Monday, August 31, 2009

Every Single Cat Matters


By Julia Williams

Two years ago this August, Laurie Cinotto started a little blog called Itty Bitty Kitty Committee (or IBKC). This wonderful blog is a perfect example of how lives can change for the better, thanks to the advent of the internet. In this case, the lives changed are those of itty bitty homeless kitties—lots and lots of them!

I didn’t start reading the IBKC blog until recently, so I don’t know how long it took to “catch on,” but it’s very apparent that it has. The Itty Bitty Kitty Committee chronicles the daily lives of kittens that Laurie fosters for the Humane Society of Tacoma/Pierce County in Washington. Recently, she also participated in their annual Dog-A-Thon fundraiser for the shelter’s homeless dogs and cats.

The IBKC started with a modest goal of $3,000 which was quickly met by her readers. Each day I watched the pledges soar to new heights, and I marveled at the generosity of people from all over the world. Most had no ties to this particular shelter, but were obviously loyal fans of the IBKC. In the end, more than $23,000 was raised to help homeless kitties. This amount is not something one person could easily raise, unless they have a very wealthy circle of friends. Hence, the IBKC’s successful fundraising is a testament to the power of the “world wide web” in bringing people together for a common good – in this case, homeless kitties in need.

A talented Seattle artist named Mimi Torchia Boothby donated a beautiful watercolor painting to auction off for the fundraiser. The painting featured a colony of feral cats that live in a courtyard in a small Italian town. Said Laurie Cinotto, “I think it's amazing that these cats who live on the streets, barely cared for, will be making a difference. These cats touched Mimi and she made a painting of them. The money from the sale of this painting will help fund lifesaving programs for cats and kittens. To me this illustrates that every SINGLE cat matters, and every cat has a purpose.”

Black, white, tortie or tabby…every single cat does matter. And as fantastic as it is for all of the cats that the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee was able to help through this fundraiser, I got to thinking what would happen if every single cat in every single shelter had an IBKC to help them. Imagine how many homeless kitties lives would improve if every shelter had a volunteer who had a blog with such a huge following, and every year they also raised this amount.

I’m so happy for the kitties that the IBKC could help, but at the same time a bit sad for all the other shelter cats (and dogs). The brutal economy of late is forcing people to make some really hard decisions about what’s best for their beloved pet, and many see no alternative but to surrender them. Unfortunately, a fair number of shelters are ill equipped to handle the number of animals they had before the economy tanked, let alone this marked increase. So an “Itty Bitty Kitty Committee for every city” would be a truly great thing, wouldn’t it?

My lifelong dream has been to open a cat sanctuary, because every single cat absolutely matters to me. Not only that, every single cat deserves to live each and every day with plenty of food, a warm place to sleep, and a home with a human who cherishes them. That’s my idea of utopia. I only hope I live long enough to see my lifelong dream become a reality.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Dogs in the Service Industry


By Anna Lee

There is an organization known as “Canine Companions for Independence,” or CCI. They provide and train assistance dogs. CCI provides an extremely valuable service and I would like to tell you about them. Their program is broken down into several categories as follows:

Service Dogs are partnered with adults with physical disabilities to assist with daily tasks and increase independence by reducing reliance on other people. Service Dogs can pull their partner in a manual wheelchair, push buttons for elevators or automatic doors, and even assist with business transactions by transferring money, receipts, and packages.

Skilled Companion Dogs are trained to work with an adult or child with a disability under the guidance of a facilitator. A facilitator is typically a parent, spouse or caregiver who handles and cares for the assistance dog, encourages a strong bond between the recipient and the Skilled Companion Dog, and is responsible for the customized training needs of the dog.

Facility Dogs are expertly trained dogs who partner with a facilitator working in a health care, visitation or education setting. You have probably seen segments on your local news where dogs visit senior centers or nursing homes.

Hearing Dogs are specially bred Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers who alert partners to key sounds by making physical contact such as nudging the leg or arm. Hearing Dogs are trained to recognize and respond to the sound of a doorbell, alarm clock, someone calling a name or a smoke alarm.

One special group that currently uses CCI dogs is disabled veterans. There are some requirements to be met before getting a dog including: recipient must have been disabled in combat, recipient must use a manual wheelchair, must have clear speech so the dog can understand commands, and have a fenced yard. CCI has a section of their website dedicated to the veterans program.

CCI is the largest assistance dog organization in the world. They were formed in 1975 and placed their first service dog in 1976. In the summer of 1984 they placed their 100th dog! They now have training centers throughout the U.S. They only use the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever, or a combination of those two breeds. Dogs are provided free of charge. The students must pay their own transportation to and from the centers plus the cost of meals and housing during training.

A ‘puppy raiser’ has the dog until age 15 months when it is returned to CCI where it goes into either a six month or nine month training program. Dogs also go through a vigorous health screening. At that point some may be released from the program due to a medical condition or temperament problems.

The first three-month semester reviews and builds upon the basic obedience commands the dogs learned as puppies. During this semester the dogs begin to work around the wheelchair and learn the retrieve command. Those that pass the first semester continue into their second semester of training.

The second three-month semester finishes the commands the dogs will need to know such as pull, and light-switch. They learn over 40 commands and practice working in different environments. During training the dogs are screened to see if they truly have what it takes to become a CCI assistance dog.

Next is Team Training, where the dogs are paired with a recipient and both human and dog are trained to work together. This two-week session teaches the recipients proper care and handling of the Canine Companion. After the training session and public access testing, they attend a graduation ceremony where the puppy raiser passes the leash to the Graduate and the Graduate officially receives the Canine Companions assistance dog.

Approximately six weeks after the two-week Team Training class, graduates return to CCI for final testing, certification and fine tuning if needed. Throughout the working life of the dogs, graduates periodically return to campus with their dogs for workshops, seminars and reunions.

CCI instructors remain in close touch with graduates through correspondence, reports and by providing advice via telephone and email. Instructors also travel into the field to conduct workshops and to resolve specific training or behavioral problems in the graduate's home and/or workplace environment.

If you or someone you know could benefit from a Service Dog, check the CCI website for more information and application forms. It is an excellent program and it is giving the recipients a better life all around.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Friday, August 28, 2009

What is a Dog Breed Club?


By Ruthie Bently

Have you ever been to a dog show? When I was in grade school I went to my first dog show, which was held right down the road from where I lived on an estate called “Tara” (really, I’m not making this up). At first glance, it seemed as if we had walked into a three ring circus. There were dogs running around in several rings with their handlers, dogs in crates in other areas, and there was one main ring with a red carpet laid down in it, without the dogs. Since I had grown up with Boxer dogs, the area where they were kenneled was the area I gravitated to. I met a very kind woman who explained what the show was all about, and she told me about the local breed club as well. This was where I learned about breed clubs for the first time.

There are breed clubs for most of the AKC recognized dogs, and even clubs for some of the rare breeds as well. The purpose of a breed club is to promote their given breed, along with educating anyone interested in their breed. They can also be instrumental in giving you information about the breed you may be considering purchasing or adopting. The breed club is usually also a good place to find out information about rescued dogs of the club’s breed.

Breed club members are people who are dedicated to the preservation of the breed, as it was meant to be used. They also want to preserve the breed’s standard. The breed club members are also careful to ensure that any breeding that takes place between dogs are for the betterment of the breed itself and not the individual breeder. Most breed clubs have a code of ethics that their dog breeders must follow to be a member of the club. The code of ethics for each breed club usually has to do with maintaining the standards of the breed as a whole, and members who do not adhere to them can be evicted from the club. It also helps ensure that anyone getting a new puppy will get a quality puppy – one that is free of health issues and conforms to the standards of the breed.

Breed clubs often hold their own dog shows, and these can be a confirmation show, or a working trial. For example, a Labrador Retriever breed club may host a tracking trial or hunting events for their given breed. The parent club of the breed is responsible for writing the standards that all dogs of that breed are judged by. Any dog that is allowed to be shown at a breed club show must meet the breed standards or be disqualified from competing.

Breed clubs are wonderful places for someone looking for a puppy of a specific breed. They can point a new dog owner in the direction of a breeder who adheres to the code of ethics of the club and who may breed dogs for confirmation or working, and sometimes even for just a great family companion dog. So the next time you want a certain dog, or even a dog to help you around the farm, consider contacting the breed club of the dog you are seeking.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hiring a Pet Sitter: What You Need to Know


By Julia Williams

In my last post, I explained the benefits of hiring a professional pet sitter to care for your dog or cat while you’re away, as well as how to find a reputable one and conduct a phone interview. The process of hiring a pet sitter is not overly complicated, but should not be taken lightly. After all, you’ll be entrusting them to take good care of your faithful four-legged friend, and you need to be sure you’re choosing the right person.

With that in mind, the next step in the process is to invite a prospective pet sitter to meet you and your animal in your own home. An in-person meeting will help you decide if this is someone you want to care for your pet. They may sound great over the phone and look good “on paper,” but first impressions are equally important. Notice how they’re dressed, how they carry themselves, and how they interact with you as well as your pet. Does your pet seem to like them and feel comfortable in their presence? Do you feel at ease when talking with them?

It’s imperative at this stage of the hiring process to trust your instincts. If anything about the person makes you or your pet uncomfortable or wary, then do not hire them, because that “gut feeling” is never wrong!

Trade important information

Besides helping you decide if you want to hire a potential pet sitter, the in-home interview also helps them know if they can handle your pets and their specific needs. Be sure to tell the pet sitter everything they might encounter when caring for your pet, such as medications, conditions, dietary concerns, feeding and walking schedules, behavior issues, and any other pertinent information.

A professional pet sitter will likely have a written contract spelling out their services and fees. Before you sign, read it over carefully, and ask any questions you may have. Make sure you understand their rate, how many visits they will make, and what will happen in case of an emergency with your pet. Give them your cell phone number, and/or a number where you can be reached while away. Provide your vet’s name, address and phone number, and consider signing a form which lets your vet know that the sitter is authorized to seek care for your pet. You may also want to give them the phone number of a nearby friend or family member who could help them in an emergency.

If the interview goes well and you’re satisfied that the sitter will take good care of your pet, you may want to start by hiring them for just a day or two first rather than for a week or longer.

Pre-Trip Preparation

Even the most experienced and reliable pet sitter could run into problems if you haven't properly prepared for your absence. Be sure your pet has current identification tags and vaccinations. Stock up on their regular pet food and other supplies, and buy extra just in case your return is delayed. Leave everything in one place, where the pet sitter can find it easily. Give your spare key and the sitter’s phone number to someone you trust as a backup; also give their phone number to the pet sitter. Make sure the pet sitter understands your home's safety features, such as the circuit breaker and alarm system.

Leave Detailed Instructions

During the in-home interview, you should go over the care of your pet verbally, and ask your pet sitter if they have any questions. They will probably take notes as you go over your instructions. However, it’s still a good idea to leave them a detailed written list they can refer to, in case their notes are incomplete or get misplaced.

Write down everything the pet sitter will need to know about your dog or cat — including their likes and dislikes, medications and conditions, habits, fears, and anything else you think may help them when caring for your pet. You may also want to prepare a daily checklist of tasks the pet sitter can use during each visit. This is particularly helpful if medications, special food or specific exercise routines are involved. Post your instructions on the fridge, or leave them with your pet’s food and supplies.

Remember to bring your pet sitter's phone number in case your plans change, or you want to find out how your pet and his temporary caretaker are getting along. Some of these suggestions may seem like overkill to you, but honestly, it’s much better to prepare for anything and everything rather than deal with it on the fly. And when you feel confident that your beloved pet is in the care of a capable pet sitter, your vacation will be all the more enjoyable!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oral Hygiene and Your Dog


By Ruthie Bently

Good oral hygiene is as important for canines as it is for humans. Our dogs can get cavities, crack a tooth, and get plaque buildup on their teeth. They can even get gum disease if their teeth are not taken care of properly. Dogs don’t get as many cavities as we do, because they don’t have access to the sugars that we have in our foods or beverages. However, veterinary dentists are noticing a rise in cavities in dogs that are fed dog treats which are high in sugar. CANIDAE Snap-Biscuit® treats are a great choice for a healthy dog treat. They contain high quality chicken and turkey meals, whole grains, essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids, and their crunchy texture helps scrape away plaque and tartar.

Dogs can crack their teeth if they are chewing on something that is too hard for them, so if you have a very oral dog you might want to consider a hard rubber toy with a bit of flex to it. If they are an aggressive chewer, try a toy that is bigger than their mouth; this way they can’t bite down on it too hard. You can even smear peanut butter in some of these toys to keep your dog occupied.

A dog suffering from gum disease can experience pain and dental issues as they get older if it is not treated. It can also lead to health issues with their kidneys or heart. By getting your dog used to having their teeth brushed when they are as young as possible, you are helping them stay healthier in the long run.

Bad breath is caused by bacteria, and if your dog has it, they might also have a problem with plaque or tartar. If the plaque or tartar is bad on your dog’s teeth you may want to consider a professional cleaning. There are both veterinary dentists and homeopaths that can perform the service for you. In most cases, a veterinary dentist will have to anesthetize your dog to clean their teeth.

There is a bright spot in all this – whether your dog is young or old, there are many good cleaning products on the market for your dog’s teeth. There are actual dog toothbrushes, which are smaller than ours to fit a dog’s mouth. There are also finger toothbrushes and even a wrap that goes on your finger like a piece of gauze. As for toothpaste, there are several varieties with flavors like beef that are sure to please a dog. When purchasing toothpaste for your dog’s teeth, make sure you do not use human toothpaste, because they have chemicals, abrasives and sweeteners in them that can be harmful to dogs.

Although it’s preferable to start your dog on their road to good oral health when they are a puppy, dogs of any age can be taught to accept having their teeth brushed. There are even toys for those dogs that are hard to win over to getting their teeth brushed. These toys have grooves in them that you can apply the toothpaste to, and then you give the toy to your dog and let them play with it. They get their teeth brushed while they are playing and they think you have just given them a treat. Not only that, they will remember and it will be that much easier the next time. As with anything else you are trying to teach your dog, consistency, patience and praise will win the day.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bonding With Your Pet: What is Trust?


By Linda Cole

Our pets give us unconditional love with no hesitation. Dogs protect our homes as well as their pack leader and the rest of their family. Eager ears listen for the sound of our vehicles as we return home, and we are greeted at the door every time as if we've been gone for months. Most cats are more independent and dignified in their greetings. They would never lower themselves to the level of a dog by giving us wet kisses. Cats show their affection with a nip on the nose, a lick on the arm or head rub on our leg or face. Yet their happiness when we return home equals that of the dog, even though they exhibit the cool attitude of a cat. However, cats and dogs have one thing in common. They trust us, sometimes when it's not deserved. So what is trust?

The trust our pets give to us is non negotiable as far as they are concerned. Dogs work with humans to aid policemen and rescue workers digging through piles of rubble after an earthquake or other natural disaster hits a region. They help the blind and handicapped lead productive lives on their own. Therapy cats and dogs help hospitalized children and those in nursing homes cope with day to day challenges. The only thing pets ask from us in return is to care for their needs and treat them with respect and kindness.

Every time I gaze into the eyes of one of my pets, I see trust. They know I would never do anything to hurt them. What we think of as responsibility, they see as trust, but it's deeper than just us taking care of a pet. It's knowing them so well that we instantly know if they don't feel good, are frightened, curious or something is bothering them. Trust is also being able to look into the eyes of a pet who is sick and know, because they are telling us, it's time to let them go. Trust is an emotional bond between owner and pet. It's not something we think about, it's just there. You can't explain it, you just feel it.

A cat will curl up in your lap with a gentle purr not because you fed him, but because he trusts you. Of course the food doesn't hurt, but he won't sit on the lap of someone he doesn't trust. A dog will fight an intruder to protect his owner because of trust. They curl up at our sides or at our feet because they want to be near us. Our lives are enriched because we share them with our pets. They know when we are happy or sad and share our sorrows and joys. It all comes from trust.

The elements of trust means something different to our pets than it does to us and probably means something different to each of us as responsible pet owners. It's much more than making sure they've been fed and watered or they've had their walk and the cat pan is clean. It's a snuggle, a happy tail wag or gentle purr as we interact with them. It’s a passion we feel for doing what's best for them and making sure they have everything they need.

As pet owners, we see how their eyes light up when they look at us, an undeniable trust that brings a smile to our hearts. We get a warm feeling when they rest their heads on our chest and they give us a look that tells us just how contented they are. It's all because of trust and that's one of the best feelings around. Simply put – trust is love.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Does a Pet Sitter Do? Should You Hire One?


By Julia Williams

If you have pets, then you know that when vacation time rolls around you can’t simply throw some clothes in a suitcase and take off. Some important questions need to be answered before you go. Can you take your dog with you, and do you want to? If not, then your duty as a responsible pet owner is to ensure that your faithful companion is well cared for in your absence. Due to the nature of most cats, taking them along on a trip is rarely (if ever) a good idea. So then, what do you do with your dog or cat while you’re gone? Although a number of options exist (kennels, the vets, breeders, a friend’s house) I believe the best choice is to hire a professional pet sitter to care for them in your home.

Hiring a professional pet sitter offers many benefits to your pet, and to you as well. Your pet is able to remain in the comfort and security of their own home, and can stay on their regular diet and daily routine as much as possible. Most animals find this much less stressful than being taken off-site to an unfamiliar place. Besides providing food and water for your animals, a pet sitter spends quality time with them, provides exercise opportunities, and focused one-on-one care. This personalized attention means that a pet sitter can spot illnesses or changes in behavior and diet which might require a vet visit.

The primary benefit for you in hiring a pet sitter, is peace of mind. You will have a carefree, fun vacation (or a productive business trip) knowing that your pet is being properly cared for. As an added bonus, many pet sitters offer additional services like collecting your mail and newspapers, watering plants, and turning the lights on and off so burglars don't know you're away.

How to locate a pet sitter

Because they will have a key to your home, it’s not advisable to hire a pet sitter from a yellow page ad alone. The best option is to get a recommendation from a friend, your vet, dog trainer, the local shelter, or trusted kennel. Barring that, you can contact the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (800-296-PETS) or Pet Sitters International (336-983-9222) for listings in your area. Both of these organizations also maintain websites which offer a wealth of resources and information on pet sitting and pet care.

Questions to ask a potential pet sitter

Before entrusting anyone with the care of your beloved companion, it’s imperative to find out what their qualifications are, and what services they offer. Prior to inviting them into your home to meet your pet, conduct a brief phone interview. Ask about their background and experience, what they charge and how long their visits are. Are they certified in pet first aid and CPR? Do they have any veterinary training? Can they supply written proof of commercial liability insurance (to cover accidents and negligence) and are they bonded (to protect against theft)? Can they provide references from at least three satisfied clients? Does the pet sitter have a backup plan? In other words, what would happen if they were to become ill, have car trouble or be unable to care for your pet as agreed?

The next step in hiring a pet sitter is to call their references and ask about their experience with them. If all went well for these clients, then it’s time to invite the potential pet sitter over to meet your dog or cat. In my next post, I’ll give you specific information on how to conduct an in-home interview with a potential pet sitter. I’ll also cover important pre-trip preparations and how to leave detailed instructions for the pet sitter.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Spaying or Neutering Can Save Your Dog’s Life


By Ruthie Bently

To spay or not to spay, that is the question. There are two schools of thought when considering spaying or neutering a dog. Do you realize that by spaying or neutering your dog, you may actually be saving their life? You cannot adopt a dog from a shelter without having it spayed or neutered; this is a requirement of most shelters these days. Spaying or neutering your dog also helps keep the pet population down and keeps the animal shelter populations down. This can also keep more pets who need homes from being euthanized.

Spaying a female dog keeps her from having an unwanted pregnancy and from getting mammary cancer, which is the equivalent of breast cancer in a human. Did you know that 25% of unsprayed female dogs get mammary cancer? That is one in four, which is even more frequent than women get breast cancer. Not only that, but an unspayed female dog’s chances of getting mammary cancer rise with each heat cycle she goes through before she is spayed. Spaying your female dog, even after she has had a litter of puppies, will decrease her chance of getting cancer.

Spaying a female dog is called an ova-hysterectomy; the operation is done under a general anesthesia, and the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tubes are removed. Because the spaying operation is more involved with a female dog, the fees are usually higher. During the recovery period your female dog should be leash exercised for about two weeks and discouraged from leaping or jumping for at least another month or two, to enable her incision to heal.

Neutering a male dog will keep him from looking for a female to spread his genes, and it can help if he is aggressive to other male dogs or likes to start fights. It can also help keep him from getting prostate cancer. Intact male dogs are quite often more independent than a female and will wander. A male dog can smell a female’s pheromones for up to a distance of three miles. Neutering a male dog is called castration; the vet will remove the dog’s testicles and part of the vas deferens, which carries the sperm to the penis. The operation is done under a general anesthesia.

Some people don’t want to neuter their dog because they’re afraid it will gain weight. This doesn’t always happen and can depend on your dog’s normal activity level. If your dog seems to be less active after spaying or neutering, then their daily food allotment might need to be adjusted. You can also try to help them exercise more. Just like people, our pets can gain weight if they eat too much food. Make sure you speak to your breeder or veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s food.

Some vets will suggest getting your pet spayed or neutered before they reach six months old, as this is when they can become sexually active. Some will suggest waiting and let the dog go through a heat cycle; however unwanted puppies and possible cancers can come from this.

If spaying or neutering my dog will keep them healthier and prolong their life, I am all for it. Aren’t you?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Best Dogs for Families with Children


By Anna Lee

If you have children, especially small children, you need a dog that can tolerate kids. Not all dog breeds are good for families with children. Many people assume that small dogs are gentle and kid friendly, which is not always true. Some small breeds are gentle with kids. However, large dogs in the working class, herding dogs and retrievers are more placid by nature and often have the patience of a saint when around young children. If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, here are some great child-friendly breeds to consider.

Boston Terrier – If you prefer a small dog, this little one is gentle, intelligent and well mannered. They do not bark a lot, compared to other small dogs. They are extremely good with children and older people as well. They are playful and want to be part of the family.

Jack Russell Terrier – This is another small dog with a lot of adjectives to describe it, including perky, merry and devoted. Jack Russell Terriers are also kind to children. Be sure to set rules for this breed though; if not they will take over. A few years ago we rented a cottage on a creek in North Carolina. The neighbors let their dogs (an old yellow lab like ours and a Jack Russell Terrier puppy) run free all day, and the Jack Russell (Andy) drove our poor Abby crazy. He chased her and nipped at her, barked non-stop, and we could not make him stay home in his own yard. His owners were not very wise to let a puppy run free all day while they were at work. We found out that he was afraid of the creek that ran across the property. Abby soon realized that if she went in the creek and stood in the water for a bit, Andy would get bored and go home!

Bearded Collie – This dog is full of energy, and requires firm and consistent training. They are fun dogs and are excellent for families with children. The Bearded Collie is a real tail wager, and very adorable. They are the ancestors of the Old English Sheep Dog, and look a little like them.

Beagle – This dog is gentle, lively and curious, and loves everyone. They are excellent with children as well as with other dogs. They do not generally get along well with cats unless they were raised together. Beagles are very determined, as our neighbor’s dog illustrates for us regularly. The dog is a rather chubby older beagle, and on numerous occasions we hear her barking while she chases the rabbits on our property. We have seen her heading back home with her tongue and belly dragging the ground. She will never catch a rabbit, but she will never stop trying.

Boxer – This breed is an easy learner and quite intelligent. Boxers do well in competitive obedience training. They are loyal and affectionate, and they get along very well with children. It is in the Boxer’s nature to want to protect the family and the home.

Golden Retriever – This a beautiful, graceful dog that’s easy to train and is always patient and gentle with children. Golden Retrievers are friendly with everyone; therefore they have little value as a guard dog! They do make wonderful pets for families, though.

Labrador Retriever - I saved this breed for last since I didn’t want to play favorites. This is the breed I know best from experience. A Labrador Retriever is a loving, affectionate and patient dog that is highly intelligent, loyal, willing, and high-spirited. They love to play, especially in water, as they love to swim. Labs have an excellent, reliable, temperament and are extremely friendly, superb with children and get along with other dogs. They crave human leadership and need to feel as though they are part of the family. Labs are easily trained. Abby was easy to train as a pup and even at 11 she learns new things daily. She loves people and age does not matter to her at all!

No matter which breed you choose, you need to remember that puppies chew. If your kids leave toys in reach, those toys will be the object of the pup’s attention! Teach your children to be gentle with the puppy and remind them that puppies need a lot of sleep. Parents may need to put time limits on play early on. Teach the kids that the puppy needs time to be alone, as well as time with the family.

Get your kids involved early on in the care of the new puppy by helping out at feeding time. Let them pour the CANIDAE kibble into the feeding dish. Let the kids know that if they are gentle and loving to the dog, they will have a loyal friend for life.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Friday, August 21, 2009

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

By Ruthie Bently

Here in Minnesota, catnip grows wild in some areas. When I first moved to my present residence there was a catnip plant that was over six feet tall growing in one of the flower beds on the property. Since then, the original plant has died off because it was too sheltered, but it spread its progeny to my garden. I don’t mind at all, because my cats love catnip – even most of the ones that shouldn’t be attracted to it yet, as they are a bit young. So what is catnip exactly, and is it safe for your cat?

Catnip is an herb in the mint family, and the main attractant for our cats is the essential oil in its blossoms, leaves and stems. Cat may roll in it, chew on it or rub against plants, to release this oil that is pleasing to them. Some cats will even eat it, but scientists claim they are reacting to the odor of the plant, not the taste.

The active ingredient in catnip that attracts them is nepetalactone. One variety of Nepeta cataria (catnip) grows wild in many U.S. states; it was imported from Eurasia and the rest is history. The Ojibwa Indians used it for making a tea that had a pleasing taste and was supposed to bring down fevers. In fact humans have been using catnip for centuries for its healing properties.

The catnip plant is a perennial that grows about two to three feet high. It has leaves a bit larger than peppermint leaves, which feel fuzzy to the touch. I have seen its flowers in both a purplish-pink and white, though there are propagated varieties that have a more blue color. Many domestic cats are attracted to catnip and it also attracts their wilder “cousins” like leopards, bobcats, tigers and lions.

The attraction to catnip actually comes from a gene; while many cats have it, not all do. Younger cats do not always respond to catnip and may not until they are about six months old. Scientists believe that the trigger for catnip is the same that triggers sexual activity, hence the reasons that younger kittens may not like catnip.

If your cat is attracted to catnip, it’s interesting to note that two very different reactions can occur. Catnip usually acts as a stimulant when a cat sniffs it, and as a natural sedative if they eat it. Because of its calming effects, many cat owners use it when they have to transport their cat and don’t want to use a sedative from the vet. Catnip is also a great way to teach your cat to use a scratching post. Simply sprinkle some liberally over the post and watch them go wild!

Cats cannot become addicted to catnip, and it is also not harmful to your cat if they eat it. As with anything else, if you have questions, consult your local veterinarian. My cats love catnip and I love watching their antics in my garden where it grows, or when offered a catnip toy. We all get joy from the occasion.

Photo courtesy of Rose at Angelcat Haven, a non-profit feline rescue organization dedicated to helping homeless and stray cats in Plainville, MA and surrounding towns. Angelcat Haven also sells colorful handmade catnip mats on their website, with all proceeds going toward the care of their rescued kitties.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How to Approach an Unfamiliar Dog


By Linda Cole

Most dog attacks happen because people don't know how to approach an unfamiliar dog. Because our own pets are comfortable with us, we sometimes forget that dogs who don't know us as well (such as those belonging to our family and friends), may not accept our advances. Stray or lost dogs don't know we want to help them and are cautious to the point of running away or snarling, and possibly attacking if we get too close. Approaching an unfamiliar dog has pack rules that need to be adhered to, and a knowledge of the dog's body language as well as our own.

There are two main reasons people may be attacked or bit by strange dogs. The first one is human nature. If confronted by a dog who is snarling and intimidating, most people, especially children, have an impulse to turn and run. A situation has been created that some dogs take as prey fleeing and they will give chase. A child is more vulnerable to a dog attack because of their smaller size.

The other reason is that when visiting family or friends, we may react to their dogs as we do our own. A dog's sense of social order actually puts us at a disadvantage when we don't understand we are the stranger coming into their home. Our best protection when we approach an unfamiliar dog is to establish a role of pack leader as soon as the meeting begins. Children can also be taught to assume a leadership role.

It's important to enter a home with a dog calmly. Give no attention or eye contact to any dog as you enter their home – even if you know the dog. This signals to them you are a pack leader. Once greetings have been exchanged with the dog’s family and the dog has calmed down and sorted out the new scents you brought with you, then it's time to greet the dog. If a dog is barking or jumping up on you, turn to the side and ignore them. Pushing them down with your hands can be interpreted as a signal you want to play. Children need to stay calm to avoid exciting the dog. Sudden movements toward the animal and loud noises will raise a dog's excitement level.

Approach an unfamiliar dog from his side or at his eye level. Never try to pet the head area and never greet them from the top. Hold out a fist and allow the dog to sniff your hand. Then slowly pet them on the side or back. Watch their body language. If the dog is stiff, has his ears laid back or has glaring eyes, it may be wise to just leave him alone until he's gotten to know you better.

Avoid petting a dog who is chained up, in a car or pickup bed, or in a pen. Most dogs will protect what they believe is theirs and that includes a car, yard or even a parking meter their owner tied them to while they are in a store or business.

Extreme caution must be adhered to in any encounter with stray or injured dogs. Approaching an unfamiliar dog who is lost or a stray can be more challenging. These animals may be more fearful and can be more aggressive. I encounter dogs in my neighborhood all the time. Usually, they are my neighbor's dogs who managed to break out of their enclosure and are making their rounds. These dogs know me quite well and dutifully follow me back to their home.

Remember two rules to follow if approached by an unfamiliar dog outside. First, never run. Stand as still as a rock with your arms against your side. If the dog comes up to you, allow it to sniff you. Second, stay calm and avoid looking directly into his eyes. Understanding a dog's body language can help you determine if a dog should be left alone or if you can help him. If a dog is telling you to stay away with barks and snarls, take his word for it and back away slowly, avoiding direct eye contact.

Children should be taught to never approach an unfamiliar dog, ever. If they see a lost or stray dog, teach them to back away slowly and calmly and then find an adult who can better handle the situation. Most lost dogs just need a helping hand getting back home. We need to be understanding as well as knowledgeable enough to know if a dog is dangerous. Usually, they are just looking for a little help from someone who can give them a hand.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What Should I Name My New Dog?


By Anna Lee

If you are searching for a name for a new puppy, or even an older dog that you just adopted, here are the top favorite names from the last few years, along with some pet specific names. Naming a dog is personal choice but the following lists will give you some ideas. When choosing a good name for a dog, you have to remember an easy rule, ‘two syllables only’ as it is easier for a puppy to comprehend “Annie” compared to “Mistymavenofgreenfieldsgalore.”

Let’s start with some good names for a female dog: Molly, Maggie, Daisy, Sadie, Ginger, Chloe, Bailey, Sophie, Zoe, Princess, Bella, Angel, Lady, Sasha, Abby, Roxy, Missy, Brandy, Coco, Annie, Katie, Sammy, Casey, Gracie, Rosie, Misty, Emma, Sandy and Heidi.

Good names for a male dog include: Max, Buddy, Jake, Rocky, Bailey, Buster, Cody, Charlie, Bear, Jack, Toby, Duke, Lucky, Sam, Harley, Shadow, Rusty, Murphy, Sammy, Zeus, Riley, Oscar, Winston, Casey, Tucker, Teddy, Gizmo, Samson, Oliver, Rex and Bandit.

If you have a brown dog, how about naming them Hershey, Coco, Swiss Miss or Coffee? Some good names for a black dog are Onyx, Raven, Licorice or Tar. For a yellow dog, Sunshine, Butter Cup, Honey and Goldie are all excellent names.

For a hunting dog, why not Shell, Buckshot, Buck, Trigger, Wade, Colt or Browning? A few good names for a small dog are Gizmo, Pixie, Pookie, Tiny and Teenie. If you have a large male dog, consider Brutus, Bubba, Titus, Rocky, Winston and Wolfie.

If you are a Country Western fan, the names Wrangler, George, Stetson, AJ, LeAnn, Toby and Willie are all great choices. What football fan wouldn’t like the name Colt, Bear, Titan, Saint or Jet? Perhaps you are a gardener? Why not name your dog Rose, Tulip, Clover, Daisy, Shasta or Lilly?

Some good dog names that may fit your personality or your dog’s personality would be Star, Sky, Candy, Sugar, Jazzie, Rhett, Digger, Puff, Wizard, Sparkles or Zesty.

When I was young my parents had friends who had four girls. When I got married I thought if I ever had a baby girl I would name it after one of their girls, Andrea, and call her Andy for short. Life took a different turn and I never did have any children. When I got my current dog I thought about naming her Andy. Somehow it didn’t seem right to give her that name, the name I would have given to a daughter. My husband’s first name starts with an “A”, as well as mine, so I knew I wanted an “A” name. I picked Abby, and it suits her just fine. Her full name is, “Abby move out of my way please, thank you.”

When you get a new dog I’m sure you will pick the right name for them, because there is really no wrong name! The above dog names are just some ideas to get you started. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How to Train a Dog to Sit


By Ruthie Bently

When you live with a dog, they need to be as well-behaved as you would expect your human child to be. Having an unruly dog is just as bad, and can sometimes be worse than having an unruly child. Teaching your dog basic commands, whether in an obedience class with other dogs or with a private trainer, is important. You never know when you may have to use them, but the commands you have trained your dog to obey may be useful in saving their life.

There are no time limits for training your dog and you should not rush them to learn if they are a bit slow. Every dog is different and will learn at their own pace; you just need to have patience. You may even want to keep a training journal, because if you have training issues and need help it can be easier for someone to assess your dog if they can see your progress written down.

In obedience training with my own dogs, I learned that the easiest way to train a dog to sit was to use a tiny bit of bait, like a Snap-Bits® treat. I would put it in my hand, so that my dog could not see it or steal it, but was able to smell it. Then facing my dog, I started with my hand several inches above their nose and ran my hand with the treat, in line with their backbone back towards their tail. The easiest way for them to follow the treat is to lift up their head and they sit.

While my dog is beginning to sit, I say “sit” so they will learn to associate the word with the action. After they sit, I repeat the word “sit” several times and praise my dog for being good. If your hand is too far above your dog’s head, they may try and jump for the treat. Lowering your hand so it is closer to their head should take care of this. Sometimes, Skye will try and back up to get the treat. When she does this, I back her up against a fence, so there is a barrier behind her and she can’t back up any more.

I learned to teach the command ‘down’ by first putting my dog in a sitting position in front of me. Then, using a treat they couldn’t see in my hand or take away but could smell, I put my hand a few inches in front of their nose and lower my hand to the floor. Our trainer also taught us to look at the floor first, because our dog’s eyes would follow ours down to the floor and make it theoretically easier to get our dog to understand what we wanted. After my dog would lie down on the floor, I would put the treat between their front feet and say “down” several times and make much of my dog’s accomplishment.

When training a new command, I usually only work for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, and about three times a day. If you are working with a puppy, even an older dog; you don’t want them to get bored. Keep it light and fun and they will have no problem with you wanting to train them, because they will think it is a new form of playing. After all is said and done, isn’t a well-behaved dog what we all want?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Monday, August 17, 2009

Do Pets Have Feelings and Show Emotions?


By Linda Cole

I've been told by veterinarians and animal behavior experts many times that our pets do not have feelings or show emotions. They say pets are incapable of displaying human feelings, and what we think are signs of happiness, sadness or hurt feelings are nothing more than wishful thinking. However, as a lifelong pet owner, I disagree. My pets do have feelings and show emotion, and I see proof of this every day.

We think of feelings or emotions as the ability to show warmth, anger, tenderness, grief and even sulking or pouting. We also tend to believe we are the only species capable of showing feelings and emotions. One does not need to be an animal behaviorist to understand our pets do indeed have feelings which they display. Don't believe me? Then watch carefully how your pet reacts to situations. You might be surprised by what you see.

Meryl is a loving cat who I have belonged to for 14 years. From the moment he was able to walk, I have been his favorite human. He moves a bit slower these days and prefers napping in a sunny window, but when he was a kitten, Meryl was into everything. I use a spray bottle to discipline my pets – it’s safe to use and usually effective. Meryl was a young lad of 4 or 5 months when I discovered the spray bottle wouldn't work on him. He showed me pets do have feelings in his own way, and I still laugh about it today.

I was trying to change the sheets on my bed, and he was sitting on the edge and wouldn't move. Every time I moved him off the bed, he'd spring right back on. We played this game a few more times before I brought out my trusty spray bottle. Three squirts later, Meryl was still on the bed, refusing to move. A couple more doses of water and he still didn't move. However, a twitching tail and sullen eyes told me he was not a happy camper. I finally picked him up and moved him to another room. He gave me the cold shoulder for four days and wouldn't have anything to do with me. He was definitely mad at me. It was quite obvious that I had hurt his feelings by spraying him with water.

When I moved into my first home after college, an American Eskimo named Jack moved in with me. Puff, a handsome yellow cat, joined our little family a couple of months later. I learned from Jack that pets do have feelings and emotions and they react in much the same way we do. Jack was still a pup when I brought Puff home as a kitten. They became best friends and were always together. Puff slept at Jack's side every night. Both had gotten on in years and Puff passed away first. We both grieved his passing, but Jack would return every day to the spot where we had found Puff, sniffing and whining. He would lay on the spot for about an hour, before finally returning to my side. Jack died a year later and I'm not sure he ever recovered from Puff's passing.

I have no doubt pets do have feelings and emotions similar to our own. I have watched my pets display the same kind of reactions to situations as people do. Such as, hurt feelings when I made them mad, grief and depression from losing a friend, signs of affection, displays of anger, and even embarrassment.

Some people believe humans are the only species who can show emotion. However, anyone who has lived with a cat or dog knows when their pet is happy, sad or angry. Pets do have feelings and emotions and show them to us every day. Those who claim pets have no feelings and can't show emotion either don't have pets at home or are simply not paying close enough attention to them.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?


By Linda Cole

The cost of caring for pets has increased just as going to the doctor has for us. Sometimes expensive tests are required. Emergencies ranging from broken hips or legs to life threatening injuries can happen at any time. Is pet insurance really worth the cost to help protect our wallet while insuring our pets have proper care when they need it?

Pet insurance has been around since the early 1980s. Since then, companies providing coverage for pets have come and gone with around 10 companies today. According to a 2009 report issued by the National Commission on Veterinary Economic Issues, they estimate 850,000 pets are now insured in North America. Considering that the number of dogs and cats in the U.S. is estimated to be around 150 million, pet owners haven't exactly embraced buying pet insurance for their pets. Nonetheless, steadily growing numbers have indicated more people are considering pet insurance as a way to lessen their vet bill.

The main advantage in having pet insurance is that it gives the owner financial peace of mind in making decisions that could affect the animal. Most people don't have an extra $1,000 or more to cover vet bills if a devastating illness or accident happens to a family pet. However, most insurance policies for pets only cover around 50% of the cost. You have to pay the vet bill yourself and then file a claim with the insurance company. Some pet insurance companies do make quick payouts, and I guess some help is better than none at all.

Pre-existing conditions are not covered and if you do have a policy, any claim you may make will be added to the list of pre-existing conditions. Let's say your dog had a run in with a bee. If you take her to your vet, any future mouth or gum problems will then be excluded and considered pre-existing conditions when you renew your policy. Most pet insurance will cost anywhere from $25 to around $40 or more per month depending on the plan you select. Some insurance companies may offer a discount to get you to sign up, but the cost of the premium compared to what they will cover may leave some pet owner to consider other options.

For those with multiple pets, insurance premiums are not a very good solution. Consider a savings account dedicated to your pets instead. A monthly deposit of $25 or more built up over time could certainly help give you peace of mind if your dog or cat needs to go to the vet for a serious or life threatening condition. Instead of having to beg, borrow or steal from a piggy bank to pay the vet, a pet savings account is there when you need it.

Another option is Care Credit for pets. This company offers a line of credit with low monthly payments to help pet owners pay for vet care and prescription food or medications. It can even be used for human care as well. Payments are broken down into 3, 6, 12 or 18 month plans. The monthly payments can be as low as 3% of your balance.

With Care Credit, as long as you pay your minimum monthly agreed amount and the balance is paid within the specified time, there is no interest charge. Those who need more time to pay or want lower monthly payments can go with an expanded payment plan (24, 36, 48 or 60 months) with interest charges of 13.9%. You will find it is similar to a credit card and easy to use, especially for emergencies.

Pet insurance can be a good idea to help defray the costs associated with caring for pets; however, it appears there are still some issues that need to be worked out before it can fully be justified by most pet owners as worth the cost.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Which Dogs Drool the Most?


By Anna Lee

Most dogs drool a little bit, some dogs drool a lot while others have made it onto the list of “Dogs That Drool the Most.” If you are a neat-freak you may not want to own a drooler. At the least you need to be prepared to follow the drooling dog around with a towel. As they say, forewarned is forearmed!

My husband thinks our dog Abby should be on this list. Labs do drool, but not enough to make the list! Here are the top 5 dogs that drool, in no particular order:

Saint Bernard: I have no personal experience with this dog breed, but I have heard many ‘drool stories’ from my husband. His mother had a Saint Bernard and that dog, Ronnie, drooled day and night. Research contradicts that, saying they drool only after eating or drinking. They are large dogs that are extremely gentle, loyal and they want to please. Early on they need to be taught not to jump on people. The Saint Bernard will reach 200 pounds, which means a lot of CANIDAE® dog food!

Great Pyrenees: These are beautiful dogs with fantastic coats. Great Pyrenees are large dogs who are devoted to their family and love cats, but are wary of strangers. They are obedient and affectionate, and need a lot of exercise to stay in shape. They can weigh up to 100 pounds. There are two Great Pyrenees dogs that live not far from us, and it is a pleasure to see them run in their yard as their hair billows in the wind.

Newfoundland: I love most dogs, but of the large breeds the Newfie is a personal favorite. Years ago my parents owned a summer house on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. A family friend had a Newfoundland, and it was a beautiful sight to watch him jump in the Chesapeake Bay and swim without a care or worry. He was spectacular and as gentle as can be. The Newfie is noble, calm, loyal and trustworthy. Instinct allows them to recognize a dangerous situation and will protect the family. They love to drink lots of water and are not neat about it. The males can reach about 120 pounds. They prefer cooler climates which means one would not do well here in the south where I live.

English Mastiff are self confident, patient and gentle natured dogs. They seldom bark, and prefer gentle obedience. A male can reach 200 pounds. They drool heavily, and they snore and wheeze heavily too. They are prone to hip dysplasia and come across as lazy due to their size.

Bullmastiff: although a good watchdog, this breed is also docile unless provoked. They will knock down an intruder and pin him down, but be gentle and kind to a child. They are extremely powerful and need a strong, confident owner. The males will be about 120 pounds. They are prone to hip dysplasia and tend to be lazy.

Other dogs that drool a lot are the Boxer, Great Dane, English Setter, and most of the Bulldogs. If you want any of the above dogs in your life, you can expect to be drooled on frequently. Consider drool a kiss from your dog!

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Friday, August 14, 2009

Is it Okay to Leave a Cat Home Alone?


By Julia Williams

Most of the time people don’t ask that question. They ask instead, “How long can I leave my cat home alone?” My answer, the only one I am comfortable with based on personal experience, is “not one night.”

Responsible pet owners who wouldn’t dream of leaving a dog home alone while they go away, think it’s perfectly fine to leave their cats to fend for themselves. Many people see cats as self-sufficient creatures that don’t need the same amount of care as dogs. On a very basic level, this is true. You don’t have to take a cat out for a daily walk or to go potty. And cats generally won’t tear the sofa cushions to bits if left alone for a few days. But everything else, every other reason you wouldn’t leave your dog home alone for a week with nothing but a bowl of kibble and some water, applies to cats too.

Cats cannot take care of themselves if something should go wrong. What could possibly go wrong, you ask? Anything can happen, especially if the cat is allowed to go outdoors while you are away. Bad things can happen to indoor cats too. They can knock over a glass vase and cut their foot open. They can spill water into their bowl of kibble and turn it to mush. The thing is, accidents happen, and they’re unpredictable.

If I went away and didn’t arrange for someone to come over to check on my cats, and something bad happened to one of them, the guilt would be very hard to live with. I know, because it happened to me a long time ago, and that was the very last time I ever left my cats home alone.

My then-husband and I went on vacation and left our cat Tosha with enough dry food and water to last for more than a week. We even left a little extra, just in case. We didn’t need to worry about someone cleaning the litter box, because we had a cat door and Tosha could come and go as she pleased. At the time, I thought nothing of leaving my cat home alone for a week. I’d heard it said many, many times that a cat left alone would be perfectly fine, and I believed it. Oh, how wrong I was.

Our return was delayed because our car broke down and stranded us in the mountains. When we finally did get come, I called and called Tosha. She always came when I called her, but this time she didn’t. We went to look for her, and found her behind the house lying in the bushes. She was alive, but one of her back legs was mangled.

We rushed her to the vet, who said it could’ve been caused by a dog or a car; he wasn’t sure. We were given the option to put her to sleep or amputate her leg. She was just a year old, and I thought it would be unfair to let her die so young. The vet said she would be able to get around fine with three legs, so we agreed to the operation. A few hours and $2400 later, we had ourselves a three-legged cat.

Tosha lived to be 16 and did manage to get around quite well on three legs, albeit with a hopping gait that was funny to watch. Her nicknames were Tripod and Hopalong Catsidy, and we joked about buying her a little kitty wheelchair. One could argue that it turned out okay, so what was the harm in leaving her home alone? For starters, I have no idea how long she lay there in the bushes, bleeding and in pain. Her suffering was needless, and incredibly selfish on my part. And had we kept her inside, we’d have spent $80 to have a pet sitter come twice a day versus $2400 to amputate her leg.

My beloved three-legged cat taught me a valuable lesson in Responsible Pet Ownership. Nowadays, if I can’t get a friend or family member to come and check on my cats twice a day when I’m gone overnight, I hire a pet sitter. It’s the right thing – the only thing – to do. In my eyes, there is nothing to gain and everything to lose by leaving my precious kitties home alone.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What To Do With a Stray Dog


By Ruthie Bently

Has this ever happened to you? You’re traveling on a country road, a busy interstate or even at your favorite store and you see a dog without their human owner. What do you do? First of all, if you decide to approach this dog, do so with caution. You don’t know how long it has been on its own, and it may have been traumatized by its experience. Though this may be someone’s four-legged baby and might be the most wonderful dog in the world under normal circumstances, it has sharp teeth and could be frightened by what it has been through so far.

A biscuit or a food item may be a good thing to have in your hand, as this will distract their focus and may also endear you to them. You should check to see if the dog has a collar, and hopefully tags as well. You can also check with any neighbors in the area to see if anyone has lost a dog. If you are uncomfortable taking the dog home, then contact the local animal shelter or humane society. Sometimes these are linked to the police department animal control unit. If you want to take the dog home, you should still contact the local shelter or humane society to let them know you found a dog. Giving them as complete a description as you can is important, as this will facilitate getting the dog home sooner.

If you take the dog home with you, they should be provided with food, water and a safe place to rest. Check the local papers every day for listings of a lost dog, as well as with local veterinarians. You can either keep the dog until the owner is found or take them to the shelter after 24 hours. However, if you take the dog to the shelter, check to see what their policies are on euthanasia as some have a seven day limit for keeping lost pets. Ask if they are a “no kill” shelter, and what will happen to the dog if they are not reunited with their owner within a week.

Do your best to make sure the dog gets home by hanging flyers, and place an ad in the local paper (many local papers offer free “found dog” ads). Also make sure the information gets to your local police department and vets, as well as those in the town where you found the dog (if it’s a different city than yours). Many dogs are micro-chipped now, so check with your local shelter or vet to see if they have a universal chip reader. This may also get the dog home sooner.

I had an interesting experience with a lost dog once. Though it took a bit of ingenuity, I was finally able to reunite the dog with his owner. It was early one Sunday morning at the store where I worked as pet department manager. A customer came in and mentioned there was a German Shepherd sitting by the front door. I went out to see the dog; it was waiting patiently so I thought he was waiting for his owner to come out of the store. He seemed friendly so I gave him a pat and went back to work. Little did I know, I would become more involved in this dog’s life.

I checked to see if he had tags on his collar, and he had a rabies tag but no name tag. While this was a bit of a setback, I knew I could still find his owner. You see, the rabies tag had the phone number of the county that issued it. I called the number, and with a bit of research they were able to give me the dog’s name and told me that his rabies vaccination was up to date, even though the tag had been issued more than a year before. Unfortunately the phone number she gave me for the owner was no longer valid, as he had moved since the dog was vaccinated.

The story still has a happy ending. Because I called the county that issued the rabies tag, they were eventually able to get in touch with the owner, and he and his dog were reunited. It turns out the dog lived in Wisconsin and was loaned to a friend in Chicago while his owner went out of town. The problem was the “babysitter” didn’t realize the dog’s commitment to his owner. I am a fan of Sheila Burnford’s book “The Incredible Journey,” and this dog must have been also. He got loose one day while on an outing with the babysitter and decided to go home.

This dog had a lot of heart and just wanted to go home to the person who loved him the best. And isn’t that what we all want in the end? Bless you and yours, be they two or four-legged.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Feed Grain Free Dog and Cat Food?


By Lexiann Grant

Should you feed grain free food to your cats and dogs? While grains contain many beneficial nutrients, cats are carnivores and not normally grain eaters, and, some dogs don’t do well with grains while other dogs need the higher levels of protein a grain free diet can offer.

Although grains are a good source of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber, the digestive system of the feline is not designed to efficiently break down and utilize a large amount of carbohydrates. The small quantity of carbohydrates that ancestral cats ate came primarily from the stomach contents of prey which they caught and consumed. While pariah and feral dogs were more versatile in their diets, eating more carbohydrates than cats, the source of these carbs was vegetables, fruits and also food remnants in their prey’s digestive tract.

Studies over the years through various veterinary colleges and journals have shown that several health conditions can be aggravated by too much dietary grain. Special diets for affected pets usually eliminate or greatly reduce the grain source of carbohydrates in their food.

* Allergies. In dogs, allergies most often manifest with itching, dry flaky skin, skin lesions, and excessively waxy ears with frequent ear infections. Cats may experience itching, hair loss, nasal discharge and respiratory symptoms. Although food allergies are the least common type of allergy diagnosed in dogs and cats and make up only about 5% of all cases of skin disease, there are rare cases of allergy to soy, corn and wheat grains.

* Inflammatory Bowel Disease. A serious, complex disease which results in chronic diarrhea and sometimes vomiting, IBD is linked in part to diet. Grains have a history of making the symptoms of this condition worse. Elimination diets to diagnose and control IBD rely on a single meat protein source and most frequently – no grains.

* Urinary tract disease, including struvite bladder stones and feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC or FLUTD). For pets predisposed to bladder problems, a precisely balanced diet is critical to maintaining health. Meat protein in strict proportion is necessary to maintain proper urine pH, which is typically too alkaline in these painful conditions. Grains contribute to alkaline urine pH: the more grain in the diet, the more alkaline urine is likely to become.

“With urinary problems I recommend food that is higher in protein content and lower in grain,” says Dr. Shawn Messonnier DVM, www.petcarenaturally.com, and author of Unexpected Miracles, “and, IBD and allergies can be worsened because of possible interactions with grains.”

* Obesity and high glucose. Partial grains can contribute to weight gain or unstable blood sugar levels, particularly in cats. Energy from grain carbohydrates rushes into the system and converts quickly to glucose. This sudden excess can lead to high levels, followed by a plunge. Dogs who “work” or compete in high-energy activities need more meat protein for sustained energy. Pets with diabetes can more easily maintain normal blood sugar levels with diets lower in grains and higher in meat protein. And, calories from partial grains can also pack on as pounds of fat more quickly.

* Additionally, non-premium foods that rely on grain plants as their main source of protein can be deficient in the amino acid, taurine. Taurine deficiency plays a key role in the development of eye and heart problems, particularly in cats.

If grains are bad, then why are they used in pet food? Because not all grains are bad, and not all animals have a problem with grains. Not only do whole, low-allergenic grains, like oats, barley or brown rice, contain beneficial nutrients, they are useful to the production of kibble. These healthy grains help “hold” dry food together and supply nutrients.

For the dog or cat who needs a grain free diet, these nutrients come from other sources – which also facilitate the manufacturing process – such as potatoes, peas, cranberries and other vegetables or fruits. The essential nutrients found in grains are also available in these food sources and do not have to be “added back” into the diet.

Not every dog, or even some cats, should be fed a grain free food. But for the health conscious owner who wants to provide an “ancestral diet” or for the special needs or "high energy" pet, grain free is a healthy option. Grain free foods are more expensive, but like any dietary choice, it’s an investment in good health. Like their other premium products, CANIDAE® offers a grain free line of kibble and canned foods for both dogs and cats.

Personally, I feed grain free to two of my dogs and most of the cats. One dog is my “little carnivore” that has always turned up her nose at the first whiff of a vegetable, grain or fruit (except for peanut butter)! The other dog has problems with alkaline urine and struvite crystals, and CANIDAE Grain Free has been key in keeping him healthy. The cats, some of whom have FLUTD, eat mostly grain free as well... and I’m looking forward to trying the new Grain Free FELIDAE® food.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?


By Linda Cole

I love sitting with my dogs outside in their pen, especially on warm, sunny afternoons. Trees provide plenty of shade as they patrol their territory. Their ears are pricked forward, adjusting as sounds float by in a gentle breeze. Interesting smells set their noses working overtime. At times, they sit and search the trees overlooking their pen for squirrels or neighborhood cats. Then, out of the blue, my dogs turn into a herd of grazing cows. Why do dogs eat grass?

Dogs are carnivores, but they are also omnivores. When hungry, a dog will eat whatever it can find. No matter how full they may be from scarfing down their normal meal of dog food, it seems like it's never enough.

Vets have no real idea why dogs eat grass, but it's believed by some that a dog's diet included grass a long time ago. They are decedents of wolves and foxes who consumed grasses and berries when they ate their prey which were mainly herbivores. When these ancient animals couldn't find food, it's believed they turned to grass to fill their empty tummies.

Dogs aren't picky eaters like cats. If my cats don't like the smell from an offering before them, they stick their nose in the air and walk away. Dogs don't care if their food comes from a bag, can, garbage container or some choice prize found hidden in the grass. They will scavenger anything they find laying around inside or out, including those “treats” they find in a cat box.

So if dogs like eating grass so much, why do they vomit it back up? Not once, but twice. It's always twice. Many a dog owner has smiled at the look our dogs give us between one and two. A disgustingly bad tasting, sour look that indicates it didn't taste that bad going down.

An old wives tale says your dog eats grass because he's sick. Yes and no. Vets believe dogs eat grass to help relieve indigestion. Bile is secreted from their gallbladder into the stomach which helps break up fats. When their stomach is empty, they can get a sort of indigestion from the built up bile. Dogs will eat grass to make themselves throw up to get rid of the excess acid caused by the secretion of bile.

Vets also think some dogs simply like to eat grass. The nice, neatly mowed grass that makes up our lawns is soft and has a sweet taste. This grass is the best type for them to eat. More weedy types of grass can scratch and irritate their esophagus. If you see a slightly bloody froth after your dog throws up, they have gotten into a patch of weedy grass. It's believed some dogs simply crave a good mouthful of greens every now and then. That's when they seem to be able to keep it down.

If your dog eats grass regularly and throws it up, it could be cause for concern. A vet visit may be in order to make sure there is no underlying illness that hasn't shown up yet. A dose of antacids can be prescribed by your vet to help get rid of that acid feeling your dog has, thereby curbing his desire to eat grass.

Another way to help discourage your dog from eating grass is to spread his food into smaller meals throughout the day. Keeping food in his stomach will help eliminate the acidic feeling your dog gets from an empty stomach. A round of treats like CANIDAE® Snap-Bits™ before going to bed can also help, or you can sprinkle a little bran on his main meal (bran helps fill the stomach).

It's normal for dogs to eat grass, and it won't hurt them. Just be careful not let them eat grass that's been treated with any kind of chemicals. Once they've had a chance to break down, which isn't usually very long, the grass is safe for your dog to graze on to his heart's content.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, August 10, 2009

Forget Laughter. Pets are the Best Medicine!


By Julia Williams

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Now, I have nothing against laughter and its genuine, proven ability to heal people of emotional and physical maladies. Laughter has given my own mental state a boost many times. But pets are the real “Super Healers” in my book.

My beloved cats are more than just good friends, great listeners and remarkable teachers; they’re powerful medicine no matter what ails me. They’re the glue that holds my chaotic life together. In times of deep sorrow and depression, they’ve even been the reason I got out of bed in the morning.

According to a 2009 survey by the American Pet Products Association, 62% of all U.S. households have a pet. What then, is so magical about this thing we call “animal companionship?” How can our lives be transformed by the loving presence of a pet? How do pets help people? Let me count the ways.

1. Pets give unconditional love and acceptance whereas very often, society does not. This is especially critical for those who suffer from low self esteem and self-worth, and those who are deemed “different” or “odd” for physical or mental reasons. For some of these people, a pet is their only friend.

2. Pets are natural born teachers. Watching, caring for and interacting with pets can help people of all ages (especially children) learn to be responsible, empathetic, loyal, loving and kind human beings.

3. Pets reduce the detrimental effects that stress, loneliness, fear and worry have on our bodies. Petting a dog or cat has also been shown to reduce blood pressure.

4. People who have been hurt by others sometimes put up a “wall” so it won’t happen again. Loving (and being loved by) a pet can help those with “closed hearts” learn to trust other people again and open themselves up to human relationships.

5. Dogs can help their overweight owners get in shape, shed pounds and live healthier lives. Most breeds require regular walks and/or play time at the dog park, which motivates responsible pet owners to get some exercise of their own.

6. Pets don’t care what kind of car we drive, how big our house is, or what we wear. They’ll be our friend and love us no matter what our social status is.

7. Pets give the elderly a sense of purpose and much-needed companionship.

8. Pets can warn people of danger; for instance, if there is a fire in the house, a burglar or other intruder. I have three “watchcats” in my home – I know instantly when someone is approaching my house, because I see them making a beeline for the bedroom.

9. Pets can help us get to know another person’s true nature, since there is a direct correlation between how people treat animals and how they treat each other. Kindness to animals speaks volumes about a human being’s character. Any form of animal cruelty, on the other hand, should be a giant red flag and a relationship deal breaker.

10. Some believe pets save lives by warning their owners of health issues. Dogs have been known to “smell” cancer before it’s detected by medical means, and some have a sixth sense that can alert their owners to an oncoming seizure.

11. Pets can reduce or alleviate depression and anxiety disorders. Winston Churchill suffered from depression, which he called "the black dog." But for many, a black dog (or any other color) might be exactly what they need to help them get well.

12. Studies have shown that owning a dog increases survival rates in patients who have suffered cardiac arrest. This is attributed to the increased physical activity of walking, grooming and petting the dog, which strengthens the heart, improves blood circulation, and slows the loss of bone tissue.

13. Pets help the blind, paraplegic and other handicapped individuals perform everyday tasks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Although assistance dogs are not classified as pets by law, close bonds almost always form between them and those they help.

12. Pets inspire us to be better human beings. When we see the unfailing way that pets give their love and devotion to us and demand so little in return, it makes us want to be kinder, more generous and more appreciative.

13. The biggest reason that pets are the best medicine for body, mind and soul? It’s simple really– they make us happy. What could possibly be more therapeutic than that?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Basic Dog Grooming: Supplies and Procedures


By Ruthie Bently

Each dog breed is different, and there are many hair types, show clips and grooming procedures for them. The basics of dog grooming, however, apply to every dog, whether it’s a Labrador Retriever, an Airedale Terrier, a Poodle or a Portuguese Water Dog. When grooming your dog, they should be relaxed and this should be an enjoyable experience for them.

Basic grooming supplies include a brush, comb, shampoo, conditioner (for longer coats), detangler, ear cleaner, toothpaste, toothbrush, dog toenail clippers, styptic pencil or powder, cotton balls and CANIDAE® Snap-Bits™ dog treats. All supplies should be for use on pets, not humans. The ph of our hair is different and you could dry out your dog’s coat and remove essential oils by using shampoo made for people. There are many good dog shampoos on the market and some of them are even “tearless.” I use the Snap-Bits after I groom Skye as an enticement for the next time, and they always work.

Brushing your dog removes dead hair and stimulates the glands that produce the natural oils which lubricate their skin and coat. I am constantly combing burrs and thistles out during the months when they are plentiful. I usually brush Skye’s coat outside as soon as the weather is warm enough to do so. Though she is a short-coated dog, like many dogs that shed, she can really blow coat in the spring and fall. I brush head to tail and use a rubber palm pad. The rubber creates a static charge with the hair and the hair sticks to the brush and massages Skye’s skin at the same time.

Bathing is important for all dogs regardless of age. Your dog’s activity level, what they get into, and how much they groom themselves will give you an idea how many baths they need in a year. There is no hard and fast rule, though some say you should bathe your dog at least once a month. If you have a dog that loves to roll in smelly things, or dig in the mud, you may have to bathe them more often. It’s good to bathe your dog yourself if you can, as it gives you a chance to examine them for injuries or any other abnormalities that a groomer may not be looking for. I found a cyst on my first dog’s back that way, before it came through his skin and became a major health issue.

Cleaning their ears is important because it lets you check for infection, ticks or ear mites that may be there. You can also look for anything that may have gotten lodged in your dog’s ears from their outside excursions. I clean out any heavy debris with cotton balls, and then use ear cleaner. Most ear cleaners are very easy to use; the one I use is self-drying and just gets squirted into the ear and then Skye shakes her head to remove it. You have to take more care with a dog whose ears droop, as it is easier for them to get an infection.

Cleaning their teeth is important because you can keep plaque from forming. You can also check your dog’s teeth for cracks, breaks or cavities that may be forming. It is important to use a toothpaste made specifically for dogs. Some human toothpastes have chemicals and artificial sweeteners in them that are toxic to dogs. Many veterinarians anesthetize a dog to clean their teeth. Depending on your dog’s age, this could be dangerous. There are human dental hygienists that clean dog’s teeth and use natural products and no anesthesia, but they can be difficult to find, so cleaning your dog’s teeth yourself is a win-win situation.

Keeping your dog’s toenails clipped prevents them from scratching and hurting themselves or you and your loved ones. It also keeps them from getting their toenails caught in fabrics or damaging the floors and furniture in your home. There are many types of clippers on the market, I know a breeder who uses a Dremel tool to trim her dogs’ toes because she likes the job it does. Having styptic powder is important if your dog has darker or black nails, as mistakes can happen and the styptic powder will stop the bleeding.

I love grooming Skye, as it gives us more special time together and my attention is wholly focused on her, which she loves. It doesn’t take much of my time and we get to bond further and get even closer. It has a calming effect on me and her occasional antics are hilarious, even if half of the bath water ends up on me.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pet Airways: the First Airline for Four-Legged Fliers


By Anna Lee

The husband and wife team of Alysa Binder and Dan Wiesel’s inspiration to start an airline exclusively for pets came from their own Jack Russell Terrier. She couldn’t fit under the seat in front of them as her carrier was just a tad too big. Zoe, like many other dogs, would have to travel in the cargo hold. This was not a satisfactory solution to them as Zoe is not cargo, she’s their pet. Plus, traveling in the cargo hold can be a dangerous and frightening experience for pets. So Alysa and Dan came up with a solution: their own airline.

On a ‘Pet Airways’ flight, dogs and cats travel in a climate controlled cabin. The aircraft are modified Beech 1900s. The seats and overhead bins have been removed and replaced with crates. Each plane holds approximately 50 pet carriers of different sizes that are secured with Pet Airways “proprietary restraint system.” Your pet is not just shoved inside an airliner and forgotten about. Pets get top flight, first class attention.

The airline currently serves five cities: Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, New York and Washington D.C. The owners plan is to expand to 20 additional cities over the next couple of years. Fares are calculated on the size of the carrier required for your pet and the travel time involved, and range from $149 to $299 one way. These flights are in and out of smaller, regional airports.

Your pet can fly on Pet Airways, but you can’t. You will have to take a regular plane ride and expect your dog or cat to take much longer due to the type of planes and the stops they have to make. Your pet’s flight and your flight would be in and out of two different airports, which adds some inconvenience to your schedule.

According to their website, pets are never left unattended, and are taken care of by trained professionals. You drop your pet off in a special lounge area 2 hours prior to departure, although special arrangements can be made if you need to drop the pet off earlier. Pets are put onboard the plane and checked to make sure they are safe and secure. Professionals monitor the pets every 15 minutes. When they arrive at the destination they are given a final potty break and you pick your pet up in the specified lounge area. If you cannot pick up your pet after the flight arrives, arrangements can be made for an overnight stay at a PAWS lodge.

This brand new airline is getting mixed reviews since its initial flight in early July. We all have the right to make our own decisions and choices in life for ourselves and our pets. Pet Airways is not for everyone. Some people love it and some don’t. I personally don’t fly, and I have no reason to fly. My travel is always in a vehicle, where Abby is right in the back of the SUV with us.

With Pet Airways, you do have to turn your pet over to strangers for many hours. Not all cats or dogs would do well under those circumstances due to health reasons. Pet owners must fly on a different, traditional flight. As stated earlier, Pet Airways is rather expensive and the flights are long. If you are considering this service you may want to check with your veterinarian for a professional opinion.

It’s up to you, the responsible pet owner, to decide if Pet Airways is right for you or not. It is an option that is available in a world that is constantly changing and growing. Do your own research, ask for references and explore the option. If you decide it is a service you would like to try, you can get more information on flights, schedules and prices, and make reservations at their website, www.petairways.com.

Read more articles by Anna Lee
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