Why some animals have white legs
• If you’ve ever wondered why some animals have white “socks,” “mittens” or “boots,” science provides the answer. It’s related to a genetic oddity called piebaldism, the result of a mutation that causes melanocytes — the pigment cells that give color to hair, skin and eyes — to be distributed unevenly as they spread throughout the body during fetal development. Research published in 2016 in the journal Nature Communications suggests that piebaldism occurs because the melanocytes don’t divide often enough during development. The result: Not enough pigment for the animal to be all one color. Piebald coloration occurs in animals as varied as cats, cows, dogs, ferrets, domestic goats, goldfish, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses, magpies, mice, pigs, rabbits, rats and snakes.
• When you see a Maltese, you may first be attracted by the glamorous coat, but beneath the waterfall of white hair beats the heart of a gentle, lively and fearless dog that has charmed people since the time of the ancient Greeks. Maltese love people. That focus on humans can make them easily trainable because they love attention. Maltese may look like lap dogs, but they shine in dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally and tracking, and they make good therapy dogs. The silky single white coat requires daily combing and regular shampooing to look its best. Families with young children should choose a puppy who will weigh 5 to 7 pounds when grown.
• A cat’s body hums along at a temperature of 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit — a little higher than normal human body temperature and about the same as that of dogs. A normal range is 100 to 102.5, so call your veterinarian if your cat’s temperature is higher or lower than that. If the thought of taking your cat’s temperature rectally is daunting, you can purchase a thermometer that will read the temperature inside your cat’s ear.— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker