Don’t Let Monsoon Months put a Damper on Pets’ Fun
With a strike of lighting and a crackle of thunder, monsoon weather can be
refreshing and uplifting. The summer rains give us a break from the
unbearable high temperatures; but not all dogs and cats feel the same way.
The Humane Society of Southern Arizona wants to remind you of some ways to
keep your pets calm, happy and relaxed during these seasonal storms.
Many dogs and cats are afraid of the loud noises associated with summer
thunderstorms, causing pets to jump fences and run great distances from home
trying to escape the commotion. Some dogs are so terrified by the sounds of
thunderstorms their reactions can result in harm to themselves. Each year,
the HSSA receives an influx of lost and frightened pets. Here are some tips
that all pet owners should follow to ensure their pets’ safety:
– Keep your pet indoors and for pets with extreme sensitivity if
possible, create a ‘den-like’ environment e.g. crate, room or walk-in closet
free of windows.
– If at all possible, remain home with your pet to provide comfort
– Turn on a TV or radio to provide soothing sounds that will
distract your pet from outside noises.
– Animals that are extremely sensitive to noise may benefit from
the use of veterinarian-prescribed sedative.
– Try using a Thunder Shirt to keep your pet calm. Shirts fit
snugly on pets providing all-around pressure and minimizing anxiety and
– Keep a well-fitting collar and identification tag with current
contact information on your pet and have your pet microchipped; make sure
contact information is current.
If your pet becomes lost, immediately call HSSA’s Lost and Found Department
at 327-6088, ext. 111, and the county shelter, Pima Animal Care Center, at
243-5900 to file a lost report and get information on conducting an
effective search. Visit found-pets.org and be sure to visit each shelter at
least every other day to look for your pet in person.
The act of pointing — a dog becoming motionless with his snout toward an object — is normally associated with dogs who are bred and trained for hunting. Hundreds of years ago, the first of these dogs were bred in Europe to sniff out birds and then “freeze.” Holding the pointing position told hunters where to throw their nets and capture the prey. Because most dogs chase birds, a dog with the ability to stop in the presence of a plump partridge still proves invaluable to hunters today. But hunting breeds aren’t the only ones who will point, so don’t be surprised if you see this behavior in your pup.
What does a “point” look like? “The classical point is a dog very intense, standing motionless, with the nose thrust forward at the strongest scent, with one front foot bent up and tail (if it has one) directed toward the sky,” says Dr. Lesley Birmingham, DVM, a retired private practitioner in Maine with 40 years of experience with hunting dogs.
While the point of a well-trained dog is graceful in its precision and control, it takes months of training to look that effortless and regular practice to maintain the skill. Certain breeds lend themselves to learning how to point like a pro, and within the pointers, some breeds’ talents lend themselves to specific hunts, explains Dr. Birmingham. “If you hunt game such as Hungarian Partridge or Sharptail Grouse in big open spaces, you need a ‘big-going’ dog that can physically handle running long distances, such as the English Pointer or Setter,” he says. “If you are hunting Grouse in thick woods, on the other hand, you might choose a Brittany, German Shorthaired Pointer or Wirehair.”
Even if your dog isn’t a hunting breed, you might see him pointing. Dr. Ellen M. Vindell, VMD of Veterinary Behavior Consultations in Pleasant Valley, N.Y., says that dogs by their very nature and biology are capable of spontaneously exhibiting many of the behaviors prized by breeders. After all, “dogs are just dogs, and there are certain behaviors that probably any dog that’s a dog can do,” says Dr. Lindell. “They’re anatomically equipped to [act that way].” Even dogs bred and trained for one trait can often exhibit other talents. “You’ll see a sporting dog who circles like a herding dog, and you’ll get some herding dogs who point,” she adds.
So, while their stances may be amateurish compared to trained pointers, it’s definitely not unusual for a dog who is not from a breed associated with pointing to point, either because this may be a behavior that just naturally appears in dogs or because somewhere in the dog’s heritage there was a pointing breed like a Brittany Spaniel or an English Pointer.
If you’re interested in teaching your pup to point, any behavior can be taught and reinforced with enough time and effort, even with dogs who don’t show an aptitude — although in that case, the teaching could be more tedious. “It’s just a question of if you want to,” Dr. Lindell says.
Dr. Birmingham agrees. He has personal experience with his own Golden Retriever, Marley, who points when she sees squirrels. “Any dog could be trained to point (freeze) with the right trainer and unlimited time,” he says. “It is just a lot easier and quicker if a dog has been bred for this trait.”
Even within pointing breeds, all pointers are not created equal. “The instinct from breeding varies from dog to dog, and training can improve those abilities with time,” Dr. Birmingham says. The main thing that sets a good pointer apart for hunters is the dog’s ability to hold the position as long as the hunter needs him to. “You want a dog that will hold the point until the hunter gets in position to shoot and flushes the bird,” says Dr. Birmingham, who stresses that ideally the dog should remain on point, even after the shot, to follow the bird visually and prepare to fetch when given that command.
While a hunting pointer’s activities are at least intended to lead to a beneficial and feathery conclusion, with a pet dog who practices pointing, the value of the behavior for the dog and owner could be limited, says Dr. Lindell. “Unlike running and chasing, I don’t recall having ever seen a dog in my practice and thought, My gosh! He never gets to point!”
Whoosh, flash . . . boom! Do thunderstorms make your dog quiver, cower and hide?
Experts don’t know why some pups are so bothered by storms, while others don’t flinch, but issues with noise tend to occur in canines who have other fear-related problems, such as separation anxiety. This link suggests that there may be a genetic predisposition to storm stress.
According to board-certified veterinary behaviorist Dr. Karen Sueda, DVM, of the VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital, there are two ways to approach storm-induced panic. The first pertains to coping with the dog’s fear while the thunderstorm is happening — and the second involves preparing for future storms.
Dr. Sueda offers three key ways to help your dog when a storm hits:
Make sure that your pooch has a safe place to retreat. This could be a crate, a spare bedroom or simply a quiet room with closed windows — and possibly some background music — to block out the sounds of heavy rain and high winds.
Be there for your dog, but don’t coddle her. Overly comforting your pup may reinforce the fearful behavior, making it harder to weather future storms. Stay in the same room as your dog, but don’t overattend to her. Instead, distract her by offering to play with toys, and reward calm behavior. If she’s too nervous to play, simply sit in the same space with her.
Try to stay calm yourself. A placid owner will further help a dog to relax.
Once you know that your dog suffers from storm stress, there are a few things that Dr. Sueda says you can do to address the anxiety ahead of time:
Start the process of desensitizing your dog to storm noises. Consider investing in a CD of thunderstorm sounds for dogs, which can be played to gradually get the pup used to hearing the crack of lightning and the whoosh of wind. At first, you play the sounds very low while the dog is doing an activity that she loves — such as eating or playing — and then you gradually increase the volume level over time.
Consider a natural calming product. A dog appeasing pheromone (D.A.P.) is designed to help reduce stress levels by mimicking naturally calming and comforting pheromones. A plug-in diffuser can gradually release the pheromone over a month, or you can spritz the product when the forecast calls for thunderstorms. Another option: Speak to your vet about calming treats that contain anti-anxiety nutraceuticals like tryptophan, L-theanine, vitamin B1 or colostrum complex. “I find that they are best [when] given prior to the storm or onset of anxiety,” says Dr. Sueda.
If these at-home strategies and tools don’t do the trick, talk to your vet about other treatment options, such as working with a veterinary behaviorist or trying a short-term anti-anxiety medication for a dog who has a severe reaction, like destructive chewing.
These measures can help reduce anxiety, prevent self-injury and improve a dog’s — and owner’s — quality of life.
By Arden Moore
Although it can be irksome for owners, being branded finicky could ultimately be a boon for cats — especially when it comes to ingesting potentially dangerous foods.
“The main drivers of palatability for cats are protein and fat content, with moisture and texture being important too,” says Dr. Sally Perea, DVM, DACVN, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at P&G Pet Care in Ohio.
Some “people food” is safe for cats in small amounts, but certain items — like raw fish and eggs — are definitely hazardous. Dr. Perea lists the top seven no-no foods for kitties:
“Human-grade sushi is generally safe for people, but it can cause gastrointestinal upset in cats,” says Dr. Perea. “There is thiaminase in raw fish that could break down an essential B vitamin called thiamine in cats. Thiamine deficiency can cause neurological problems — and even lead to convulsions.”
Cats are considered two times more susceptible than dogs to the toxic allium components found in onions and chives, which can damage red blood cells even if a kitty only consumes a trace amount. “It doesn’t matter if the onion is cooked, raw or powdered,” says Dr. Perea. “Cats do not metabolize these compounds.”
Cats benefit from protein, but raw eggs may expose them to salmonella and other parasites that could lead to an inflamed pancreas, known as pancreatitis. Dr. Perea adds that it’s safe to serve your kitty cooked eggs — but only on occasion, and in small amounts.
Bones can splinter and cause a cat to choke, as well as block the intestinal tract, possibly even perforating the intestines. “Never give a bone to a cat,” says Dr. Perea. “And never give them anything that is as hard as their teeth, because it can cause dental fractures.”
Feeding your feline fat trimmings could lead to gastrointestinal upset and even pancreatitis.
Some cats may be drawn to lapping up your coffee, tea or soda, but according to Dr. Perea, too much caffeine consumption can cause an increased heart rate and agitation in your kitty.
In general, a cat’s digestive tract becomes somewhat lactose intolerant once a cat reaches adulthood, causing diarrhea and other stomach upsets.
On occasion, Dr. Perea says it is safe to give your cat a little canned tuna or a small bit of cheese. But keep in mind that felines only need about 200 to 250 calories a day, so go easy on the portions, limiting treats to about 10 percent (20 to 25 calories) of their daily intake needs.
For more information on hazardous feline foods, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center website. And post the organization’s phone number — 888-426-4435 — on your refrigerator for easy reference in the event of an emergency. The call center is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) has concluded that dogs obtained from pet stores as puppies are more likely to develop undesirable behavioral characteristics than puppies obtained from non-commercial breeders.
The study’s authors conducted a cross-sectional study to gather data from 5,657 pet owners who obtained their puppies from breeders, and 413 owners who obtained puppies from pet stores. They collected data using the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), which is a standardized survey instrument that provides quantitative assessments of dogs’ behavioral characteristics.
According to the results of the data analysis, dogs obtained from pet stores as puppies scored worse than breeder-obtained dogs in almost all behavioral variables measured, the study authors reported.
“Results of the present study indicated that compared with dogs obtained as puppies from NCBs (non-commercial breeders), dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores had significantly greater aggression toward human family members, unfamiliar people, and other dogs; separation-related problems; and urination and defecation problems in the home,” the authors wrote.
While researchers said the data supports the idea that pet store dogs tend to exhibit worse behavior, they wrote that they could not point to a just one definitive cause for the behavioral problems. For stranger-directed aggression alone, they listed several possible causes including inadequate socialization, maltreatment by humans, genetic factors, and prenatal stress.
The authors also discussed previous research studies showing that stress in a dog’s early life can set the stage for behavioral problems later in life. According to the authors, puppies from pet stores may be more exposed to stressors in their early lives including transport-related stress, spatial restriction, limited access to positive human and conspecific social interactions.
“Substantial evidence in humans and other animals indicates that stressful experiences in early life may have extensive and enduring effects with strong correlations to later development of behavioral abnormalities and psychopathologic abnormalities,” the wrote.
The researchers wrote that more studies are needed to determine specific causes of the behavioral differences between the two groups of dogs, and until the additional research is conducted they cannot recommend obtaining puppies from pet stores.
“On the basis of these findings combined with earlier findings regarding pet store-obtained dogs, until the causes of the unfavorable differences detected in this group of dogs can be specifically identified and remedied, we cannot recommend that puppies be obtained from pet stores,” the study’s authors wrote.
Exactly when felines first became domesticated remains undetermined, but the why seems pretty clear: Pest control was a priority for early civilizations that needed to protect surplus crops from rodents — and cats proved to be natural-born mice killers.
It’s not surprising that modern house cats have retained the skills to hunt small critters, but why do today’s kitties often lay the prey at the feet of their human housemates?
Dr. E’Lise Christensen Bell, DVM, DACVB, of Veterinary Behavior Consultations of NYC, says that all cats can exhibit this behavior, but some are more likely to gift their owners with dead mice than others.
By Linda Fiorella
“Mother cats are the most likely to engage in this behavior as a natural part of parenting,” she says. “They bring dead prey back to the home area to start educating kittens about prey.”
If your cat isn’t raising kittens, Dr. Christensen Bell points to other potential reasons. For example, your kitty may be too full to eat, and she wants to save it for later — or snacking on prey just isn’t her cup of tea.
According to Dr. Christensen Bell, cats can be choosier about what they will eat than what they’ll catch. “Some [findings] suggest that cats don’t like jumping mice,” she explains. “These mice have been brought home, but were not found in the gastrointestinal tracts of the cats.”
In some cases, owners unwittingly encourage the behavior — a cat who gets extra attention when she delivers a furry corpse will likely do it again.
Another theory offered by Dr. Christensen Bell: Perhaps your feline is feeling generous, and she wants to share the grub with other cats in the household.
Keep in mind that this tendency is natural in cats — it’s not something that your kitty is doing wrong.
“If you don’t like it, ignore it. An owner should never punish a cat for bringing home a dead animal,” says Dr. Christensen Bell.
That said, she does have a few tips for dealing with a mouser:
Keep your kitty indoors.
Control pest problems within your home. This will diminish your cat’s urge to test out her hunting skills on live prey, instead of enriching toys.
Train your cat to leave presents in a specific spot. If your feline does go outside, you can “teach the cat to ‘drop’ items on cue, and leave them outside,” suggests Dr. Christensen Bell. “Before the cat comes inside, offer a super-tasty treat [near] where you want the cat to drop the prey.”
According to a new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), pet ownership likely contributes to a lowered risk of heart disease.
The organization reviewed previous studies to confirm its opinion about the positive correlation between owning pets and maintaining healthier hearts. While the AHA did not propose that previous research proves definitively that owning a pet is a direct cause of lowered heart disease risks, the organization did discuss several reasons why pet owners might have healthier hearts.
The AHA mentioned other previous research indicating that pet ownership may contribute to lower blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, decreased incidence of obesity, and bodies that are better able to handle stress.
The link between pet ownership and better health is especially true with dogs, the AHA said based on previous research it analyzed. The organization cited a study of more than 5,200 adults finding that dog owners were 54 percent more likely to get the recommended level of physical activity than non-dog owners.
While the AHA believes in the positive correlation between pet ownership and decreased heart disease risk, there is more research to be done concerning whether pet ownership can help people with pre-existing heart disease, said Glenn N. Levine, MD, professor at Baylor College of Medicine and chair of the committee that wrote the statement.