Saturday, October 31, 2009

How Did Black Cats Become a Halloween Icon?


By Julia Williams

Halloween is here, and everywhere you look today you’ll probably see jack-o’lanterns, ghosts, witches and black cats. These are common symbols associated with this jubilant holiday, but that wasn’t always the case. Although many of our present day Halloween customs trace their origins back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, the connection to black cats is relatively recent.

Samhain was a sacred celebration that marked the end of summer. It did not involve witches or sorcery, but the Celts did believe it was a time when the barrier between the living and the dead was temporarily lifted. To keep troublemaking spirits from bothering them, the Celts wore “ghostly” costumes which made them appear dead. They also gave offerings of food to nourish ancestral ghosts thought to be journeying to the afterlife on this date.

When pagan rituals were converted to Christian holidays, Samhain became All Saints Day, All Souls Day, All Hallow’s Eve and finally, Halloween. Christians went door to door with a hollow turnip “lantern” made to symbolize the souls in purgatory, and households offered them “soul cakes” in exchange for prayers for the dead.

So how did black cats come to be associated with Halloween? Many theories abound. One says that the Celtic Druids eventually came to be viewed as witches by the Church. It was believed that witches could shapeshift, and that they would usually disguise themselves as cats. Black cats were thought to be witches familiars (i.e., beings that aided witches in performing witchcraft). Some thought black cats were reincarnated witches as well.

It stands to reason then, that when the Halloween celebration evolved to include the iconic “wicked witch,” the black cat was also included. Thus, the association of the ancient Celts with witchcraft created two of our most common contemporary Halloween symbols. In fact, black cats and witches remain popular Halloween costumes year after year.

Another theory suggests that black cats may have become associated with Halloween as a result of folklore and superstitions about them being evil and causing bad luck. Even now, many still give credence to these legends. In the United States and many European countries, there are people who actually believe that seeing a black cat signifies the coming of bad luck. With two black cats in my household, I am more like the Irish and the British, who generally consider it a sign of good luck if a black cat crosses their path.

I do find it hard to believe that otherwise intelligent human beings could believe something so absurd as “all black cats are evil.” But then, I’ve never been one to buy into any superstition. I think it’s rather sad for black cats, though, who are forced to bear the burden of this unfortunate association.

It is true that black cats are the least likely to be adopted from animal shelters and other animal rescue organizations. You can visit any shelter, any day of the year, to see for yourself. It’s also true that many shelters refuse to adopt out their black cats in the weeks leading up to Halloween. They fear that the black cats could be used for satanic rituals, or that someone might want to have a black cat in their home as a “living decoration” and then surrender it after the Halloween holiday. As preposterous as that might sound to you or me, anything is possible nowadays, so I don’t blame the shelters for taking precautions.

People with black cats are also cautioned to keep them indoors around Halloween for those same reasons. As long as the black cat continues to be associated with the ghosts, goblins, witches and other spooky figures of Halloween, it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution. But if you need proof that black cats are not unlucky, just take it from me. My two black cats are ten and six years old, and I’ve had nothing but good luck, love and happiness since they joined my household.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, October 30, 2009

Alternative Therapies for Dogs


By Ruthie Bently

There are many kinds of alternative therapies nowadays, not only for us but for pets as well. Just like us, our dogs can benefit from them. Alternative therapies can have an unseen benefit, especially if the medication your dog is on does not work, or makes them ill from its side effects. If your dog does not respond to a medication, they may get relief from an alternative therapy, as they don’t tend to produce the side effects that a chemical medication can.

Acupuncture is an ancient alterative therapy that has been practiced as far back as 7000 years ago in India. One of the earliest documented cases of its use in veterinary medicine was about 3000 years ago in India, to treat elephants. The man usually credited with the use of acupuncture in veterinary medicine is Shun Yang from China in 480 BC. Where traditional Western medicine considers one specific issue of a body, acupuncture considers the whole organism in the diagnosis of a health issue.

Acupuncture uses small gauge needles applied to various parts on the body to create a physiological response in the treatment of many diseases and conditions, and has been proven successful in pain relief. It has also been used to treat conditions that affect the entire body. The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society is the professional group for veterinary acupuncturists in the United States.

While each dog is different, acupuncture has been found to help with cases of chronic respiratory conditions, arthritis, neurological disorders, gynecological issues, male and female reproductive problems, skin issues, immune system issues, cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal issues, musculoskeletal issues and thoracolumbar and cervical disc issues.

Acupuncture has been show to enhance the efficiency of antibiotics when used for canine otitis, which is an inflammation of the ear. Acupuncture has also been suggested as a surgery alternative, if the surgery may have possible complications for your dog. Before deciding on treatment of any kind, you should always get a professional diagnosis and consider all of your options, as in some cases acupuncture may not give the results you desire.

Aromatherapy is as old as 18,000 BC, based on cave paintings discovered in France that show the burning of aromatic plants for medicinal use. It’s believed that aromatherapy got its start in ancient Egypt, though the Chinese were using it around the same time. The term “aromatherapy” was coined by a French chemist, who while working in a laboratory, burned his hand and immediately immersed it in lavender oil. He was surprised at how quickly his burn healed and began doing research into the healing powers of essential oils.

Aromatherapy treatments are done with scents or fragrances made from herbs and flowers. These natural compounds can be made from roots, leaves, fruits, seeds, plant resins and the wood of certain plants. Aromatherapy can be used for an ongoing cure or as a preventative measure. Though humans have been using aromatherapy for healing for centuries, it is a fairly recent practice for animals. Aromatherapy is used by homeopathic veterinarians to help dogs that may be stressed, fearful, anxious or depressed. For example, if you have a dog that gets fretful going in the car, you could use an essence made to calm them down. You should consult a homeopathic veterinarian before beginning any course of aromatherapy for your dog.

Animal chiropractic is a specialization for veterinarians and chiropractors to provide manipulations to the spine, joints and manual therapy for animals; it’s primarily used for neuromusculoskeletal conditions in dogs and horses. It is controversial, and the AVMA does not recognize it. From a legal aspect, only licensed veterinarians are allowed to practice on animals in the United States. However, there are some doctors who hold degrees in both veterinary science and chiropractic, as well as some practitioners that are neither, which causes a legal issue.

Findings show both benefits and increased risk of problems in animals that have been adjusted. Dr. Sharon Willoughby, DVM, DC formed the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) in 1989 with a group of chiropractors and veterinarians to further the profession of animal chiropractic. In theory, animal chiropractic can benefit animals with symptoms related to neck, leg, back and tail pain. Some symptoms include: disc problems, arthritis, injuries from slipping or falling, weight loss due to pain and uneven muscle development. The jury is still out on this one and probably will be for some time.

Reiki is a hands-on energy balancing technique believed to have originated in Tibet. It resurfaced in Japan in the early 1900s before coming to the West. Reiki translated means “universal life energy,” which is our life force. When a dog’s life force is flowing correctly, they are healthy and happy; when it is blocked or lacking a dog will get sick or their body won’t function properly. Practicing Reiki is like giving your dog a shot of the life force that surrounds us in the universe, by tapping into it. This in turn can bring balance back to your dog.

After being trained in Reiki through a series of attunements, a master is able to channel healing energy to the dog’s body. Depending on the master, a dog can be treated either directly or from a distance. To send energy remotely the master needs a picture of the dog and the dog’s permission to send the Reiki to them. Some of the benefits a pet can have from a Reiki treatment are relaxation and decreased stress, improved mood, and reduced or removal of pain. Reiki can improve a dog’s medical condition, help accelerate healing and can help other therapies work better for your dog.

This article is intended as a general guide to alternative therapies for dogs. Please consult with your vet if you have any health concerns or questions about caring for your dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chocolate Toxicity in Pets: Symptoms & Precautions


By Linda Cole

Halloween is once again at our doorstep. Trick or treaters will begin tapping on doors to collect the goodies we have to offer. Among the caramel apples, popcorn balls and tasty treats of this spooky holiday will be chocolate candy bars, brownies or other special goodies made with chocolate. We devour tons of chocolate each year, but just a small amount can be deadly for our dogs and cats. Why is chocolate so toxic to pets?

Pets do have a sweet tooth. That's why outside pets are attracted to spilled antifreeze on someone's driveway and can become poisoned from licking even a small amount. Pets think they should be able to eat everything we eat. It's hard to ignore their begging, bright eyes asking for (or demanding) a bite of whatever we are eating. When it comes to chocolate, even one bite can leave them begging for more.

Once pets, especially dogs, have tasted chocolate, they will develop a craving for it. The best thing to do is just not give your pet chocolate, period. Not only is chocolate toxic for pets, it can be fatal if they eat too much, and chocolate poisoning is more common than you may think. The ASPCA Poison Control Center and vets across the country see a spike in calls from worried pet owners during holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.

It's important for children to understand that sharing their Halloween chocolate treats with their dog or cat can make the pet extremely sick. A little chocolate won't hurt most dogs or cats; however, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Avoid any risk to your pet by not giving them any chocolate to begin with.

The amount of chocolate considered to be too much depends on the health, age, weight and size of your pet. The smaller the animal, the smaller amount of chocolate it takes to poison them. An older pet who is out of shape or has underlying illnesses could be affected by a very small amount of chocolate. It also depends on the type of chocolate; darker chocolate is more deadly. Dogs are more likely to be affected because they seem to be able to search and find chocolate better than cats, but cats can also be poisoned.

Theobromine is a natural stimulate found in the cocoa bean. This is what's poisonous to pets. It affects the central nervous system and heart muscles, and it also increases urination. Caffeine is also present in chocolate although not in high concentrations like Theobromine.

Chocolate toxicity in pets is a serious health issue. If you suspect your pet may have eaten too much chocolate, call your vet immediately. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in pets will begin within 12 hours or less and include:

* Being excited, nervous, shaking, hyperactive

* Diarrhea or vomiting

* Drinking a lot of water or increased urination, which is caused by too much Theobromine in their system.

* Muscle spasms or seizures

Most of us have a variety of chocolate in the house for baking purposes or eating. Dry cocoa powder tops the list of chocolate that is most dangerous for our pets, followed by Bakers chocolate (unsweetened), cocoa bean mulch, semisweet chocolate chips, sweet dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. When evaluating chocolate toxicity in pets, it's important to know what type of chocolate was ingested, and how much.

If your Siberian Husky or Lab eats a small chocolate candy bar, they will probably not be affected as long as they are healthy to begin with. A cat or Chihuahua grabbing a chocolate chip that fell on the floor should be fine, but when it comes to chocolate and pets, it best to just say no.

After the kids return home with their bags of Halloween goodies and everything is spread out on the table so you can survey their haul, please remember to make sure Halloween is safe for all members of your family. Chocolate is great in our tummies, but pets are better off with a healthy, chocolate-free snack made just for them.

My cats beg just as much as my dogs do, and it's hard to deny any of them a small bite of whatever I may be eating. For me, the choice is easy when it comes to chocolate. It's just not worth the risk. Besides, by not sharing, it leaves more for me!

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tips for Teaching Your Puppy His Name


By Julia Williams

When people adopt a puppy, one of the first things they usually do is name him. But once you’ve decided what to call your furry new friend, it’s just as important to begin immediately teaching your puppy his name. Why is it so essential? Because once your puppy learns to respond positively and immediately to his own name, teaching him other basic commands (such as sit, stay or lie down) will be much easier. When your puppy knows his name, you will be able to get him to focus his full attention on you instead of his surroundings. Thus, teaching your puppy his name is a fundamental base for any future training.

Your first objective is to teach your puppy that when you say his name, he must immediately stop whatever he's doing, turn his head and look directly at you. With consistent training and patience, your puppy will eventually understand that the sound he hears is his own name. Later, you can teach your puppy that the sound of his name will be followed by a command.

Step One: Take your puppy to a quiet place with no distractions, armed with some dog treats (CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ are perfect treats for puppies) and a few toys that your puppy enjoys playing with.

Step Two: Put your puppy on a long lead, which will help you to keep him from wandering off if something attracts his attention elsewhere.

Step Three: Using a happy tone of voice, say your puppy’s name.

Step Four: If your puppy looks in your direction when you say his name, immediately reward him with a treat and praise, such as “good doggie.” Puppies are usually very attracted to the sound of your voice, and will naturally look towards you when you speak. By giving him a treat and praising him, you reinforce the desired behavior. Only say your puppy’s name once; if he doesn't respond, you can gently tug his lead or touch his leg so he turns to look at you.

Step Five: Hold a treat up near your face so that your puppy has to look directly at you when you call his name. Doing this will ensure that you have his full attention.

Step Six: Swap a toy for the food treat, and use a few minutes of playtime as the reward for looking at you. Experiment with different treats, toys, and tones of voice to learn which ones are the best motivators for your puppy.

Step Seven: Repeat steps one through six several times during each training session until your puppy consistently looks at you when you say his name.

The next step in training your puppy to respond to his name is to introduce distractions. The goal is to teach your puppy that no matter where you are and no matter what else is happening around him, he needs to give you his full attention when you say his name. Try training him with other family members in the room, outside in your garden, at the local park or at someone else’s home.

Training your puppy in different environments or with distractions will likely be much more challenging at first (both for you and your puppy), but it is a great way to reinforce what your puppy is learning. Remember, your puppy wants to please you, so help him do that by remaining patient and taking this stage slow.

When teaching your puppy his name, it’s important that this sound only be associated with good things. In other words, try not to use your puppy’s name when you are scolding him. Otherwise, he will form a negative association with his name and may become confused or refuse to respond to you when you call his name.

Key points to remember:

* Keep your training sessions short (five or ten minutes at a time, several times each day), and keep them fun.

* Train your puppy before a meal so he’ll be more motivated to get the food treat. Just remember to account for the extra food in his daily rations, so as not to overfeed him.

* If more than one person will be teaching your puppy his name, make sure everyone understands what to do and uses the same technique.

* Be sure to give lots of praise along with the treat or toy reward, and always end each training session on a positive note.

If you follow these simple tips, your puppy will learn his name in no time at all!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Communicating With Your Dog


By Ruthie Bently

One of my personal mantras is “There is no such thing as a dumb animal; they just don’t vocalize in a language we understand.” That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with your dog, you just have to know how to go about it. I read The Loved Dog by dog trainer Tamar Geller, and she mentions that you should “teach your dog English,” which made sense to me.

Then I ran across an article by someone who feels that while you can teach your dog English, you should not ask them to do too much thinking. In my opinion, this sounds to me like the writer expects you to “dumb things down” for your dog. They mention that because a “pushy owner” thrusts the act of sitting upon their dog, this is why the dog understands the “sit” command. While this may be an effective method of teaching a puppy, it reminds me of that comic strip where the owner is talking to a dog named Ginger. You as the reader of the strip, see the words that the owner is speaking to Ginger. I don’t remember them exactly, but the conversation would look something like this: “Ginger, go sit over there.” Then you see what Ginger hears in a little balloon over her head: “Ginger, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

So how do you go about teaching a dog English, when it is not their first language? You do use word association with the action you would like your dog to perform. But you can use it even when your dog is already doing what you want them to do, which helps your dog learn English faster. For example, if your dog is already sitting down, repeat the word “sit” several times; if they are lying down, you repeat the word “down” several times. Ms. Geller goes on to say that you can use this example with any word you would like to teach your dog.

Though Skye has not been with me since she was a puppy, her personal English vocabulary keeps getting longer. She knows the commands sit, down, stand, stay, and heel. She understands what a “bicky” (biscuit) is, what “kennel up” (going in her crate) means, and she loves “bye bye car,” which means we are going for a ride in my truck.

I did use repetition in the beginning, but after Skye learns a chosen word, I do not keep repeating it. After all, she already knows what I am asking her to do or what I may be offering her, so I do not need to keep repeating it. However, there are times when Skye (like many dogs) will decide to be stubborn, and then I go back to repeating the word as many times as it takes to get her to comply. I am happy to say, those times are few and far between.

For Skye’s benefit, I am trying to learn as much “dog” as I can, which is based on her body language. This helps me understand my four-legged friend better, and our relationship becomes that much sweeter for the understanding.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Monday, October 26, 2009

Winter Care for Pets


By Linda Cole

October is quickly coming to a close, and for those in the northern part of the country, chilly winds are stripping red, orange and yellow leaves from trees and leaving only memories of a warm summer sun. The first freeze withers garden plants, flowers and grass. Winter will be here all too soon, and it’s time to start thinking about winterizing the house, the car and your pets. Winter care for pets can help them endure the coldest days ahead and help keep them safe.

Cold and snow can be rough on pets who spend most of their time inside. Dogs need to go outside, and it's easy to forget they aren't used to being in the cold for extended periods of time. They may have fur coats, but what nature gave them isn't always suitable against freezing temperatures. I had a dog who would get so cold, his teeth chattered. If you see your dog shivering, he is cold. Hypothermia and frost bite are real possibilities for a pet who has been outside too long, and they are affected by a wind chill and cold.

Include coats or sweaters on a winter care list for dogs. Don't be afraid to put coats on your dogs when they go outside. Unlike some people, dogs don't have a macho ego that prevents them from being practical. My dogs want their coats on because they have learned they are warmer with them on. You can find a good selection of coats online at most retail pet sites.

It's been my experience that more than one coat is needed. I dress my dogs in layers when they go outside in winter, because that's the best way to help them stay warm. I have sweatshirts that go on first, then homemade quilted fleece jackets and finally, a waterproof, windproof dog blanket that goes on top for the really cold windy days.

Dogs lose heat through their paw pads and ears. When it's really cold, quality dog booties will help them stay warm and ward off frostbite. However, it's hard to find ear muffs or hats for dogs. I'm not a seamstress, but have learned how to make quilted fleece coats with hoods that help keep their ears warmer.

If you live in an area where the temperatures fall below zero with wind chills that can make it feel even colder, your dog will appreciate booties and coats once they get used to them. A combination of extreme cold and snow can quickly freeze unprotected feet. If you see your dog or cat not moving, or picking up one leg and then another, you should get them inside immediately. This is a sign that their feet are too cold.

Dogs and cats who spend most of their time inside should always be supervised when they are outside. Winter care for pets requires our watchful eye whenever they are outside. Coats and booties help, but our pets can't tell us when they are cold. We need to pay attention to them and watch for signs like shivering, standing in one spot and not moving, or limping. A good rule to go by is if you are cold, your pet probably is too, and it's time to go inside. Prevent frostbite or hypothermia before it happens.

Older or sick pets are affected by cold weather more than healthy ones. Pets who suffer from arthritis will usually feel more stiffness and move slower during winter months. It's important to make sure they have soft, warm bedding they can lay on, away from drafts. Walks with an older dog should be kept short. Make sure they don’t slip on ice or snow which could put unnecessary stress on already stiff joints, and could injure them more.

Snow, ice, rock salt spread on sidewalks and chemical deicers used on city streets can collect in and on the pads of cats and dogs. Clean their paws once they are inside, because licking the rock salt and chemical ice melt from their paws can make them sick, as well as cause painful chapping and cracking pads.

Cats prefer warmth over cold. Make sure their bed is in a warm room away from drafts, fireplaces and electric space heaters. Unnecessary fires can be avoided by making sure your cat is not allowed near fireplaces or allowed to lay on or next to space heaters. Be careful using candles – a cat's curiosity can end with an overturned candle that is still lit.

Winter care for pets is important. Don't let cold temperatures stop you from going outside with your dog or cat and enjoying the beauty and fun of a new snowfall. With appropriate cold weather precautions, the fresh air and romps in the snow are good for our pets and us.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What is Bloat? What are the Symptoms?


By Ruthie Bently

Quite a few of my articles are anecdotal, and this one is as well. I had never owned a dog that got bloat until a few months ago, when my AmStaff Skye had her own bout of it. Bloat is known by several names: torsion, Gastric dilation-volvulus (or GDV) and simply bloat. Deep-chested dogs are more susceptible to bloat, but any dog could theoretically get it.

Some of the factors that have been shown to contribute to bloat are: eating only one meal per day, exercising immediately after a meal, eating their food too fast, drinking lots of water right after a meal, gulping their food too quickly or eating from elevated bowls. Bloat can even be brought on by a stressful event for your dog, or if they have a temperament that is fearful. Even a dog’s age can be a factor.

What happens is that a dog’s stomach becomes distended with fluid and/or gas, and the stomach turns out of its normal position. The blood circulation to the stomach becomes impaired by the distention, and return of blood to the heart can be compromised by a compression of the larger vessels. If returning blood to the heart is compromised in this manner, further damage to several of the dog’s organs can occur, which can become a life threatening issue very quickly.

When Skye had her issue with bloat, I noticed that her abdomen began to swell like a balloon. She was trying to cough up something (like a cat with a hairball) and had no success. She also kept gulping water, as if that would help the situation. The color of her gums, tongue and ears became very pale. She was lethargic and started drooling, which she never does. She also became restless, began pacing and could not find a comfortable place. In short, I could tell she was miserable. Some of the other symptoms an owner may observe are rapid heartbeat, depression, weakness, difficulty or rapid breathing, and the dog may collapse.

What Skye had done was get into the cat litter box and help herself to some “kitty hors d'oeuvres.” I use a wheat-based cat litter and after she ate it, it began to ferment in her stomach. Of course, it happened on a Saturday night and we don’t have an emergency clinic in our town, though the vet would have met me at his office if I had asked him to. As soon as I noticed she was having a problem, I called the vet. He told me that they call it a “garbage gut,” and it can happen when a dog gets into something they are not used to eating, as it may react with the acid in their stomach.

I was very lucky because her stomach never torsioned, but I was scared to death for her. What the vet suggested was to go to the local discount store and get a gas reliever. He told me to give her one dose, and another dose in two hour increments if needed. I was so worried; I packed Skye into my truck and took her with me. After getting the anti-gas medicine, I gave her one as soon as I got out to the truck. What followed were several hours of “green fog” in our house, but I am happy to say it solved the problem, and I got a taller gate that Skye couldn’t climb over to get to the litter boxes.

Some of the breeds that can be susceptible to bloat are Saint Bernard, Standard Poodle, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd, Wolfhound, Great Dane, Doberman Pinscher, English Sheepdog, Boxer, Bull Mastiff, Mastiff, Akita, Sight hounds, and Irish Setter. You can find a more complete list of susceptible dog breeds online.

I would never suggest that you just go get a gas reliever (because I am not a veterinarian), and your situation could be more serious than mine. I would, however, suggest that if this situation happens to you, call your vet as soon as possible or get your dog to an emergency clinic. Time is of the essence if you suspect your dog has bloat. You can also help by keeping any foods for other pets, any garbage containers and litter boxes out of reach of your own dog. By being vigilant on your own, your dog may never have to suffer like my poor girl did.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Best Dogs for Agility Training and Trials


By Anna Lee

I am sure you’ve seen those dogs on TV, the little lightning bolts that seem to streak across the ground and fly through the air like the wind. I enjoy watching them, and it is amazing how they can move at such speeds and be so accurate! I wish the sport of Dog Agility was on TV more often because it is fascinating.

In Agility events the dogs must complete an obstacle course, which is set up in a large outdoor area. The course has many components to it. Some of the aspects of the course are: the sea saw, tunnels, dog walk, pause (not paws!) table, pause box, jumps, A-frame and weave polls. The weave polls fascinate me the most. Weave polls are a series of poles stuck in the ground, in a line maybe 1 foot apart. The dog works its way through the poles weaving in and out. That is just one small segment of the agility trials, but accuracy and speed are the keys. The course is timed, and if the dog misses an aspect or goes out of bounds, time penalties are added to the score. The dog with the shortest time wins and is proclaimed the champion!

The sport of Dog Agility requires a sure footed and speedy dog with determination and a will to compete. Not all dogs are physically able to run the course due to their size, their breed characteristics and their ability to listen to and follow commands. Three breeds that rise to the top in Agility Trials are:

The Border Collie – This dog was bred to gather and control sheep. He stares down his flock with an intense eye. The Border Collie has unlimited energy and stamina. This medium size dog weighs approximately 30-45 pounds and stands approximately 18-22 inches high at the shoulder, and can live to be 15 years old. I have several friends with Border Collies and they are amazing to watch under normal circumstances.

The Shetland Sheepdog – This dog was bred to stand guard for farmers. He kept birds and hungry sheep from the gardens. They make excellent family pets and they are superstars in dog sports. They only weight about 20 pounds, are 13-16 inches at the shoulder, and can live to be 15 year old.

The Australian Shepherd – This breed originated in the western United States, not Australia, and was bred to herd livestock. This is another great family dog that is full of energy. The Australian Shepherd is 18-23 inches at the shoulder, can weigh 40-65 pounds, and live about 15 years.

If you think you might be interested in Agility Trials and want to get a puppy and start training them, there is a lot of information online regarding this sport. You can start agility training while your puppy is still young. There are many good books and videos available as well. It is important to get proper guidance so that your dog or puppy does not get injured. The website Agility Training for Dogs (www.agilitytrainingfordogs. com) has a lot of very helpful information and is a good place to start.

There are several dog breeds involved in Agility Trials other than the three breeds mentioned above. As to what type of dogs are best suited for agility training, ask yourself: Is your dog the star of the dog park? Can your dog move like a speeding bullet? Can he jump like a jackrabbit? If the answer is yes to those questions, then maybe he should be given a chance at Agility Training and Trials.

For agility training you would not choose a Great Dane or a Mastiff; they are too big and slow moving. You also would not want to use a Dachshund or Yorkie as their legs are much too short. They are lovable dogs, but not quite right for this particular sport! It is important to have your dog checked out thoroughly by your vet first, as you do not want to put undue stress on your pet.

Read, learn, research, ask questions, watch videos, and attend Agility Trials – learn as much as you can before you get involved because it requires a great deal of time and dedication. Six to nine months of solid agility training is necessary before a dog can compete. This sport requires dedication from the dog as well as the owner. If you cannot invest the time required, it may be best for you to leave the agility training and trials to others.

As for Abby, my 11-1/2 year old Lab, we will sit on the sofa and watch the Agility Trials on TV together. The fact that she can still jump on up the sofa means she is agile enough for me!

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Breed Profile: New Guinea Singing Dog


By Ruthie Bently

I became aware of a newer “rare breed” of dog recently, when I was asked to write about the New Guinea Singing Dog for this blog. CANIDAE has actually been supporting several New Guinea Singing Dogs at the Tautphaus Zoo in Idaho Falls, Idaho for almost two years now. These dogs came to the zoo from their original owner who was unable to care for them because they were not fully domesticated.

Prior to CANIDAE sponsoring their exhibit, these handsome dogs were being fed any dog food the local grocery store donated. Now, CANIDAE team members Chris Milliken and Diane Matsuura make sure they are fed with the finest all natural nutrition available. CANIDAE is very happy to help these “threatened” dogs that have a unique voice, and this is their first opportunity to sponsor a zoo exhibit.

Although several kennel clubs recognize them, the New Guinea Singing Dog is not one I would suggest owning. According to the United Kennel Club (UKC) they should be 17 inches high (43 cm) and weigh 25 pounds (11 kg). They have a double coat, which ranges from red to brown, and some dogs have a mask. Their life expectancy is between fifteen and twenty years of age. Their group affiliation in the UKC is the Sighthounds and Pariah Dogs Group, and they are considered a rare breed. They can also be registered with the American Rare Breed Association, in the Spitz and Primitive Group, as a dog breed.

The New Guinea Singing Dog (aka NGSD) was brought to the island of New Guinea about 6,000 years ago by stone age aborigines. They had been isolated until about fifty years ago, and little is known about them. They are a primitive breed of dog, although they were tame enough to accompany prehistoric man on hunts. The NGSD predate the dingo by 2,000 years, but like the dingo it is believed they come from the subspecies of Indian wolf. Sir Edward Halistrom discovered them in 1957, and took the first pair from Papua-New Guinea to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. They were named for him (Canis hallstromi) and were reclassified in 1969 as a domestic dog breed, in the same subspecies as the dingo.

New Guinea Singing Dogs have not been studied in the wild. Because many consider them feral dogs, little is known about their social organization, behavior or history in the wild. When glimpsed in the wild, they have been seen singly or in pairs, never in a pack. Most of the NGSD in North America are descended from the original pair from the Taronga Zoo. Five others were taken to the Domestic Animal Institute in Keil, Germany from the Irian Java, and one was seen by a British climbing expedition below Mount Trikora in 1991. They have their own conservation group, and their status is “threatened.”

They are called Singing Dogs because of their voice. While they are able to howl like a wolf, they can modulate the pitch of their howls. They also trill, which has been compared to a sound made by the Asiatic Wild Dog. They do not repeatedly bark, but have a vocal range that includes whines, yelps and howls of a single note, which show a quality of synchronization. They blend their vocal tones and the howl can be spurred if the dog is excited or disturbed.

While it is said they can be loyal and affectionate dogs, they do have their detriments and I would not suggest having one as a family pet. They are still considered a wild animal by many, as they have strong roaming and predatory instincts, and will escape fenced areas. Training sessions can become difficult if prey is detected because of their drive to hunt, and they use not only their scent and sight but their hearing as well to find prey. Because of their incredible flexibility, they can get through any opening large enough to fit their head through. They explore their environment constantly and utilize all five senses.

New Guinea Singing Dogs are extremely intelligent and can become bored easily. They are a very active breed that needs lots of attention and exercise. If not properly trained they can be destructive. While they can develop a strong bond with a human they will become upset when separated. They have catlike qualities and show more independence than a more domesticated dog, so don’t expect them to come when you call. They need to be well-socialized early to tolerate humans and can be shy and aloof around strangers. They can also be dog aggressive, especially to their own sex, and there are reports of their misunderstanding another dog’s attempt to play with them.

Because New Guinea Singing Dogs live as long as they do, I would consider very carefully before owning one. Twenty years is a long time to live with a semi-domesticated dog that could become a handful very quickly.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Strange Behaviors of Cats


By Julia Williams

Does your cat do weird things? Rest assured, if your feline friend regularly engages in strange behavior that makes no sense to you –you’re not alone. I could fill a book with all of the peculiar things my cats have done over the years. It leads me to believe there must be some unwritten “rule of paw” that every cat knows about and agrees to adhere to, once they get adopted by a human. It probably goes something like this: “I will always engage in strange behaviors that drive my human crazy.”

Okay, maybe not. But having been around cats all of my life, it does seem like they are always doing odd things for no particular reason. Perhaps my cats have a perfectly good reason why they won’t sleep in the adorable plush cat bed I bought for them, but will curl up inches away from it on the cold, hardwood floor instead; if so, it eludes me. Perhaps they know exactly what makes a cardboard box – any cardboard box – so darn irresistible. I’ve seen my cats turn into little Cirque du Soleil-like contortionists to wedge themselves into a teeny tiny cardboard box for a nap. It doesn’t look the least bit comfortable to me, yet they snooze away.

My cats are disinterested in most of the cute cat toys I buy for them. They like to play with straws instead, and will even steal them out of my drink when I'm not looking! My idiot kitties used to hang their behinds off the side of their litter box and leave little “droppings” on the floor, but I put an end to this objectionable behavior by switching to a covered cat box. However, I have not yet found a solution to their confounding habit of forever trying to stick their furry little rumps in my face. “No Thank You” doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about that behavior.

My cats have always been very good about using the various scratching posts I’ve strategically placed around my house. Nevertheless, every so often I will catch Rocky (a.k.a., my “problem child”) in the act of sharpening his claws on the carpet – right next to one of the scratching posts!

One odd cat behavior that always makes me laugh is the overzealous and prolonged digging in the litter box. Sometimes it lasts so long, I think they must surely be trying to dig a hole to China. Another funny cat behavior is when they scratch the floor next to their food bowl. Some theorize this is because they’re unhappy with the food offering and are trying to cover it, but I’m not convinced. I’ve been feeding them FELIDAE cat food exclusively for about five years, and they seem to love it. Why would it be acceptable 99 days out of 100?

Kneading is a common behavior that almost all cats do. Kneading is a vestige of kittenhood, when they would knead the momma cat’s belly during nursing, to help the milk flow. When adult cats do it (very often on their human “mom’s” belly!) it’s typically thought to indicate that they’re happy and content.

A strange behavior my cat Annabelle does that looks similar to kneading is what I call “angry marching in place.” She will furiously march with just her back legs, usually on the bedspread or the carpet, with an odd expression on her face. I have no idea why she does this, but she looks more possessed than happy when doing it.

Does your cat follow you into the bathroom? I’m not sure why felines are so fascinated with what goes on in that room and want to be in there with you, but most cat owners I’ve talked to say this is a typical behavior at their house. I learned long ago to warn my guests to firmly shut the door when they use my bathroom. Otherwise, they could find themselves sitting on the throne with a cat staring at them, and the door flung wide open. Cats never gently nudge open a door; they push it open with all their might.

Drooling while being petted is another common cat behavior. Animal behaviorist’s say this simply means your kitty is happy and relaxed, and enjoying the attention you’re lavishing upon them. It makes sense to me. My three cats all drool excessively when I pet or brush them, but never at any other time. Once, at the end of a marathon brushing session with Annabelle, I reached down to kiss her paw and discovered that it was sopping wet! (I’m much more careful about what I kiss now).

Cats are funny creatures, to be sure. But those of us who love them, accept their strange behaviors because it’s a part of what makes them so endearing. If you’d like to share your own cat’s quirky behaviors, please feel free to leave a comment.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Handling Thunderstorm Anxiety in Pets


By Linda Cole

A thunderstorm is a natural weather condition that produces cracks of thunder which can shake a house to the core. A fearful pet will scamper under the bed before the thunder has finished echoing across the sky. Thunderstorm anxiety in pets is real, and can be a traumatic experience. Although thunderstorms occur most often in spring and summer, they can happen in fall and winter, too. A rare weather phenomenon called thundersnow can occur in late winter or early spring, producing loud claps of thunder and usually heavy snow. So pets with a fear of storms can be affected by thunderstorm activity all year long.

While many dogs and cats are carefree animals that never give a passing storm the time of day, others become anxious before a thunderstorm darkens the skies. Dogs seem to experience thunderstorm anxiety more often than cats, but cats can have a fear of storms as well.

My rescued German Shepard/Collie mix trembles when a thunderstorm is in our area. She wraps herself around me as tight as she can get and shakes from head to toe until the thunderstorm drifts away. If we are outside and she hears thunder in the distance, she's inside in a flash and refuses to come back out. Her eyes are wide as she listens for the next thunder boom. Thankfully, she isn't aggressive. In severe cases of thunderstorm anxiety in pets, dogs have jumped through windows injuring themselves or someone in the family, and some do become aggressive.

There is evidence animals have an ability to predict the weather using their sense of smell and hearing as well as having an awareness of detecting changes in atmospheric pressure. Because of this sixth sense, our pets usually know a thunderstorm is approaching long before we do. Pets that are fearful of storms may pace, shake, drool, whine, bark, pant, hide or even run away from home as soon as they sense a storm brewing.

An Internet survey of dog owners suggests that herding dogs and hounds tend to suffer from thunderstorm anxiety more than other breeds. Rescued or shelter dogs are also more apt to be fearful of storms. It's possible that puppies or kittens can sense our uneasiness which reinforces their fear. So a pet's fear of thunderstorms could be something they learn at a young age, or is a fear developed from uncaring owners who may have mistreated them or left them on their own for a period of time. Regardless of how or when thunderstorm anxiety in pets develops, there are things you can do to help ease your pet's fear.

Thunderstorm anxiety in pets has different levels of fear that can go all the way to phobia. Most pets can be kept calm in a safe place where they feel comfortable, such as a crate (kennel) they sleep in or a well lit cozy room in the basement away from a storm's fury. Most cats never get to the phobia stage and will simply hide in a spot they feel comfortable in until the storm moves on. Try not to cuddle or reassure your pet that everything is alright because this rewards the fearful behavior. However, that's easier said than done.

If thunderstorm anxiety in pets isn't severe, you can try to desensitize your dog or cat by playing a recording of a thunderstorm starting off with a storm in the distance and gradually coming closer. Have plenty of treats on hand to reward your pet only as long as he remains calm. The idea is to condition him with treats for good behavior so he learns to ignore the storm through positive reinforcement. If your pet becomes anxious as the fake storm grows louder, ignore his behavior, do not give him a treat and reduce the sound until he calms down. You have to be careful with this technique, because if you move too fast or don't notice your pet's fear increase, it can make things worse. Make sure you know what you are doing if you try to desensitize your pet.

Music has been used successfully in treating thunderstorm anxiety in pets. Cats and dogs love classical music, but stick to a nice Brahms or Mozart – something relaxing and calm.

Natural remedies may be able to help, but it would be best to discuss the use of any medications, natural or prescription, with your vet first. A vet can prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depressants if necessary.

Thunderstorm anxiety in pets can range from mild to severe. If your pet becomes aggressive, his fear grows into panic, you are afraid he may hurt himself or someone else or has injured himself, then it's time to discuss options with your veterinarian who can help you help your pet the next time a thunderstorm pops up overhead.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Benefits of Doga: Yoga for Dogs


By Ruthie Bently

We’ve all heard about yoga and its benefits for people, but there is a new movement in the United States today called “doga,” which is yoga that you and your dog can do together. You can even purchase an instructional doga DVD that shows you how to teach doga poses to your dog. I first encountered doga last year working for Wendy’s Animal Talk radio show. It was suggested that the topic of doga might make an interesting show, and I can tell you, it was not boring!

Doga began catching on in New York and California at about the same time. Now there are several teachers around the country, as well as a new book on the subject, though the idea is not credited to any one person. Doga has spread to Jacksonville, Florida, San Francisco, and Seattle here in the States. It has even caught on in Canada and Japan, and is being taught at the Nippon Ayurveda School by the Japan Dog Association.

Doga combines meditation, gentle stretching and massage for human owners and dogs alike. While teacher training seminars are available, doga instructors do not have to complete a certification program and most instructors learn by sharing their techniques. Unfortunately doga, like anything else that is new, has its detractors. Some yoga instructors feel that yoga could be trivialized by turning it into a fad. As dogs are pack animals, many doga instructors believe that they are a good match for yoga’s premises of connection and union with other creatures.

Some of the benefits of doga include: increased flexibility, helping to resolve behavioral issues, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and aiding in digestion. As to the difficulty of teaching a dog doga, it is about the same as any other training technique. The dog probably won’t be perfect the first time out of the box, but after a few sessions he/she could be a “dogi” pro.

In a regular doga class you help your dog into different poses, and in some classes acupressure and massage are used to help your dog relax and to soothe them. If you aren’t sure how your dog will behave around other dogs, you might want to buy the DVD or the book and try it at home.

There are no special requirements for teaching your dog doga, but you should contact your vet first to make sure they are healthy enough to do it. Also, with anything else that is new you want to be very gentle with your dog no matter how healthy they are. If you take a class, you will probably want to contact the teacher first to see if you need a health certificate to make sure your dog’s shots are up to date. If the instructor tells you that you don’t need one, you may want to consider teaching your dog at home. I know if Skye was going to be in a class with a lot of other dogs, I would want to know she was safe from picking something up from another dog in class.

Doga has even spawned clothing lines, toys, exercise mats and beds for your dog. Whatever you think about this new form of exercise, it helps you spend more time with your dog, and will increase the bond that you share. What could be better than that?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Win Free Pet Food for a Year!


By Julia Williams

Every pet owner I know (including me) takes scads of photographs of their beloved animal companions. Every time we see them doing something cute, funny or heartwarming– which is pretty much every day, isn’t it? – we can’t resist snapping their picture. I enjoy showing them off to my friends and family; I even made a photo scrapbook once, dedicated to all the pets I’ve known and loved.

Well, now’s your chance to win something wonderful from one of those photographs. Your favorite pet picture could net you a year’s supply of free CANIDAE dog food or FELIDAE cat food! How cool is that? I mean, what dog or cat owner wouldn't want to win a year's supply of super-premium pet food? Even better, the food is all natural and good for your pet, because it contains no corn, wheat, soy, grain fractions or fillers, and it’s naturally preserved.

So what do you have to do to win a year’s supply of CANIDAE All Natural Pet Food for your dog or cat? First, become a fan of the CANDAE Facebook page. If you don’t already have a Facebook account, you’ll need to sign up for one (it’s entirely free) at www.facebook.com. Then choose your best photo of your dog or cat, and email it to facebookphotos@canidae.com. Include a brief description of your pet, their name and a little information about them, such as what you love most about them or how they came into your life.

Two Grand Prize Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges at CANIDAE Pet Foods. One winner will be selected in the Dog category, and one winner in the Cat category. Both winning contestants will receive a free one year supply of the CANIDAE or FELIDAE formula of their choice. (A year's supply of pet food is defined as the nutritional requirement for one medium size dog or one domestic cat).

About Your Entry

Some photos and emails will be selected to appear in a special CANIDAE Pet Foods Facebook page photo album, and on the CANIDAE website. Please limit your entry to one JPEG image, no larger than 2MB; other types of images will be rejected. The judges will select the winning entries, one dog picture and one cat picture, based on which two pictures they determine to be the most visually attractive in each category.

Official Rules

No purchase necessary. Only one entry per household and email address allowed. Winners must be at least 18 years of age, a resident of the United States or Canada, and a registered fan of the CANIDAE Pet Foods Facebook Page. Contest ends November 13, 2009. Odds of winning depend on number of entries. Winner will be contacted via email and must respond within 48 hours or, at the sole discretion of CANIDAE Pet Foods, the prize will pass to the next runner up.

Contest void where prohibited by law. Selection of winner is subjective and at the sole discretion of CANIDAE Pet Foods. CANIDAE is not responsible for entries lost due to any technical difficulties including any that might occur with Facebook, the Internet, or email.

Entrants agree to receive the CANIDAE Pet Foods Newsletter and grant CANIDAE permission to publish their information and photos. To protect your privacy, last names and email addresses will not be published. Judges decisions are final. Employees of CANIDAE and its vendors are not eligible to enter.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cute Halloween Costumes for Dogs


By Anna Lee

Halloween: a day when kids of all ages love to put on costumes and parade around the neighborhood. I imagine most of you would agree that your kids love to play dress up with the dog any time of the year. I would assume that the dog at least “pretends” to enjoy it to make the kids happy! What better time of year than Halloween to dress up the family dog?

I found the perfect site for you to purchase any and every type of Halloween costume for your dog, called Terrific Pets. There are so many to pick from you will have to check the website for the full list. They offer dozens of costumes and I cannot possibly describe each one of them here, but I am providing some examples to get you thinking.

The Devil Halloween Costume may be perfect for that “little angel” of yours. It is red, of course, and even comes with “horns.” Sizes are x-small, medium and large, and it sells for $19.99. A Halloween Black Witch Hat might be just what you are looking for. If you just need a hat, this one is adorable. It even has orange pig-tails attached to the hat! All that for only $7.99; sounds like a good deal to me.

It you just want a hat and collar there are several to pick from. There is a pumpkin hat has a jack-o-lantern face on it and the collar is an orange ruffle. The price is $10.99. They have football t-shirts so your dog can display the colors of your favorite football team. They are a little pricey at $27.99 each. Little “girly type dresses” for the 4-legged princess in your home run about $7.50 and come in several styles and colors.

The list is endless. If you can sew it would be to your advantage to check this website for ideas. I imagine you could make some of these costumes for less than half of the cost. You could then customize the costume and really make an “original” Halloween costume for your little 4-legged Prince or Princess!

Whether you buy a costume or make one, you don’t want to make the dog uncomfortable. If you put a hat on the dog and it really doesn’t want to wear it, please don’t force the issue. You will know if your dog is pleased with the attention or not.

Be careful if you take the dog out for trick-or-treating along with the kids. The dog should be on a leash at all times. Once your little ones get all that nice sweet candy in their goodie bags, make sure the dog does not get any of it. Candy, especially chocolate, should never be given to a dog.

When Halloween is over and the costume is put away, why not give your dog a treat for being such a good sport? Of course, anytime is a good time for CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ dog treats in Original, Lamb & Rice, and CANIDAE PLATINUM® formulas. While you’re at it, why not make up a few little goodie bags with some of the Snap-Bits; if a dog or two comes trick-or-treating with the kids, you will be prepared.

Happy Halloween one and all, and watch out for ghosts, goblins and 4-legged trick-or-treaters. They will steal your heart!

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Friday, October 16, 2009

Do Wolf-Dog Hybrids Make Good Pets?


By Linda Cole

I had an opportunity to see a wolf-dog hybrid several years ago. He was a magnificent animal, taller and heavier than a wolf. His father was a pure black wolf with intense amber eyes that followed my every move. The breeder who had the wolf and a dozen or so hybrids, told me not to let them know I was scared. OK, I wasn't afraid until she said that. It was obvious she knew her animals and what she could expect from them, but do wolf-dog hybrids make good pets?

A hybrid pup comes from two hybrid dogs, a wolf and dog, dog and hybrid or wolf and hybrid. The breeder answered all of my questions and was frank about the erratic temperament of wolf-dog hybrids. When asked if these dogs made good pets, her emphatic response was no. It takes a strong person who understands how to read a dog's body language and understands completely what they are getting into when accepting the role of pack leader to one of these animals. Her concern was selling a hybrid to someone who was only looking for a “cool pet” to show off and had no idea how to handle an animal that is half wolf and half dog. She had buyers sign an agreement to return the dog to her if they could not handle the dog once it reached adulthood. She didn't want the hybrid released into the wild by an irresponsible owner.

Like any animal raised by humans, wolf-dog hybrids have never been taught how to hunt and have no idea how to catch their own food. A lucky one might learn as hunger awakens his wolf instincts, but there's no guarantee and most would likely fall to the same fate as a dog who has found himself on his own with no hunting skills. A hybrid on its own is also more dangerous than a wolf because the dog traits can work against a wolf's natural fear of humans.

It's important to understand that wolf-dog hybrid breeders never know which characteristic or behavior will show up in the pups. One pup could be more like a dog whereas a sibling could be more like a wolf. Either way, a hybrid dog will never score bonus points in a dog training class. They do not make good guard dogs and, like a wolf, are more likely to retreat and let you deal with a burglar on your own. If no one is at home, he would probably watch quietly from his hiding place while you were being ripped off.

It's not impossible to train a wolf-dog hybrid, but close to it. They are quite capable of learning commands, but respond more like a cat than a dog to training. You know the attitude of a cat, “I'll think about it and get back to you.” We are able to teach our dogs to obey us, their pack leader, because a dog's behavior is similar to an immature wolf. Dogs rely on us for food, shelter and protection. In return, they learn our commands and show their loyalty by protecting us and their home. A mature wolf doesn't have the luxury of playing and no one commands them. They have to be independent in order to survive.

Wolf-dog hybrids will never fully accept a new dog into the pack. Because of the territorial nature of wolves, a hybrid sees a new dog as a threat. It's the dog who will suffer the consequences of an uneducated hybrid owner who attempts to socialize a new dog with the hybrid. Forget about cats or other small pets, and never leave a child alone with a wolf-dog hybrid.

Wolves are beautiful animals that have gotten a bad rap throughout history. They have been blamed for attacks made by wolf-dog hybrids who have been released or escaped into the wild. There has never been a verified recorded attack on or death of a human by a healthy wild wolf in the United States. I admire the wolf who has managed to survive despite human interference, but I would never want one as a pet.

Hopefully, those who would like to own a dog with wolf-like traits will do extensive research before bringing one into their home. They need to consider all safety issues as well as the added expense in insurance cost and potential fines from accidental bites and howling at 3 in the morning, along with other possible fines. And then there are the costs related to properly containing a hybrid and even the cost of destroyed furniture and walls if it's not kept outside, but it's not a good idea to keep one inside.

Wolf-dog hybrids do not make good pets for a variety of reasons. However, a responsible pet owner with expert knowledge of how to be a strong pack leader as well as an understanding of a dog's body language and what to expect from a wolf-dog hybrid, can make owning one safe for all family members.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Meet Sled Dog Racer Laura Vinnedge


By Julia Williams

As many of you already know, CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods has a long history of supporting a wide variety of pet-related charities, organizations and events that help not only our four-legged friends, but the people who love them. One of those that CANIDAE sponsored for 2009 was Laura Vinnedge, a likable young sled dog racer in Fort St. James, Canada.

Laura, now 18, began working with sled dogs at the tender age of 6. She went for a run with a family friend, and her passion for sled dogs was born. Until recently, Laura managed Cottonwood Kennels, a small racing/recreational operation with huskies ranging from yearlings to age 9. With high school behind her, Laura’s thoughts turned to her future. She knew she wanted to attend college, but debated about taking a year off from school to work for a tour company and earn some money for her tuition.

In the end, Laura decided not to take that break from school, but to enroll in the University of Victoria this fall. With this decision came another, much more difficult one – what would she do with her beloved sled dogs? Laura knew it wasn’t fair to the dogs to keep them at her home, where no one could train them. Mushing is a very demanding sport, both physically and mentally, and when in training, Laura’s dogs run 5 days a week for 6 to 40 miles. Thus, she found herself with the sad task of finding a place where her dogs would have the opportunity to do the work they love to do.

Four of Laura’s dogs headed off to a tour business in Revelstoke, Canada; one stayed in town to lead a recreational musher’s team, one returned to his previous home, and three will “retire” and spend their time lazing in the sun and going for leisurely walks. In a letter to CANIDAE thanking them for their support, Laura said she is certain she will be returning to sled dogs in the future, because “they are such wonderful, honest, affectionate animals that it will be impossible to stay away.” But for now, she must bid farewell to the beautiful creatures she dearly loves.

“I am the coach, the trainer, the nutritionist and motivator. But my dogs are the true athletes, and that sled sure won’t be going anywhere very fast without them. Sled dogs possess boundless stores of energy, trust and enthusiasm. I am very lucky to have been able to share my life with these amazing creatures,” Laura said.

As part of their sponsorship of Cottonwood Kennels, CANIDAE supplied Laura and her dogs with their Grain Free Salmon Formula. Laura said all of her dogs love the CANIDAE food, and performed wonderfully on it. Because sled dog racing is such a high-stress, high-demand sport, the dogs need top-notch nutrition to ensure they can perform comfortably and to the best of their ability. After switching to the CANIDAE Grain Free Salmon food, Laura said her dogs had excellent weight, lustrous coats, improved endurance and heart rates, and calm demeanors. “I am confident in recommending this food to other racers as a top performance formula,” she said.

Best of luck to you in your studies, Laura – and in your future sled dog racing endeavors too!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Caring for Newborn Puppies and Their Mom


By Julia Williams

If your dog is pregnant and you’re wondering how to care for the puppies once they’re born, the good news is that most likely, all you’ll need to do is keep a watchful eye on the momma dog. Most canine mothers have a strong maternal instinct and can do a great job of caring for their newborn puppies by themselves. They will know how to keep their newborn puppies warm and well fed, and how to help them with waste elimination and hygiene. However, if the mother dog rejects her pups or cannot product enough milk for them, or you are caring for an orphan, then the puppies will need your help in order to survive and thrive.

Healthy newborn puppies look vibrant and strong, and their gums are pink. A puppy's eyes should open approximately 10 to 14 days after birth. A newborn puppy’s body weight may double or even triple during the first few weeks, and gaining 10 to 15% of their birth weight daily is considered healthy. The puppies should nurse with enthusiasm, and they often twitch while asleep.

Be sure to consult your veterinarian immediately if you have any concerns about a pup's health. Treating a sick puppy early can mean the difference between life and death. Warning signs include failure to nurse, constant crying, weakness, difficulty breathing, poor weight gain, temperature drop, diarrhea, vomiting, listlessness, sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.

It’s also important to monitor hydration in newborn puppies. To do this, gently pinch the skin on the back of the neck into a “tent.” If a puppy is properly hydrated, the skin will go back into place immediately. If the pinched skin stays creased, the puppy is dehydrated and will need to be treated immediately.

Newborn puppies cannot regulate their own body temperature, so guard against chilling by keeping the pups indoors, off cold floors, and in a warm, draft-free room. The puppies get their best heat from the mom dog, but if you have orphans your room temperature should be on the warm side for the first month. Indirect heat from warm water bottles or heat lamps may also be used. After 4 weeks, supplemental heat shouldn't be needed.

During the first week, a puppy’s normal temperature is between 95-98°F. The pup’s temperature increases gradually each day until four weeks of age, when it should be close to the normal temperature for an adult dog (100.5 to 102.5°F).

A large pet carrier lined with soft towels makes a nice bed for newborn puppies and their Mom. For orphans and pups with no litter mates, you might want to place a stuffed animal inside the carrier, to keep them company and provide some heat.

A mother dog’s milk provides everything newborn puppies need nutritionally during their first four weeks of life. Nursing also provides newborn puppies with antibodies to help prevent infections. If you’re caring for an orphaned pup, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian on the proper way to bottle-feed them. Your vet can also give you a recommendation on which commercial canine milk replacer to use.

In their first few weeks of life, puppies need to nurse (or be bottle fed) about every two hours. As they grow, the time between feedings gradually increases. At approximately four weeks of age, puppies can start to transition from nursing to eating solid food. Usually, weaning will be completed by approximately 6 to 8 weeks of age.

Because newborn puppies do not spontaneously eliminate waste on their own for the first month, the mother dog stimulates them through licking. If the mom is ill or absent, you'll need to help them with this. It may not be one of the most pleasant tasks of caring for a newborn puppy, but it is vital to their health. Using a warm, moist washcloth or piece of gauze, gently massage the puppy’s genital/anal area before and after their feedings. If you’re unsure about the proper technique, please consult with your vet.

As tempting as it is to hold and hug your adorable newborn puppies, it is best for them if you don’t do it more than a few times a day. And when you do, it should be for a very short time (a minute or two at most). Children should never be allowed to handle the puppies without adult supervision, and you should also take care not to upset the mom dog when handling them.

Speaking of the mom dog, it’s a good idea to have her examined by your vet within 24 hours after giving birth, to ensure that everything went well. Remember too, a nursing mom’s nutritional needs are greater than normal when feeding a litter of puppies. Be sure to keep plenty of fresh water nearby, and provide a high quality dog food such as CANIDAE, divided into three daily feedings. Your vet may also recommend a dietary supplement to assist with milk production.

This article is intended only as general guidance on caring for newborn puppies. It’s very important to consult your veterinarian with specific questions and any concerns you may have about your newborn pups and/or their mom.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How to Give Your Dog a Massage


By Ruthie Bently

Have you ever gotten a massage? My grandmother Ruth used to go every week for one, and until I decided to treat myself to one, I didn’t realize the benefits of getting a massage. I was relaxed and calm, and none of my muscles hurt; in fact I was so relaxed I felt like a walking bowl of Jell-O. It made me feel like I could take on the world. Now, massage has been added to the list of alternative therapies we can have done for our dogs, and you can even give your dog a massage at home.

Massage goes back to the Greeks and Hippocrates who studied the benefits of regular massage on the well-being of humans. So it only follows what we humans have known for centuries, that if massage is good for us, it should be good for our dogs as well.

Before you begin shaking your head and wondering which planet I came from, consider the benefits. Some of the benefits from massaging your dog are enhancing or increasing the bond you have with them, while providing a comforting touch. It can help calm a nervous dog, increase their flexibility and circulation, and give them a general sense of well being. It can relieve stress, and make your dog feel more secure. Massage can lead to better muscle strength, lessening of pain and muscle tension. It can even improve your dog’s behavior and self-esteem.

When massage is used for younger dogs and puppies it helps with socialization, and increases their trust level. You can even use a mouth massage to ease your puppy’s teething problems. When you massage your older dog you can find illness sooner, as your fingers may find something your eyes have missed. For example, flaking or scabs can be a sign of parasites, swelling can also be a sign of parasites, cancer and even heart disease. By massaging your dog’s back, you may even find back problems or issues due to weight gain. Not only that, massage helps slow the aging process. Massaging a geriatric dog can reduce pain associated with arthritis and other illness, stimulate their circulatory system and help them maintain their mobility.

The massage that a certified massage therapist provides is different than what you can do at home, but this doesn’t mean that massaging your dog at home is any less important. The nice thing is that you can do it yourself and it doesn’t cost you a thing. There are two basic massage techniques you can perform at home – passive touch and effleurage.

Passive touch is done without pressure and involves holding your hand on only muscle groups. You hold your hand on the thigh and hip or on your dog’s shoulder, side or head without pressure for a few moments. It can be done any time whether you are relaxing, out for your daily walk or even while you are watching TV.

Effleurage is used to help warm your dog’s body tissues and involves a long, gentle stroke. You want to use an extremely light touch. You keep one hand on your dog all the time, while you use the other hand to move down your dog’s body. Start with your dog’s face and move your hand down their head, body, outside of their legs and finally their tail. First you want to move your hands in the direction that your dog’s hair grows. Then just as gently, stroke your dog up the inside of their legs, in the opposite direction of the way their hair grows. Try not to pull your dog’s hair while doing this. There are two other varieties of effleurage; centripetal is done toward the heart in a circular motion, and the other is done hand-over-hand with one hand beginning a stroke as your other hand is ending a stroke.

Before beginning to massage your dog, you should have them in a place that is both quiet and comfortable for them. It can be done on the couch, bed, the floor or even a table. Make sure the area is clean, has plenty of padding and that a fresh dish of water is available for your dog. You want your dog to be relaxed, so if your dog is not interested don’t force them to participate. Don’t massage your dog if they have a fever, and if your dog has any kind of lump, an open wound or an infection (like a hot spot) you should never massage that area.

When I have a few extra minutes I massage Skye, and have found that it does help to keep her calm and more relaxed. I think if you try this on your own dog, you will notice a difference as well. Why not give it a try? I think you will be pleasantly surprised!

Special thanks to Donna's dog "Lily" for posing for our picture.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Monday, October 12, 2009

Why Your Dog Needs a Proper Bed


By Anna Lee

“To sleep, per chance to dream…” From Shakespeare’s Hamlet

We all enjoy our sleep, or we should anyway. Have you tossed and turned, night after night, and tried everything possible to fall asleep? When you finally did sleep it only lasted a few hours? I think many of us know that feeling. After buying a new pillow, or drinking a glass of warm milk before bed, you finally came to the conclusion it was your mattress causing you such restlessness. The proper bed, meaning the mattress, is very important to a good night’s sleep for humans.

Just as you need a proper mattress, your dog needs a proper bed. Gone are the days when people throw an old Army blanket on the floor in the corner for Fido. In Abby’s long life she has had a few beds. Her “beginner bed” as I called it, was oval shaped with high sides almost all the way around – and of course it was puppy pink. It had a fleece bottom which was supposed to make her feel safe and warm. I guess it worked because she slept in it until she outgrew it, which wasn’t long!

From there we moved to a large rectangular shaped dog bed that was about 4 inches thick and had cedar savings inside a separate cover. That way we were able to take the cover off and wash it and not have to get the cedar wet. I bought it online from Drs. Foster and Smith. They had, and still have, a very large selection of dog beds. That particular bed came with two covers so I could put a fresh one on while the other was being washed.

When Abby outgrew that dog bed, we moved to a larger rectangular shaped bed which fit her fine, and thankfully she stopped growing at that point! The problem we had was that her bed was up against a set of French doors in our bedroom. When she rolled over and would start to run in her sleep, her nails would “tap tap tap” on the glass doors. We had a small bedroom, and that was really the only spot for it. Abby is a people dog and her bed has to be in the bedroom. We tried putting it in the living room but she wouldn’t use it out there.

So to make the nights a little quieter we got a large rectangular dog bed with a bolster on the back and one side. With the high back to the window, there is no more tapping. She also likes to put her head on something when she sleeps so the bolster is perfect. This bed is about 6 inches thick and is a firm bed. It makes it a little easier for her to move on it, since she isn’t quite as sure footed as she used to be.

There are so many different types and styles of dog beds available online that you won’t find at most pet shops or at the discount stores. They are a higher quality than the discount store type. Some of these beds are rather expensive, but the one we currently have is on year three and still holding up fine. The cover is just starting to show a little wear so it won’t be long before Abby gets a new dog bed. You can buy almost any color to match or coordinate with your décor.

There are beds available with warmers built in, beds specifically made for use outside, fold up travel beds, nesting beds, memory foam beds and many more. There are at least 80 items including pillows and throws in the dog bed category of Drs. Foster and Smith. In order to pick the best bed for your dog, you just have to understand your particular dog’s sleep needs as well as physical requirements.

The type of bed you buy your dog is just as important as where you place that bed. If your dog is like Abby, the bed has to be in the bedroom. When we were on vacation recently we had her dog bed in the living room. When it was bedtime she was very confused, and paced back and forth until we put her bed in our bedroom. Although she was squished into the corner, she was happy because she was with us.

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Breed Profile: Burmese Cat


By Ruthie Bently

I got a tiny kitten for a Christmas present in 1981, and he was a sable Burmese I named Sam. It has been said that they are “little people in fur,” and I agree. Since then Burmese have become available in four colors that are recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA): sable, platinum, blue and champagne. Sam had an apple head, which is a rounded head; now there is a controversy about the head shape, and the apple head is not allowed to be imported into England. The first Burmese cat, a female from Burma named Wong Mau, was brought into the United States by Dr. Joseph Thompson of San Francisco in the early 1930s.

The British Burmese cat has a more triangular head (like the Siamese) and oriental look, and the available colors are greater than the cats here in the States. The history of the Burmese in Britain is a bit different, and didn’t really get started until after 1945 when soldiers coming home from Burma brought them home. The breed was recognized in 1952 by the Britain’s Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). The colors that are acceptable in Britain are the blue, lilac, chocolate and brown tortoiseshells, and the cream, lilac, chocolate, blue, brown and red. None of the allowed colors should have spots or barring, and all colors should be shaded darker on their backs and lighter underneath.

The Burmese has a short coat that feels like silk, and they are a sturdy cat for their size. They are very playful, even as adults. They will tolerate dogs, they like children, and do well riding in a car if trained early. They love their humans and often act more like a dog than a cat, as they will follow you around the house. Burmese cats are extremely loving, and a free lap is one of their favorite places to be – unless you get them involved in a spirited game of fetch! Sam’s favorite toy was the plastic ring from the top of a milk bottle, and he could play fetch until your arm gave out; his energy never did.

Burmese cats are vocal, like their Siamese cousins, and love to talk if allowed. Their voice (even when complaining) is a softer voice than most cats. They will sulk if they get upset, but don’t stay mad for very long. The males are supposed to be more laid back than the females, but all the Burmese cats I met at the breeder’s were very friendly. Sam loved to cuddle like most Burmese and would sleep next to my head on the pillow unless it was a cold night, in which case he was under the blankets.

Most breeders let their Burmese kittens go between three and four months of age, when they’ve had their first set of shots and have had time to become socialized. You will want to visit the cattery to see the conditions the kitten has been raised in. The kitten should be friendly, easy to handle, curious and energetic. Their coat should be healthy looking, their ears should be clean, and their noses and eyes should be clear.

A reputable breeder should give you a health guarantee with the kitten, and will usually provide you with papers of registration after the kitten has been altered. The breeder should be willing to discuss the health and care of the kitten and provide you with their medical records for your vet if asked. If you are purchasing your Burmese cat to show, the CFA disapproves of declawing. The Burmese was recognized by the Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1936.

If you are interested in getting a purebred cat, a Burmese is a wonderful choice that will bring you years of joy and laughter. They are nowhere as aloof as most cats are accused of being, and truly live up to their reputation as “little people in fur.”

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Friday, October 9, 2009

San Jose Bark in the Park Recap


By Lexiann Grant

Everyone wants to have fun with their dog. But when you can play and serve a good cause at the same time, that’s even better. The people who attended the San Jose Bark in the Park on September 19th, along with their dogs, must have agreed – about 14,000 humans and 3,500 canines made this year’s event the largest dog festival in the country.

As part of their commitment to give back to the dog community, CANIDAE All Natural Pet Food provides primary sponsorship of this annual event which raises funds for the Naglee Park neighborhood's Campus Community Association, the Humane Society Silicon Valley and the San Jose Animal Care Center. Admission was free, but attendees were asked to donate $5 per dog to enjoy the day’s activities.

Although the day was planned to raise funds, it provided dogs and their humans with plenty of fun, including a Pet/Owner Look Alike Contest, Dog Costume Contest and Silly Tricks Contest. Agility, flyball, herding, and dancing with dog demonstrations were held throughout the day. A water park was set up for dogs that wanted to get their paws wet, and visitors enjoyed live music.

Nearly 100 pet-related services, vendors and food placed around the spacious, landscaped grounds of the park provided information, shopping and dining. As a service to those in need of assistance, grooming, training help, vaccinations and microchipping clinics were available for owners to utilize. Multiple rescue groups were on hand to answer questions about adopting homeless dogs or cats.

Manning the CANIDAE booth this year were Kim Trudelle and Jim Dempsey. This pet food company participates in sponsorship of the event because, "CANIDAE has a history of helping animals in need when we are able to through events and fundraisers like Bark in the Park," said CANIDAE Sales Manager Kim Trudelle who helped organize the CANIDAE presence at the event and arrange for the prize donations. "Often times we sponsor events where the local Humane Society benefits. Other times we show up to help raise funds for the AKC Canine Health Foundation. We always have a lot of fun at these events and we get to help animals at the same time."

Besides fundraising and recreation, festivals such as Bark in the Park serve another purpose. People who play with their dogs, bond with their dogs. Having fun together is one of the best methods for strengthening the tie between you and your dog. And the benefits of this relationship are numerous: improved physical and emotional health, a deeper commitment to the welfare of your pet, and assistance for other companion animals in need.

What better way to raise money, have fun and do good, than a huge, day-long dog party? Next year’s San Jose Bark in the Park, also supported by CANIDAE, is slated for September 18th. For more information on this and the upcoming years’ events, visit www.barksanjose.org.

Read more articles by Lexiann Grant
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