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July 2014

How to Help Your Cat Cope with Grief

 by jaime on 31 Jul 2014 |
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  Cats can form strong bonds with other humans and other furry members of the family. You may not even realize the depth of this attachment until that friend is gone. With the loss of a loved companion, cats can become more aloof, lethargic, and even stop eating and drinking. In some cases, the cat's personality may seem to change. A once-aloof cat may suddenly become very affectionate. An otherwise quiet cat may become vocal, crying nonstop looking for their lost friend. Here are some ways to help your cat cope with its grief.   Get a full vet exam A cat that is acting depressed may be suffering from an illness. Lethargy, lack of play, and not eating or drinking are all also symptoms of many medical problems, such as bacterial and viral infections, and kidney and liver disease. It's important to first rule out a physical medical cause with a veterinarian's help before assuming that he or she is grieving. If the vet determines that your cat is healthy and it is grief, your vet may also be able to offer suggestions to help get through this tough time.   Spend more time with kitty Even if your cat was never the most affectionate, spending more time with your grieving kitty will help it not feel alone. By petting or playing with your cat, you will help him or her take an active interest in life again outside of the grief. Even if you just sit next to your cat, this will provide the companionship he or she is missing.    Play music Just as music can lift a human's spirits, it can have the same effect on a cat. Calming music can help relax the now over-anxious cat, whereas upbeat music may help the now lethargic cat. You may need to try different types of music to see what your cat responds to.   Get a new pet when you are ready If the grief is the result of a lost pet, a new pet may be just what you both need. Whether you adopt another pet right away or wait to give yourself and your cat time to work through some of the grief first is a personal choice - you should do what feels best. Of course, no pet will replace the one you and your kitty just lost. However, a new friend for your cat will get it moving again. At first, your cat may not agree that a new pet was a good idea, but even if he or she acts aggressive or aloof with the new addition to the family, this will get your cat moving and thinking about something other than his or her lost companion.   Know that it is normal for cats to grieve, and just like in humans, they will do it in their own way. Support your cat as much as you can, but recognize that it's a process that will take time.

5 Cancer Warning Signs To Look Out For in Your Dog

 by jaime on 31 Jul 2014 |
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  Medical doctors and governmental agencies are constantly reminding human beings to be aware of the signs their bodies are giving them about health and wellness. For pet owners, it is equally important to be aware of the warning signs that something is wrong with your best friend. You might even argue that it is more important to be aware of, and looking for, warning signs in your dog. After all, your dog does not share your language and cannot clearly communicate when it is in distress. If you own a pooch you should be aware of the warning signs that indicate your dog could be suffering from cancer. Rather than wait till it is too late, be on the lookout for these signs to try and catch cancer when it can be stopped (or suffering minimized). It's important to note that the following signs are quite general and just because your dog may be showing some of the below signs doesn't mean they are suffering from cancer. In the first instance, take your concerns to your local vet so any nasty medical conditions, including cancer can be ruled out.   1. Strong odors It can be difficult to tell with this one, because every owner is likely to believe that dogs have a few funky smells that humans simply are not accustomed to sensing. While "dog breath" is common in all dogs, it should not be immensely overpowering. Strong, foul odors coming from your dog's mouth, nose, or hindquarters could be a sign of a tumor.   2. Bumps & lumps Take a little time once each month to run your hands along your dog's body in search of any unusual lumps or bumps under their skin. Be sure to check behind the ears and around the face. When you do this for the first time, a bump could just be a bump. The key is to keep a mental note of where you noticed bumps or lumps, and look again in 2-4 weeks to see if they feel bigger and/or have noticeably increased in size.   3. Weight loss Your dog's weight should remain in a healthy range and not fluctuate too much. Of course, your dog's body weight will fluctuate from time to time. For example, the warm summer months might cause your dog to shed pounds if it eats less or sheds a heavy second coat. What you need to keep an eye open for are sudden, drastic dips in weight.   4. Loss of appetite Is your dog one of those pooches that simply cannot wait for you to put the food dish down before pouncing? A sudden loss of interest in food or lowered appetite could be a sign that your dog is sick. While this doesn't necessarily mean cancer is the culprit, it is a possibility and should be cause for concern in any case.   5. Lack of energy You've undoubtedly heard of the "dog days of summer," when everyone's energy levels dip because it's just too darn hot to do much of anything. There is, however, a difference between a lazy dog and a lethargic dog. You've probably had your dog long enough to know its activity patterns throughout the day. If you notice an extended, severe dip in its activity levels you should consult a veterinarian to ensure that cancer is not aggressively growing in your dog's body. Feature image credit  

Cats and Asthma

 by jaime on 31 Jul 2014 |
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  A cat suffering from asthma will noticeably struggle for breath. They will stop moving, breathe with their mouths open, and you may see their sides move in and out as they struggle for air. They may also have congestion in their lungs and cough up mucus. You may hear them wheeze when breathing. If the asthma is severe, the cat's gums and other mucus membranes may turn blue from lack of oxygen. As with asthma in humans, these symptoms will come and go. Cats will have an asthma attack and then may seem fine once the attack is over.   Allergies and Asthma Asthma caused by allergies is most common in cats versus other pets reports The Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health.  This is usually a seasonal condition and more severe in the summer and when cats spend more time outside. When exposed to an allergen, the histamines released cause the lungs and airways to constrict, making it difficult for the cat to breathe.   Chronic Asthma Cats with chronic asthma will have asthma year round. In chronic asthma, more than just allergies will trigger an attack. Exercise and stress may trigger an attack. Sometimes cats with chronic asthma may struggle to breathe for no apparent reason. Usually cats are born with this condition and symptoms start when they are kittens or as young cats. It's most common in Oriental breeds, such as Siamese and Himalayan cats, and may be hereditary. It's rare for an older adult cat to suddenly develop chronic asthma.   Diagnosing Asthma in Cats Seasonal asthma due to allergies can be easier to diagnosed just based on symptoms. If the cat has reduced or no symptoms during the winter or when kept indoors, then a diagnosis can be made clinically. However, for symptoms that do not easily resolve and occur year-round, the veterinarian will need to perform more tests to determine the cause of a cat's breathing problems. This may include x-rays, cultures of mucus, and viewing the airways and lungs with an endoscope.     Treating Asthma in Cats If the cause of a cat's asthma is allergies, then avoiding the allergy is the best prevention. This may mean keeping your cat indoors. If this does not resolve the symptoms, then your veterinarian may prescribe a corticosteroid, such as prednisone, and/or inhalers similar to medications used in humans that help open the airways. For severe acute attacks, cats may need emergency treatment at the veterinarian's office.   If your cat has been diagnosed with asthma, know that it can be managed and your cat can live a long, active life. However, you will need to learn to manage your cat's condition with your veterinarian's help. Ask your vet how to best prevent asthma attacks and how to best treat asthma attacks when they do occur. Also, ask your vet how to determine if you can treat the asthma attack at home or if you should bring your cat in for emergency veterinary care. Feature image credit

Can Dogs Really Recognize Us?

 by jaime on 30 Jul 2014 |
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  Every dog owner knows what it is like to return home to a pup that has been awaiting their arrival after a long day at work. The moment that door flings open, your best friend is sitting there with an anxious look on its face. Their tail might be wagging 100 MPH, the ears pinned back, and its front paws barely able to stay on the floor as it braces to jump up and give you a warm welcome. During this reunion with your pup, is it simply excited to see another person in its environment, or is this reaction uniquely for you as the owner because the dog recognizes your face? It begs the question: can a dog actually recognize human faces? A study conducted four years ago, and published in the journal Animal Behavior, found that dogs do have the capacity to recognize the face of their human owners in person. In the study, a dog was placed in a sterile room with no distractions or toys to excite the animal. The experiment began with the dog's owner and another individual entering the room, crisscrossing their paths several times in front of the dog, and then exiting the room through two separate doors. The scientists following the dog's head and eye movement found that most of the dogs participating in the study fixed their gaze on the movement of their owners. When the owner and the other individual had departed, the dogs were then allowed free movement in the room. Again, the vast majority of dogs would move toward the door their owner had exited through, sitting in front of (or near) it waiting for their owner to return. In order to establish the importance of facial recognition, the scientists had the owner and another individual repeat their movements through the room wearing a bag over their heads to disguise their faces. During this phase, the dogs involved in the experiment paid less attention to their owners. The eye and head movement of most dogs was random and, in many cases, the dogs spent equal time watching the movements of both individuals. The only question that remained regarding dogs and facial recognition was whether or not they could recognize their owners' faces when they did not see them in person. Could a dog recognize a simple image of its owner's face? A new study from December 2013 suggests that dogs can indeed recognize their owner's face in an image alone. The new eye-movement study was conducted at the University of Helsinki in Finland. The study tracked the eye movements of thirty one participant dogs. The animals were shown images of human faces, as well as the faces of other dogs, on the screen in front of them. The scientists leading the experiment found that dogs would fix their gaze on the face of their owners for longer periods of time compared to the faces of strangers. Another not so shocking finding from the study revealed that dogs fixed their gaze for the longest period of time on the face of other dogs. The thirty one participants all gazed at images of other dogs, from the same house or unknown dogs, for longer periods of time than their human owners' faces. Then again, any dog owner knows how fixated their dog becomes when another dog has the nerve to waltz through the yard, so this fact shouldn't come as a surprise.

Vestibular Disorders in Cats

 by danielle on 30 Jul 2014 |
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Vestibular disorders are unfortunately common in cats.  Also known as the labyrinth, the vestibular apparatus is a sense organ which is composed by three canals, an utricle and a saccule. The apparatus is stimulated by gravity and rotational movement and plays a vital role in allowing cats to orient themselves in space as well as maintain balance.   A vestibular disorder essentially interferes with a cat’s ability to move correctly. A cat suffering a vestibular disorder is likely to wobble, circle, fall and roll continually with the world through their eyes seeming to spin. They may also lean again the wall to try and hold themselves up as well as crouch low to the floor when attempting to walk. Rapid jerking eye movements and head tilting are also common symptoms.   Image Credit   The causes of vestibular issues vary. Some cats are affected by a simple inner ear infection, however other causes can be far more serious issues such as strokes, brain tumours, head trauma, thiamin deficiency and brain infections.   Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome is also a common cause of the problem. The syndrome is mysterious with there being no current understanding of how it begins. Onset is typically sudden and affects a cat’s ability to walk. There is a suggestion environmental factors may be to blame as there is usually a significant increase in cases in July and August in the United States.   Image Credit   In idiopathic cases, just as suddenly as the syndrome begins, it ceases, with recovery usually occurring in two or three days. Generally speaking a cat with be healthy again in three weeks time, though some cats retain a permanent head tilt. Whilst recovery usually occurs naturally, a suffering cat will need supportive care from a veterinarian as eating and drinking will become difficult for them during the first stages of the syndrome.   Disorders can also be the result of a congenital vestibular defect. Particularly prevalent in Oriental breeds such as the Siamese, kittens may born with the issue and manifest rolling and circling behaviours shortly after birth. Sadly, there is no cure. 

Teach Your Dog to Open and Close Doors

 by danielle on 30 Jul 2014 |
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Wouldn’t it be amazing if your dog knew how to open the door to let themselves outside in the mornings? Guide dogs are taught this skill as a necessity, but with a bit of training it is quite possible for any dog to become a door opening extraordinaire.   There are a number of methods to teach door opening – one of the most effective is to use the humble post-it note.   Image Credit   The first step is to get your dog to learn that touching the post-it note is a great idea. Hold it in your hand and show it to your dog and say ‘Door’. When they sniff or paw at it, give them a treat immediately. With some persistence your dog will get the idea bumping the post-it note leads to yummy things.   The next step is to stick the note onto a door. Your dog should see the note and go to tap it to get their reward. Even if the door barely moves, give them a reward and make a great fuss.   To move closer to your dog actually fully opening the door, withhold the treat until your dog pushes the door harder – let them try tapping twice, opening the door farther, before you give them their biscuit. Gradually increase the amount your dog has to push the door before they get what they are after.   Once your dog has learnt opening, the next step is to teach closing. Allow your dog to push open the door and give them a reward. Then direct their attention to the post it note you have placed on the other side.   Image Credit   Dogs are great pattern learners. Repeating ‘tap post-it’, ‘walk through door’, then ‘turn and tap post-it’ should cement the idea in their mind with persistence.   When your dog has mastered that pattern it is time to make things a bit more difficult once again. Start to cut down the post-it, so it gets smaller and smaller, until there is nothing left of it for your dog to see at all. This will teach your dog to associate the action with the door itself rather than a square of paper.   Now your dog can push a door open and shut it is time for the challenge of handles. Some handles are going to be impossible for your dog to master – round knobs for example. However any kind of handle you can tie a piece of rope to that will open it with a tug such as a long metal handle are entirely conquerable.   Image Credit   This part of training is going to be lots of fun. Using the rope play tug of war with your pup until they see the cloth and think “I need to grab and pull”. Next it is time to tie to your door handle and encourage them to tug, helping by waving the end of the rope around if necessary. If you dog tugs even just a little reward them. Practice getting your dog to tug the rope enough for the handle to drop and open the door.   Once you have that down, it is time to put it all together! As with all training practice makes perfect. Repeat consistently tugging the rope, pushing the door open then pushing it shut until your dog can do it on autopilot. Pretty soon you will never have to jump out of bed early on a weekend to let them outside again!    Image Credit   Feature Image Credit   

Cats and Bad Breath: Possible Causes and What to Do

 by danielle on 29 Jul 2014 |
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Dog’s aren’t the only pets that can suffer bad breath. Cats too can emit powerful, foul smelling odours when they open their mouths, which can also make their fur reek after they engage in a thorough grooming session. Whilst your cat’s breath is not supposed to scent sweetly of perfume, if it smells strongly unpleasant there are a variety of medical conditions that may be to blame.    Image Credit Bacterial colonies in residence of kitty’s mouth are the uninvited occupants responsible for unpleasant smells. This bacteria may not only cause you to want to hold your breath when your cat starts yowling for dinner but also seriously affect your cat’s health. Bacteria spread via the bloodstream from the mouth to other organs, such as the liver, kidneys and heart can result in serious ailments, and even organ failure making bad breath more than problem for your nose.   Image Credit   Poor dental care is one of the most common causes of reeking cat mouths. Teeth brushing is just as necessary to dogs and cats as it is to human dental care. A number of cat friendly pastes in flavours such as chicken and fish are available along with specially designed toothbrushes to allow you to clean your cat’s pearly whites and reduce tartar and bacterial build up. Dental chew toys and treats are also recommended for use in conjunction with brushing to improve dental health, as are natural 'chews' like chicken necks from the butcher.   Image Credit   If your cat’s dental problems are more advanced, a trip to the vet for extensive teeth cleaning may be essential. The procedure involves placing the cat under anaesthetic and scraping away large amounts of residue – and even removal of certain teeth if it appears deterioration has drastically progressed.   Image Credit   If your cat appears to have perfect teeth, yet still suffers horrid breath, other feline disorders may be responsible. Bad breath is a symptom of kidney disease and diabetes along with a number of other feline diseases and syndromes. If you suspect these my be an issue with your cat, veterinary diagnosis and treatment is essential.   

Dogs with Dementia: Signs to Look for and How to Help

 by danielle on 29 Jul 2014 |
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Due to modern health care innovations, dogs, like humans, are living longer than ever before. This means we can now enjoy many more years of play and cuddles with our canine pals than we might have done in the past. However, with this increased life span we have also seen a rise in the number of dogs affected by cognitive dysfunctions like dementia.    Physical changes in the brain and its chemicals resulting from the aging process lie at the heart of canine dementia or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) as it is also known. Studies of suffering dogs have shown brain lesions evident on scans similar to those displayed by human sufferers of Alzheimer’s. Essentially, these brain changes lead to differences and deterioration in how your dog thinks, learns and remembers.   Image Credit   You dog may have dementia if they: Seem to become lost or disoriented in the house or backyard they used to know well Fail to respond to their name or other training commands they used to Wander the house endlessly without purpose Struggle to learn new commands or how to navigate about new places Become increasingly withdrawn and sleep a great deal Seem to forget their housetraining and have increased accidents Fail to recognise family members Incessantly bark for no apparent reason   Image Credit However, it is important to note a dog displaying one or a number of these behaviours does not necessarily have dementia. Some dogs become increasingly deaf as they age, meaning their lack of response to commands could derive from their inability to hear them correctly. A loss of the same bladder control they had when younger can lead to accidents rather than confusion over where they are supposed to go.   A vet diagnosis is essential to establish whether or not your beloved senior is suffering from CCD or is simply aging gracefully. If your dog is affected by dementia the drug Anipryl has been shown to be extremely helpful in a number of cases. Supplements and vitamins such as omega-3 fatty acids and anti-oxidants can be also be useful by supporting brain function also.   Image Credit No solution however will entirely turn back the clock. Keeping your elderly dog’s life comfortable as well as showing patience and compassion is the best way to help keep them happy as they live out the remainder of their days in your care.  Try to maintain a solid routine of feeding and exercise to keep things as simple as possible and avoid moving around your furniture and other objects in your dog’s world to keep down their levels of disorientation. Most of all, enjoy the time you have together while you still have it and thank them for the years of love and loyalty they have shown to you with patient affection.   Feature Image Credit

Why Your Cat's Appetite has Increased

 by simone on 28 Jul 2014 |
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Cats are like us in many ways – they enjoy a stretch, a nap in the sun and some peace and quiet. They can also experience an increased appetite. Cold weather, greater activity, growth periods, pregnancy and lactation are all possible, and normal, causes of increased appetite.   Polyphagia is the term used for an increased consumption of food. Your vet should investigate any change in appetite that results in a change in your cat’s weight as it could be related to a medical condition. You should always consult your vet if your cat loses their appetite, whether accompanied by any weight change or not.   Often older cats will experience polyphagia and this is a normal part of the aging process. Your cat could beg constantly for food due to learned behaviour or overfeeding.   Food that is of poor quality will mean that your cat needs to consume larger amounts to meet nutritional and dietary requirements. Always give your cat quality food that has the right nutritional value. Your vet will be able to provide brand suggestions.    Some medications, such as those containing steroids, may lead to increased appetite. Your vet and the information on the medication’s packaging will indicate if this is expected. If it is not an expected side effect then consult your vet.   Medical conditions Some diseases or conditions are associated with increases in appetite and will result in weight gain or loss. Intestinal parasites or worms  Hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s disease – more common in middle-aged or older cats and is caused by the excessive production of cortisol by the adrenal gland. Often associated with increased thirst and urination. Hyperthyroidism – usually occurs in older cats and results from a tumour of the thyroid gland. Other symptoms include weight loss, vomiting, increased heart rate and increased activity.  Acromegaly – the overproduction of growth hormone by the pituitary gland usually as a result of a tumour. Diabetes mellitus – due to an insufficient production of insulin in the body or when cells don’t respond to insulin.  Usually also accompanied by excessive thirst and urination.  Diabetic ketoacidosis – caused when the body can’t utilise glucose and instead begins to break down fat for energy. Insulin producing tumors (insulinomas, liver tumors) – these cause a lowering of blood sugar levels.  Conditions associated with malabsorption or maldigestion such as inflammatory bowel disorders, intestinal cancers and exocrine pancreatic insufficiency where there is insufficient pancreatic enzymes for complete digestion. Accompanying symptoms to look out for : Weight loss or gain Increased thirst Increased urination Change in body shape Muscle weakness or degeneration Vomiting Diarrhoea Changes in behaviour   Feature image credit  

Why do Cats Suddenly Attack Their Owners?

 by jaime on 28 Jul 2014 |
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It can be like a scene from Jaws. You can imagine the music playing in the background as you walk down the dark hallway, or near furniture where it could be lurking underneath. Just as you think you've made it safely passed, it springs from its hiding place and latches onto your legs. This isn't done with playful kitten joy, but with seemingly vicious intent to draw blood.   If you know this scene all too well, then you live with a cat that attacks without provocation. Some cats may turn on you when you are petting them. They may seem relaxed and happy one moment and then angry and fierce the next, leaving you with a bloody hand.   There are several reasons why a cat acts out with unprovoked aggression. Understanding the cause can help you decide how to work on solving this feline behavior problem.   Health issues A cat that is sick for any reason may have a sudden personality change. A once sweet and affectionate cat may now be aloof and aggressive. A cat with an injury may attack when you touch a spot that hurts. Take your cat to the veterinarian to find out if there is a medical reason for your cat's behavior.     Lack of socialization Kittens that are not handled regularly by people at a young age grow up to be cats that don't know how to properly socialize with people. This can turn into aggression because they may fear people or just don't know how to properly interact with people.   Territorial behavior The cat may be protecting its territory from intrusion. In such cases, the cat has not accepted humans as friends. They see people as enemies who are encroaching on their territory.   Hyperesthesia Hyperesthesia is a recognized anxiety disorder in cats. Cats with hyperesthesia are overly sensitive to any touch along the spine and tail. When pet down the back, they may have muscle spasms, become aggressive, or even appear to hallucinate. Experts do not completely understand this condition, but two theories are that it is a type of seizure disorder or a form of obsessive compulsive disorder.   How to stop a cat that attacks If your cat's aggression is not caused by a medical condition, then you can take steps at home to help your cat feel more comfortable around people. Make sure your cat has a retreat area where it can hide, feel safe, and take a break from people. A covered cat bed or tall cat tree works well as a kitty retreat. When your cat is in this space, leave it alone. Spend time with your cat feeding it favored cat treats. Feed the treats while petting to help your cat associate petting with good things. Don't ever hit or yell at your cat, as this will only reinforce their fear and aggressive behaviors.   If you have tried all these things at home and your cat is still aggressive, then ask your veterinarian for help. Your vet can prescribe medications to help with cat behavior problems. A veterinarian can also recommend a cat behaviorist who can come to your home and give you more advice that is specific to your individual cat's personality and behavior.
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