Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome

By Ruthie Bently

As your pet ages, they may get a little gray around the muzzle, and may walk slower on your daily ramblings. They might prefer sitting on the couch to going out and chasing a ball, and they may even get a bit finicky. Now our pets are even coping with some of the diseases we have been dealing with. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is one of these; it has been compared to Alzheimer’s, dementia or senility in a human. Also known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (though cats can suffer from it as well), it’s caused by the physiological and chemical changes that occur in a dog’s brain as they age.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome typically comes on slowly and will gradually get worse. CDS can cause a senior dog to become forgetful or confused about their outside boundaries and even housebreaking. Another symptom is forgetfulness about eating or drinking water. This can be a problem for our senior canines because their bodies do not have a lot of reserves. If you think your dog may have CDS and they seem to be forgetful about eating regularly or seem to have lost interest, it is important to get them to the vet as soon as you can. CDS can become life threatening if not addressed.

A dog with CDS may forget their owner, favorite family member or someone they have just met. They may not meet you at the door when you come home as they used to do. They may walk away while being petted or groomed before you are finished, and they don’t tend to seek out the companionship of human family members. They may even forget other pets they live with or animals they have just met. A dog with CDS can have a personality change, and an outgoing dog may become aggressive or fearful of family members, strange people and other animals.

A dog with CDS can become disoriented in a place that has been familiar for years; this can include your yard or the house. They can even get lost in the corner of a room or behind an open door. They may wander aimlessly or pace through the house without realizing they are doing it. They may begin to bark for no reason and their sleeping patterns will change drastically. They may begin sleeping more during the day and wander the house at night. They may not respond when their name is called or may forget it altogether. Your previously housebroken or obedience-trained dog will forget what they are supposed to do. They won’t remember to tell you they have to go out, or will forget that they even have to.

The FDA has approved the drug Anipryl® for veterinarians to use in improving symptoms and slowing the process of CDS. The human equivalent selegiline hydrochloride is used for patients that are battling Alzheimer’s. While there are alternative therapies that are mentioned in the treatment of human Alzheimer’s, it is cited that there is no conclusive evidence that they work. They can be costly, are not well regulated and as such may not be a safe alternative to chemical medications. As such, Anipryl is the only medication available to help our canine pets with CDS at the present time.

If your dog is diagnosed with Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, there are several things you can do to help them. Make sure to go to the vet for regular yearly visits. Keep your dog’s mind and body active by working or training them daily. Teach them tricks or new activities like tracking or scent training. There are many puzzle toys available today that challenge a dog’s mind. Even a simple game of hide-and-seek with a food baited toy will challenge their brain function. Adding more enrichment to your dog’s daily life can help their mental attitude and overall outlook. A dog that is both mentally and physically healthy tends to be more confident and self-assured, and have fewer health issues. By doing these things you can help slow the progress of CDS.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, February 27, 2010

How to Bathe a Cat, and Live to Tell About It!

By Julia Williams

Do cats even need baths? Yes and no. For the most part, cats are remarkably self cleaning. However, there are times when you might want to give your cat a bath. Cats that are allowed outside can get things like motor oil and grease on them, and should be bathed immediately so they don’t ingest these toxic substances.

Bathing a cat can help with flea infestations, provided you use other flea control methods too. Some cats are highly sensitive to flea bites, and a single flea can cause extreme itching, scratching and skin irritations. One of mine is, and to combat this I bathe him with an herbal flea shampoo with oatmeal and aloe, which does help.

Most cats loathe getting wet, which makes giving them a bath somewhat problematic. They can turn into screeching beasts that bite and claw wildly in a frantic attempt to get out of the water. If possible, have someone help you. When bathing a cat, four hands are better than two if you want kitty to stay put until you’re done instead of dashing for the bedroom closet.

Although I’ve seen videos of cats who sit calmly and unrestrained while getting a bath, most felines are quite the opposite. For those cats, here’s how to make this experience less traumatic for both of you.

Gather Your Supplies

Prior to bathing your cat, you’ll want to obtain:

● Cat shampoo (human shampoo and soap are too harsh for a cat’s skin).
● Ophthalmic ointment, to keep the shampoo from irritating their eyes.
● Rubber anti-slip mat, to keep your cat from sliding around in the sink.
● Grooming comb or brush; cotton balls
● Large unbreakable cup for scooping water
● Soft towel and (optional) blow drier

Before the Bath

Groom your cat to remove any mats and loose fur, and be sure to brush out the thick undercoat of long-haired cats. This is also a good time to check for any lumps, sores or other skin problems. The most crucial pre-bath procedure, however, is clipping your cat’s nails. I don’t recommend ever skipping this step, because there’s a very good chance your skin will be shredded by sharp claws if you do.

Next, assemble the supplies next to your chosen bathing area. I use my kitchen sink because it’s large and at a good height. Make sure the air temperature is comfortably warm and that your cat will also have a warm place to dry after the bath.

Just prior to the bath, place cotton balls in your cat’s ears and apply the eye ointment. Mix a small amount of the cat shampoo in some warm water; this will help you lather up your cat, and isn’t as shocking as cold shampoo.

During the Bath

Fill the sink with lukewarm water – three or four inches should suffice. Hold your cat firmly with both hands and gently lower them into the water. It may help to speak soothing words to your cat, who probably won’t appreciate being put into the water and may try to kick, bite and scratch her way out of the sink. If this happens, try to stay as calm as possible, because your cat will pick up on your anxiety, which will only make the situation worse.

Using the large cup, pour lukewarm water over your cat from the neck down. Cats generally dislike sprays, so I don’t recommend using the sink’s sprayer attachment to wet them down. Next, pour the diluted shampoo over them and gently lather up their back, neck, legs, tail and belly. If needed, a dab of shampoo on a wet washcloth can be used to gently clean their face. Rinse the cloth well and use it to remove soap residue. Be careful not to get shampoo in their eyes, nose, mouth or ears, and never pour water over your cat’s head.

Rinsing thoroughly to remove all traces of soap residue is a vital step in giving a cat a bath. I usually drain the sink and pour lukewarm water over my cat using my large cup, at least five or six times. The longer the hair, the more you will need to rinse.

After the Bath

Wrap your cat in a dry towel and blot their fur. You might want to warm the towel in the dryer first, to make it more soothing. Short-haired cats can get by with a good towel drying, provided they have a nice warm spot to retreat to until fully dry. Long-haired cats should really be completely dried and brushed before being let loose. A low-noise blowdrier with a low-heat setting is useful for finishing the drying process, although many cats find it too frightening.

Because you probably won’t need to give your cat a bath very often, they may never get used to it, and likely won’t enjoy it. But if you follow these suggestions for how to bathe a cat, both of you should be able to survive the experience relatively unscathed!

Photo courtesy of Gayle Lindgren

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, February 26, 2010

What is Reverse Sneezing, and Is It Dangerous?

By Linda Cole

Reverse sneezing in dogs and cats isn't really a sneeze. If you've ever noticed your pet snorting, honking or gasping for breath, you've just witnessed a reverse sneeze. It is something we need to be aware of as pet owners because frequent reverse sneezing can be a symptom of other conditions that would require a vet's attention.

A reverse sneeze, in more medical terms, is called pharyngeal gag reflex or paroxysmal respiration. This is a condition where a dog or cat will extend their neck and begin making gasping noises that sound like the pet is on their last legs. They may snort or even make honking noises all the while acting like they can't catch their breath. Many people have done exactly what any responsible pet owner would do if they witness their dog or cat acting like they can't breathe, and have rushed them to the vet. As life threatening as it sounds, however, a reverse sneeze is not a serious condition, and the pet will recover on its own without medical treatment.

The most common reason for a dog or cat experiencing a reverse sneezing episode is a result of something that irritated their soft palate (the soft, fleshy tissue extension off the roof of their mouth) and throat which in turn causes a spasm. In most cases, it's nothing to worry about, but it can be upsetting when you see your dog or cat gasping for air. The irritation affects the trachea which then narrows, making it harder for the pet to get air.

To help your pet get through one of these spasms, you can gently massage their throat or cover their nose to make them swallow which should clear out whatever was irritating their throat. If that doesn't work, you can offer them food or water, or take them outside. Holding down their tongue will help force more air into their nasal passage and can help. Just be careful the dog or cat doesn't grab your finger in the process. The spasm is over when they stop sneezing. The pet will recover on their own even if they have an episode while no one is home. However, if your dog or cat is having attacks of reverse sneezing on a regular basis, this can indicate something else is going on, and a trip to the vet is advised.

A variety of things can cause your pet to have a spasm which results in a reverse sneeze, but a specific cause cannot always be diagnosed by a vet even for a dog or cat with a chronic problem. A dog who pulls on a leash, becomes overly excited, has been running around while playing, or eats and drinks too fast can be thrown into a reverse sneeze. Other causes include possible allergies, a dog not used to exercise, household cleaners, perfumes, air spray, dust or pollen not related to an allergy, viruses, post nasal drip, nasal cancer, nasal mites or something caught in their throat.

Signs to watch for that could indicate something more serious is causing the reverse sneezing include a discharge from the nose or a bloody nose, any kind of deformity around the nose area that doesn't look right, a lack of appetite and energy, or any difficulty in breathing.

Boxers, Shih Tzus and dogs with flat faces have a soft palate that is stretched out more, and they can have bouts of reverse sneezing more than other breeds because they can actually suck the palate into their throat when they inhale. Smaller breeds are also more apt to be affected because they have a smaller throat. Cats don't usually experience reverse sneezing like dogs, and if you have a cat who has bouts, it's a good idea to have your vet check him out to make sure he doesn't have asthma which does require treatment.

For most dogs, an attack of reverse sneezing is over in a matter of a minute or two and they will be just fine with no adverse affects at all. It looks and sounds worse than it is. It is important, however, to understand what a reverse sneeze is so you can be aware of other possible conditions that could be causing your dog or cat's irritation if it becomes chronic. When you know what's going on and how to deal with it, you can remain calm and help your pet instead of panicking over what appears to be a breathing problem and rushing to the vet's office. Your vet will appreciate it, and so will your pet.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Meet Scout, an Avalanche Rescue Dog Sponsored by CANIDAE

By Suzanne Alicie

The CANIDAE dog sponsorship program began in 2006 as a way to support extraordinary dogs and the people who love them. Among the many canines chosen for sponsorship are teams who participate in dog sports, therapy dogs, K-9 units, assistance dogs and rescue dogs. These dogs are all fed CANIDAE products to provide them with the energy, strength and nutrition required for their demanding jobs.

One of these CANIDAE-sponsored special achievers is Scout, a Chocolate Labrador retriever who works for Copper Mountain as a Certified Avalanche Rescue Dog. His handler, Rich Silkey CMSP, took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for me about Scout and the job they do together at Copper Mountain Resort in Colorado. What an eye opener it was to learn about this dog and his amazing job.

Rich is not just Scout’s handler, he is his owner. Many places have rescue dogs that are owned by a resort or company and live on site. Scout, however, is a hard working dog that gets to go home at night. Socializing is a big part of Scout’s job. On a typical day, which means a day that an avalanche doesn’t occur, Scout enjoys riding up to the duty station on the chair lift, sleeping in the duty station, patrolling with Rich and interacting with the guests. But don’t assume he’s a lazy dog sleeping the day away. The playful and friendly Scout gets a lot of exercise playing with the kids from ski school when he’s not busy. Sounds like a tough job huh?

Well, when an avalanche happens Scout is all business. He began his training at 8 weeks old. Now at almost 4 years old Scout is a certified and professional avalanche rescue dog who knows when it is time to stop playing and start working. Labradors aren’t the only breed suitable for avalanche rescue. Copper Mountain utilizes 6 avalanche rescue dogs that rotate through each week, including Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and German Shepherds. However, Rich selected a Labrador to train as an avalanche rescue dog and as a pet because of the breed’s agility, work ethic, stamina, loyalty and excellent nose.

Unlike dogs who trail or track a specific person or scent, avalanche rescue dogs are trained to air scent for humans, in and under the snow. Victims buried in the snow as a result of an avalanche are just one type of snow rescue. Youth and elderly that have fallen due to injury or hypothermia can become covered by snowfall. Even a healthy well-prepared hiker or skier who holes up in a snow cave after having become lost or exhausted is another type of rescue for an avalanche rescue dog. Because once a person becomes buried, detection by the naked eye is impossible.

These awe inspiring rescue dogs can detect the human scent more than 15 feet deep. Dogs can cover the dangerous terrain of an avalanche area approximately 8 times faster than a human. This means that Scout is usually the first on the scene and helps make sure that people get rescued in time thanks to his wonderful nose and excellent training.

According to Mr. Silkey, Scout performs his task of air scenting to locate a buried person and does an aggressive double paw dig as an alert. But he doesn’t stop there; Scout continues digging and sometimes has the avalanche victim dug out before his human backup arrives. For performing his job so well, Scout gets to enjoy a good game of tug-of-war with his favorite toy.

To make sure that Scout and the other dogs stay on task and don’t forget valuable training, the crew does a mock search once a week to help them stay sharp and practice their skills. Helping teach and lead younger dogs like the two new dogs that are just beginning their training also keeps Scout and the other avalanche rescue dogs at Copper Mountain on top of their game.

Due to the rigors of their job, the cold and unyielding snow and the pressures of the searches, avalanche rescue dogs usually work until they are between 7 and 12 years of age. CANIDAE dog food helps provide the extra nutrition and energy these dogs need to stay healthy and happy from the beginning of their hard working lives through their retirement and lazy days.

The CANIDAE team is proud to sponsor Scout as he goes about the business of saving lives with his partner Rich in the cold and snow at Copper Mountain.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Are Dogs Protective of Children?

By Ruthie Bently

Growing up I had several incredible dogs in my life. We lived on two acres at the end of a gravel road, and I had to walk a quarter of a mile to catch the school bus. The man who lived across from the bus stop had a Saint Bernard, and every morning the dog would come out of the house and walk me to the bus stop. As soon as I was on the bus, he went back home, and every afternoon when I got off the bus he was waiting for me. No matter the weather, he would walk me to the north end of his owner’s property before returning home.

My family owned two boxers, though not at the same time. They were both named Duchess, and were our constant companions. Dutchie (the first) watched over us in the summertime when we went racing across the yard or rambling through the woods that surrounded our property. Whenever I was ill, she would climb on my bed and nestle next to me, keeping me warm with her body heat.

One cold winter day while we were playing inside, Dutchie began whining, barking, growling and pacing the room. We looked out the window and saw a man with no coat on walking across our back yard. The closer he got to the house, the more upset Dutchie became. Mom tried to call the police but the line was busy (this was before 911). The man took off down the drive to the main road. Our neighbor across the street had reached the police and they met the man at the end of our road. We found out later he had walked away from a psychiatric hospital over ten miles away. Dutchie used that innate sixth sense dogs have when danger is near.

Our second boxer (Dutchie II) tried to save me one day while I was swimming. I had swam underwater to see how far I could go on one breath and when I disappeared, she came after me. She caught up to me and began tugging on my hair trying to save me. I wasn’t in any danger of drowning as I was a good swimmer, but Dutchie didn’t know that. After this incident, Dutchie was always watchful when I went swimming, and often swam with me.

I have read several accounts of dogs saving children from drowning or guarding a child during a cold winter night when they accidentally wandered from their home. I even read a story about a pit bull that saved children from a cobra with no apparent thought for its own safety. But why do they do it? Very simply, dogs are pack animals and when we bring one home they accept us as members of their pack. Because we become the alpha dog of the pack, they are bound by their instincts to protect us, and in their eyes our children, as offspring of the alpha, must be protected as well.

All female dogs (wild or not) protect and teach their pups, and although human children are larger than most puppies we are pack members and they accept us into their care. In the wild, the pack must make sure the pups reach adulthood, as they are the continuation of the pack’s lineage. Protectiveness comes to our dogs from their wolf ancestors and the years of breeding we have added to their genealogy. Dogs instinctually know that human children are in need of care.

I heard a story about a boy with seizure issues, and though his dog was not trained could recognize symptoms and would warn his mother when he was about to have one. The school year started and the boy went off without his four-legged companion since dogs were not allowed. One day, the dog began whining, acting strange and looking out the window in the direction the bus had gone. The boy’s mom couldn’t get the dog to settle down and on a hunch called the school to speak with the nurse, who told her that the boy had just had a seizure. The school was ten miles from where the boy lived, and yet his dog knew what was going to happen.

We as humans need to be taught to be wary of potential dangers, but our dogs do not and they act accordingly, whether they are raising puppies or babies. While we as adults can usually see danger coming, our children cannot and our canine companions act to protect our precious two-legged family members.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dog Parks: What to Know Before You Go

By Linda Cole

Dog parks have been around for a long time. They provide a safe area where dogs can run, play and socialize with other dogs. Knowing what to expect and what you need to know before you go, can make visiting a dog park a happy and safe experience for you and your canine companion.

I'm an advocate for dog parks. Every city should have a designated park just for dogs and their owners. It's the perfect place for owners to gather and get to know each other, hold dog related activities and give their best friend a safe area to run off leash and meet other dogs. Dogs are social animals, and dog parks give owners and their dogs a chance to interact with each other.

Before your first visit to any dog park, make sure you are not required to obtain a dog park permit and dog tags for the park. It's best to check out a park for the first time without your dog. This will give you an opportunity to read any posted rules that must be followed. You can observe the dogs and people using the park, see if there is anyone who monitors the park, and find out if there are dog professionals available who can answer questions. It also gives you a chance to talk to people and find out what their opinion is of the park.

Spending time at the dog park without your dog also gives you an opportunity to observe how other owners respond to situations in the park. You can find out if there are any problem dogs that are allowed to run while their owner ignores them, if some owners simply drop their dog off and leave, or if anyone has trouble controlling their dog.

The primary concern at any dog park is to make sure dogs and people stay safe. A dog who is properly socialized will interact and play with other dogs, but even a well mannered dog can and will get into fights. A basic understanding of a dog's body language can be helpful when an approaching dog and your dog are about to meet each other. Dog parks aren't for every dog, and knowing your dog's personality and temperament can help you decide if this is an environment you want to put your dog into.

For a shy dog, your first visit is a good time to find out when there may be fewer dogs at the park. An off time would give your dog a chance to sniff around and get to know the area without a lot of distractions. This gives him time to learn new smells that will help him be more comfortable when it's time to meet other dogs. It's best not to take a puppy, a fearful dog or an overly aggressive dog to a dog park. It's also best to visit the park without the kids.

CANIDAE is a proud sponsor and supporter of dog parks. Their most recent contribution of $15,000 was donated to the city of Redlands, California to help a local organization called R.U.F.F (Redlands Unleashed Fidos and Friends) in their dream of creating a dog park for the city's estimated 15,000 dogs. Upon completion, the park will have one area for small dogs and one for larger dogs, and plenty of parking available for their owners.

Before entering any dog park, make sure your dog's vaccinations are up to date. It's also a good idea to have your dog checked out by a veterinarian to make sure he's healthy. Never take a sick dog to the park and if you encounter a sick dog while there, keep your dog away from them. Don't forget to take a leash just in case you need to keep him next to you, and make sure to take plastic bags to pick up any deposits made by your dog.

Take your time when introducing your dog to the park and other dogs. A dog who seems anxious, shy or upset should not be unleashed until he's had a chance to get to know his surroundings and feels comfortable in them. The best way to ward off possible dog fights is to know your dog, understand a dog's body language and be ready to leave if you or your dog becomes uncomfortable.

A well run dog park gives your canine companion a safe area to romp freely, and allows them to burn off pent up energy while you socialize with other owners. By observing and asking questions before you go, the experience will be fun and rewarding for you and your best friend.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, February 22, 2010

Obesity in Pets: It’s No Laughing Matter

By Julia Williams

People who aspire to be compassionate and/or politically correct wouldn’t dream of laughing at an obese person. Most of us are evolved enough to know this just isn’t funny. Yet, to my dismay I recently discovered that some people do think fat cats and pudgy pooches are hilarious. A simple Google search brought up countless pictures of morbidly obese dogs and cats, as well as Youtube videos, cartoons, caricatures and blogs, all poking fun at these roly-poly pets.

As an animal lover, I didn’t laugh. In fact, I gasped. I was saddened at the sight of these poor pets that were allowed to become so shockingly huge. For me, this sort of thing is the opposite of amusing. It’s certainly not what any caring, responsible pet owner would do. Our pets do not become fat of their own accord; they simply eat what (and how much) is given to them by their human guardian. Our pets don’t control the amount of calorie-burning exercise and playtime they get either. When these two things are out of balance, weight gain is the inevitable result. And according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, fat pets are becoming more prevalent every year. Their 2008 study estimated that 44% of all dogs and 57% of all cats in the U.S. are overweight, with around 14% qualifying for obesity.

But fat pets are not funny. The reality is, obese pets suffer, and many die prematurely due to weight related health problems. Like humans, overweight pets are at risk for developing diabetes, heart disease, liver malfunction, digestive disorders, high blood pressure, damage to their joints and bones, and many other conditions that endanger their health. I think it’s unfortunate that people who allow their pet to starve (intentionally or not) are charged with animal cruelty, yet owners who allow their dog or cat to become morbidly obese are not held accountable. It doesn’t really make sense to me. When your pet becomes so big it can’t walk and has difficulty breathing, isn’t it rather obvious this is a serious health problem which requires human intervention?

Ignorance is no excuse for letting a pet suffer, either. Even when it’s not so clear cut, such as when a pet is merely overweight rather than morbidly obese, a responsible owner would be made aware of this when they took their pet in for a yearly checkup. Then, they could discuss with their vet the proper way to go about helping their pet lose weight. Just as with humans, there is no “quick fix” for weight gain in pets. Many different factors may be contributing to a pet’s excess weight, and owners need the guidance and knowledge of trained professionals to safely and effectively combat pet obesity.

Helping an overweight pet shed excess pounds is not an easy task, to be sure. The ideal solution is not to let your pet get fat in the first place. But if and when it happens, a responsible owner takes action immediately to remedy the situation, because untreated obesity in pets can have devastating consequences. No one who loves their dog or cat would allow their health and quality of life to be diminished by excess weight.

If you think your pet is overweight, let your vet help you determine the best course of action. By helping your pet to lose weight, you will likely be adding years to their life – which means there will be a lot more kitty kisses or doggie hugs in store for you!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Canine Epilepsy

By Ruthie Bently

These days our dogs are being diagnosed with many of the same health conditions that we have, and one of them is epilepsy which is distinguished by recurring seizures. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder caused by misfiring of the electrical synapses in the brain. This in turn causes additional, erratic nerve transmissions that are not coordinated. These scramble the messages to the muscles in the body, which results in a seizure. Epilepsy is a chronic condition, though it should be noted that not all seizures are caused by epilepsy. There are different divisions of canine epilepsy, and it is not limited to one condition but a larger catalog of disorders.

Idiopathic epilepsy (also known as Primary Epilepsy) has no specific brain abnormality except for the seizures. Genetics are now suspected in the cause of idiopathic seizures of several dog breeds including Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Keeshonds, Collies, Beagles and the British Alsatian. It is now also being considered as an inherited problem in other breeds. I know of one geneticist who is studying the American Staffordshire Terrier to see if there is a link to epilepsy in the breed. My AmStaff Skye was diagnosed with idiopathic juvenile seizures and had her first seizure when she went into her first season; she was about a year old. Most dogs diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy experience their first seizure between the age of one and five years.

Symptomatic epilepsy (also known as Secondary Epilepsy) consists of seizures that can be linked to a specific cause or abnormality. Symptomatic Epilepsy can be caused by an underlying factor that you may not even have considered. It has been linked to brain tumors, hypothyroidism, canine distemper or another infection (which can cause brain damage), congenital hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and the ingestion of toxins like gardening chemicals and lead paint chips.

There are four basic types of seizures in varying degrees of severity; they are the petite mal (mild), grand mal (moderate), status epilepticus, and clusters. The status epilepticus and the clusters are the most dangerous and can be life threatening.

While canine epilepsy can be severe, some seizures can be controlled and even eliminated with the proper diet. It is important to stay away from chemical preservatives in your dog’s food as these may be seizure triggers. Skye eats CANIDAE ALS Grain Free which has no chemical preservatives. Seizures that cannot be controlled by diet, may be controlled with homeopathic methods or by medication if need be. If a dog needs to be medicated to control their seizures, there are several medications available.

Most seizures can be controlled with Phenobarbital and it is sometimes used in conjunction with Potassium Bromide. It should be noted that Phenobarbital is a barbiturate and can cause liver or kidney damage with prolonged usage. You need to have blood tests done every four to six months to check that the liver and kidneys are functioning properly. Potassium Bromide has been used alone when Phenobarbital has caused liver damage.

There can be a side effect with use of the bromides, called bromide intoxication. Bromide intoxication manifests itself in uneven locomotion, stumbling over nothing and even falling down. If your dog has these symptoms, talk to your vet about lowering the dosage or changing medication. Skye was originally on a combination of Phenobarbital and Potassium Bromide and I witnessed Bromide intoxication. Her medication was changed to Sodium Bromide and though I have to watch her sodium levels, she no longer has any issues with Bromide intoxication. Neurontin, also known as Gabapentin, is a newer drug developed for use in human epilepsy and it is safe for use in canine epilepsy as well. However it can be costly – about $250.00 per month. Valium is not primarily used in the prevention of seizures, but it is used after the seizures happen to help calm the dog.

If your dog begins having seizures, have your vet look for underlying health issues. If none are found make sure to check your dog’s pedigree and lineage for a possible genetic link. Since Skye has been on just the Sodium Bromide I have not seen any side effects. We go to the vet every six months for blood tests, which are always normal.

Canine epilepsy is no longer the monster it used to be, and our companion animals can live long, healthy, fulfilling lives with the proper care. You wouldn’t know to look at Skye that she had ever had seizures, and I feel very blessed.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Are “Dog People” and “Cat People” Really Different?

By Linda Cole

We are attracted to certain types of pets just as we are to specific types of people. All animals are worthy of our compassion, and choosing either a dog or cat to share our home with is a reflection on our personality.

There's something mystical about a cat. They cuddle with us on their terms. Most will come when called, but only if they think there's something in it for them. I'm pretty sure mine enjoy seeing their frantic owner comb every known hiding spot in the house looking for them as they watch from a newly discovered spot. I love a cat's independence and how the intensity in her body grows as she watches a squirrel or bird perch on a tree branch in front of the window separating them.

Dog people and cat people do have good reasons why they prefer one over the other. But as much as I love cats, dogs also have a special place in my heart. I love how a dog greets you no matter how long you've been gone. Cats miss us too, but they are often too proud to let us know. A dog wants to be with us all the time and they always have a smile in their eyes. I don't think of myself as a dog or cat person, just an animal person.

According to a study that was done in 2008 by the American Veterinary Medical Association, “cat people” are more likely to be single with multiple cats; “dog people” are typically married with kids and have just one dog in the home. But with so many variables in the equation, this generalization seems rather pointless.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin recently conducted an online survey to find out if there really is a difference between cat people and dog people. Their study is called the Gosling-Potter Internet Personality Project, and they asked participants questions to measure five different personality traits. Around 4,500 people answered questions that measured openness, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness and extraversion (this spelling is correct and is the same as extrovert). The researchers used these five personality traits in earlier studies to measure responses, and believe most people fall into one of the categories.

What they found was that people who consider themselves to be dog people tend to be more outgoing and social. Cat people, according to their study, are more neurotic yet open. The openness in this case means creative, philosophical, curious, imaginative, or more in touch with their own feelings.

The University of Texas at Austin study has not been published yet, so I'll reserve judgment until it's available to the public to read. The small bit of general information that has already been released has created controversy and defensive reactions from pet owners. Neurotic, after all, is a pretty strong word to label cat people with. The information that's been released is more of a generalization of the five personality types. The study was only for differences between dog people and cat people based on how they viewed themselves. Some considered themselves to be dog people but they own cats, or cat people with dogs. Some of the respondents didn't even own a pet.

What's useful about the Texas study is when matching up a therapy animal with a patient, understanding a person's preference can make a difference by using an animal the person relates to best. But do we really want to stereotype someone based on their choice in pets? And where do households with both dogs and cats fit into the study?

The study also found that some people may prefer dogs, but have cats because that's the pet that fits best into their lifestyle or work schedule at the moment. Cat people may have a certain breed of dog because that's the pet that works best for someone in the home with allergies.

Studies are useful in providing an insight into how people see themselves. However, I'm not convinced that placing a label on a person from a generalized statement is convincing as far as determining a difference between dog people and cat people. The way I see it, we are pet parents who are enriched with the love we give and receive from our pets. A preference does play a role in our choice, but regardless of whether we have cats or dogs, labels mean nothing to them and they accept us for who we are. And so should we.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Algonquin Hotel Cat Makes Guests Feel Right at Home

By Julia Williams

When I’m traveling, the thing I miss most about “home” is spending time with my cats. If I’ve had a difficult day, nothing brings me back into balance quicker than a good petting session. When I need some affection, I have three felines who are happy to give it, provided they get some back. Needless to say, I get very homesick for my cats when I am away, and I’m sure many cat owners feel the same – which is why, if you ever find yourself in New York City, you simply must stay at the Algonquin Hotel!

This landmark hotel has many claims to fame, but is known the world over for their famous feline resident: a gorgeous Ragdoll cat named Matilda. This PURRsonable feline is always on hand to make sure that any hotel guest who needs some kitty love, shall have it. Now that’s what I call five-star hospitality!

The oldest operating hotel in New York City, the Algonquin has kept a “resident cat” since the 1930s. The story goes that one stormy night, a bedraggled cat wandered into the hotel seeking food and shelter. The hotel’s owner at the time, known to be a very gracious host, felt sorry for the cat and welcomed it into the hotel.

That first hotel cat was an orange tabby initially called Rusty. Hotel lore claims that actor John Barrymore, who was starring in Hamlet on Broadway, thought the cat needed a more theatrical name. Thus, the cat was rechristened Hamlet, and a tradition was born. Since then, all of the male Algonquin hotel cats are called Hamlet, and the females are named Matilda.

The current Matilda is the ninth Algonquin hotel cat. A former show cat, Matilda is the first purebred feline to reside at the hotel. She became their newest kitty concierge in 1997 at the tender age of two, and has endeared herself to the guests ever since. The Ragdoll is an American cat breed best known for its docile temperament and affectionate nature. These qualities make them a perfect hotel cat, and the ever-friendly Matilda does her breed proud.

Other than the kitchen and dining areas, Matilda has the run of the hotel and is frequently spotted snoozing at the front desk. However, her favorite place to hang out is her personal chaise lounge in the lobby, where she can oversee the comings and goings of the guests and get chin rubs from them.

Around check-in time, Matilda can be found by the luggage cart, where she likes to sniff all incoming baggage and greet the arriving guests. She has become quite popular over the years and receives mail weekly from all over the world. She even has her own email address, and has been the subject of countless stories. Once, when her cat collar was stolen, the tale of the “Algonquin Cat-Burglary” was the talk of the city.

Each year, the Algonquin Hotel throws Matilda a birthday bash as befits a New York celebrity. Perhaps the most memorable one, according to the hotel’s website, was her seventh birthday. With 150 of her closest friends in attendance, Matilda “jumped on her cake and ran out of the room, leaving a trail of paw prints.” Although she didn’t display much appreciation for her birthday party that year, the gatherings serve as a way for the hotel to raise a substantial sum for cat charities.

The Algonquin hotel cat has been memorialized in a children's book and a 24-karat gold pendant. The hotel’s bar even has a cocktail named after Matilda. Want to know more about this famous feline? You can watch a short video, Meet Matilda, the Algonquin Hotel Cat, on the Cat Channel website.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What to do With Pets When Your Home is for Sale

By Suzanne Alicie

Selling a home can take time. It is not uncommon for a home to be listed for several months. During this time, you and your family may continue to live in the home. But of course you make an extra effort to keep the house clean and presentable because the realtor could show up any time with a potential buyer.

While this is a bit of an upheaval for your family, there is one other thing to consider and that is your family pet. The homeowners are often at work when the house is shown. This means that your dog or cat is at home unattended when strangers enter and move through your home.

When your house is for sale it is important to make sure that your pet is kept enclosed to protect both the pets and potential home buyers who are viewing the house. When a realtor and viewers enter a house, your dog or cat could slip out the door and get into the street or become lost. Another possibility is that your dog may become territorial and frighten or even attack the strange people coming into his home.

To solve these potential problems, consider some of the following solutions for your pets while your home is for sale. Pets who are accustomed to being able to roam freely about the house may balk initially, but will soon adjust to a new routine.

1. Doggie Daycare will get your dog out of the home when you go to work. He won’t be at home so that the realtor can show the house at any time while you are gone, without worry.

2. Crate your dog or cat when you leave the home so that he is in an enclosed and safe area where he won’t be in contact with the realtor or home viewers.

3. Backyard kennels or enclosed runs are a way to not only protect your dog and the people who are entering your home, but also a great way to make sure your dog gets fresh air and a bit of exercise. An enclosed kennel in the back yard is also a good selling point for potential buyers who have a pet.

Do not place your dog on a chain outside unattended. The dog could become entangled, spill his water, or even break the chain and escape.

Taking some precautions while your home is for sale will help you to avoid losing your pet and even possible lawsuits. However, there will be an adjustment period for your pet when you begin instituting these changes in the daily routine. Expect some regression in training and a bit of acting out from your canine or feline friend. Be patient and realize that your pet is experiencing a great deal of upheaval along with the rest of the family. The difference is that your pet won’t understand what is going on and may feel as if he is being punished. Be sure to reward your dog or cat for good behavior, and give them a lot of attention when you are home.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How to Groom a Short-Coated Dog

By Ruthie Bently

Each dog’s hair coat is different and in my opinion, grooming a dog with a short coat (also known as a smooth coat) is the easiest. You don’t have to cut the dog’s hair coat and you don’t need to use a stripping knife to cut out the dead hair. You also don’t have to bathe a dog with a short coat very often. If they are a fairly clean dog, then bathing them once a month is often enough.

If you bathe a dog too much you can actually strip the oils out of their hair coat. This can be detrimental because the oils in a dog’s coat can help keep them insulated against the cold weather. My AmStaff Skye loves to run through mud puddles, and I’ve watched her jump up and down trying to see how much mud she can get on herself. I have a dry shampoo for spot cleaning her feet and parts of her that get wet or muddy after we have been down by the river.

The first step in grooming a short-coated dog is to give them a bath. Fill the bathtub with about six inches of lukewarm water and use it to get them wet all over. A medium-sized saucepan works well for both getting your dog wet and for rinsing off the shampoo. I purchased a shampoo that has colloidal oatmeal in it, though lately I have been making my own. The oatmeal soothes the skin and is good for any bites from flies or mosquitoes or scratches your dog might get from charging through bushes.

After wetting your dog completely, put about a nickel sized amount of shampoo in your hand. Beginning at their head (avoiding the eyes) soap them from front to back and top to bottom. Massaging your dog with a rubber brush or palm pad helps calm them, works the shampoo down to the skin and helps get any dirt out of their coat.

Be sure to rinse your dog very well to make sure all the soap suds are out of their coat. For every twenty minutes of bathing allow yourself five minutes of rinse time. Dry your dog with several old, clean towels set aside for that purpose, or use a blow dryer on a low heat setting. If it’s warm enough outside in the summer months, you can let your dog air dry.

If your dog’s nails need to be clipped, after their bath is a good time to do it. The warm water of the bath usually soothes a dog and makes it easier to clip their nails. If they object to having their toes clipped at this time, waiting until bedtime after they’ve had a full day of activity and are tired can also be helpful. Make sure you have styptic powder or a styptic pencil on hand if your dog tends to be a wiggler.

The next step is brushing out the hair that was loosened by the bath. There are many tools you can use to brush your short-coated dog, and you need to decide which is best for you. You can use a shedding blade, natural bristle brush, a round rubber curry brush or rectangular rubber brush, a sisal mitt with bristles, a rubber mitt or a rubber palm pad. I prefer the round rubber brush, palm pad or shedding blade as they are easier to clean. They also attract the hair to themselves and you don’t tend to end up with globs of hair around the house.

During the warmer months I brush Skye outside and give the hair to the wild birds to use for their nests. Begin at your dog’s head and brush them head to tail and top to bottom. If you can’t brush them outside, brushing them in the bathroom on the tile floor is a good idea since it is a small room and it’s easy to sweep up the hair. You shouldn’t need a conditioning spray unless your dog has a brittle coat, and with frequent brushing you will help your dog’s body replenish its natural lubricating hair oils.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rare Dog Breeds From Around the World

By Linda Cole

Rare dog breeds fascinate me. There's a mystic and awe that surrounds their existence. Rare breeds are not family dogs for the average owner, but rather have a specific purpose that aids us in certain tasks. They’re intelligent, independent and absolutely amazing animals that deserve to be recognized for what they do and how they make life easier (and safer) for the people who work with them.

The Peruvian Inca Orchid, pictured, is an ancient hairless rare breed that was found in the Inca homes amidst their orchids, and the Spanish named them “Perros Flora” or “flower dog.” When Spanish explorers visited Peru in the 1500s, they found the Peruvian Inca Orchid (PIO) living with royalty who used them as bed warmers, but their history goes back to around 750 AD. Nearly wiped out during the Spanish conquest of Peru, the remaining dogs retreated to rural areas where people thought they were mystical. They were originally bred to hunt and run messages between tribes.

The Peruvian Inca Orchid is an energetic, independent and intelligent dog with a quick wit. Because they are usually hairless, they need protection from the elements. Not all PIO are hairless, however, and a litter can have some with hair and some without. Hairless PIO have tufts of hair on their heads, tails and feet. They have “hare feet” that are webbed with long toes. They are a small dog, but they need regular exercise. As a sight hound, they’re always on the lookout for something to chase, and are quick and agile. They need to be supervised around young children and small pets, but generally get along fine with other dogs. Wary of strangers, this dog needs an experienced owner.

The Thai Ridgeback is a rare breed outside of Thailand. This primitive dog is believed to have evolved from the Asian Wolf in eastern Thailand, and cave drawings depicting the dog have been found dating to around 3,000 years old. They were used for hunting, guarding and pulling carts. One of only three breeds with a ridge running down its back, the Thai Ridgeback is also recognized by large ears that stand straight up. They were originally bred to keep snakes away, and are capable of attacking and killing Cobras. Today, they are primarily used in Thailand as a guard dog.

There are only about 1,000 Thai Ridgebacks found outside of Thailand, with just 100 in the United States. This muscular dog needs to be active, is territorial and needs an experienced dog owner. It can have aggression issues and is not good with other dogs, but can make a nice pet for the right owner. A warm weather dog, the Thai Ridgeback would not like playing in snow.

The Lagotto Romagnolo has its origins in Italy, and was initially bred to hunt water fowl. During the 19th century when the marshlands were drained, this rare dog breed was on the brink of extinction when lovers of truffles brought them back with the remaining breeding stock. The only breed recognized for their ability to sniff out truffles, this working dog has a thick neck, wide chest, curly Poodle-like coat, and sheds very little.

The Lagotto Romagnolo predates the Romans and is considered to be the great-great-grandfather to all water dogs. Medium size with powerful long straight legs, this robust little dog is easy to train. They do like to dig, however, and need room to roam. This dog needs brain exercises to keep him from finding his own “entertainment” but gets along well with other dogs as long as he is well socialized.

The Karelian Bear Dog (KBD) was almost extinct after WW II. Today's Karelians can all be traced back to 40 dogs that were rescued after the war. A fierce hunter, this rare dog breed can and does stand up to and fight bear, which is what they were bred to do. They are as loyal as they come but difficult to train. Only an extremely qualified and experienced owner who can manage a Karelian Bear Dog with proper discipline and affection should adopt this breed.

A primitive dog that dates back to Finland thousands of years ago, the KBD was originally from Karelia, an area in eastern Europe. With only around 300 KBD dogs in the U.S., this rare breed has a distinctive double black/white coat designed to protect them from frostbite. Small pointed ears stand erect and point slightly outward. Powerful jaws with a biting pressure of 230 lbs. give this medium size, hardy dog enough power to hold onto any prey until they choose to let go.

This is not a good family pet for novice dog owners, and they need lots of room to roam. They can interact with other dogs, but you need a firm hand to successfully train, socialize and control them. This beautiful rare breed is energetic, intelligent and independent. They will defend their owner and family with their life and have the utmost determination and bravery. Today, specially trained Karelian Bear Dogs aid forest workers in bear conservation efforts by helping to teach bears it's in their best interest to avoid humans.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, February 15, 2010

Responsible Pet Ownership: The Year in Review

By Julia Williams

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of this CANIDAE-sponsored pet blog. I didn’t begin writing for the blog until April, so I’m not sure if the starting date of February 14th was intentional, but it seems fitting. Why? Well, most of us associate Valentine’s Day with love. CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods was founded out of love for pets, and they created this blog as a way to aid those who love their pets! Further, they chose to call it Responsible Pet Ownership because those three words perfectly personify the company philosophy, and are the heart and soul of CANIDAE.

The purpose of this blog is, and has always been, to provide helpful tips and advice for caring pet owners, be they dog lovers, cat fans or “pet people” who refuse to choose their favorite animal. We strive to offer a diverse mix of educational, inspiring and entertaining articles on all aspects of pet ownership and care. Although the old adage “you can’t please all of the people all of the time” may be true, we do try our best to offer something for everyone. We want our readers to keep reading, after all, because that’s why we do what we do. Without you, this blog would have no meaning.

The writers who contribute to the Responsible Pet Ownership blog may come from all walks of life, but we have two things in common: a deep love for pets and a commitment to responsible pet ownership. Another thing we share is the desire to enrich people’s lives with our words. As a writer, I can tell you that nothing moves me more than knowing someone got “something” from my words – whether it was information on how to care for their pet, a laugh or a smile, or just a few minutes of reading pleasure in an otherwise harried day.

I’ve been a longtime fan of the CANIDAE brand. Well, FELIDAE actually, which is their cat food label. My three cats have eaten FELIDAE exclusively for about five years, and I am positive that I’m giving them top-notch food. But being part of the blog team has enabled me to see what a great and giving company CANIDAE is too. In addition to promoting responsible pet ownership through proper nutrition and care, CANIDAE also supports many worthwhile pet-related organizations and “pets in need.” This includes scholarship programs for veterinary students, donating their premium-quality pet food to wonderful charities such as The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank, holding charity raffles to raise money for canine cancer research, and so much more.

On this one-year anniversary of the Responsible Pet Ownership blog, we’d like to express our appreciation of you, our valued readers. If you’ve been reading this blog from the start, thank you! And for those who may be new to the blog, we encourage you to poke around our archives and discover what you may have missed. Moreover, we welcome your comments, so let us know if there are subjects you wish to read about, and feel free to suggest ideas for how we can make this blog better.

I am honored to be a part of the Responsible Pet Ownership blog team, and look forward to sharing my words with you in the future.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why Dogs Counter Surf, and How to Stop It

By Ruthie Bently

Many dogs counter surf no matter how well trained they are, but most of what I’ve read does not address why they do it, just the methods you can use to stop them. I believe the reason that many dogs (mine included) counter surf is because they are hard-wired with the instinct to seek food. While dogs have been domesticated for about 15,000 years now, they still have instincts stemming from their wolf ancestors.

If a wild wolf pack is lucky enough to kill an adult moose (which weighs between 1200 and 1800 pounds) they gorge themselves. An adult wolf can eat fifty pounds of meat at one time and the reason they do is because they don’t know when their next meal will be. Not every dog counter surfs, but since they all have this instinct they can be prone to it.

Other reasons given for why dogs counter surf are that they are hungry or bored, have a nutritional deficiency, or simply because it smells good and tastes even better. While some of these reasons make sense, I don’t agree with all of them. I will agree with the smells good and tastes better idea, but my counter surfing dog isn’t bored (we play or walk every day) and she gets plenty of good food to eat. I thought I was a bad owner and she did it just to spite me but then my vet explained about the instinct and it made sense to me.

So, how do you stop your dog from counter surfing? The best way is to prevent the temptation for your dog to do it. Don’t leave your dog alone if there is food on the kitchen counter or table. Teach your dog “off” or “leave it” and make sure to use either command if you catch your dog getting up on the counter or table.

The “penny can” is another method you can try to stop the counter surfing behavior, although in my experience it isn’t terribly effective. Put some pennies in a can and place the can on some food bait or attached to it to so that when the dog grabs the food they will (in theory) be frightened by the noise and run off, leaving the food behind. Although Skye was scared off by the noise, she still grabbed the food and took it with her as she ran out of the room. I have, however, used my “spritz” (a spray bottle filled with water) on her and it works. If I have cooked food I put it in the microwave or oven to keep her from it, and don’t leave the kitchen if I am preparing food.

Special thanks to Vickie's dog, Tsavo, for posing for this picture!

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Is It Normal for Cats and Dogs to Sneeze?

By Linda Cole

Cats and dogs sneeze all the time, just like we do. A bit of dust, grass or tiny piece of dirt can get up their nose as they rummage and sniff out an interesting smell in some tall grass or in a corner of the living room. Most of the time, sneezing is nothing to worry about. However, if your pet's sneezing seems to be chronic, this could be a signal that something is wrong.

Cats and dogs are notorious for sticking their nose next to the ground in a clump of grass to follow a scent they picked up. My dogs are always sticking their nose in the grass around the fence of their pen as they follow the trail of a mouse or other small rodent that passed through it. Their only reward, besides a few minutes of excitement, is a series of sneezes to get rid of the loose dirt, snow or grass they inhaled up their nose.

Because cats and dogs use their nose to investigate their world, dust, pollen, dirt and small objects can easily be inhaled into the nasal cavity. Sneezing is a normal reaction to get rid of the irritation. Pets can also have allergic reactions to household cleaners, smoke, dust, perfumes, disinfected sprays, deodorants or dust from the cat litter. Scents and chemicals that bother us can also bother our pets. The best way to tell if a sneeze is caused by something irritating their nose is to pay attention to what you have on or how they react when you clean house or spray products in your home. A process of elimination can help you determine what the culprit is.

A cat that sneezes a lot may indicate they are dealing with an upper respiratory infection. The only way to be sure is by taking their temperature rectally. For both cats and dogs, their normal body temperature is 100.5 to 102.5. Touching their nose to decide if they are running a temperature does no good and will not tell you if they have a fever or not. Besides running a fever, a cat with an upper respiratory infection may have swollen eyes and glands, a running nose, coughing and sneezing. This is a highly contagious infection that can quickly be passed from cat to cat. It's usually treated with antibiotics.

Cats and dogs can both be infected by a virus or bacteria that cause upper respiratory infections. Some cats who appear to be perfectly healthy can carry a virus, Herpes-1, their entire life and this virus is the cause for their sneezing. It's like people who get cold sores all the time. Too much stress can activate the virus in their system. So a cat that carries Herpes-1 needs to be kept as quiet and stress free as possible.

Tumors in the nasal cavity or an abscessed tooth can cause sneezing. Anytime you see blood coming from your pet's nose or mixed in with a nasal discharge, this can indicate a possible tumor or a bad tooth. Either case will require a vet's attention. Most people don't associate a bad tooth with sneezing. Good dental hygiene can help prevent a case of the sneezes with daily attention to their teeth. Cats and dogs have an upper tooth called the third upper tooth that has roots close to the nasal passages. This tooth and the ones next to it can cause your pet's sneezing and nasal discharge if one of them is bad. So a check in their mouth can rule out a tooth problem if a nasal discharge accompanies a sneeze. A vet will need to run tests if a tumor is suspected to be the problem.

Certain breeds of dogs and cats have more problems with sneezing. Flat nosed dogs like Bulldogs or Pugs, and cats like Persians have a nasal passage that is more compressed than in other breeds.

Even though most sneezing is nothing to be concerned with, it's always wise to pay attention to frequent sneezing to make sure it's not something serious. If in doubt, a checkup with your vet can help ease your mind.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, February 12, 2010

Great Movies for Dog Lovers

By Julia Williams

A few weeks ago I gave you some suggestions for good cat movies to watch, so it’s only fair that I recommend some good dog movies too. I thought selecting a few of my favorites would be far easier than it was for the cat movies. Upon further reflection, I realized there were so many really great dog movies to choose from, it was hard to pick just a handful. But I couldn’t include them all, or this article would stretch into next week! After much wrangling, I whittled my list down to five. Gather the family, pop some corn and curl up with your favorite canine to enjoy one of these delightful dog movies.

My Dog Skip (2000) is a heartwarming coming-of-age tale about the special friendship between a shy boy and his extraordinary canine companion. Young Willie isn’t good at sports, he has trouble making friends and his relationship with his Dad is problematic. Willie’s Mom gives him a dog for his ninth birthday, and his life changes for the better, largely because Skip becomes well loved by everyone and even helps the boy make friends. Set in the 1940s in the small, sleepy town of Yazoo City, Mississippi, My Dog Skip was loosely based on the best-selling memoir by the late Willie Morris, and stars Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson and Kevin Bacon.

Trivia: Six different Jack Russell terriers played Skip. One of those was Moose, the dog best known for his role as Eddie on the TV sitcom “Frasier.”

Because of Winn-Dixie (2005) is another “dog changes lonely child’s life” story, only this time it’s a girl. Though not nearly as endearing as My Dog Skip, it’s still a feel-good family film that’s enjoyable to watch, especially for children. Ten-year-old Opal adopts a stray dog and names him after the local supermarket where she found him. The two become constant companions, and the mischievous Winn-Dixie helps Opal make friends and meet all sorts of eccentric characters in their small Florida town. The movie was based on Kate DiCamillo’s children’s book by the same name, and stars Jeff Daniels and Cicely Tyson.

Trivia: Five different Picardy Shepherd dogs played Winn-Dixie. The Picardy Shepherd is a rare breed that’s also known as the Berger Picard.

Best in Show (2000), starring Eugene Levy and Parker Posy, is a hilarious comedy about dog shows that will have you howling with laughter, from the opening scene to the end. It’s presented as a mock-documentary of the obsessive owners (and handlers) of five show dogs—a Norwich Terrier, Weimaraner, Bloodhound, Standard Poodle and Shih Tzu—as they prepare to compete at the Mayflower Kennel Club Dog Show in Philadelphia. A film crew interviews the comical characters as they prepare for the trip, arrive at the hotel, and backstage during a national dog show. Best in Show was nominated for a Golden Globe, and in 2006 the movie magazine Premiere voted it one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time.”

Trivia: According to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), filming for the scenes with numerous dogs went remarkably well, with only one unscripted bark. The bloodhound in the movie is named Hubert. Bloodhounds are also known as St. Hubert hounds.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993) is a remake of a classic 1963 Disney film which was based on the best-selling novel, The Incredible Journey, by Sheila Burnford. The movie chronicles the epic adventures of two dogs and a cat as they trek across the Sierras on a quest to find their family. Chance (voiced by Michael J. Fox) is an American bulldog pup with energy to spare; Shadow (voiced by Don Ameche) is an old, wise Golden Retriever; Sassy (voiced by Sally Field) is a snooty Himalayan cat who lives up to her name.

Trivia: in the original book, the animals’ names and breeds were all different. It featured a Labrador Retriever (Luath), a Bull Terrier (Bodger), and a Siamese cat (Tao).

Marley and Me (2008) is based on the best-selling autobiographical book by John Grogan, and stars Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson and Kathleen Turner. This touching tale presents dog ownership in a true-to-life way that many people can relate to. When a young couple adopts a yellow lab puppy (named after reggae singer Bob Marley), the rambunctious dog wreaks havoc on their household. Despite his naughty nature, Marley becomes an important member of their family.

Trivia: Marley and Me is the second highest-grossing live-action dog movie of all time (movies starring real dogs, not animated films) behind only Scooby Doo released in 2002. There were 22 different dogs that played Marley.

Although this list is by no means inclusive of all the great dog movies available on DVD, it should give you some ideas for what to watch on family movie night.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Does Breed Always Determine a Dog’s Personality?

By Suzanne Alicie

All over the world people have misconceptions and yes, even stereotypes about dog breeds. Over the centuries dogs have been bred for certain uses, including hunting, working and sport. The breeding has led to certain characteristics that are common for each breed of dog. For example, Labradors are considered water dogs because they were bred for retrieving. But the type of behavior, skills and abilities that come from breeding are traits that run in the bloodlines.

Personality traits are entirely different from breeding traits, and many breeds have common personality traits. One example of this is the Samoyed. These dogs were originally bred for working outside in cold temperatures. Yet somewhere along the way this breed also developed a loyalty and personality that is very unique to their breed. They want to be close to the people that are their family and are almost comedic in their effort to gain their persons attention.

The question is, do all dogs of this breed have this type of personality? The answer is that while breed-wide personality traits are common, and considered to be the norm, in reality each dog is an individual and may develop a different personality because of the way it is raised.

For example, if a dog breed that is generally regarded as friendly and great with kids, is raised in a home where there are no children and the dog has little contact with people other than its owners, this dog could be quite unfriendly, territorial and scared of children.

A common claim these days concerning personality traits is in regards to the Pit Bull. These dogs have a reputation for being fierce fighters, dangerous to have around your children and a scourge in the community. Yet when a puppy of one of these breeds is raised in a family filled with love, a family that trains the dog and raises him to be gentle, they can be one of the most protective and loving dogs. This isn’t to say that you can cross out centuries of breeding traits that involve fighting and defense. Those instincts are still there, but in the family situation when the dog isn’t threatened he may have a wonderful friendly personality.

On the other side of the realm are the tiny dogs. Poodles and Chihuahuas have a reputation for being annoyingly yappy and nervous dogs. This can be because of the breeding that has made them so small and seemingly insignificant in a big world. I used to have a fair amount of disdain for what I called yappy dogs, and then my children got me a miniature poodle for Mother’s Day.

From the first day when he curled up in my hands I fell in love with that little white ball of fur. I didn’t turn into Paris Hilton and carry him around with me in a purse, but I allowed him to be with me wherever I was around the house. I taught him tricks and let my children play with him. My poodle didn’t bark unless a stranger came to the door, and no one was a stranger for long. He loved everyone and exhibited none of the nervous yappiness I had come to expect from that breed. Health problems did arise that were part of the poodle’s breeding traits, but the personality traits were all from how he was raised.

So the basic idea is that breeding traits are ingrained in your dog, and can at times override personality traits. But if a dog owner assumes that a dog will have a certain personality due to its breed, then that is probably the type of personality it will have because they will make no effort to train it differently, chalking the personality up to the breed.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to Introduce a Second Dog Into Your Home

By Ruthie Bently

When my first dog became a senior citizen, I knew I didn’t want to live without a dog so I began looking for a second dog to introduce into my household. I thought my first dog would be able to help me teach the new dog and that it would be good company for him, since I worked all day. My friends with multiple dogs assured me that owning two was no harder than owning one. I did some research before I got my second dog though, and learned that while it can be a rewarding experience there are a few guidelines to follow to make it as easy as possible for all concerned.

The first thing to consider is the gender of the dog you are going to get. If you have a female already, it’s better to get a male and if you have a male, try to get a female. Two dogs of the same gender in one household will have more dominance issues than a pair of the opposite sex. Even if you think that a mother/daughter combination might work, chances are it won’t.

There is a theory that if a new dog of a same sex is neutered or spayed before it arrives in your home, you may have fewer dominance issues. However, if the new dog is not altered before six to eight months of age you will probably still have dominance issues in a same gender household. The dogs will get along better if they are of opposite sexes. It’s also a good idea to visit a potential new dog in their current surroundings to see how they interact with other dogs they live with. Even if the dog is in a shelter, you can usually tell if they have dominance issues by the way they treat the dogs around them.

The age of your dog should be considered if you already have a puppy and are considering another puppy. Two puppies will bond with each other and will be harder to train when they have each other to play with. If you have an older dog, consider getting a younger dog; if you have a puppy consider getting a dog that is at least a young adult. If you are adopting an older dog, it will hopefully be well trained and can help you train the younger dog.

It is important to introduce the dogs to each other on neutral territory before you bring them home. You can judge their personalities and interactions and see if they would get along together on a daily basis. If you are getting a dog from a breeder, ask them if they can bring the new dog somewhere off the kennel property to meet your dog. If the potential new dog is on its own turf, it may feel dominance over your original dog, and you don’t want to give either dog an advantage. If they are both on unfamiliar ground you are apt to get a better sense of how they will do together.

You should have separate supplies for each dog: food and water bowls, leashes, collars, toys, crates, and beds. You shouldn’t make your new dog eat or drink out of the same bowls that you use for your original dog. You will only create undue friction between them, which may lead to dog fights. Dogs are pack animals, and when living together they will determine their own pack order. You can help maintain the pack hierarchy by feeding or giving treats first to the dog that displays dominance, even if this turns out to be the new dog.

Make sure your first dog gets adequate attention and let them know they are no less important even though they are now sharing their house and you with a new dog. Sometimes when we bring a new dog home the original dog may feel left out. By giving your original dog the same amount of attention and play time that you did before, you will help them accept the new dog faster and not feel left out. You want both dogs to like being with each other and feel comfortable when they are together. When your two dogs are being friendly to each other and playing well together; make sure you speak to them in a happy, positive, upbeat manner. This will help them adjust to each other as well and want to be with each other and you.

You may experience a few squabbles between them from time to time and there will be a period of adjustment. As the past owner of several dog pair combinations, I can tell you that it will be well worth the effort you put into it, and the lives of you and your family will only be enriched in the process.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pets Can Teach Children Valuable Life Skills

By Julia Williams

Bringing a pet into your home – and your heart – offers so many benefits. Laughter, love and joy are three wonderful things I have an abundance of, thanks in large part to my three cats. Pets provide companionship to the lonely, and they can be great teachers for children too. Encouraging children to take an active role in caring for a pet helps them learn important life skills and lessons, while also learning about responsible pet ownership. Here are eight essential skills the family pet can teach your children.


Giving children age-appropriate chores related to feeding, grooming, and cleaning up after the family pet helps them understand what it means to be responsible, dependable and conscientious. Taking care of a pet teaches children the importance of being reliable, since the pet is counting on them to provide what they need. At the same time, tasks like bathing, brushing and grooming can deepen the bond between pet and child.

Patience and Consistency

House-breaking a puppy or a kitten can teach children to be patient, because young animals do not learn everything they need to know overnight. Some pets are slower to learn than others and thus require more time and effort, but consistent methods are a vital element of training success. Having your child help with the pet’s house-breaking and other training helps them learn that patience and consistency will pay off in the end.

Goal Setting and Perseverance

Children can learn about the process of goal setting and achievements by being involved in training a pet, be it for house-breaking, performing tricks or obedience training. When they put in the persistent effort these things require, they’re not only rewarded with a well trained pet, but an increased sense of pride and self worth at what they have accomplished.


As pack animals, dogs do best in a household where there is a pack hierarchy and an established leader. Although that person should ideally be an adult, you and your dog can teach your child what it means to be a good leader, one who your dog willingly and happily follows.


Having a pet in the family opens the door to a wide variety of emotions that are very important for children to discover and articulate. Pets can help children learn to express feelings of love, compassion, caring and concern. And experiencing the sadness involved in saying goodbye when a pet passes away, helps children learn to deal with loss.


Although kindness is not exactly what I would call a “life skill,” I’m including it because, of all the things pets can teach children, I think it might be the most important. Children who are taught to be kind to animals grow up to become compassionate adults who treat both humans and animals with kindness and respect throughout their lifetime. That, in my opinion, is a priceless lesson to learn.

So you see, pets can teach children a great many skills that will help them grow up to become well-adjusted members of our society. When you add in the pure delight pets can bring to a child, it seems unthinkable to let them grow up in a house without one.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Monday, February 8, 2010

Are “Working Dogs” Harmed By Not Working?

By Linda Cole

Humans have used pack animals for centuries to move belongings and supplies across distances great and small. Without them, the expansion of America would have been a lot slower. “Working dogs” not only found a place at man’s side as efficient workers, they also found a place in our heart as companion dogs. Working dogs were bred to do specific jobs for us, from guarding and herding sheep, to search and rescue. Working dogs reside in a variety of homes nowadays, but are dogs that were bred to perform a specific task harmed if they’re not used for it? Can working dogs be happy just hanging out with us on the couch?

A working dog is defined as one that performs a task for us. Ranchers use Border Collies to help herd sheep. Service or assistance dogs help handicapped people deal with tasks that make it easier for them to live at home or navigate busy intersections and streets. And sled dogs continue to pull heavy loads to and from hunting grounds or to transport goods between villages.

A companion dog is a pet whose sole purpose is to keep us company. But all dogs, companion or working, have a dual role in protecting us and our property. Some do a better job than others though, and in some households, a cat is a better protector than the canine. Nevertheless, a dog has no sense of what being a purebred or mixed breed dog is, and each one is as individual as we are. Dogs will do anything to please those they trust, and a dog who was bred to work loves to do what he does best.

Even mixed breeds from the working dog group want to perform tasks. I had a beautiful Border Collie mix who believed her sole purpose in life was to herd my cats around the house. At least once a day, she would round up stunned cats that had been blissfully relaxing in a patch of sunshine on the floor or couch. I also quickly discovered that if we missed a game of Frisbee or tug of war, I would return home and find the remains of my dog’s boredom lying in tatters on my living room floor. My poor couch pillows were never the same! But, I learned about her need for exercise to curb pent up energy, and her love of herding. The cats weren't too thrilled about the herding part, however.

Understanding breed characteristics before adopting any dog is part of being a responsible owner, because the right selection will mean a difference between a dog that fits well in your home and one that is disruptive or not what you expected. For example, even though a Beagle is small and might be fine in an apartment, they are sometimes yappers that don't always know when to stop. Bred to hunt, a Beagle is always on the prowl for something to bark at. You might find a Jack Russell terrier appealing until you discover your flower garden has been dug up. They were bred to go after vermin underground and like to dig. A Siberian Husky, with those beautiful blue eyes and stunning coat, might be a good pick until you begin to find hair everywhere or discover that these dogs are masters at breaking out of their pen. Siberian Huskies were bred to pull sleds and love to run, and have a double coat that sheds heavily twice of year.

Dogs get into trouble in the home when they become bored, and they are experts at finding something to entertain themselves with while you are away. Many a couch has fallen prey to a bored pet who also lacks proper exercise. A working dog needs to be able to do what they were bred for in order to stay in good physical and mental shape. Like a well-trained athlete who gets up every morning to run 10 miles to stay in shape, working dogs also need the same type of stimulus.

Dogs that make up the working group are intelligent with lots of energy to burn, and when properly trained to do a job, they excel at their task. If you own a dog (mixed or purebred) from the working dog group, do them a favor by learning how to properly train them to do what they love and were born to do. Dogs can become depressed, overweight, insecure and anxious when they are bored and have a lack of exercise. It's up to us to understand that working dogs are hard wired with a need to do a job, so rather than punish your best friend, give him an appropriate job. It will make all the difference in the world to him, and give you a happier and healthier dog.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why Do Dogs Mark Their Territory?

By Ruthie Bently

Both male and female dogs mark their territory to let other animals (including humans) know that this is their space and it should not be trespassed upon or there will be consequences. Male dogs and some females will lift their leg. The reason is to leave their scent highest on the place they are marking. I know a female that both lifts her leg and squats. She learned the leg lifting because she grew up with a male dog; he was her role model and lifted his leg, so she does too.

Have you ever wondered why so many male dogs show up when your female goes into season for the first time? A male dog can tell by the smell of a female’s urine that she is in season and ready to breed, and they’ll come from quite a distance. A dog’s scent is carried on the wind and a dog’s sense of smell is so good, their competitors whether domestic or wild, get the warning at a distance. Before we had a fenced place for my AmStaff Skye, I’d leash walk her around the property. I let her amble where she wanted and she always chose the perimeters of the property, stopping every so often to do her business. We had coyotes when we moved here and saw one loping across our meadow once. After Skye came to live here we never saw them again, but we could hear them howling at night from a distance.

Sometimes a male dog will mark inside the house if he feels his territory is threatened, and this can pertain to his owner as well. I had a female client (Ms. Smith) with an adult intact male Akita named Buck. Ms. Smith began dating after a divorce, and Buck had an issue with her male friend. The dog would go into the bathroom and mark the toilet after her boyfriend had used it. Ms. Smith tried closing the bathroom door, but Buck then marked the door. Neutering wasn’t an option since Buck was a show dog and you cannot show a neutered dog in confirmation. I suggested that her boyfriend bring some dog treats when he came over. I hoped that having him give Buck a treat when he walked in and during the visit might help the dog become more accepting and be less apt to mark the toilet or bathroom door. It worked so well that Ms. Smith and her boyfriend got married, and Buck was the ring bearer at their wedding.

If you have a dog that is going potty in an inappropriate place, they can be retrained to go outside. I had to retrain Skye when she came to live here because she was used to going potty in a concrete run. She got to go outside and play with the other dogs and occasionally went on the grass, but usually waited to go back to her kennel to potty. Until I retrained her, Skye would have accidents in the house even if I took her outside every half hour. I spoke with an animal behaviorist recently and she explained that Skye could not differentiate between the concrete run floor and the kitchen floor because they were both smooth, flat surfaces. It is important to train a dog to go outside because the surfaces outside are different than the floors of a house.

I was able to use dog treats as a reinforcement for good behavior. I discovered the best approach was to reward Skye when she pottied outside, making sure to do so before we went back in the house. Now, she even barks to let me know when she needs to go outside. Having Skye properly house-trained has stopped her from marking inside the house, and has certainly made life easier!

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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