Monday, May 31, 2010

How to Teach Your Dog the “Drop It” Command


By Linda Cole

Dogs are great at finding things around the home or hidden in the grass. Sometimes they find things they shouldn't have for one reason or another. Instead of engaging in what he thinks is a game of keep away with you chasing him, the easiest thing you can do is teach your dog to drop it. This is one of the more important commands for your dog to learn, and it can save you a lot of wasted time and energy trying to retrieve whatever your dog has in his mouth.

Anyone who’s raised a puppy knows how inquisitive they are. As far as they're concerned, anything on the floor or within their grasp is fair game. They have no idea how harmful something they've grabbed may be to them. If you try to take the object or food from them, that's a signal to the pup to run and if they can get you to chase them, all the more fun. Too many times, the puppy ends up swallowing what he had in his mouth.

When one of my dogs was a puppy, she had a hard time understanding what I was trying to teach her. At the same time, one of my cats was very interested in the treats I was using to help teach my dog. The cat would sit beside us, pick up one of the small toys I was using and when I commanded the dog to drop what she had in her mouth, the cat dropped his toy and waited for his treat. I still laugh when I think about the cat sitting there with a frog toy in his mouth waiting patiently for me to tell the dog to drop it. My dog learned to drop it when she saw the cat getting treats. So I was able to teach two at the same time. When the cat wanted a treat, he would bring the frog and sit down in front of me, waiting for the command.

Some dogs learn to drop it easier than others. And, as I found out, cats can also learn the command, even if it's by accident. It was a good lesson for me because until that training session, I never considered trying to teach a cat to drop it.

Playing catch is more fun when you've taken the time to teach your dog to drop it. Instead of having to pry a slobbery ball out of his mouth every time, the drop it command puts it at your feet or directly in your hand. It also keeps you from having to grope around in his mouth searching for something he picked up that was more interesting than the ball.

Stay patient and calm when engaging in any training sessions. If your dog is more interested in playing than learning, put him on a leash to keep him from running away. Let it drag on the ground so you can step on it. Make the training fun and keep it short.

Before you start to teach your dog to drop it, gather several of his favorite toys. The idea is to have your dog take one of the toys in his mouth and play with it for awhile. Give him the command and wait for him to drop what he has in his mouth. Only say it once. Don't attempt to take the toy because he'll be more defensive and less willing to drop it if he thinks you're trying to take it from him.

Entice your dog with a favorite treat, and give it to him as soon as he drops the object. Add lots of praise along with the treat. This might take a little time, especially if he wants the toy more than the treat. Don't try to teach your dog to drop it right after a meal. If he won't give up the toy, find something else he might be more willing to trade for a treat. Of course, you want to make sure the treat you use is irresistible to your dog. CANIDAE Snap-Bits and Snap-Biscuit® dog treats are two great choices.

If your dog takes his toy and runs away, don't chase him. Let him play for awhile and try again later on. It's not difficult to teach your dog to drop it, but it could take more than one training session. Keep at it because it's important for him to learn, and it could save him from a trip to the vet and you from an expensive vet bill.

For more information on training your dog to obey basic commands, read Teaching Come and Stay, or Heel and Stand.

Read More Articles by Linda Cole

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Should We Let Dogs Hang Their Heads Out Car Windows?


By Linda Cole

Why does your dog look at you like, “Is that really necessary” when you blow in his face, yet loves hanging his head out a car window going 60 MPH down the road? But just because dogs like hanging their heads out car windows doesn't mean we should let them do it.

I had a dog, Kirby, who loved to ride in the car and I took him with me as often as I could. I wouldn't let him hang his head out the window when we were going down the highway, but didn't think he could get into trouble in town. My car had high seats in the front and I made him ride in the back seat with the back windows rolled up. So, I figured he was safe. As it turned out, I was wrong. One day as I went around a corner, Kirby was excited and leaned out my open window before I knew what he was doing. Thankfully, I was going slow and slammed on the brakes in time to avoid running over him. He was fine, but needless to say, I was shaken and from that moment on, I never roll car windows down all the way when I have a dog with me in the car.

Falling out of a moving vehicle isn't the only danger for dogs who hang their heads out car windows. A dog's eyes can become targets for bugs, small rocks, pieces of debris on the roadway and dust. Think about what a small rock can do to your windshield if it hits just right, even at a slow speed. How many little chips does your car grill have from all the tiny rocks that have hit it? Imagine what a rock could do to your dog's eye, not to mention what the vet bill could do for your wallet. And if your dog has allergies, the dust and pollen rushing into his face isn't going to help his condition.

Dogs who hang their heads out car windows are also at risk for ear infections from wind blown particles or just by the wind blowing their ears. As their ears flap in the wind, blood can pool in the soft tissue of their ear flaps. The constant flapping of the ears against their head can cause the ear flaps to swell which is painful. If a dog is allowed to hang his head out the car window a lot, scar tissue will form in the soft tissue of the ears. This can damage them permanently and give the dog lifelong ear problems.

Riding in a car for a dog is exciting, with all kinds of smells rushing through an open window. Think about it like this. Imagine all of the sights and smells you're surrounded with at the county fair. Popcorn, hot dogs, cotton candy, burgers, people laughing and having a good time, eating and going on rides. A county fair is full of new experiences and smells that stimulate us from head to toe. That's how a dog feels riding down the road in the car. Their senses are on overdrive as they sniff out and see all sorts of things that change as the car moves down the road. But as responsible pet owners, safety should come first, and letting dogs hang their heads out car windows isn't a good idea.

That's not saying your dog can't enjoy their ride in a car. The window only needs to be cracked to allow all the wonderful smells to enter the car and surround your dog. There's nothing wrong with open windows in the car, if your dog is buckled in like the rest of the family which will keep him from falling out the window and still allow him to sniff all the enticing smells. That way he has the best of both worlds without hanging his head out the car window, and you can concentrate on driving the car.

Letting a dog ride in the bed of a truck isn't a good idea either. The dog risks injury from falling out of the truck, has increased risk from flying debris and can burn the soft tissue on their paws by standing on the hot metal of the truck bed. Dogs have no idea what a vehicle's speed means and if they get the urge to jump, they will. If you want to take your dog with you in your truck, please read How to Transport Dogs Safely in Pickup Trucks.

Responsible parents don't let their children do things that could put them in danger. As responsible pet owners, we shouldn’t put our dog's safety and health in danger by letting them hang their heads out car windows.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Friday, May 28, 2010

Can an Outdoor-Loving Cat Be Happy Living Indoors?


By Julia Williams

Many people nowadays choose to keep their cats indoors, largely because it’s so much safer for the cat. I think given a choice, most cats would probably prefer being able to roam outside whenever and wherever they wished. It’s in their feline nature to want to climb trees, hunt mice and take long naps in the sun. But cats can’t comprehend the dangers that lurk outdoors. They don’t understand that we just want them to be alive and well. Nevertheless, it’s our choice to make, not theirs.

As I said in my article on Indoor Versus Outdoor Cats, I don’t believe there’s only one right way. Whether to keep them inside or let them go out is a personal decision that every responsible pet owner must make for themselves and their cat(s). Situations often change too, which may require a new decision. That’s what happened to me a few years ago, and now my outdoor loving kitties primarily stay indoors.

I wasn’t certain they would be able to adjust to indoor life, since they’d been able to roam outside for years. Certainly, it’s easier if a kitten is never allowed outside. After all, they don’t know what they are missing if they never go out. But I’m happy to report that even cats who’ve tasted freedom can be happy indoors. Because mine were raised being able to go outside, I do allow them some limited time outdoors in the summer. I think this helps them to be more content with living indoors. There are also many other things I do that contribute to them having a rich, fulfilling life indoors. You really can’t expect any indoor cat to be happy without meeting the three basic needs of mental stimulation, daily activity, and love & companionship.

Here are some ways to make an indoor cat’s life enjoyable.

1. Window perches let them watch the birds and squirrels, and provide a cozy place to nap in the warm sun. They’re inexpensive and very easy to install. For a no-cost alternative, place a cat blanket on the back of a chair or couch that’s located by a sunny window.

2. Cat trees, towers and perches give them a place to play, climb, observe, nap and scratch. There is a mind-boggling array of cat furniture available today, so it should be a snap to find things that match your décor and your budget.

3. Keep plenty of different cat toys on hand. You’ll want to have lots of toys that your cat can play with alone, such as furry mice, balls and catnip-laced soft toys. There are also toys that stimulate them mentally – one I love is a wooden box with lots of cut-out holes. You place toys and/or treats inside for your cat to “hunt,” and ultimately fish out of the holes. Equally important are the interactive cat toys that require your company, such as feathers or furry toys that dangle from a pole. My cats love their remote-control mouse that zooms across the floor, and watching them scurry after it makes me laugh, so it’s a win-win toy. Besides alleviating boredom, playing games with your cat can deepen your bond.

4. Cat runs are designed to let your kitty enjoy some fresh air, bird-watching and sunshine from the safety of your backyard. They’re made from a sturdy mesh material, come in lots of different sizes, and are quick and easy to set up. Some models have add-on sections so you can make the run larger or customize it.

5. DVDs for cats let them watch all sorts of wildlife on your television. They’re designed to loop continuously, so you can put it on before you go to work and it will play for them all day long.

6. Spend some quality quiet time with your cat each day. This can include petting and brushing them, or simply sitting with them and talking to them. That last suggestion might sound a little “crazy cat lady” like to you, but I really do believe cats enjoy human companionship, and they like to feel loved just like we do.

7. If you have an “only cat,” consider getting another cat for company, especially if no one is home all day. Cats may be solitary creatures by nature, but that doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy having some company in the house. If your cat is still relatively young, a new cat or kitten may encourage their playful side to come out more often.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Is Your Dog Right or Left Footed?


By Ruthie Bently

I never considered that my dog might favor one foot over the other until I noticed it firsthand. Just as humans have a dominant hand and are either right or left-handed, so do our pets. Dogs have a dominant foot, either right or left. I first became interested one day watching Skye climb the attic stairs; she always began (led) with her left foot. This made me wonder if she favored one foot over the other, so I watched her and found out that she did. When we are outside playing and I toss her ball, she goes racing up to it and hits it with her left foot first to get it to spin. When she is investigating something in the yard and wants to turn it over, she uses her left foot.

That made me curious as to how many other dogs are right or left-pawed, what the percentage of right over left might be, and if there were there any ambidextrous dogs. According to one report I read from 2001, dogs are about 80% right footed and 20% left footed. According to a study conducted by psychologists of Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland, female dogs are right-footed and males are left-footed until they are spayed or neutered. Then the report says the differences disappear and it further suggests that hormones play a part in whether a dog is right or left-footed. That theory goes out the window with Skye. She is spayed and she is definitely a left-footed dog.

Using one paw in favor of the other is called lateralization, and until recently most scientists thought our animals were ambidextrous. Now they are finding that we are not the only species on the planet to favor one hand (or paw) over the other. It is believed that favoring one foot over the other improves an animal’s chances to find a mate, forage for food or escape predators. Do our left-footed companions suffer from the same stigmas as left-handed people used to? Not according to the faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. They say left-pawed dogs are favored for training as guide and police dogs.

So how do you discover if your dog is right or left-pawed? Here is a test to help you find out. You need a tube and several dog treats. The tube can be made of either cardboard or plastic; I used the tube from a roll of gift wrap. It should be wide enough for your dog to reach into with their paw but not their head. I tried this test and used CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ which worked great. Put the treat in the end of the tube and hold the tube out to your dog, making sure they can see the treat. Encourage them to get the treat. Do this test three times with three treats. If your dog is afraid of the tube, try setting the treat about six inches in from the edge of a piece of furniture within your pet’s reach, and watch what happens. Which paw does your pet use to reach for the treat?

If your dog uses their right paw most of the time, they are probably right-footed. If your dog uses their left paw most of the time, they are left-footed. If they don’t seem to have a preference and use both paws to reach the treat, they are probably ambidextrous. I am sure there will be more research into this subject in the future. It is also thought that the research done so far will further dog training and the appropriate age to train a dog (as it refers to being right or left-footed), as well as improving the bond between people and their dogs.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Right Way to “Treat” Pets


By Julia Williams

Doling out the dog treats and cat snacks is one of the more fun parts of pet ownership. It’s a ritual we all enjoy, but none more so than the pets themselves. I like giving treats to my cats because they really seem to love them, as evidenced by all the meowing, purring and leg rubbing that occurs when the treat canister comes out. They recognize this container and literally go wild when they see it. If treats make our pets so deliriously happy, there’s no harm in giving them, right? Well, not exactly. Too many treats, or the wrong kind of treats, can actually do more harm than good. Our dogs and cats can’t read labels, and they don’t know a thing about calories or what ingredients might be good for them or bad for them. Which means it’s up to us as responsible pet owners to make sure we’re “treating” them right.

Calories count!

People often joke about fat cats and pudgy pooches, but overweight pets are not funny. Excess weight can contribute to many serious health problems and can make a pet’s life miserable. To avoid over-treating your pet, ask your vet how much to feed your dog or cat each day, and include the calories from treats in their daily food allotment. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that no more than 10 to 20% of the day’s calories are coming from treats. Be aware that some treats have significantly more calories than others, so read the nutrition labels and choose your treats wisely.

Quality counts too!

Pet treats vary a great deal in terms of the nutrition and health benefits they provide. Some treats are as nutritionally devoid and bad for pets as a greasy bag of chips is for us. They contain little in the way of healthy ingredients and may also contain unhealthy things like by-products, chemical preservatives and fillers. Other pet treats, like the CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ and Snap-Biscuit® dog treats, are made with premium quality ingredients and other things that actually benefit the pet. Such as: viable micro-organisms for GI tract health and good digestion, balanced omega 6 & 3 fatty acids, essential vitamins and minerals, skin and coat conditioners and natural preservatives. These nutritionally complete treats are low in calories and fat, and high in protein. I don’t mean to sound like a commercial for CANIDAE here, but honestly, I consider these to be the crème de la crème of dog treats.

Don’t give treats for begging

Dogs and cats are incredibly smart creatures. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out that they can use those “sad puppy dog eyes” and feline wiles to manipulate their owners into giving them a treat. It can be hard to resist those plaintive looks or insistent meows, but resist you should. Giving in to their begging is rewarding them for inappropriate behavior, and once you do, they’ll never stop begging. I made this mistake with my cats. I started giving them each a handful of crunchies before I went to bed. Now, every single night without fail, as I am getting ready for bed there is loud, insistent meowing and pacing going on in the kitchen. I am 100% certain this begging is not from a place of “We’re starving here, give us some food already!” Nevertheless, it can be awfully hard to resist, and I hate that I created a situation where they expect – no, demand – these treats every night.

Use treats as a reward

During and after playtime is a perfect time to offer your cat or dog treats. This helps them to associate positive things with exercise, and they’ll look forward to this daily activity even more than they already do. Treats are also great to use for training sessions and teaching your dog or cat tricks (don’t laugh – cats can be taught to perform tricks!). Just remember to adjust the amount of their regular food to avoid overfeeding.

Giving treats is a pleasure, and it builds upon that amazing human/animal bond we have with our beloved pets. When we “treat” them right, they give us many years of love and companionship in return.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What to Do If a Snake Bites Your Pet


By Linda Cole

It's not uncommon to run into snakes while out on the hiking trail or camping. Snakes also live in our backyards. Pets can cross paths with one, although most of the time the snake will do everything it can to avoid pets and humans. Once in awhile they bite, and immediate vet care is needed. Knowing what kind of snake bit your pet is important for the vet to know. What to do if a snake bites your pet is something every responsible pet owner should know, but you also need to know what not to do.

Garter snakes are common all over the country. At one time, it was thought they weren't venomous, but new information has found they do have a small amount of venom. It's always prudent to know what kind of snakes you may encounter in your backyard or when visiting other parts of the country with a pet. When taking your dog hiking, fishing, hunting or camping, be aware of what species of snakes you could run across. It's a good idea to have the phone number of a local vet too, just in case.

When we see a snake slithering through the grass or hear a telltale rattle, we turn around and walk away, but a curious pet is likely to check it out. A coiled up snake is not something you want to see in close proximity to you or your pet.

Most of the time, if a snake bites your pet, it's around the face or neck. A bite on the body is more serious. Snake venom attacks the nervous and cardiopulmonary systems of the body and affects how the blood clots. However, any snake bite to your pet is serious whether it's poisonous or not, and your first order of business is to get your pet to a vet immediately.

You'll see swelling around a snake bite and puncture wounds in the skin. Snake bites cause intense pain and swelling, but usually less if the bite comes from a non poisonous snake or if the venom wasn't injected into your pet. You need to be very cautious when touching the area because if the snake injected venom and it was poisonous, your pet may react in an aggressive manner because of the pain. It's best to avoid touching the area around the bite. If a venomous snake bites your pet, do not attempt to suck out the poison, bleed the wound, put ice on it or put a tourniquet on. That only wastes time and if you aren't sure what you're doing, you could be doing more harm than good. What you can do is keep the affected area below heart level while on your way to the vet.

If a snake bites your pet while you're walking in the woods or away from home, stay calm and keep your pet as quiet as possible. Walk, don't run, to your car. The faster you make him move, the faster the venom will spread through his system. Carrying your dog will help keep the venom from spreading as fast, but if you carry him out, be very careful not to touch the area around the bite. If your dog is bitten around the neck, take off his collar.

The seriousness of a bite is determined by how many times your pet was bitten, where he was bitten, the amount of venom in the snake, the time of year and how much your pet has moved. If he received a bite on a limb, you can immobilize it, but not so much it can't be used. Again, keep the wound below heart level.

If possible, try to identify the snake because your vet will need that information to properly treat your pet. Even if you think the snake is dead, don't pick it up. Dead snakes can still bite because of muscle contractions and it's a good idea to not let your pet inspect or play with a dead snake for that reason. Unless you are an expert snake handler, never try to catch or kill a snake that bit your pet. If you have no idea what kind of snake it is, try to remember what it looked like so you can describe it to the vet.

If a snake bites your pet, you will see small puncture wounds, bleeding, bruising, tissue damage and swelling with pain, which can be intense. Severe signs that may not begin to show up for several hours include: weakness, lethargy, shock, vomiting, nausea, slow or depressed breathing, muscle tremors or any neurological problems. Vet care will depend on how severe the bite is and what kind of snake bit your pet.

To read about snake aversion therapy for dogs, check out this article.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, May 24, 2010

Keep Your Dog Safe In and Around Water


By Suzanne Alicie

When you think of water safety for a dog, more than likely the cute image of a doggie with a life jacket sitting on a boat pops into your head. While this is a safety measure for dogs when boating or swimming, it is only one of the things that a responsible pet owner must consider to keep their dog safe in and around water.

So, Fido is wearing his life jacket as he rides on the boat for your big fishing trip, but there are other dangers that lurk in that idyllic activity. Fish hooks, bait, and other fishing paraphernalia can be quite dangerous to your canine friend. Make sure to keep these harmful items away from your dog while he’s on the boat with you.

The life jacket is a smart decision whether boat riding or just hanging out around the pool, at the beach or the lake. No matter how well your dog swims, currents, tides, and even his energy level can lead to drowning. Any time your dog is going to be around a body of water, it is advised that you have a canine approved life jacket on them.

Swimming pools present other dangers besides drowning. There are chemicals in pool water to keep it clean and good for swimming, but if your dog drinks the chlorine and other chemicals he can become very sick and even die. The same can be said for the ocean, ponds and creeks; while not treated with chemicals, these bodies of water can be contaminated with parasites and bacteria. Always make sure your dog has fresh drinking water nearby. It is always smart to rinse your dog off and even douse him with vinegar after swimming to kill bacteria, and to remove harmful agents that he may ingest while grooming. Vinegar is also effective at removing that “wet dog” smell.

Frolicking on the beach and running through the surf may be your dog’s idea of a perfect day. He may love the warm sand, cool water and playtime, but there are dangers to be found here as well. Sea lice and jellyfish can ruin your dog’s day and cost you a pretty penny at the vet. If your dog drinks too much salt water while playing in the surf, he could become sick. Again, it is important that your dog wears a life jacket when dealing with waves and undertow at the beach. A strong wave or a quick undercurrent can sweep your dog away right before your eyes; a life jacket will help him keep his nose above water until he can find the shore and you again.

Most dogs can swim, or can be taught to swim. Do not, however, throw your dog into the water and assume that he will be able to swim. He may be surprised and swallow water, choke and drown before you can get to him. Lead your dog into the water in a safe area and let him swim on his own. Once he is used to the water and enjoys swimming he may jump in eagerly. Swimming is excellent exercise for dogs and also provides them with relief from the summer heat. However, just as with children pet owners should pay close attention to their dog when in and around water. Make sure that summer fun doesn’t lead to tragedy by following all safety precautions for your four legged friend.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dog Breed Profile: Bull Terrier


By Ruthie Bently

My heart is stuck on the American Staffordshire Terrier, but if I ever had to pick another breed the Bull Terrier would be right up there. I have a friend who has both a Bull Terrier and a Miniature Bull Terrier, though the Bull Terrier is more of the size I prefer. As their name implies, they are a member of the Terrier group and like most terriers they need a strong alpha owner.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes two colors in the Bull Terrier: white and colored. Colored means any color other than white; brindle is preferred and a predomination of white is a disqualification. Either color is disqualified if they have blue eyes. There is no specific size requirement for the Bull Terrier, though adults usually range between 21 to 22 inches at the withers and weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. The AKC describes the Bull Terrier as a dog that “must be strongly built, muscular, symmetrical and active, with a keen, determined and intelligent expression, full of fire but of sweet disposition and amenable to discipline.” The Bull Terrier has a life expectancy between ten and twelve years.

The English sportsmen of the early 1800s prized the bulldog /terrier crosses known as Bull-and-Terriers, and they were very popular. They appreciated the agility, intensity and the courage that the Bull-and-Terriers exhibited, though there were discrepancies in the dogs produced as some kept the characteristics and size of either the terrier or the bulldog. There was not yet a standardization of one dog breed.

An English dog dealer, James Hinks, is credited with the development of the first Bull Terriers. As formal dog shows were introduced and the demand for show and pet dogs grew, Mr. Hinks developed the Bull Terrier we know today. He crossed his white Bulldog ‘Madman’ and the extinct White English Terrier with the Bull-and-Terriers of the day. These dogs were known as White Cavaliers due to their snow white coats. The dogs Hinks bred were more uniform for their size and body type. Their popularity spread across the Atlantic, and the Bull Terrier Club of America was established in 1897. The colored Bull Terrier came into being after several breeders crossed colored Staffordshire Bull Terriers with their White Cavaliers. The white Bull Terrier was recognized by the AKC in 1885 and the colored Bull Terrier was recognized as an individual variety of Bull Terrier in 1936.

The Bull Terrier is a muscular, sturdily built dog. It is a plucky, fearless, active and loyal little dog that loves its owner and family to distraction. They love children but need to be taught to be careful around small children, as they can become overexcited and may knock them over in their exuberance. Bull Terriers are playful and fun loving; some can be mischievous and most have a sweet disposition.

If left home alone too long they will pine for their owner and can be destructive if not given an outlet for their energy. The Bull Terrier needs daily exercise, and either a long walk or playing ball in the yard will work well. They take well to both agility and obedience. They need to be active and this will keep them mentally as well as physically occupied. Bull Terriers are not known as barkers, so if they begin barking it is a good idea to pay attention because they are trying to tell you something.

As with most terriers this is not a dog for everyone, and I strongly suggest obedience training for a well-behaved dog. I would compare Bull Terriers to a perpetual child in the “terrible twos” stage of life. Not that they are terrible by any means, but you have to keep one step ahead of them.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How to Keep the Peace in a Multi-Cat Household


By Julia Williams

I have been a multi-cat household for most of my adult life. Though some of my cats have not been the “best of friends,” most of the time they peacefully co-exist. There have been times, though, when I returned home to find what seemed like half a cat’s worth of fur on the carpet – telltale remnants of a feline quarrel. Thankfully it doesn’t happen often, but no matter how well two cats may seem to get along, I think there will always be minor squabbles now and then. Cats are relatively solitary creatures by nature, and turf tiffs may be an unavoidable occurrence in multiple-cat homes.

Cats who usually get along may sometimes clash out of jealousy. This happens in my household when I pay too much attention to my female cat who is, admittedly, my favorite. It seems like every time I finish brushing Belle, one or both of my two male cats will chase her until she cowers under the table, hissing and growling. I’ve no doubt that if she didn’t run and hide, this altercation would turn into a fight. I used to scold the male cats, but this only made them angry and more aggressive towards Belle. My solution is to either give the two male cats attention first, or brush Belle when they are sleeping soundly in the other room. This usually works, but if they do happen to become aggressive towards her, I simply clap my hands or give a loud, high-pitched “Hey!” or “No!” Another good way to break up a minor cat spat is with a squirt of water. It startles them but doesn’t hurt them, and their hatred of H2O trumps their desire to fight.

Cat fights are usually about dominance and asserting “top cat” status as well as defending their perceived territory. There may also be an “alpha cat” issue in a multi-cat household. Although most people think of dogs and wolves when they hear the term “alpha,” there are alpha cats too. This is readily apparent in feral colonies, where alpha cats are seen being very aggressive to the other cats, which enables them to get more food. Alpha cats are very headstrong and always want their own way. They may bite and scratch their owner or other animals as a way to control them, so that they get what they want.

Proper introductions can go a long way toward creating a peaceful multi-cat household. Don’t bring a new cat home and simply plop them together and say, “Meet your new friend!” This will never turn out well. The cats need to have separate living, eating and sleeping quarters until they become adjusted to this new change in their routine. Some say it need only be a few days, while others maintain it should be at least a week to ten days. It may also help to swap their bedding and toys so they can become accustomed to the other’s scent. The last step before putting them together (supervised of course), is to switch areas, i.e. let the newcomer explore the house for a few hours while confining your other cat(s) to the new cat’s room.

I recently read about another method of “encouraging” cats to get along. I hesitate to mention it since I’ve not tried it myself, but I find the idea intriguing, if a bit odd. Supposedly, if you smear both cats with the juice from a can of tuna and put them together in a room, they’ll engage in a mutual lick-fest which results in good feelings that carry over to their daily lives. Knowing how much cats love that stinky tuna juice, it might be worth a try, but only with cats who are not overly aggressive towards each other. Regardless, you should stay in the room with them to carefully monitor their behavior.

Other suggestions for keeping the peace in a multi-cat household include:

• Neuter male cats to help curb aggressive tendencies.
• Separate their resources by keeping each cat’s food bowls, bed and litter box in a different room.
• Provide cat trees and perches for them in different rooms so they can have some space when they want it.
• Reward your cats with praise or treats when they interact in a friendly manner.
• Pheromones and homeopathic remedies may reduce the stress levels of two cats who aren’t getting along.
• Consult a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist to evaluate the problem. You can find a list here.
• Read Cat Vs. Cat: Keeping Peace When You Have More Than One Cat, by Pam Johnson-Bennett. I just ordered this book because it sounds great and has gotten really good reviews. The book purports to show “how to plan, set up, and maintain a home environment that will help multiple cats—and their owners—live in peace.” The book also covers how to diffuse tension, prevent squabbles and ambushes, and blend two families. It sounds like a terrific resource that every responsible pet owner with cats should read.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, May 21, 2010

What Makes a Dog's Nose Change Color?


By Linda Cole

I had a female Siberian Husky, Cheyenne, whose black nose would change color in the winter. It would go from black to a pinkish color and then back to black when the weather warmed up. I believed she was healthy, but checked with my vet just to be on the safe side. A sudden change in color can be a warning sign something is wrong, but it can also be nothing more than your dog getting older. Why does a dog's nose change color?

“Snow nose” or “winter nose” is the most common reason why a dog's nose will change color. It will fade from black to brown or pink during the winter months. Cheyenne’s nose began to change color every winter once she reached her middle years. By the time she was a senior citizen, the color in her nose pretty much stayed in-between a brownish to pinkish color year round.

Siberian Huskies, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labs and Bernese Mountain dogs are the breeds where snow nose is most common. When a dog's nose changes color during the winter it's because the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for producing pigmentation in the nose, is thought to be more sensitive to cold. It could also be a result of less sunlight during the winter months. Why the enzyme is less active during the winter is not completely understood. However, it's nothing to be alarmed about and when spring rolls around, the dog's nose will return to its normal color. However, if your dog's nose changes to white, it's not snow nose.

A skin condition called vitiligo is an immune disease that will cause a dog's nose to change color. The cells that produce color on the dog's nose and hair color on their body lose their ability to create pigmentation. A sign your dog has vitiligo will be white patches on his body. A simple biopsy can determine if your dog has this disease. Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dachsunds, Poodles, Irish Setters, Afghan Hounds, Samoyeds, Pointers and Dobermans are more likely to suffer from vitiligo than other breeds. Vitiligo isn't a health concern for the dog and if they have it, nutritional supplements may help restore their coloring.

Some dog's can lose coloring in their nose if they've been sick or experienced some kind of trauma. The color should return once they've recovered. A scraped nose or one that suffered abrasions will turn pink until the scabs fall off. Some dogs have a sensitivity to plastic containers. With constant irritation from eating and drinking out of plastic bowls, their nose will turn pink and the lips will become inflamed. If your dog's nose turns color and you're using plastic bowls, change to stainless steel bowls.

Your dog could have what's called a Dudley Nose where his nose changes color for no apparent reason. A puppy's black nose may change to a brown color as he gets older and sometimes the pigmentation will fade to pink or white. If your vet rules out snow nose, vitiligo or other more serious conditions like cancer, your dog's loss of color is nothing more than a Dudley Nose.

Lupus Erythematosus is a condition that will cause a dog's nose to lose color. They will also have scaly skin and inflammation around the face with lesions along the ears. Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, German Shepherds and crossbreed dogs are most at risk to develop this condition. As a responsible pet owner, you should ask your vet for advice on how to help your dog if he develops Lupus Erythematosus.

For the most part, if your dog's nose changes color, it's nothing to worry about and it may be part of the aging process. The enzyme producing pigmentation doesn't produce as much color as the dog ages. But it's always best to be safe when it comes to the health of your dog and see your veterinarian to make sure the color loss is nothing serious. The only real problem for a color change in a dog's nose is if the dog is about to enter the show ring circuit; he will be eliminated for not meeting breed standards.

Special attention should be given to a dog with a pink or white nose because it will sunburn easily. Make sure to apply dog safe sunscreen to his nose when he's outside and watch for any blistering which is an indication of a severe burn.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What Does a Psychiatric Service Dog Do?


By Ruthie Bently

Dogs help many people, in many different ways. There are dogs that sniff things out, such as bombs and explosives, cancers and drugs. I even heard a story recently about a man training a dog to sniff out emeralds. There are assistance dogs that help people who are deaf or blind, even dogs that assist people with cerebral palsy, who may need help picking things up. One of the newer kinds of service dogs is a psychiatric service dog.

A psychiatric service dog (PSD) is specifically trained to assist an individual or perform tasks for someone who has been disabled by severe mental health issues. This can include but is not limited to someone that suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or anxiety, Autism, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Social Anxiety Disorder, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Panic Disorder, eating disorders and Agoraphobia. Anyone who has been diagnosed as mentally disabled is eligible for a PSD.

A psychiatric service dog can assist their person by providing a safe presence that grounds them. They remind their owner to take their medication on time. They have been used to relieve paranoia and manic attacks. They can interrupt the repetitive behaviors of someone with OCD. They can be taught to discern the onset of a hallucination. A PSD for a soldier suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can use their training to interrupt a flashback or dissociative episode, or to alleviate fear and hyper vigilance.

A PSD can be trained to let their owner know when an attack of dissociation, mania or panic is about to occur. For someone suffering from panic attacks they can help their owner during the attack by warming their body and attending to their emotional distress. An agoraphobic can take their PSD outside and experience less stress. For people who may be fearful inside their own home, psychiatric service dogs have been used to turn on the lights and search the rooms for intruders.

Psychiatric service dogs are allowed where most service dogs are allowed. There are several things that a responsible pet owner of a potential PSD should consider. There is no one breed of dog that is better for this service. The dog’s size and exercise level should be considered when looking for a PSD. If the dog is an older dog, they should be well socialized. If you do a lot of traveling by air, size should be considered carefully as it can get expensive the larger dog you choose. As with any dog, this is a long term situation. The person receiving the PSD should be aware that this is for the dog’s lifetime which could be fifteen to twenty years. It should also be remembered that this dog will be a companion 24/7, as they are a service dog and are with their human to help.

A psychiatric service dog can be trained by their potential owner, but it is suggested that a professional trainer be used in private lessons. Before choosing a PSD, a trainer should be consulted to help pick the best dog for the job and situation. A PSD does not have to be certified, but I would recommend it as the owner will have to be able to prove that the dog is a service dog. Three areas of training evidence that the owner should be able to show are basic obedience, disability related task or therapeutic functions, and public access skills.

Jane Miller, author of Healing Companions: Ordinary Dogs and Their Extraordinary Power to Transform Lives, has been working with PSDs for some time now and is the leading authority in the field. She's had remarkable results in this emerging field. She was even approached by the Veteran’s Administration to speak on the subject of psychiatric service dogs for soldiers returning from combat with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Most of us know the emotional support and unconditional love that our dogs give us, but a psychiatric service dog allows people to gain or regain assertiveness, self confidence and self esteem, as well as nurturing their emotional well being and inspiring confidence.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How to Choose a Dog That’s Right for You


By Julia Williams

Adding a dog to your family can be a wonderful, happy thing for all concerned. But it’s a major decision that should never be made on a whim, because a dog depends on you for life, for everything. Before you get a dog, be absolutely certain that your lifestyle, finances and family can accommodate responsible pet ownership, because anything less would be very unfair to your four-legged friend. The next step is to thoroughly research which breed (or mixed breed) would be best for you and your family. Here are some things to think about:

Puppy or Adult Dog?

Before deciding which breed might be right for you and your family, you’ll want to think about whether you can handle the challenges of getting a puppy, or if your lifestyle is better suited to an adult dog. Puppies require a great deal more training, attention, patience and vet visits, especially for the first year. When you adopt an adult dog, you’ll have a better idea of what their energy level and temperament are. Adult dogs may already be socialized and well trained, but not always. To help you decide what age of dog to get, read Should You Adopt a Puppy or an Adult Dog?

Purebred or “Mutt?”

This age-old question has no right or wrong answer; much depends upon personal preference and why you want to have a dog in the first place. Although purebred dogs have some distinct advantages, there are many good reasons for choosing mixed breeds too. Purebreds offer a predictable size and somewhat predictable temperament. However, there are also dogs who go against “type,” so breed is not a guarantee that the dog you choose will have the traits you seek. Sometimes, people have fond memories of a particular breed from their childhood and want to have this same breed as an adult. There’s nothing wrong with that; just be aware that “same breed” doesn’t mean it will have the same personality. Mixed breed dogs may not have fancy pedigrees, but they make wonderful family pets and loving companions.

Size

This is another important factor to consider when selecting a dog. If you live in a teeny tiny apartment, a giant breed is probably not right for you. Similarly, dogs with very high energy levels are probably best suited to homes with a yard and/or a dog run. Small dogs are more vulnerable to accidents such as being stepped on, and may not like the roughhousing that often accompanies a household with young children. Little dogs can also be more sensitive to cold temperatures, so keeping them warm in winter may require special consideration. Expense is another factor to consider when deciding which size dog to get. Large dogs will obviously eat more food than small dogs, they need larger pet beds to sleep in, and may incur additional veterinary expenses for antibiotics, anesthesia and other medical treatments.

Exercise Requirements

Although every dog needs regular exercise, some breeds require more than others. If you are a couch-potato type whose idea of exercise is reaching for the remote, you still need to commit to taking Fido out for regular walks and playtime at the dog park. This will likely be fine for lower-energy dogs like Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Chihuahuas, Chow Chows, Pugs and Rat Terriers (not a complete list by any means). If you want a jogging partner or an agility competitor, a high-energy breed like the Border Collie might be the right dog for you. Other high-energy dogs that need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation include Australian Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Belgian Sheepdogs, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Irish Setters and Weimaraners. Just remember though, breed is not a guarantee of a specific trait. Breed can provide a general idea of what a dog’s energy level may be, but dogs are individuals and should be regarded as such.

Grooming Needs

All dogs will require basic grooming, but some have special needs based on physical characteristics such as ears or the type of hair coat. For example, dogs with long floppy ears may need frequent ear cleanings to prevent infections. Thick, double coated dogs like Malamutes , Samoyeds and Akitas need frequent brushing and grooming, as do long-haired dogs like Afghan Hounds, Bearded Collies and Cocker Spaniels. Some breeds are known droolers, and these may require more housework and a good supply of “slobber cloths.”

As you can see, there are many things to consider before you succumb to those irresistible puppy dog eyes. Choosing the right dog may not be an easy process, but if you take your time and do your homework, you’ll be rewarded with a canine companion that’s perfectly suited to you and your family.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grass, Weeds and Plants Pets Should Not Eat


By Linda Cole

Cats and dogs who wander outside during the warmer months will always find something to nibble on. Some may chew on a weed or piece of grass because it tastes good. It doesn't harm them to eat certain plants, but some vegetation is harmful and as responsible pet owners, we need to be aware of what grows in our yards and gardens.

Pets don't know which plants they should leave alone while on their daily patrol around their home. Eating poisonous plants is the number two toxin for cats, and ranks in the top five for dogs. Outside plants that are toxic can cause severe reactions, but for the most part, pets end up with irritations in their gastrointestinal tract or inside their mouth. If a pet eats a toxic plant, they usually get rid of most of the toxins from their system by vomiting.

Grass is perfectly fine if your pet eats some, provided it has not been chemically treated. Some dogs seem to actually crave some greenery now and then. Vets don't really know if dogs eat the grass because they like the taste of it or if there's something in it that's good for them. Some think it's a dog's way of getting rid of an upset stomach. Whatever the reason may be, you want to avoid grass that's been treated with toxic chemicals. If your cat or dog has access to your entire yard, be careful when putting anything on your lawn. Weed killers should also be used with your pet's safety in mind. Make sure to keep cats or dogs off any lawn that's been treated regardless of whether they eat grass or not. Pets who wander around a treated lawn can still pick up chemicals on their paws which can be ingested when they clean themselves.

There are more than 700 poisonous or toxic outside plants that pets need to stay away from. Most gardeners and flower lovers have heard of at least some of the plants or weeds, but those who don't work in the garden may not be aware of what these plants are, let alone spot one on sight. However, it's important to learn what grows in your yard, neighborhood and garden to help keep your pets safe.

Some wild growing plants, shrubs, grasses and weeds to watch out for are: Velvet Grass, Sorghum, Nightshade, Pokeweed, Smart Weeds, Baneberry, Holly, Bloodroot, Buttercup, Chockcherries, Corn Cockle, Cowbane, Cow Cockle, Jimsonweed, Mayapple, Day Lily, Morning Glory, Monkshood, Poison Hemlock and Skunk Cabbage.

Garden plants your pet shouldn't chew on include potatoes, tomatoes, rhubarb and onions. Some garden flowers and outside plants that are toxic to pets are Crocus, Day Lilies, Tiger Lilies, Daffodils, Narcissus, Clematis, Foxglove, Morning Glory and Lily of the Valley.

If your pet does eat a toxic plant, it's important to know what part of the plant they ate and how much they ate. On some plants, not all parts are poisonous whereas others include the entire plant. Some outside plants have toxic roots or seeds and others may have toxic leaves or stems. And some plants are more toxic than others with varying degrees of symptoms and reactions by a pet.

Symptoms to watch out for include sudden vomiting, diarrhea, heavy panting or breathing, acting like they are depressed and have no energy. Call your vet immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten something they shouldn't have. If you know what they ate, take some of the plant, grass or shrub with you when you go to the vet. If you don't know what it is, the vet may know, but either way it can help determine exactly what the toxin is so the vet can properly treat your pet.

Pets can't avoid outside plants, and their curious nature can get them into trouble. It's hard to monitor outside cats while they check out their territory, so one simple precaution would be to walk around your cat's territory to get an idea of what kind of outside plants he could run across. That way you have an idea of what he might have eaten if he comes home with an upset tummy or is showing signs of ingesting something toxic. There are other poisons besides plants a wandering cat can find, so if you notice any signs of possible poisoning, take your pet to the vet to be on the safe side.

For more information on toxic outside plants, please check out this site. This is by no means a complete list of all 700 toxic plants, but it is a good place to start. If you have questions about a plant, talk with your vet.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, May 17, 2010

Summer Safety for Dogs


By Suzanne Alicie

Just like humans, dogs enjoy the summertime. Warm balmy days, playing outdoors, going on vacation – what’s not to love? However, there are certain summertime safety measures that responsible pet owners should take. There are several different aspects of the season that can cause problems for your dog. We all want our dogs to enjoy the great outdoors in the summertime, but it is always wise to take some precautions against these potential dangers.

Heat

If your dog is spending time outdoors, it is important that he has a cool shaded area with plenty of fresh water to drink. Even a few hours outside without any shelter or water can cause heat exhaustion, heat stroke and general overheating. While dogs love to be outside and enjoy the warm weather, as dog owners we have to remember to take care and not expose them to too much of the heat.

Fleas and Ticks

While these are year round problems in some areas, during the summer it is extremely dangerous for dogs to be unprotected. There are several ways to protect your dog from fleas and ticks in the summertime. Whether you use a topical treatment, pills, collars, powders, or natural methods, treat your dog and his bedding to help prevent flea and tick infestations. Also, check your dog regularly after he spends time outdoors, to remove pesky ticks before they get attached. As a dog moves around outside, even if he is treated, more than likely you will still find a tick or two occasionally. For more information on how to fight these nasty pests, read Natural Flea Control for Dogs and Cats, by Linda Cole.

Diseases

Your dog may be more active outdoors in warm weather, which could lead to exploring new areas, and traveling with you. This can expose your dogs to the dangerous Parvovirus and other infectious diseases. Make sure your dog has had all of his inoculations, and try to keep a sharp eye on what he may eat, sniff or roll in as he checks out the summertime world around him.

Grooming Problems

As the weather heats up, many dogs will shed their winter coats. This means that you will have to spend a little extra time brushing and grooming your dog. Another cause of extra grooming is that dogs love to run and roll, which leaves them with grass, burrs and other hitchhikers attached to their coat. Dogs' nails tend to get naturally worn when they spend time outdoors, but it is important to check your dogs’ paws for pad tears, broken nails and other problems that may cause them pain. It’s always a good idea to have a doggie first aid kit on hand to treat these little problems and keep your dog running smoothly on all four padded paws.

Getting outdoors in the summertime is a lot of fun for both you and your pet. Taking a few precautions and extra steps to prepare your dog for the season can help insure that summer remains a pleasure and not a cause of distress for you or your dog.

Photo courtesy of Tero Miettinen.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Medical and Behavioral Causes for Canine Aggression


By Ruthie Bently

Have you ever been growled at or bitten by a dog that as a rule is a calm, even-tempered animal? I have, and it was because I made a mistake. I had given my dog a bone and he kept trying to take it into the bedroom to chew it in his favorite place: my bed. I kept taking the bone into the kitchen and placing it on his rug where he was allowed to chew it. That just didn’t suit him.

I got bit when I approached him from behind and reached around him to take the bone away. The proper way to remedy the situation would have been to put him on a sit/stay, pick up his bone while facing him and crate him with his bone, so he could enjoy it in peace and my quilt wouldn’t get dirty. In his defense it was the first beef bone he’d ever been given and he was two years old. He had no idea who was behind him; he didn’t have eyes in the back of his head and was protecting his property. This aggression was caused by a behavior I was able to correct with patience, understanding, love and CANIDAE Snap Biscuit treats.

Behavioral causes for canine aggression can include protection of their persons, perceived property or other four-legged companions. Some dogs will show this aggression when being walked by their owners. They are walking happily down the sidewalk when all of a sudden there is a barking, snarling mass of fur at the end of a leash. If you are walking with or without your dog in the other direction, I suggest crossing the street before continuing on your walk.

A dog does not necessarily see property lines in the same manner that humans do. It doesn’t matter if they are behind or in front of a fence – in some dogs’ minds the property ends with their line of sight. If you have ever parked in a parking lot and been accosted by a dog in the car next to you showing teeth and/or growling, it may be because the dog sees you as a threat to the car they are in. They don’t know that you could care less; they were left there by the alpha family member and are doing their job.

Fear can cause aggression. A dog may be afraid of thunder, fireworks or other loud noises. They may be fearful of noises made during the normal running of appliances that they may not be used to (i.e., the dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer). A dog may be afraid of another dog, and may show aggression to make himself look more threatening to a dog that is approaching them with body language they don’t like.

Dominance can also cause aggression. Dogs may fight over territory, a female they both covet, food or even a family member. Jealousy can also cause dominance aggression. I had a client with a male Akita, and she began dating several years after she became a widow. The Akita did not like the new man in her life and made his feelings known. By involving her new beau in the dog’s day-to-day schedule which included feeding, walking and training, the problem was resolved and they became a happy family.

Canine aggression can also be caused by medical problems. One report mentioned over fifty different medical reasons for canine aggression. Hypothyroidism is one of the most common and occurs when there is too little thyroid in a dog’s system. Your vet can perform a test for hypothyroidism and may prescribe thyroid medication to remedy the situation. Hypothyroidism currently affects more than fifty dog breeds. Hypoglycemia, which is low blood sugar, is another cause and may or may not be linked to canine diabetes.

A trauma caused by a blow to a dog’s head or a brain tumor, which can cause swelling, bleeding or injury to the brain, can result in canine aggression. Dogs can contract either viral or bacterial encephalitis. Rabies and distemper are both forms of viral encephalitis. Some studies show that dogs can contract distemper from a distemper vaccination. The lack of serotonin in a dog’s brain can cause them to become aggressive, as it is the neurochemical control for aggression. Epilepsy, which has many causes, has also been noted as a form of canine aggression. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome associated with aging canine seniors can also cause canine aggression.

Canine aggression can be due to either a behavioral or medical cause. If you have a regularly well-behaved dog that begins behaving oddly for no apparent reason, it is time to visit the vet for a checkup.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Singapura: the Smallest Cat has a Big Personality


By Julia Williams

We recently profiled the largest domestic cat breed, the beautiful Maine Coon, so I thought it only fair to profile the smallest cat breed too. If you prefer itty bitty kitties over super-sized ones like the Maine Coon, the petite Singapura might be the perfect cat breed for you. The Singapura is the smallest of all the recognized domestic cat breeds. Females average 5 to 6 pounds, while males typically tip the scales at around 6 to 8 pounds.

Singapura is the Malaysian word for Singapore, which means “Lion City.” The plucky feral felines that became the foundation of the Singapura breed were sometimes called “drain cats,” because they often took refuge in the storm drains of Singapore.

Appearance of the Singapura Cat

The Singapura is a shorthaired cat with an angelic round face and noticeably large eyes in hazel, green or yellow. Singapura cats are only found in one coat color, a warm beige ticked with sepia brown. (Ticking refers to bands of color on the tips of the hair). Their silky coat requires minimal grooming; some say it resembles that of a cougar. The Singapura’s muzzle, chest, stomach and inner legs are an unticked, light ivory color.

Although they do have a petite frame, Singapura cats are not delicate creatures by any means. They are muscular cats with good bone structure and a moderately stocky build, yet even so, they have an irrefutable air of elegance about them. The Singapura is slow to develop, and may not reach full size until about 15 to 24 months of age. Because the Singapura is small compared to most felines, veterinarians unfamiliar with the breed might wonder if something is wrong with the cat or kitten.

Personality of the Singapura Cat

They may be small in stature, but the Singapura cat has a larger-than-life personality. It’s as if they are saying, “I may be little, but I am a force to be reckoned with.” If you like extroverted cats who have “purrsonality plus,” then the Singapura is a good choice. They are lively, curious, mischievous and intelligent cats that genuinely seem to enjoy the company of their human companions. Agile and active, Singapura cats love high places and are known to be climbers.

Singapura cats remain extremely playful well into adulthood, and some say they never truly abandon this endearing trait. These felines insist on being in the middle of everything, a trait that has earned them the label of “pesky people cat.” Rita Kay Bee, a breeder of Singapuras, describes their attitude as: “The world is my oyster. Get out of my way - I'm going for the pearl and you can't stop me.”

History of the Singapura Cat

Though there is some controversy over the origins of the Singapura, it’s generally believed the gene pool that created this rare breed came from Singapore, a result of mating between the Burmese and the Abyssinian. The breed was brought to the U.S. in the early 1970s, and today is found worldwide and recognized by most registration associations. Singapuras were accepted for CFA registration in 1982 and for championship competition in 1988.

There are relatively few breeders and exhibitors working with the Singapura cat, so the breed is still somewhat rare and hard to find. However, Singapuras have enjoyed considerable success in the show ring for such a young breed. In 1991, Singapore tourism officials erected statues of the Singapura along the river and featured the cat in various types of promotional material.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why Do Dogs Drool?


By Linda Cole

Anyone who has seen the movie “Beethoven” will remember the scene where the dog is sitting in the middle of his owner's bed with a long string of drool hanging from his mouth. As he shakes his head, drool flies everywhere. It was funny in the movie and some dogs drool naturally, but excessive drooling can indicate a more serious problem.

I had a dog who would get a drink of water, walk over to sit beside me and then slobber excess water down my leg. It wasn't so bad during the winter months with a pair of jeans on, but in the summer when I wore shorts, it really gave me a start when I wasn't expecting it. She was a breed of dog that drooled naturally and, like in the movie Beethoven, anytime she shook her head, we'd run for cover. That dog would send drool flying everywhere! The cats weren't even spared from a flying string of dog drool and ran away from her just as fast as we did. I learned to leave towels in easy to find places throughout the house – just in case.

Some breeds have lips that are heavier than others. Bloodhounds, Mastiffs, Boxers and Saint Bernards, along with other breeds, are known for their drooling. These types of dogs drool because the loose skin around their jaw catches saliva where it collects and fills up until there's no room for more. Slobbering and drooling is just part of who they are, but even for them, excess drooling can indicate there's something wrong. Excessive drooling can cause a dog to become dehydrated.

Breeds who normally don't drool may have times when they become over stimulated, which can cause excess saliva to build up. It's nothing to worry about unless the dog suddenly begins to drool with no clear reason. A medical problem may be why.

Dogs drool when they have something caught in their mouth, on their tongue, in their throat or between their teeth. Our canine friends use their mouths to help them determine what things are, and an inquisitive dog can pick up small objects that can become stuck somewhere in their mouth. A bad tooth or gum disease will also cause your dog to slobber. One sure sign of dental or gum problems is a dog with extremely bad breath. A bone that splintered or became caught in the dog's throat or a splinter from chewing on wood can get stuck on the roof of their mouth, under the tongue or caught between their teeth. If you see your dog pawing at his mouth and drooling, something is bothering him.

Digestive problems will cause dogs to drool. Bloat is a dangerous condition that needs to be taken care of immediately. A hard stomach, foaming at the mouth along with drool and attempts to vomit are symptoms of bloat. For more information on bloat, read What is Bloat? What Are the Symptoms?

Heat stroke, epilepsy and other medical conditions are more reasons why dogs drool. Nausea from riding in a car or an upset stomach from eating something that didn't agree with him will cause a dog to drool. Overeating, eating too much spicy food or mixing different kinds of food together can cause a stomach ache in some dogs.

A reaction to flea control products, bee stings, poison and allergic reactions to food or medications will produce excess saliva. Pain-induced drooling from conditions like urinary tract infections and ear infections, liver disease and tumors in their mouth are a few reasons why your dog could be suddenly drooling. A dog who picks up stinging insects and spiders will sometimes bite them on the tongue or side of the mouth causing them to drool.

Toads, snails and slugs will cause a dog to drool if they grab one. Every summer during the evening hours we comb through the grass in my dog's pen trying to find toads and slugs before my dogs do. Most toads aren't poisonous to dogs, but they have enough toxin to make them drool if a dog picks one up or tries to bite it. In some parts of the country, there are a few toads that are deadly to dogs and cats.

Some dogs drool naturally, and from experience I know that even with them, you know when they have excessive drooling. Any time a dog drools more than usual or suddenly begins, it's an indication something is wrong. Never put off seeing your vet, because your dog's life could depend on your fast action. When caught early, most medical conditions can be taken care of and some of them are nothing to mess around with.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Laser Therapy: What it is and How it Works


By Ruthie Bently

My beloved dog Skye had a bad accident in December and severed two ligaments in her left leg. I found out the vet used laser therapy in her rehabilitation, and as a responsible pet owner, I wanted to learn more about it.

I know lasers have been around for many years and that the word itself is an acronym (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation). The term laser was coined by Gordon Gould (a Columbia University grad student) in a paper published at a conference in 1959, and applies to a very powerful form of visible light energy in a single wavelength. I remember watching several movies where the hero was going to be cut or injured by a laser, and a Johnny Quest cartoon in the 1960s where the villains used lasers to blow up ships. So what is my vet doing using a laser on my dog?

I needn’t have worried. While lasers can be used in surgery to cut through tissue and cauterize it, laser therapy is not surgery and does not use a cutting laser. Laser therapy has been used on pets for over twenty-five years, and has gained credence as an alternative therapy. Its use as a healing therapy has been documented in over 3,000 publications. As the term laser cannot be used in any treatment other than a superficial one, another acronym was used: LEPT. This stands for Low Energy Photon Therapy, and the machine is called a “cold LASER.” The colors used most often are red (at 610 to 810 nanometers) and infrared (at 800 nanometers or higher wavelength). The color used depends on the energy needed to stimulate a specific healing process in the body.

Pulsed and continuous are the two kinds of laser therapy used by veterinarians. You should speak with your veterinarian to determine your best course of action in using laser therapy. They will be the ones best qualified to advise you on which method should be used, depending on your dog’s situation.

Continuous laser therapy is used when inflammation is present. It is used to stimulate blood vessels to increase blood circulation and heat to the area affected by the inflammation, as well as dispersing fluid buildup to the area. This method also helps to reduce any pain associated with the inflamed area and is used to help heal surgical incisions, chronic ear problems, surface injuries or wounds.

Pulsed laser therapy is used when immediate pain relief is needed. It interferes with the transmission of pain impulses to the brain and is used in pain management. It works well for long-backed dogs like Basset Hounds or Dachshunds that are prone to back pain, though it can help any dog with back pain. It is also used for overexertion during sports competitions or regular exercise, as well as arthritis.

Other health issues laser therapy is used to treat are traumas to the body due to a wound or injury to bone or muscle. Effects of surgery from the removal of a growth or a broken bone can be sped up by laser therapy. Inflammatory conditions that can be helped are gingivitis, granulomas caused by excessive licking, ear problems (either acute or chronic), inflammation of the anal glands and idiopathic cystitis (an inflammation of the bladder). Neurological conditions, nasal problems, and dermatological issues have also be cited to have been helped. Laser therapy can be used to stimulate acupuncture points for pets unable to tolerate the acupuncture needles.

A word of caution: while laser units are available for purchase by the general public, there is a danger of applying the therapy at the wrong frequency. This can cause disruptive rather than healing benefits. Protective glasses should be used, as there is a danger of eye damage to the patient, veterinarian or handler. This can happen either through reflection or directly by the beam, especially with the infrared wavelengths. Laser therapy should only be administered by a veterinarian or by someone you have been referred to by your veterinarian. While you can treat your own animal, if you treat someone else’s animal you could be cited for practicing veterinary medicine without a license. If you are considering purchasing one of these units, I strongly recommend asking your vet to teach you how to properly use it.

The benefits of laser therapy are that it can be used to treat many kinds of injuries, without drugs, pain or surgery. It stimulates the body to heal itself by using non-thermal photons administered to the body to be absorbed by the injured cells. The injured cells are stimulated and the rate of metabolism is increased. This in turn increases circulation which reduces inflammation, relieves pain and accelerates the body’s natural healing process.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Qualities Does a Therapy Dog Need?


By Julia Williams

Last month I wrote about some of the many hard working dogs I admire. Naturally, therapy dogs are among this elite group of canine good citizens who contribute to our society. A therapy dog’s “job” is to visit nursing homes, retirement homes, hospitals, schools, prisons and other places where their emotional support is needed. Therapy dogs bring happiness, comfort, love and vitality to seniors, sick people, the disabled, and others who can benefit from the special spirit-lifting attention of a canine.

What exactly does a therapy dog do? Sometimes they provide much-needed companionship, and sit or lie quietly while being petted and talked to. Therapy dogs may work with disabled children, or visit elementary schools to help kids learn about humane treatment of animals. They might also visit patients in pediatrics, oncology, and other hospital wards or hospice centers.

Though sometimes thought of as service dogs, therapy dogs aren’t classified as such because they’re not trained to stay with people and don’t directly assist them with tasks. Therapy dogs also don't require the intensive specialized training that service dogs do, but they must still be taught basic canine obedience, as well as how to properly act in a variety of settings and situations.

Have you ever wondered if your dog has what it takes to be a therapy dog? The good news is that virtually any breed of dog, large or small, young or old, can become a certified therapy dog. However, not all dogs have the personality and temperament needed to be successful at it. A therapy dog must be friendly, even-tempered, consistent, gentle, confident, comfortable meeting new people, and reliable in unusual environments. Above all, they must love people and truly enjoy being around them while being hugged, kissed and petted.

Qualities that make a good therapy dog include:

Good Canine Manners

A therapy dog needs to walk nicely on a leash, at the handler’s side. A dog that pulls on their leash can pose a safety hazard. They should not jump up on people or bark during a visit.

Naturally, therapy dogs need to be properly socialized with people. But they also need to be socialized with other dogs as well as cats, birds and even rabbits, since a facility might have any one of those as a resident. Very often, dogs and handlers will do team visits, so it’s important that a therapy be able to get along well with other dogs.

Therapy dogs need to be very obedient, and come reliably when called, even in high-distraction environments. They can’t jump onto beds or laps uninvited, or put their mouths on people. They should be able to greet people and respond to affection while maintaining a “sit,” so they don’t overwhelm frail patients or frighten people who aren’t used to being around dogs.

Therapy dogs must respond to commands given in a calm, quiet voice. Besides basic commands such as sit, stay and down, many therapy dogs know commands such as Paws On (put your paws up on a bed or chair) and Paws Off (put your paws back on the floor).

During a visit, therapy dogs may be exposed to bits of food on the floor, buffets, meal trays and other tasty morsels. Good therapy dogs respond reliably to commands to resist such temptations, such as “leave it,” which is essential for their own health as well as the patients they are visiting.

Comfortable Being Touched

A therapy dog must tolerate being petted on every part of its body, including the ears, tail and feet. Some patients may have problems with motor skills and muscle control, and their petting can be awkward or inadvertently rough. Any signs of aggression towards people would disqualify a dog as a certified therapy dog.

Social Skills

Therapy dogs may encounter all sorts of strange and startling things, such as loud voices and noises, shouting, crowds and unexpected noises. They can’t be expected to ignore these things, but should be able to recover quickly and not try to bolt away.

Therapy dogs will likely encounter many strange pieces of equipment and unfamiliar objects such as crutches, wheelchairs and gurneys. They need to remain calm and be comfortable and confident around these things.

Cleanliness and Good Health

A therapy dog needs to be bathed and brushed often, especially right before a scheduled visit. Their nails need to be kept short to avoid accidental scratches. Their skin and coat should be healthy and free from any sores or skin irritations. They require current vaccinations and annual vet check-ups.

Disposition

Good therapy dogs tolerate being dressed up in silly hats, costumes or capes that make people laugh and brighten their spirits. While this is certainly not a requirement or an everyday thing, it can be a way to add extra joy to holidays or other special occasions. It also doesn’t hurt if the dog knows a people-pleasing trick or two.

CANIDAE is proud to sponsor several therapy dogs, including Stitch, Riley and Sophie, a trio we profiled a few weeks ago. You can read their touching story here, or check out other special canine achievers on the CANIDAE website.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to Calculate Your Pet's Age in Human Years


By Linda Cole

Advances in medicine over the years have increased our life spans through better diagnosis and treatments. Veterinarian medicine has also given our pets a boost in their life span. When trying to figure out what your pet's age is, the old school of thought has been 1 year in dog years equals 7 years in human years. It seems that scale is now obsolete. But what about cats? If the old formula has changed, how do you calculate your pet's age in human years?

Our age gives someone an idea as to what our level of experience is according to how old we are. Age can indicate if someone is mature enough to handle certain responsibilities or young enough to still require supervision. For us, age tells us if someone is in their golden years, middle aged or still wet behind the ears. Our pets also mature at a certain age, but because they have a shorter life span, they age faster than we do.

Calculating your pet's age gives you an idea of what their chronological age is. Figuring out our pet's age in human years helps to see them at their actual age as they grow older. A 7 year old dog or cat is approaching middle age and is about 44 years old by our standards. By her tenth birthday, she's 56 according to human age and not far from her golden years. Using the old formula of 1 dog year equals 7 human years is simple and easy to remember, but it doesn't give an accurate calculation when comparing a pet's age to humans. For example, a cat or dog who has reached their first birthday is able to reproduce; a 7 year old child has a ways to go before they reach that milestone.

In the 1950s, a French veterinarian named Monsieur LeBeau devised a new way to calculate our pet's chronological age by using their average life expectancy (the number of years a species can expect to live) compared to the maximum number of years they can live (the age where no person or animal can live past). Modern medicine has increased the average life expectancy for both humans and animals, and that's why the LeBeau formula is more accurate in determining your pet's age. Different breeds of dogs have different life expectancy and smaller dogs and cats have a longer average life expectancy than larger dog breeds.

Using this new calculation, a one year old pet has matured at the same level as a 15 year old human. At age two, your pet's age equals a 24 year old person. We are considered to have reached maturity at age 24. So pets are fully matured at age two. Every year after two, add 4 human years to 24. A three year old pet is 28 and a 12 year old pet is 64 years old in human years. This gives you a more accurate chronological accounting of your pet's age according to his aging process.

One interesting thing about LeBeau's formula is that after the age of 14, cats and dogs begin to differ in age as they grow older. A 15 year old cat is considered to be 74 where the dog's age goes to 74.5. At 18 years of age, the cat is 80 and the dog is 82. And the 20 year old cat is 84 and the dog is 87.

The maximum life span for humans is considered to be around the age of 110. Dogs are thought to be able to live no longer than 29 years and cats can reach a maximum age in their mid 30s. So taking the differences in maximum life span for humans compared to cats or dogs, the dog's age after age 14 is calculated at two and a half human years compared to two years for cats. So that's why a 20 year old cat is chronologically younger than a 20 year old dog. The cat has a longer maximum life span.

Like us, our pets have different factors that help enable them to live a long life. Nutrition, exercise, genetics, and social and mental stimulus all play a role in your pet's health as well as life expectancy. Your pet's age in human years gives you an idea of where they are chronologically and helps you provide for them as they age. You can be a responsible pet owner by making sure your dog or cat eats high quality pet food and gets proper exercise. Lots of mental and physical stimulus helps keep their mind active, and regular vet care throughout their life can help your pet reach their golden years. This will give you plenty of time to enjoy their love and companionship.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Monday, May 10, 2010

How to Train Your Puppy to Obey Basic Commands


By Suzanne Alicie

Puppies are cute and cuddly, and generally out of control. One of the first things a new puppy needs is training in basic commands. Sit, Stay, and Lie Down are the most basics commands to teach a puppy. When it comes to training a puppy it is important to be firm and consistent. Puppies learn from consistency and repetition, and responsible pet owners know that proper training can turn a wild puppy into a well mannered dog.

Teach Your Puppy to Sit

Initially you will need to get down on your puppy’s level and help him sit. A gentle push on the haunches while saying “sit” to your puppy will help him get the idea. When your puppy sits upon command the first few times, be sure to reward him with praise and a treat. One of the things we do in our house is make the dogs sit while we prepare their food bowls. It is a ritual that helps even hyperactive dogs contain a bit of that energy and mind their manners when being fed. Sit is a common command and one of the easiest to teach, even a young puppy.

Teach Your Puppy to Stay

This is a command that is a bit more difficult to teach. Puppies tend to want to follow, because they simply want to be close to you. To teach this command initially, you don’t want to step away from the puppy and tell him to stay. The easiest way to teach a young puppy to stay is to use a treat. Since repetition is the key it may be easier on your puppy’s tummy to break treats into many pieces, or use smaller treats like the CANIDAE Snap-Bits™.

Place a piece of the treat on the floor in between you and your puppy. Tell him to stay and hold a hand in front of him so that he can’t reach the treat. Scoot the treat closer to him until it is right in front of his nose, while repeating “stay.” In time you will find that when you say “stay” your puppy will do so, but it takes repetition. Consistency is the key, as well as not overwhelming the puppy with too many commands to learn all at once. Concentrate on one act at a time.

Teach Your Puppy to Lie Down

Lie down is another simple command, and an easy transition from sit. Many times when your puppy is sitting if you tap the floor under his nose he will lie down to touch your hand. So once you have repeated this action several times, start to say “lie down” when you reach toward the floor. Before you know it your puppy will lie down as soon as he hears the words. Again, treats and praise along with the repetition and consistency will help your puppy learn the command quickly.

Puppies are loving and eager to please. If you begin training early and consistently, it should not be difficult to train your puppy to obey these basic commands, and then you can move on to other tricks. Puppies can learn just about anything you feel like taking the time to teach them, from sitting pretty to dancing, jumping and speaking.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie
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