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December 2017

What does it mean when my dog licks the air?

 by lucy on 27 Dec 2017 |
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We’ve all watched our canine companions lick themselves clean, but some dogs lick at the air for seemingly no reason. While lip licking is perfectly normal in some cases, such as before a meal or after eating, this behavior can signal something’s wrong when it continues for no apparent reason or becomes a compulsive habit.   Dogs use body language to communicate and in the canine world, lip licking is an appeasement gesture. Dogs suffering from stress or trauma, or those that are more timid in general, are more prone to this behavior, which is your pet’s way of saying, “Let’s be friends.” To help reassure your dog, remain calm and assertive—but not forceful—and never use punishment as a part of his training. If he is suffering situational stress, such as from moving homes, try reducing the stressors as much as possible. If your dog is licking the air outside of stressful situations, there may be a physical or psychological reason behind his behavior. Licking the air constantly can indicate digestive problems or nausea as well as dental pain. Air licking is also associated with certain types of seizures, so it’s important to take your pet to the vet if he starts compulsively flapping his tongue. Your vet can help diagnose the problem and eliminate potentially serious health conditions that could be causing your pet’s behavior. If Fido does have a serious condition such as seizures, your veterinarian can prescribe medicine that can help prevent problems. If, however, your dog shows no signs of physical ailments, his lip licking may be a diagnosed as a compulsive disorder.   Like humans, our pets can suffer from psychological disorders that cause them to engage in repeated, obsessive behaviors. Air licking is one of these behaviors, and some dogs respond to treatment from a trained animal behaviorist. Other helpful changes include increasing Fido’s mental and physical stimulation; reducing stress-inducing stimuli; and positive replacement behavior for lip-licking, such as teaching your dog to lie down when the licking behavior starts. Before taking these routes, however, ask yourself if your dog has experienced any upset that could be causing the problem. Changes from moving house to introducing a new pet to the home, shifts in routine or the absence of a common person in his life can cause your pet stress. Rule out these stressors before seeking your veterinarian’s help.   Lip licking isn’t always a sign something’s wrong, but if you think it is, you can help your vet by providing him with some basic information. Give him a history of your pet’s licking behavior—including when it started, how long it’s been going on and where it most often occurs—as well as training and punishment practices used at home and how your family responds to the lip-licking behavior. This will help him get to the root of the problem causing your pet’s lip-licking behavior.

Tips to stop your cat from biting

 by lucy on 20 Dec 2017 |
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Whether it’s an affectionate action or a move made in self-defense, biting is a problem when it comes to cats. To address the issue, you must first examine what’s causing your cat to bite and then tackle the underlying problem.   Cats—especially kittens—engage in rough play such as stalking, chasing, pouncing, swatting, kicking and biting. This not only helps them hone their hunting skills, but is a key part of social play. Unfortunately, this friendly behavior can leave you with scratches that can become infected. Biting can also be a form of communication for cats and your feline may be using his teeth to tell you something— that he’s hungry, wants you to open a door, or the litter box needs cleaning. If your pet tries to lead you somewhere or meows immediately after he bites, he likely is aiming to direct your attention to his needs. Cats also bite when feeling stressed or anxious. This can be due to anything from loud music or roughhousing children to introducing a new pet to the household. Animals also bite to assert dominance, and your cay may be using this behavior to declare himself chief of the household. You’ll know your pet is trying to be alpha if his biting is not playful, he does not attempt to cuddle afterwards, or he refuses to back down.   To stop your pet from biting, you must first evaluate what is causing the behavior. If Kitty is using his mouth in self-defense against boisterous children, for example, try putting your pet in a separate room before they arrive. Keep your home as calm as possible and minimize changes if your pet’s biting seems linked to stress. If your cat is biting as a part of playtime, provide him with plenty of toys and alternative sources of entertainment. Engaging your cat in play about twice a day with a catnip mouse, fishing pole, or other toy not only redirects his hunting instincts away from your hands and feet, but also reinforces the bond you share with your pet. You might even consider getting a second cat for your pet to play with or building him an outdoor enclosure to burn off extra energy. And remember— never use your fingers as toys when playing with your cat.   While you should never strike or shout at your pet, you can clap your hands and say “No” firmly when he bites. If you are playing, put your cat in “timeout” by ending the game immediately and walking away. You may also want to keep a squirt bottle nearby and use it immediately after your cat bites. Some owners find success keeping toys on hand to throw and redirect a biting feline’s attention. With consistent training, your pet should adjust his biting behavior.

This is why your dog isn’t listening to you

 by lucy on 13 Dec 2017 |
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When your dog ignores your commands, it isn’t just frustrating—it can be dangerous to his health. Not only does snubbing your instructions show a lack of respect for you as his pack leader, but your dog’s failure to follow commands can put him in danger of being hit by a car, eating something hazardous, or engaging with an aggressive animal. There are a few reasons Fido might not be paying attention that aren’t immediately obvious.   If you’re having trouble communicating with your pet, try removing excess energy from the equation. When a dog is riled up, he’s more easily distracted and less likely to pay attention to your commands. Exercising him daily helps relive pent up energy, and speaking in a calm, assertive tone can let your pet know you mean business. This is important as dogs are pack animals and are most likely to listen to their owners when they perceive them to be pack leaders. Frenzied or uncertain speaking conveys to your dog that you do not have the situation under control and he may try to take matters into his own hands. If you’re not sure what kind of energy your commands are giving off, ask a friend or family member to observe your interactions and offer feedback.   Of course, failure to follow commands could also mean your dog doesn’t understand what you’re saying. It takes hundreds or even thousands of repetitions to master a new skill, and Fido may need to re-up his training before he’s nailed a trick. To make sit, stay and come even clearer, incorporate a unique hand gesture with each command. Body language is one of the most important ways dogs communicate with each other and this could help clarify what you’re asking. Practice commands using the same verbal and physical cues each time, offering treats and praise as rewards.   Communicating requires attention, so note your dog’s emotional state if he’s having trouble listening. If fireworks are going off, your pet may be too scared to register what you’re saying. Likewise, if your dog is busy claiming his territory from a passing pup, he may not listen to your command. If fear, dominance or another emotion is keeping your dog from being an A+ listener, it’s important to address these underlying issues. A professional behaviorist can offer help if you’re struggling with this.   There’s often more than meets that eye when dogs fail to listen to their owners, so it’s important to take a step back and examine why your pet might not be listening. Whether he’s distracted or having trouble understanding the command, your pet likely wants to please you and just needs some help along the way.

How to ditch the itch when your cat has skin allergies

 by lucy on 06 Dec 2017 |
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Cats are allergic to many of the same things as people, but unlike us, our feline friends usually display symptoms on their skin. From excessive itching, biting or licking to hair loss, skin lesions, scabs and infected wounds, your cat can display a host of unpleasant allergy symptoms. Fortunately, with your vet’s help, you can treat your cat’s dermatitis.   Just like us, cats can suffer from environmental, flea and food allergies, and these allergies cause them to itch. Unfortunately, by the time your feline shows symptoms from his allergy, he has been suffering for some time. One of the first lines of defense against itchy skin is corticosteroids. These anti-inflammatory medicines are prescribed by a vet and can provide your pet with relief from his allergy symptoms until you can get to the root of the problem. However, owners should be wary of the side effects that long-term or excessive steroid use can cause, including problems with your cat’s liver and endocrine system.   Because flea saliva can cause allergic reactions, one of the first actions you should take treat your cat’s dermatitis is to treat him for fleas. Even indoor cats should be treated for fleas for several months to rule these parasites as the source of Kitty’s problems. Likewise, you can try switching your pet’s diet to test for a food allergy that may be the source of his allergies. If your cat’s allergies persist, talk to your vet about visiting a veterinary dermatologist, who can test for allergies with an intradermal, or “pin prick,” skin test and blood work. It will help to provide any information on when and how your cat’s itching began, and how well any treatments worked and for how long. Your veterinarian may have insight about dietary changes or other changes, such as unscented cat litter and household cleaning products, that could help your pet.   Skin disease remains more of a mystery in cats than it does in their canine counterparts, due largely to the fact that many of the skin problems cats face mimic one another. This makes diagnosing skin conditions a problem. Cats may react to several different allergens, making diagnosis difficult. Many pets prefer to bath—and itch—alone, making it difficult for owners to distinguish normal grooming from excessive itching.   Remember, never give your cat an antihistamine or other medication without consulting your vet first.
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