Friday, August 30, 2013

Book Review – The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat

Belle loves Henri!
By Julia Williams

William Braden, the creative genius behind the Henri, le Chat Noir empire, has done what I’ve dreamt of doing for years. William not only put his cat to work, but now supports himself fully with Henri-related ventures!

Whereas most pet owners merely watch their cat or dog blissfully sleeping away and just wish they’d wake up and do something to defray the cost of their kibble, William had a vision.

Well…actually I made that last part up. I don’t really know if William had a vision for his now-famous French-speaking cat or not, way back in 2006 when Henry (the tuxedo kitty’s real name) appeared in his first internet video. But after the second video catapulted Henri to fame, lightbulbs surely went off in William’s brilliant mind.

He had created an unforgettable character — the world’s first existential cat philosopher – who was filled with ennui and bent on pondering his tormented existence. Filmed in black and white to parody French film noir, William’s video won the Golden Cat Award at the 2012 Internet Cat Video Film Festival, and late film critic Roger Ebert declared it “The best internet cat video ever made.” Yes, it’s that good!

Legions of Henri fans snapped up the t-shirts, coffee cups, posters, mouse pads, Henri “pawtographs” and other merchandise that followed, and now…William lives off his cat! At least that’s what the press release said for the latest Henri endeavor – a delightful little book titled The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat.

The hardcover book (in black and white, naturally!) is a collection of doleful Henri quotes that purrrfectly illustrate the disenchanted house cat’s cynical outlook on life. There are also 45 gorgeous photos, mostly of the handsome Henri but a few of his supposedly simpleminded feline roommate, aka “the white imbecile.”

If you’re a fan of the Henri videos, you simply must have The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat in your library! It also makes a great gift for a cat lover. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

"When I watch you go about your activities, make no mistake about my intentions. I am not curious or coy. I am judging you."

"I sleep because every time I open my eyes, the world is still there."

"Looking into the garden today, I saw another version of myself meeting my gaze. A celestial counterpart, free in all the ways I am trapped, yet longing for the safety of my prison. It turns out it was just a raccoon."

Cat treats are a poor substitute for real answers to the mysteries of our existence. Yet, I do not reject them.”

“My thumbs are not opposable, yet I oppose everything.”

If I had one itsy bitsy quibble with this great book, it would be that the experience of reading it is far too short. It’s certainly not a book you’ll take on summer vacation to while away a lazy day at the beach. In fact, you can finish the book in ten minutes. I definitely wanted more Henri after that last page! But here’s the thing – you’ll come back to the book again and again, and each time the experience will be just as enjoyable.

Buy it. Read it. Give it to a fellow cat lover. Or keep it on your coffee table to (in Henri’s own words) “make you look smart.” Indeed!

Henri, le Chat Noir: The Existential Musings of an Angst-Filled Cat is sure to become a cat classic.

Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a copy of this book for review, but all opinions and philosophical musings in this post are wholly my own.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Thursday, August 29, 2013

CANIDAE Grain Free Pure – Great Pet Food Just Got Better!


After much research and development at our Ethos Plant in Brownwood, Texas, we came up with new recipes for all of our Grain Free PURE formulas for dogs and cats. These new recipes are made using only 7 to 10 key ingredients—with added vitamins, minerals and natural flavors—and fresh meat or fish are the first ingredient in every bag. We are excited to share these nutritious, simple recipes with you and your pets!

Formulas for dogs include PURE Elements made with fresh lamb, PURE Land made with fresh bison, PURE Sky made with fresh duck and PURE Sea made with fresh salmon. These dry formulas also include whole foods like sweet potato, chickpeas and peas. All of our dry foods are now formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for all adult and senior dogs. And while these four formulas are not recommended for puppies, we are working on a brand new dry formula that will expressly address the nutritional needs of dogs under one year of age. Our can formulas are approved for all life stages—including puppies, adults and senior dogs.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Can you take your Dog on Public Transportation?

By Langley Cornwell

As the economy continues to evolve, there have been some notable changes to the transportation industry. More and more Americans are switching to smaller cars, and sales of hybrid automobiles are on a steep upward trend. Families that used to be two-car households are figuring out creative ways to drop down to one car and eliminate the inflated cost of gasoline, property taxes, maintenance, etc. for that second car.

As a response, public transportation is taking on a more important role in the new American lifestyle. We have a long way to go to catch up with many of the countries in the European Union, but I’ve seen giant strides even in the small southern town where I live now.

Fortunately, some trains, buses, trolleys and light rails now allow pets. Be aware, however, that there are still many restrictions for this method of transportation when your travel companion walks on four legs. At this time, people that plan to have their pet accompany them must avoid Amtrak and Greyhound; neither carrier allows animals on its trains and buses.

Other than avoiding Amtrak and Greyhound, there are no standard guidelines to follow when determining whether a certain train, trolley or light rail system will allow pets and, if they do, what their rules and regulations are. Before making your plans, check for updates and new information regarding which carrier in your area of travel allows pets and what restrictions apply.

If you’ve determined that pets are allowed to travel with you on public transportation, make sure you both adhere to good travel etiquette. Here are some tips:

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

How Archaeologists Use the Power of a Dog's Nose

By Linda Cole

Dogs are famous for their acute sense of smell. Beagles have been employed as bed bug detection dogs, and they sniff bags in airports to check for illegal fruits and vegetables being brought in by travelers. Drug and bomb sniffing dogs are trained to detect the smallest hint of contraband or explosives. More recently, archaeologists have discovered a dog with a good nose can be trained to search for smells that will tell us about our historical past buried in prehistoric grave sites. Now that's a dog with a keen sense of smell!

When comparing scent receptors, we humans are woefully inadequate to dogs. Humans have around five million scent receptors in their nose, and the average canine has around 200 million. Adding to a dog's extraordinary scenting ability is an organ located on the roof of the mouth that allows them to “taste” a smell, as well. So when we catch a whiff of steaks grilling on a BBQ close by, you can imagine how that mouth-watering scent is affecting your dog. Dogs are also capable of honing in on one specific smell among many. Once they find what they're looking for, their focus is on that one smell, and they can follow it to its source. That's why it's nearly impossible to evade a tracking Bloodhound.

Historical Human Remains Detection dogs (HHRD) are trained to sniff out lingering odors from bones and teeth in old grave sites, some that may be thousands of years old. These unique canines are the newest detection dogs, and they help humans search for information underground that is difficult for us to find on our own. These specially trained dogs have been used by archaeologists, construction companies and ordinary people to locate American Indian burial sites, lost family cemeteries and unmarked grave sites.

We live in the present, but our history is buried in the past. We learn who we are as a people by understanding who we were in the past. Spread across this land are historical and prehistoric grave sites that can take us back to another time. In many cases, finding a hundred-year-old family burial spot isn't of any real value to most people, but it is to the family searching for their roots.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Do Dogs Fall in Love Like in the Movies?

By Tamara McRill

Remember that romantic kiss scene in Lady and the Tramp? You know the one…where they are eating a big plate of spaghetti and unknowingly slurping away at the same noodle, until their snouts meet in a smooch. Then Tramp noses the last meatball across the plate to Lady.

Aww. So adorable, right? Not to kill the cuteness factor, but have you ever wondered whether dogs can really fall head-over-paws in love like that?

Doggy love is a hard topic to find solid research on, maybe because it’s hard to qualify the emotion separate from simple affection. A lot of scientists seem to just flat out not believe in it.

Anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Social Lives of Dogs, believes that dogs can fall in love. In her book, she tells the story of Sundog and Bean, two dogs that met each other by chance and only had the pleasure of each other’s company for a brief period of time. Bean’s owner was a builder and they were off as soon as the job was finished.

Sundog would still faithfully wait to hear the sound of the vehicle Bean’s owner drove, but to no avail. He stopped eating and slept more often. Even bringing in another female dog didn’t interest him. As for Bean, her owner believed she was yearning for Sundog, even to the extent that she would run away, looking for him.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Meet Quint, The Painting Cat!

By Julia Williams

I’ve profiled many talented felines here over the years, including therapy cats, photographer kitties, cat burglars, bestselling author cats and even a TV newsCATster.  Today it is my great pleasure to introduce you to another gifted feline – Quint, a cat who paints! Quint’s abstract art is just exquisite, and the kitty himself is quite the charmer. I know you will enjoy getting to know “Quint the Painting Cat” just as much as I have.

Julia: How old are you, and how long have you been painting?
Quint: I turned one year old at the beginning of May. Everyone says I’m still a baby, so I get lots of kisses. That’s not so bad. Officially, I took up painting last October. Unofficially, I’d been practicing my paw-strokes for about a year.

Julia: Your paintings are so beautiful! How did you pawrents discover that you had this artistic gift? 
Quint: Thank you! And thank you for calling it a gift! My pawrents didn’t think it was that at first. I’m not using names or anything but when I was little, I used to watch my dad get ready to face the world each morning and during that time somehow, little white dots would magically appear on the bathroom mirror. Well, no dot is safe with me! I’d touch and pat each one and sometimes, the dots would smear and swirl and that made me want to tug at each one even more. Mom wiped away my art every day and I had a fresh canvas to work on the next morning. When I was a little older, one day I thought the walls of our Cat Den looked boring and needed some help. The way mom tells it, I graduated from toothpaste on a mirror to cat litter smears on her walls. And that’s when I think I finally got through to them – I’m an artist and I needed a more acceptable outlet!

Julia: Why do you like to paint? 
Quint: Hmm, I think most artists don’t know why they do what they do. We just feel the need to express ourselves differently than most. This fall marks one year since I began painting and that milestone excites me. When something excites me, paint helps me express my excitement. Oh, and it’s fun to get colors on my big, white paws.

Julia: Could you describe your painting process? 
Quint: Sure, that’s easy. Usually, mom picks up on my restlessness and pulls my cardboard ‘studio’ together quickly. If I’ve been outside admiring flowers or sitting in my window watching birds, mom uses those color cues to set out a few paint dabs in a shallow bowl along with whatever I choose to paint on that day - small square canvases or heavy artist paper. When she tells me she’s ready, I find one of my mousies to take with me; for extra inspiration, and we get to work! I touch some of the paint and dab it on the paper. Sometimes, I’m in the mood for bold streaks and hard paw prints and sometimes I try to be more gentle and delicate. It all depends on my day!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Keeping Your Dog Safe on Evening or Early Morning Walks

By Suzanne Alicie

We love hearing from our readers. Mary M. recently gave us a great topic to address to help you keep your dog safe when walking in low-light situations, such as evenings and early mornings. As you know by reading some of our other Responsible Pet Ownership posts, we’re all about finding ways to help you keep your pets safe, healthy and happy.

Do you walk your dog early in the morning as the sun is coming up or late in the evening when dusk makes dangerous shadows? Believe it or not, wearing reflective clothing yourself is not enough to protect your dog. Driving at this time of morning or evening is dangerous, and no matter how careful a driver may be there is always a chance of them not seeing your dog. Yes, I know that the side of the road is supposed to be a safe area for walking your dog, but accidents happen. People look away from the road and veer off the side, or shadows can make it difficult to discern where the edge of the road is, not to mention making it hard to see a person or dog in the gloom.

Reflective Equipment

Besides having some sort of reflective clothing on yourself, you should also make sure your dog has a reflective safety vest, reflective leash and collar. Glow in the dark items are also helpful in the event that headlights don’t hit you. Making you and your dog visible even in very low light is important for keeping you both safe. There is no such thing as too much reflective safety gear when it comes to keeping your dog safe.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Does Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac Affect Dogs?

By Linda Cole

Hiking a favorite trail or playing at the park may seem like a safe way to spend the day, but you may not have noticed that patch of poison ivy your dog walked through. The question is, does poison ivy, oak or sumac affect dogs, and can they give it to us?

Humans and animals can suffer the same itchy fate when exposed skin makes contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac. These plants aren't as likely to bother cats because their coat covers them completely. Dogs on the other hand, have exposed skin on their tummy and the inside area of their back legs. The oil from these plants can also sometimes work its way through a dog or cat's coat to the skin, causing an itchy discomfort. If you weren't aware your pet was in contact with one of these poison plants, you might think his scratching was due to fleas.

Poison ivy is generally found in every state except Hawaii and Alaska. Poison oak is mainly found in western states; it can be found in southern states as well, but is rarely found in the Midwest. Sumac thrives in wooded, swampy areas of southern and eastern states. It's also prevalent in wet wooded areas, like along the Mississippi River.

All three toxic plants contain an oily sap called urushiol, which causes an itchy rash and nasty blisters on the skin. Urushiol has to be absorbed through the skin before it can cause an allergic reaction. It takes longer for the oily resin to penetrate through thicker skin, which is why there can be a delay before there's a reaction, or why it seems to spread. A rash and blisters are seen first where the skin is the thinnest, and appears on other areas as the toxin is absorbed through thicker skin. Fluid from broken blisters is not contagious and can't infect other areas on the body because the urushiol that created the blister has already been absorbed.

If your dog or cat walks through a patch of poison ivy, oak or sumac and gets some of the resin on his coat, even if it doesn't affect him, you can get the sap on you if he rubs against you or you pet him. Since dogs and cats are shorter, it's very easy for them to get the oily sap on their ears, face or anywhere else on their body when hiking or just out running around in their own backyard.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tips for Controlling Your Pet’s Shedding

By Langley Cornwell

There was a time, a long time ago, when I naïvely thought that pet shedding was seasonal. I used to think there was a magical time in the not-so-distant future when I wouldn’t have to dust, sweep or vacuum every day. I used to hope that a furtive glance at the corners of our home wouldn’t reveal dust bunnies big enough to scare the dogs.

I’ve come to accept that pet hair all over the house, our furniture and my clothing is a fact of life. As I commiserate with family and friends, it’s apparent that while some dog and cat breeds have longer hair or thicker coats or heavier undercoats, they all still shed. Sure, some shed more than others… but they all shed hair, and it’s a nuisance.

Since we can’t stop our pets from shedding, it’s good to learn ways to reduce loose dog and cat hair from swirling around our homes.          

Dogs and cats shed for the same reason that humans do: to get rid of damaged, old or excess hair. My fantasies of seasonal shedding were not totally pipe dreams; it’s true that animals grow a thicker coat in the winter months to help insulate them from the cold. Then when summertime comes, they shed the extra hair to stay cooler. But that’s not the whole story. Pets also shed damaged hair throughout their lifetime. And if your pet happens to have any type of skin conditions, allergies or irritations, they may shed excessively.

There are steps you can take to keep your cat or dog’s skin and hair healthy and reduce the quantity of excess pet hair in your home.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eight Tough-to-Train Dog Breeds

By Linda Cole

Some of the more challenging dog breeds to train are also among the smartest. Part of the problem with smart dogs is they can think for themselves and quickly learn how to control their owner.

Dog intelligence is determined by how many repetitions it takes for a dog to learn a new command or task. Breeds considered the smartest learn in just a few repetitions. Canines at the bottom of the list take a lot longer to catch on. It's not that they aren't as bright as the top tiered dogs; they just need more motivation.

Border Collies can either be one of the most challenging – or easiest – dogs to train. This free thinking, problem solving and sensitive herder is capable of learning new things in just one try, but you can't use heavy-handed training methods. This breed can be difficult for an inexperienced owner to train because he is an intelligent dog and notices absolutely everything you do. Subtle changes in your tone of voice and hand gestures can confuse him, because he thinks you're teaching a new command. You have to be exact each time with your commands and gestures.

Beagles are happy, confident dogs from the hound group. This lovable scenthound has a stubborn streak a mile long, which can cause a novice trainer to throw up his arms in defeat. He needs a good reason to learn. Your best training tool is lots of tasty, healthy dog treats like CANIDAE Pure Heaven Duck or Salmon. Beagles love food, and are willing to learn anything for a favorite treat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture started the Beagle Brigade in 1984 to sniff out contraband food coming into the country via airports because this cute, friendly and small dog isn't as intimidating as larger dogs.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Bruin Picks the Flicks...Good Movies for Dogs!

Photo credit: an iconoclast
By Bruin, canine guest blogger

I was sitting in front of the fireplace in my hound’s tooth smoking jacket the other evening, enjoying a salty dog cocktail.

The book I was reading had already been read so many times that the pages were all dog-eared. Rather than continue drinking and possibly then require some hair of the dog,  I picked up a copy of the Las Vegas Canine Enspirer to see if there were any movies I might be interested in seeing.

It suddenly occurred to me that with the passing of both Mr. Siskel and Mr. Ebert, movie fans were on their own. No longer was there anyone suggesting or catiquing films.

Outside it was raining cats and dogs, and I really didn’t feel like venturing out. I thought, why not pass the time by coming up with a list of good movies for dogs. I could call it “Bruin Picks the Flicks.”

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How to Bring Out the Best in Your Dog

By Langley Cornwell

What? Your dog is perfect? Well then, move along. There’s nothing for you to learn here. But if you’re like me, there are things we could do to make our dogs happier and our lives easier. It’s a simple concept, really. It all starts with determining what “type” of dog you have and then tailoring your activities to suit them.

Dogs generally fall into broad categories like couch potato, exercise nut, curious intellectual and loner. By accommodating their natural tendencies, you will bring out the best in your dog.

Couch Potato

Our newest dog is a complete couch potato; his idea of a good time is snuggling on the sofa all day. Because of this, I don’t expect him to be the outstanding athlete that our (loner) other dog is. Even so, we know it’s important to make sure he gets some sort of daily exercise and mental stimulation, but we don’t push him to run laps around the ball field. When we’re settled in for the evening, if we make sure there’s plenty of space on the couch for him to be near one of us, he’s happy. With regular, low stress walks and loads of personal interaction, we’re bringing out the best in this dog.


Our other dog definitely falls into the category of being a loner. When we’re all snuggled on the couch, she’s either at the far end, with plenty of personal space, or she’s on a bed in another room. She’s a happy dog and we interact with her a good bit, but when it’s quiet time, she wants to be left alone. According to Modern Dog Magazine, loner-type dogs do well with activities that reinforce a solid and dependable relationship with you.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Intriguing Facts about Dogs and Cats

By Linda Cole

Most pet owners spend a lot of time bonding with their pets and learning all about them. We know where they like to be scratched, if a thunderstorm will upset them, how they respond to strangers, or if a stubborn streak will try your patience. Each pet is unique with their own personality, but as a species all dogs and cats are intriguing. Here are 13 facts you may not know about your pet.

1. A dog's sense of smell is so powerful that some can detect odors buried 40 feet underground or track whale scat in the ocean. We have around 5 million scent receptors in our nose, but canine noses are equipped with around 125 to 300 million scent receptors, depending on the breed.

2. A common belief is that all cats are lactose intolerant and shouldn't be given milk, but that's not true for every feline. Some don't have a problem drinking milk; however, after weaning they don't need milk, and it can upset a cat's tummy if she drinks too much. As long as your cat can tolerate it, there's nothing wrong with giving her an occasional saucer of milk in addition to a quality cat food like CANIDAE. If you want to know if your kitty can have some milk now and then, give a small amount and wait 24 hours. If she doesn't develop diarrhea, a little milk as a treat is fine.

3. A dog's wet nose helps capture scent particles, and if his nose is dry, he may lick it to help him catch a scent. They can wiggle each nostril independently, and they know which nostril a smell entered, which helps them locate the source of a smell. The nose is made up of ridges and dimples unique to an individual dog, and is believed to be as individual as our fingerprints are. Felines also have a nose print that can be used to identify an individual cat.

4. Cats that live on their own don't communicate by meowing to each other. Domesticated cat meows and yowls are used to communicate with humans. Felines have a fairly sophisticated vocalization range of about 100 different meows or yowls. Dogs only have about 10 different barks, yips or snarls.

5. Dogs have a disconnected shoulder blade, which gives them a better range of motion when running and jumping. Most canines can run at around 19 mph at full speed.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What is Dog Water Therapy?

By Tamara McRill

Who can resist the joyous tongue-lolling grin dogs get when they play in water? Not me… and I'm guessing that as a pet lover, not you either! Turns out this canine fun – in the form of dog water therapy – can also help the health of our pets.

Sounds like a great match, so let's explore just what dog water therapy is, what you can expect and how it can help with pet rehabilitation.

Splish Splash

Well, it's sort of like taking a bath. Dog water therapy – also known as canine hydrotherapy – is most commonly performed in a small heated pool. A dog's muscles are similar to ours, in that they can benefit from the warmth of heated water. Most hydrotherapy pools are also treated with a chemical such as chlorine.

Most therapy center pools have either a ramp for dogs to get in and out of the pool, a hoist to lift your dog out, or both. If your dog has difficulty walking, be sure to ask about this at centers you are checking out.

Some pools also have jets to spray underwater, which is great for building strength. Also something to ask about, if it meets your dog’s medical needs. Always be sure to consult with your veterinarian before starting any type of therapy for your dog and to get your vet's recommendations on what types of pool features are best for your pet's treatment.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Which Dog Breeds Excel in Agility?

By Linda Cole

When people think of a specific dog breed for the sport of agility, the image of a Border Collie often comes to mind. The dog’s piercing eyes are focused on his human partner as he waits to start his run. Both dog and owner are pumped and ready to go, eager to test themselves against the clock. The dog's job is to race around an obstacle course as quickly as he can, taking direction from his partner. The Border Collie excels in this fast-paced and demanding sport, but there are other breeds that have the speed, intelligence and determination to be agility champs.

Aside from being a fun way for a dog to burn off energy, agility is a sport that builds confidence and patience. One look into their intense, eager eyes and you just know that agility is something dogs truly love to do. A paralyzed Border Collie named Zip enjoys agility so much that she continues to run courses in her wheelchair!

Herding Dogs

Members of the Herding Group have what it takes to excel in agility. These breeds were developed to move livestock and can make sharp turns. They have plenty of stamina and speed, can think on their own and are workaholics who follow commands from their handler. They are intelligent and quick to learn new things. This group includes the Border Collie, Australian Cattle Dog, German Shepherd, Collie, Shetland Sheepdog and Australian Shepherd. Even the short-legged Cardigan and Pembroke Welsh Corgi can succeed in this dog sport.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Being a Responsibly Informed Pet Owner

By Julia Williams

We live in interesting times. It’s true that every generation has it decidedly different than the one before, but the disparity seems to get wider with every decade. One reason for this is the internet. I used to get answers to all my burning questions by phoning the library reference desk. If the librarian didn’t know the answer, she always knew where to find it… in those archaic things called books. Remember those? LOL. Now, I can find the answers online in less time than it takes to pick up the phone.

It’s easier than ever to be an informed pet owner nowadays, provided you know how to tell the difference between reputable websites providing accurate information, and sites looking to make a quick buck with keyword-stuffed content. Just because you see the same info on many websites doesn’t mean it’s correct; online information tends to multiply like rabbits, and the “daddy” site that everyone else copied from could be erroneous.

So I always approach my online research with a healthy dose of caution, especially if it concerns my pets’ health or my own. I also do not attempt to self diagnose, and I never substitute the opinion of my trusted vet with information gleaned from a website. That being said, the internet can complement veterinary care because it allows you to ask your vet more questions and gives you the opportunity to learn and become a more informed pet owner.

I always thoroughly research anything my own doctor recommends or prescribes for me, and I do the same for my cats. I have a wonderful vet; she doesn’t roll her eyes when she seems me getting out my “list” of symptoms or things I want to ask her about. (I can’t say the same about my M.D.). My vet always takes the time to discuss all medications, treatments and options with me so I’m confident in the decisions we make together about my cats’ care. I trust her expertise completely, but I still believe a responsible pet owner has a duty to be as informed as possible about the various options.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Do Dogs Understand Human Speech?

By Langley Cornwell

Most dog people believe that their pets can understand them; some say their pets are in tune with their moods and emotions, and some even go so far as to say that their pets understand their actual words.

Nonetheless, scientists have yet to conclusively determine how much human speech dogs can truly understand. If you have a dog, you know they are able to link sounds with actions (let’s go for a walk, get in the car, lay down, shake, bow, etc.) but they struggle with concepts. For example, if you say, “Go get a toy” the dog will do just that. But if you have a ball and a rope side by side and you say, “Go get the rope” the dog may have a hard time determining which toy you are asking for.

There are exceptions to this. In fact, my friend’s yellow lab has 5 Frisbees, each a different color. If you tell her to get the pink one, she does. Likewise, if you ask her to bring you the red one, she does. Clearly, my friend’s dog displays a high level of cognition. And all of this is without any training!

Research confirms that dogs can functionally understand and use concepts like larger and different with a good bit of training with high value rewards like Canidae Pure Heaven treats, but my friend’s dog simply has this ability. Most dogs can label objects but have problems with differences like color or size (bring me the red Frisbee, bring me the big ball).

A well-known experiment conducted by German researchers confirmed that a Border Collie named Rico had a vocabulary of over 200 words. The researchers started by validating Rico’s vocabulary in a controlled setting. To do this, they collected 10 items Rico was familiar with. They had Rico’s owner issue a verbal command for the dog to fetch a specific item from another room. Rico performed this task perfectly. Next, the researchers wanted to take the experiment a step further so they placed another item –  one that was unfamiliar to Rico – among the familiar items. The owner requested the new item by name, even though Rico didn’t know the name of the item, and Rico brought the new item back to his owner.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What is Vestibular Disease?

By Linda Cole

Vestibular disease can strike dogs and cats suddenly. Your pet is fine one minute and the next, he's struggling to stand and walk. One of my older cats developed vestibular disease years ago. At the time, I had no idea what it was. Understanding vestibular disease is important because the symptoms mirror those of a stroke as well as other medical conditions, and it can be misdiagnosed.

My cat, Patches, was sitting upright when she suddenly fell over on her side and couldn't get up. Her eyes were moving rapidly back and forth and her head was shaking. It was a scary moment and I was convinced she’d just had a stroke. I called my vet and he decided she could wait until the office was open the next morning. By then she seemed better and had regained her balance. Come to find out, it was idiopathic vestibular disease and not a stroke as I had feared.

The vestibular system is how animals, including us, know which way is up or down, if we're spinning around, standing, moving, sitting or lying down. In general, it's responsible for maintaining our sense of balance and controls head and eye movements. Without getting too technical, the vestibular system is made up of nerves in the brain that continue into the inner ear. The vestibular apparatus is located next to the cochlea that's found deep in the inner ear, and another one is located in the medulla (the lower area of the brain) which is found at the top of the spinal cord.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How to Slow Down a Fast Eater

By Eliza Wynn

If your dog is a fast eater, you've probably had to clean up after him more than once. There are two reasons for the need to clean after your pet eats:  the area can get messy during the feeding frenzy, and gulped-down food doesn't always stay down. Either way, it's no fun for you, and in the latter case, it's no fun for your dog either.

Dogs that tend to eat too fast can't catch a break. They have the hungries, and the food is right there waiting for them, so what's the problem? Why should they slow down and risk letting a piece of kibble get away? It's not fair!

It may not be fair, but it's much better for your dog to slow down at mealtime. Fast eaters tend to have more digestive problems than those who take their time. Besides being a choking hazard, eating too fast increases the risk of dangerous bloating from swallowing too much air. Fortunately, there are a few things responsible pet owners can do to help slow down a fast eater.

Feed by hand

If you have time, try hand feeding your dog. It's a terrific way to spend quality time with him, and since you control the pace, this is the most effective way to get him to eat more slowly. Offer one piece at a time; if you don't hear any crunching, hold back a few seconds before offering another bite.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Simple Mistakes We Make When Exercising a Dog

By Linda Cole

We know it's important to keep our dogs active to help prevent obesity and keep them healthy in body and spirit. Most dogs are willing partners when you want to go hiking, biking, jogging or walking, or participate in a fun sport like dock diving, Disc Dog, agility or flyball. The last thing any responsible pet owner wants to do is put their dog at risk for injury, but without realizing it we can be guilty of doing just that.

Too much exercise with no conditioning 

Most dogs have an athletic side. They love to run, play, jump and race around as fast as they can. Because they want to be with us, preferably everywhere we go, we can easily forget that a dog may not be ready for a five mile run or an afternoon of hiking. Like us, dogs need conditioning and time to build up muscles and stamina. They are as susceptible to soft tissue injuries as we are, and can pull a tendon or get a sprain. Many dogs do enjoy sports, but just like any human athlete-in-training, it's important to start slow and take the time needed to gradually get into shape for any physical activity.

Make sure your dog can keep up with you, and you can keep up with him. A Chihuahua isn't a good running partner, and a Greyhound may leave you in his dust. If your dog isn't on equal terms with you as far as his fitness goes, a walk around the block may be enough exercise for him. If your dog has more energy than you do, play with him in the backyard, then take him for a walk or run.

Forgetting how weather can affect a dog 

The pads of a dog's feet act like shock absorbers to cushion the feet and protect them when walking on hot and cold surfaces. But the pads can be burned by walking on a hot surface like asphalt, concrete or metal. Check your pet's paw pads for cuts, puncture wounds, burrs or small rocks, and keep their pads healthy by making sure they are free of injuries.

Know the signs of heat stroke, hyperthermia and hypothermia, and pay attention to how well your dog tolerates different weather conditions. Hydration is important for both of you – always have fresh water available for you and your dog when exercising. Don't force your pet to continue exercising if he's showing signs of fatigue. You may be ready to go another mile, but your dog may not be.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Luna the Fashion Kitty Struts the Online Catwalk

By Julia Williams

Cats wearing clothes is not something you see every day, even on the internet where you can see just about anything you can imagine. Photos of doggies dressed to the nines, sure… but not cats. That’s because most cats are just not the clothes-wearing kind. Luna the Fashion Kitty is, however. This feline fashionista has been wearing cute outfits since she was just a baby, so strutting around in colorful tutus or dresses is second nature to her. Luna’s 18,000 Facebook fans are so used to seeing her with clothes on, in fact, that on the rare times she posts a photo “in the fur,” she seems totally naked!

I caught up with Luna the other day and asked her a few questions, so we could all get to know her better. I hope you enjoy her candid interview!

Julia: How old are you, and what breed are you?
Luna: I’m 5 years old, and I’m a Cream Point Himalayan Purrsian.

Julia: Most kitties hate clothes, but you seem totally comfortable in yours (dare I say, you even seem to enjoy them!). How and when did this clothes wearing thing begin?
Luna: I come from a fashionable family, my grandma had a boutique and the store next door carried furchild clothes! My momma couldn’t resist and got me an outfit, because she always had dogs and didn’t know that kitties hate clothes. Since I didn’t get the “hate clothes” memo either, I felt very good in my outfit from the beginning. That was it, I was meant to be The Fashion Kitty.

Julia: How many outfits do you have now?
Luna: Too many to count! Last time we tried to count them, there were close to 300 outfits!

Julia: What are your favorite outfits?
Luna: I look so good in EVERYTHING that is hard to have a favorite!

Julia: A common theme of your outfits seems to be frilly tutus and matching hair bows – what’s up with that?
Luna: What’s up with what? I’m very girly and we kitties jump better than any ballerina, so it’s just logical that tutus and bows are a big part of my wardrobe.

Julia: Is it hard to use your litterbox in a dress? 
Luna: Not at all! Sometimes if I’m wearing a big tutu, I leave the tutu in the box. Lol. What can I say, the hole to my kitty box is too small fur a big tutu butt!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

How to Help Dogs with Compulsive Pica

By Langley Cornwell

We’ve all laughed over the old excuse “the dog ate my homework,” but even a phrase as innocent as that might not be funny to someone whose dog has compulsive pica.

Pica is characterized by a desire to consume substances that are non-nutritive, and it can affect not only dogs but also cats, as Julia covered in her article Does Your Cat Eat Strange Things? In fact, people can suffer from pica, too.

The first dog I had as an adult—a rescued black lab—had pica and I didn’t know it. When she was 10 years old she got very sick. My regular vet and an emergency vet had no idea what was wrong and, surprisingly, multiple x-rays revealed nothing. I lived in a college town with a well-respected veterinary school, so my vet took my dog to the school for examination. After more fluid-bags and pills than I could count, with my sweet baby barely hanging on, my vet said the only thing he could do was exploratory surgery.

I still credit that vet with saving Sadie’s life. Apparently she had an extreme case of pica. He had a quart-sized bag full of treasures that he found in my dog’s intestinal tract, including seashells, twist ties, rocks and the finger of a garden glove. He said her system had probably done a good job of passing these things in the past, but what got her in trouble this time was a pinecone with a piece of twine wrapped around it. The piece of twine was long and prohibited the pinecone from passing through.

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