near the post and move the toy around the post so that when it tries to get its toy, it invariably climbs up the post. If your feline loves catnip, sprinkle some liberally all over the surface of the post and it will go bonkers rubbing it, kneading it and eventually, scratching it. 
Training your cat to use a scratching post takes time, patience and perseverance. Keep in mind that cats are creatures of habit. Use that to your advantage by taking them over to their post when you get up in the morning, and whenever you come home from being away. I did that consistently for several months, and now all my cats run to their scratching posts at those times, usually without my urging. Yes, even my notorious carpet scratcher uses his post multiple times every day – which is something of a minor miracle!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Pet Went Over the Rainbow Bridge

I have lost several animals that were in my life; five dogs, numerous cats, two cows, a goat, numerous chickens, geese and ducks; along with several parakeets, goldfish, tropical fish, and a hamster, which were the usual childhood pets in our household. Some I grew up with and some I have owned myself. Through the vagaries of old age, illness or disease they have passed over the Rainbow Bridge. 
The hardest thing to explain to someone who has never had a pet; is the grief you feel when you have lost a pet. It can be as strong for a pet, as it can for any human member of your family. After losing one family pet that I had grown up with, I had a dream about her. She was a Boxer and her name was Duchess, and I dreamed I answered the door one night just after dusk and she was standing there bathed in the glow from the porch light with all my previous pets sitting on her back, or perched on her head. I felt as if she were trying to tell me that she was OK, but that didn’t make the loss any easier to take.
The most important advice I can give you at this point is that you are allowed to grieve and should let yourself do so. Do not deny yourself that period of mourning, for a wonderful companion that you spent so much time with. I go through stages when I lose an animal friend that I hold dear. Depending on the situation, I get angry, and ask why a lot; or I get sad and cry a lot. According to the experts I am not alone; many people feel guilt, anger and denial along with their grief. They mention that your deep sadness on your pet’s passing can turn into a temporary depression. Just because they are an animal with four legs instead of two, the grief can be just as crushing. 
Because I live in the country, we can bury animals on the property and we have a place in one end of the yard where we hold our funerals and burials. Then I plant flowers and place a stone. If you live in a city and are not allowed to bury your animals at home, you do have alternatives. Your can have your pet cremated and the vet can give you the ashes to either take home or bury. Or you can buy a casket for your pet and there are now pet cemeteries where you can hold a funeral service and burial. You could write your own service and have members of your family share their memories. If your own clergy-person feels uncomfortable about officiating at a service for your pet you may now even hire an animal minister or chaplain to conduct the service. There are also many counseling and support groups for owners of pets that have passed on. 
I would like to pass on something to you that someone passed on to me after the loss of my first dog Nimber. It helped me, and it is called the “Rainbow Bridge Poem”.
Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together.

Author unknown

I keep promising that I will not get another dog, and then a higher power intervenes and I find myself with a new bundle of joy. I now keep a journal, where I write about the daily comings and goings of the animal cast of characters on the farm. Then I have something to look back on and smile about after the next one passes on. So I will go through the joys, tears, laughter and sorrow of living with a dog again. I know I will see them all again when I pass over the Rainbow Bridge and can be with them once more.

Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Pets Go To The Vet

Did you take your pet to the vet last year? If so, you are in good company. More than 75% of pet owning households take their pets to the vet every year. About 1/4 of pet-owning households go to the vet four or more times per year. Routine veterinary checkups and vaccinations are the most common reason that pets go to the vet each year.
I have 3 dogs – Frog, Hank and Sophie. I was curious about the most common reasons that pets go to the vet so I did some checking and what I found was pretty interesting.
According to the Veterinary Pet Insurance Company, their policyholders visited the vet in 2008 for various reasons. They made a top ten list for dogs and cats, not including routine veterinary care. The top reason for dogs was ear infections and the top reason for cats was lower urinary tract diseases. 
So, how did my own dogs fare according to the veterinary top ten? Well, one of my three dogs did have an ear infection, number 1 on the list. I did not fare so well with numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 on the list: 4. gastritis/vomiting, 5. enteritis/diarrhea, 6. urinary tract infections and 7. benign skin tumors. 
My old lady Beagle, Frog, was the queen of 4, 6 and 7. She had to be treated for persistent vomiting (caused by number 6, urinary tract infection) and also had a benign skin tumor removed from her leg. 
My big yellow Lab Hank was treated for 4 & 5 due to consumption of the stuffing from his bed. Oops!
The newest addition, our stray Lab mix Sophie did the best. She did have to get her vaccinations and get spayed, but (knock on wood) , has not been treated for any illness since she came to live with us.
Check out the full top ten lists for dogs and cats on VPI’s website.

Top Canine ClaimsTop Feline Claims
1.  Ear Infections                     1.  Lower Urinary Tract Disease
2.  Skin Allergies 2.  Gastritis/Stomach Upsets 
3.  Pyoderma/Hot Spots 3.  Chronic Renal Failure 
4.  Gastritis/Vomiting 4.  Enteritis/Diarrhea 
5.  Enteritis/Diarrhea 5.  Diabetes Mellitus 
6.  Urinary Tract Infections6.  Skin Allergies 
7.  Benign Skin Tumors 7.  Hyperthyroidism
8.  Osteoarthritis 8.  Ear Infections 
9.  Eye Inflammation 9.  Upper Respiratory Virus 
10. Hypothyroidism 10. Eye Inflammation 


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Puppy Classes are Not Just for Training

Sounds funny doesn’t it? What are you taking the puppy to classes for if not to train them? Well, your new family member needs to be socialized as well as learning what the rules are. Your new dog has become a member of your pack (family) and just like any other family (or pack) member they need to learn the dos and dont's of what is allowed, not just in your home but out in public. And as funny as this may sound, they need to learn what other dogs are and how to behave around them.
I chose to train my dog Katie at home. My older dog was ill and I didn’t want to be away from him for too long, but I should have taken the time to go to a class where Katie could meet other dogs. This was a drawback to training at home for me that I didn’t realize at the time. Katie was a stray on the streets and was found with her sister at about 4 weeks old. Her health became an issue for her due to her beginnings; and when I adopted her, it was suggested that I not take any chances introducing germs or stress which could aggravate her condition.
So I chose to train Katie at home, after all I trained Nimber (with the help of a class). “How hard could it be?” I asked myself. I should have remembered that first of all, I had a terrier on my hands. She learned, but very slowly and was always antsy during training, as if she had somewhere else to be.
Besides the obvious reason for a training class, learning the basic commands of sit, stay, down, heel, and come; your puppy gets to go in the car for a different reason than going to the vet, they get to go for a ride with you and get more used to traveling in the car, which is another plus.
The most important thing that Katie missed from going to a class was the socialization and the “meet and greet” with the other puppies in the class. She loved the dog she lived with and after he passed she loved the dog that came after him. But she disliked any other dog she met with a passion that bordered on irrational. She had never had any bad encounters with any dogs she met -- they pretty much ignored her. I wish I could say that Katie did the same, she barked and carried on so, you would have thought I was keeping her from her favorite bone. Unfortunately for Katie, she didn’t get to go for rides very often because she had such temper tantrums, it was easier to leave her at home; and unfortunately for me I did not have access to a behavioral trainer back then or even a dog park where I could have taken her when she was a puppy.
Besides your class for meeting and greeting, you now have other options that were not available to me. Now there are dog parks where you can go to meet other dogs. There are doggie day care facilities where your dog can go for playtime while you have to work. Another great place to socialize your puppy or dog is your local pet shop. Most pet shops will allow dogs in their stores, as long as you walk them outside in case they have to “potty”, before bringing them into the store. Some stores like to offer the dog a biscuit, at some it’s a pat and a hug; some stores even have special events where they invite the dog into the store.
Whichever path you choose, training class, private trainer or do-it-yourself; make sure you don’t forget to socialize your puppy well. Katie was not, and though she was a gem to the cats, Smokey her canine cohort, my family, myself and any human she met, she was obnoxious where other dogs were concerned. So take a tip from my book of personal anecdotes and get your puppy socialized. Your relationship with each other and other dogs will be that much better for it.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why Do Cats Hunt?

Has your cat ever left you a present on your door mat that you stepped on by accident? Has your cat ever presented you with the remains of a mouse or bug? The best thing to do in this situation is to praise your cat and make a happy fuss over the remains, before disposing of them as discreetly as you can without your cat seeing you do it. Believe it or not, all cats hunt whether feral or domesticated, outdoor or indoor.
Yes, even those wonderful purring machines that love to sit in your lap and cuddle, hunt. My cats never used to go outside, so I was presented with all sorts of odd things when they were “hunting” in the house. They would bring me twist ties, buttons, pencil stubs, bottle caps, and the occasional fly or ladybug that had been unlucky enough to get in the house. They brought whatever they happened to find that they could carry to me. While I thought this was very entertaining, I never really gave it much thought. After all, I had taught them to fetch toys and things, so I thought that was what they were doing, except that some of the things they found I had not tossed for them. Now I know better, they were bringing me the bounty of their hunt.
There are a few schools of thought as to why they will bring you their prey. Ethologist Paul Leyhausen proposes that cats adopt their humans into the social group. As humans, he believes that we are at the top of the pecking order and therefore rate to share the “kill”. Desmond Morris, the author of “Catwatching”, believes on the other hand that they are trying to teach us to hunt much as they would one of their own kittens. Still a third idea is that this behavior is a relic of a kitten trying to gain the approval of its mother, as to its hunting prowess.
There are also some misconceptions about cats hunting. A cat that has been declawed can still hunt, I know I owned one. Keentya used to bat any mouse that entered his domain with his front paws. It seemed to me that he had stunned the mouse with this activity. It never went farther than that if I was around; I would rescue the mouse and put it outside. But Keentya was no slouch when it came to hunting without front claws.
While mother cats (queens) teach their kittens to hunt, the instinct to do so is hard-wired into the kitten. The mother teaches the kitten to hunt, to augment their skills and become a better hunter. I have seen orphaned kittens that are unbelievable hunters, using just as much stealth and cunning as their adult counterparts.
Cats do not necessarily prefer birds or mice; they hunt where the opportunity presents itself and will hunt the trail of least resistance. For example, if my cat Munchkin can get to a mouse on the ground, she will do that as opposed to climbing up the barn roof to try to catch a pigeon that can fly away from her. We have had an issue with the occasional bird, but thankfully those events are few and far between, as the cats know I am displeased when they bring a bird home.
Living in the country now, I spend as much time outside in nice weather as I can and so do the cats. They hunt grasshoppers and other insects, mice, voles, elephant shrews, and rats. Sometimes I am gifted with an entire mouse, sometimes just a bit of what is left. I don’t think they are trying to teach me to hunt, I think they are bringing me a trophy. They don’t seem to be distressed after the trophy is missing; they just go and get another one. 
I have become philosophical where the cats are concerned. If I continue to let them outside they will continue to hunt, no matter how well-fed on CANIDAE Cat and Kitten they are. However, they are ridding us of vermin that are not welcome in our garden, chicken house or home. Because of the skills of my feline family I don’t need to use chemicals or bug repellants to get rid of the mice, rats or other things we find around the farm and for that I am truly grateful.
So if your feline friend brings you home a treasure one day, remember to smile and show how proud of them you are. They could just be saving your pantry.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Snake Aversion Therapy for Dogs

Spring is in the air and with this beautiful season follows the arrival of rattlesnakes. If you live in the US, you’ve probably had at least one experience with snakes, and if you live in the Southwest, you’ve probably had a few. 
If you’re out hiking with your dog and stumble across a rattler, what is the best course of action? First off, you should have your dog on a leash at all times – even while on a trailhead. This will help, but oftentimes, it won’t be enough. Snakes have a tendency to lie across the trail or out in the open where they can absorb the heat from the sun. They can be difficult to see if you’re not paying attention, so try to always pay attention. 
If you’re dog attacks or doesn’t see it in time, and is struck by the snake, try not to panic. Get out of there, and if possible, carry your dog out. Adrenaline will increase heart rate, which will increase the spread of poison. Chances are good that your dog was struck in the throat, and if that’s the case, you need to ensure he or she can breathe. The poison will cause intense swelling, which can close off your dog’s airway. Get him or her to the vet as soon as humanly possible. Do not stop and try to suck out the poison (it doesn’t work and can end up killing you). Just get to a vet. 
Of course, the best thing to do is teach your dog to avoid snakes altogether. This can be done through a series of snake aversion training by a certified trainer. 
There are many ways to train a dog to avoid snakes, but aversion therapy is one of the best I’ve seen. Yes, it uses static electricity collars. Yes, it’s difficult to watch. Yes, it will likely save your dog’s life in the long run. The good thing is that it only needs to be done once in most cases. It’s a lesson they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. 
A good trainer will teach dogs to avoid snakes using sight, sound and smell. Ensure that the trainer you use has a long line of references and positive feedback from previous clients. They will lead your dog through a “rattlesnake” course, using snakes that have been rescued from the backyards of terrified homeowners. The snakes should later be released into the wild – ensure you find a humane trainer who handles the snakes humanely. 
Depending on the dogs reaction, there are several events that can occur. These depend on the training methods used. Snake aversion therapy is one of the few training events I would ever use a collar for, because it’s that important for the dog to associate a strong reaction with seeing or hearing or smelling a snake. 
If you’re interested in taking your dog in for “snake aversion” therapy, check your local listings for a qualified, accomplished trainer who offers humane methods of training. Ensure that they treat the “volunteer snakes” well, and you’ll be in good shape. 
It might just save your dog’s life....

ASPCA Poison Control Hotline
1-888-426-4435
Note:  There is a $60 charge for this service.
The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPPC)
1-800-548-2423
1-900-680-0000
Note: If you call the 1-900 number, the charge is $20.00 for the first five minutes, then $2.95/minute thereafter. If you use the 800 number, the charge is $30.00 per case.

Friday, April 3, 2009

How to Pick the Best Dog Toy

Today when you walk into your favorite pet shop there are many more toy options for dogs than there used to be. There are a few things to consider when buying toys for your dog. Do you need toys for a puppy, or adult dog? There are a few things to keep in mind when buying dog toys.
First of all you want to buy toys that are age appropriate. For example, if you have an older dog that loves to tug and is trained to “drop” their toys, by all means buy them a tug. However, this is not a good choice for a puppy starting out, because they may not want to let go of the tug when you want them to. The problem this presents is that if the puppy has the TV remote or your cell phone, you need to be able to recover them from the puppy without too much fuss.
Another thing to consider is buying toys that are size appropriate. If you have a 120 pound Bullmastiff you wouldn’t buy a toy that is more suited to a Pomeranian. You don’t want to get a puppy toy for a full grown dog, no matter how cute it is. The reason I say this is that a puppy’s teeth will not usually do the same damage to a toy as an adult dog’s teeth. An adult dog can make mincemeat of a puppy toy pretty quickly, because their teeth are fully developed while a puppy is still getting their teeth. On the other hand, getting a toy a puppy can grow into is not as farfetched as it sounds. Puppies can grow very quickly and that toy that you brought home last week may be too small next week. 
You should also gauge the activity level for your dog when considering a toy. If you have a couch potato with a low activity level that loves to chew, you don’t necessarily want to get them a Frisbee that will take a lot of activity to chase around. While I agree exercise is great for dogs, you need to determine their activity level before getting them a toy that may be too far above their current activity level. Just as we need to work up to a certain activity level, so do our dogs. So if you want to get that Frisbee go ahead, but remember that you should start with 5 to 10 minutes of activity if your dog is not used to any at all.
Last but by no means least you should consider the chewing level of your dog when buying them a toy. I have had American Staffordshire Terriers since 1981 and thought I was well-versed in their tricks with their toys. However I learned something that I have been telling my customers for years, “Every dog is different”. While I knew this myself, I got a refresher lesson, courtesy of Skye.
I made the mistake of buying Skye a rope bone with two tennis balls on it. I was going to toss it and she would go catch it and bring it back to me, at least that is what I thought. Skye had another idea. The first time we got to go outside to play with it, I threw it, and Skye went and got it. So far so good, however Skye decided to test out the strength of the tennis balls. She put her foot down on one end of the tug to hold it still and grabbed one of the tennis balls in her mouth. The tennis ball “popped” like a balloon, and that was the end of one of the tennis balls on Skye’s new rope bone. The toy now resides in the toy box, and I’m not sure I even want to give it to her again. While Skye was pleased with herself, I was worried about how quickly the tennis ball came apart and how many pieces she made of it in less than a minute’s time. I would not want her to swallow one of those tennis ball pieces if I give her the toy again, so in the toy box it stays until I figure out who has a dog small enough to gift it to.
If you remember these easy tips by buying toys that are appropriate for the age, size and activity level of your dog, not to mention their chewing level and ability; you will save yourself time and money and have a few less headaches in the bargain.

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