The right food can help to improve quality of life for cats with chronic kidney disease
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Old cats and chronic kidney disease go paw in paw. Nearly a third of geriatric cats are diagnosed with the condition. It has no cure, but it can be managed with IV fluids and therapeutic foods.
In fact, diet is the best way to manage chronic kidney disease in cats, but if you’ve ever tried to get a cat to eat something he doesn’t want, you know how frustrating it can be when he needs a special diet. Fortunately, there are ways to meet this nutritional challenge — once you and the veterinarian know what you’re dealing with.
To “stage” the disease, or see how far along it is, your veterinarian will begin by looking at the cat’s overall condition: weight; body, muscle and coat condition; and any clinical signs typically associated with CKD that might affect the diet choices recommended for your cat. It’s important to know such things as whether the cat’s weight is increasing or decreasing, whether the cat is dehydrated and if his mouth, joints or other areas of the body are painful.
Blood work, a urinalysis and a blood pressure test tell the veterinarian if the cat has any conditions such as anemia, hyperthyroidism, urinary tract issues or electrolyte imbalances. With all of this information in hand, the veterinarian can determine whether the cat is doing well on what he’s currently eating or if he needs a change to a therapeutic diet.
Contrary to what you might have heard, diets formulated for cats with early kidney disease do not restrict protein. Cats, especially seniors, need high-quality protein to help maintain their body weight. Your veterinarian may recommend a therapeutic diet with higher protein content but restricted levels of phosphorus. Too much phosphorus increases the risk of further renal damage. Your cat also does not need a sodium-restricted diet, even if she has hypertension (high blood pressure).
If your feline is finicky, you may be worried about getting her to eat a new food. If possible, switch your cat to a therapeutic kidney diet while the disease is still in the early stages. Your cat is likely to still have a good appetite at that point and may be more willing to try something different. Ask your veterinarian for samples of several recommended foods, and see which one your cat likes the best. After she has eaten the food for a week or two, your veterinarian should take another look at her to evaluate her physical condition on the diet.
Cats who have a poor appetite may be suffering from dehydration, an electrolyte or acid-base imbalance, nausea or vomiting, or chronic pain from osteoarthritis or another condition. You and your veterinarian should work together to identify and manage those problems before reaching for an appetite stimulant.
Managing your cat’s dining environment is another way to help improve his appetite. He should have a safe, comfortable place to eat, away from noisy or curious children, dogs or other cats. Try feeding him in a separate room or inside his carrier — if he enters it willingly and enjoys being inside it. You don’t want him to associate the food with being in an area that he doesn’t like.
Therapeutic kidney diets aren’t one-size-fits-all. To make sure your cat is benefiting from the new food, watch her weight closely. If she’s losing weight, you may need to try a different food, or return to the original diet and use supplements recommended by your veterinarian to help manage the disease.
PHOTO CAPTION: To improve a cat’s appetite, feed him away from other pets so he doesn’t feel threatened.
Haute Dog Decor
Modern pet furniture is stylish and sophisticated. Here’s why
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
My dogs have leopard-print beds scattered throughout the house — although at night they sleep on our bed — hand-thrown pottery water bowls designed to keep their ears dry, and steps up to the furniture in prints that complement my decor. If I were a more indulgent, or wealthy, dog owner, they might have antique pooch pagodas or spaniel-size Empire sofas, just a couple of examples of how pet furniture and accessories have become more sophisticated and attractive as dogs and cats have cemented their position as full-fledged family members.
Spending on pets has risen steadily every year, even during the last recession. After food and veterinary care, the third largest spending category is supplies, including items such as furniture, carriers and toys. Pet owners spent $16.01 billion on beds, collars, leashes, toys and other accessories, up 6% from 2017.
“Americans are radically changing in terms of how we understand the pet’s overall well-being,” says architect Heather Lewis of Animal Arts Design Studios in Boulder, Colorado. “They’re also concerned about their animals’ emotional well-being. Pet furnishings make sense in that context. We want to have more comfortable furnishings for our pets. We want to give our cats more options to be able to climb up the wall and get to high places. We want to have comfortable pet beds that are better for the orthopedic concerns our older dogs might have. We want to have furnishings that our pets enjoy using. I think all of those things are driving a certain amount of this.”
Human enjoyment and well-being are factors, too. It’s pleasurable to have a home that is comfortable and looks nice. That’s another reason pet product manufacturers have upped their game. Pets, unlike kids, don’t have their own rooms; they share all of our living spaces so their stuff — beds, crates, scratching posts, litter boxes, toys — is found throughout the house. If we can have nicer options for those things, especially if they meet our overall design aesthetic, we are happier and more content in our environment.
Take pet lover Betsy Clagett of Poulsbo, Washington, who lives with Labrador retrievers, cavalier King Charles spaniels
and two Persian cats.
“I love products that are well-made and stylish,” she says. “There are so many new materials today that we never had in the past and also designs that work for your pet, but also fit into home decor. I think many of the products are much more functional than they used to be.”
Pet owners are also keeping pets in mind when they build or remodel homes. They may include a pet bathing area in the laundry room or mud room, litter boxes that slide out from cabinets or built-in crates, custom cat enclosures, dog doors framed with molding that matches the rest of the home, or stair elevators for pets who are elderly or have physical disabilities.
When we replaced the carpet on our stairs with wood, we had the installer cut one of the steps so that the top slid forward, allowing us to store leashes and other pet paraphernalia inside it. Lewis, who is currently building her own home, has designed a “garage” for her dogs’ crates.
Another trend that may be driving pet product design is minimalism. Reducing the amount of clutter in your home may make you take a hard look at what remains, whether it’s your own stuff or belongs to your pets. Is it attractive? Does it spark joy?
“In these beautiful, more minimalist homes, every object has to have its own design and purpose in the space,” Lewis says. “If you have a pet bed, you can’t just have something you picked up at Costco. You actually have to enjoy looking at it on the floor. So I think that’s driving it as well.”
PHOTO CAPTION:From hideaways to toys to beds and other furnishings, pet products have come a long way in terms of design.
When dogs have bloody diarrhea, it can be difficult to determine the cause — here’s what to know
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Diarrhea. It’s bad enough when a pet has stinky loose stools, but when they’re mixed with bright red blood — or a pet strains to defecate and produces blood only — even the most sanguine pet owner becomes concerned.
Causes of bloody diarrhea can include small, harmless masses; major tumors; toxic substances; or simply emotional upset. Fortunately, it’s rarely an emergency unless the dog is losing enough blood to cause significant anemia or if the dog is bleeding out of the gastrointestinal tract because of a toxin such as rat poison or a systemic disease, says Craig B. Webb, DVM, professor of small animal medicine at Colorado State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins.
Sometimes the cause is never clear. That has been the case with my dog Keeper, whose digestive system is sensitive, to say the least. Usually his veterinarian prescribes antibiotics and a few days of a bland diet. But recent studies show that in some cases, symptomatic treatment — a bland diet to soothe the digestive tract — is all that’s needed.
Approximately 50% to 60% of dogs with acute onset of bloody diarrhea have fecal samples that are positive for a toxin called netF, produced by Clostridium perfringens bacteria. While many healthy dogs have C. perfringens as a normal part of their gut microbiome, in dogs with bloody diarrhea, C. perfringens bacteria are producing the netF toxin gene. The trigger may be something the dog has eaten, infection from another organism or some other cause.
“What makes a strong case that it might be causative is that only dogs with hemorrhagic diarrhea are positive for this toxin,” says Texas A&M researcher Jan S. Suchodolski, DVM, Ph.D., one of the authors of a study on the association of C. perfringens and netF toxin genes with acute hemorrhagic diarrhea published last November in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. “We don’t typically see it in dogs with acute non-hemorrhagic diarrhea or with chronic diarrhea.”
Dogs who are positive for the toxin, which can be identified through a molecular test, usually eliminate it quickly, independent of treatment with antibiotics, Dr. Suchodolski says.
Why no antibiotics?
They can have a significant effect on intestinal microbiota — the “good bugs” that populate the intestine and play an important role in physiology, metabolism, nutrition and immune function. Broad-spectrum antibiotics disrupt the gut’s microbiome, killing beneficial bacteria.
“We’re discovering more and more that these effects are long-lasting,” Dr. Suchodolski says. “And dogs don’t recover quicker compared to not getting antibiotics for acute diarrhea.”
That doesn’t mean you don’t need to be concerned if your dog is pooping out blood. Small dogs with what is now called acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome (AHDS) — formerly known as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis — can quickly become dehydrated, especially if diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting. A small fraction of dogs may go into shock or sepsis from dehydration and infection, and this may require hospitalization or antibiotics.
Signs that your dog should see the veterinarian as soon as possible include vomiting, lack of appetite, dehydration, increased heart rate and respiration and collapse.
If your dog has bloody diarrhea but is otherwise normal and alert, withhold food for 12 to 24 hours and then feed a bland diet for a few days. Ensuring that the dog is drinking water is more critical than getting him to eat, Dr. Webb says.
“At some point, probiotic therapy should be considered, as changing the gut microbiota may help long term,” says Joseph W. Bartges, DVM, professor of internal medicine and nutrition at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian if you’re worried. “If there are any concerns, especially if your pet feels bad and is not him- or herself, you should take them to a veterinarian,” Dr. Bartges says. “It is better to be safe than sorry.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Young adult smaller-breed dogs are more prone to episodes of acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome, but any dog can experience it
How to help dogs overcome noise fears
By Mikkel Becker
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Did you discover on Independence Day that your new puppy is fearful of fireworks, or even that your adult dog has a newfound fear of the flash, bang, boom? Puppies can be surprised and startled by the sight and sound of fireworks, and it’s also not unusual for a dog’s fears to increase over time. Eventually, continued exposure results in trembling, howling or destructive behavior that is unexpected, because it never seemed to bother the dog before. A 2015 study in Norway found that fear of noises can increase with age. Female dogs were more likely to develop noise sensitivity than males, and neutered dogs were more at risk than intact dogs.
And it’s not just fireworks. Other sounds that can upset dogs include construction noise, gunshots and sirens. Often, these noises fall outside what the dog considers “normal.” In other cases, the dog may associate the sounds with scary situations from the past. And sometimes a fear of certain sounds can be genetic: Breed and parent personality can both be factors. The Norwegian study found that among the 17 breeds looked at, those with the highest frequency of noise sensitivity were the Norwegian buhund, the soft-coated wheaten terrier and the Lagotto Romagnolo.
If fireworks and other loud noises cause your dog to bury his head under the covers, start now to help him learn to become more comfortable with a variety of sounds. Common noises that dogs may encounter at some point in their life include infants crying, helicopters hovering and children screeching in play. Here’s how to expose your dog to sounds in a way that keeps him relaxed and happy as he stores them in his brain under “nothing to be afraid of.”
Start by introducing the sound at a low level the dog is comfortable with. Keeping it at a distance is a good idea, too. For instance, you can set a blow dryer on low, or turn on the vacuum cleaner, and leave them in another room with the door closed. It’s not always possible to control when or where your dog will hear a sound — although trash trucks and buses usually operate on a schedule — so finding or making recordings can help you to manage your dog’s exposure to frightening noises.
Pair the sound with positive experiences such as treats, play or mealtime. That works to change the dog’s emotional response to the sound over time. When he’s in a happy and relaxed state, he’ll be better at learning how to react to the sound. This is also a good exercise to perform with puppies and dogs who don’t have an established fear of noise, because it helps to keep them that way. Early exposure helps increase a dog’s comfort level with noises throughout life.
Slowly increase the intensity of the sound. Think days, not minutes or hours. If you move ahead too quickly, the dog’s fear can intensify. Wait until he remains happy and relaxed at the lowest setting. Watch for signs of discomfort, such as pacing or yawning, and decrease the volume or increase the distance from the noise until he relaxes again. End on a positive note by asking for a favorite trick or playing a game and rewarding him.
Conditioning a dog to have a calm response to loud or unexpected noises takes time. By taking little steps now, you can gradually build a lasting, positive change in your dog’s behavior in the face of fireworks or other sounds that frighten him. By the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, you’ll both be better prepared for noisy celebrations. You can find more about managing your dog’s fear of noises at FearFreeHappyHomes.com.
11 tips on choosing the puppy who’s perfect for you
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Looking at puppies is fun, but choosing a puppy is a decision that can impact your family life and your relationship with the dog for years. Here’s how to find the perfect puppy match for your personality and lifestyle.
1. Look at several litters if possible. Don’t choose the first puppy who runs up and jumps in your lap or looks the prettiest or seems to be the boss. Seeing a number of puppies will help you make a better decision by showing you a range of personalities and helping you to eliminate extremes in both personality and size. Biggest isn’t necessarily best, and neither is smallest, loudest or quietest.
2. Watch puppies as they play together. Who’s in charge, and who gets beat on by other puppies? Which puppies get along with everyone? For most people, the middle-of-the-road pup is the best choice.
3. Every puppy is an individual. Some are serious, some are clowns, some are reserved, some are everyone’s best friend. Before you go to see a litter, write down what kind of personality you’re looking for in a dog, activities you enjoy and your own personality traits. Ask the breeder to show you pups with the qualities you’re looking for. (Walk away from any breeder who says they’re all the same.)
4. Avoid puppies who seem fearful, shy or extremely nervous. You may feel sorry for them, but living with a dog who is afraid of people, loud noises or new experiences can be frustrating.
5. If you’re serious about getting the right puppy, don’t make up your mind on the first visit. Come back on another day and look at the puppies all over again. You may find that the best puppy for you was sleepy during your first visit and didn’t make a good impression, or maybe had just gotten up from a nap and was wilder than usual.
6. Temperament is important, but so is good health. Ask to see up-to-date health certifications from board-certified veterinary specialists for both parents. Meet the parents — at least the mom. Temperament is inherited, and parent personalities are clues as to what you can expect from a puppy as he matures. You should see happy, easygoing adult dogs.
7. Avoid purchasing two puppies from the same litter. They’ll bond to each other instead of to you. Instead, get your first puppy trained and through adolescence, then bring in a second one.
8. Don’t bring your children when choosing a puppy. You’ll be under too much pressure to take the first one that appeals to them instead of the one that’s right for your family. Bring the kids only when it’s time to take the puppy home, and ask the breeder to keep other pups out of sight.
9. Don’t let price be the deciding factor. Sure, a $250 puppy may seem like a better deal than a $2,500 puppy, but if the breeder doesn’t have proof of health certifications on the parents, doesn’t provide good veterinary care or socialization and doesn’t feed high-quality food, veterinary bills and pup psychology sessions may increase the cost of the dog in the long run.
10. Don’t be in a hurry to take your new pup home. Depending on the breed, the best age for puppies to embark on their new lives is when they are 8 to 12 weeks old. Puppies in that age range are more mature. They’re generally able to sleep through most of the night, making them more easily housetrained.
11. In short, use the Goldilocks principle when making your selection: Choose a puppy who’s not too big, not too small, not too aggressive and not too shy — he should be just right.
More advice on finding and raising a puppy can be found at fearfreehappyhomes.com.
Flea control safety for cats
• It’s flea season. If you treat your pets with any kind of topical or oral preventive, be sure you don’t share products between cats and dogs. Products made for dogs can be toxic and even deadly to cats. For instance, cats are highly sensitive to permethrin products and can be affected even if they just come in contact with a dog treated with a permethrin-based preventive. Read the label carefully to make sure you’re using the appropriate product for each pet, and check with your veterinarian if you’re not sure. Signs of toxicity in cats include drooling, vomiting, muscle tremors, dilated pupils and seizures. Take any pet to the veterinarian right away if these signs occur after administering a flea preventive product.
— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMarty Becker or Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton . Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/ MikkelBecker.
PHOTO CAPTION: Never use dog flea-control products on cats.
The Wet Set
Water play is a favorite dog activity, but it has some risks. Here’s how to recognize and avoid problems
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Part of the fun of summer is playing in water, and that’s true for dogs, too. They run through sprinklers, splash and swim in pools, and go with us to lakes, rivers or oceans. Keep them happy and safe during summer’s dog days with these tips.
• Algal blooms. A blue-green shimmer of algae on lakes, ponds and reservoirs is a signal to stay out. Potent cyanotoxins can cause anything from skin irritation to liver failure. “Even if dogs don’t drink the water, if they come out and they’re licking themselves clean, they can take the toxin in,” says Jason Nicholas, DVM, chief medical officer of PreventiveVet.com. The toxins can have the same effects on humans.
At the ocean, algal overblooms can cause toxic red tides. Dogs who don’t go in the water can still be at risk because the toxins can become aerosolized, causing respiratory signs in animals and humans exposed to them. Check conditions before you go.
• Rip currents. Strong currents near the beach can quickly pull swimmers — dogs included — farther out than is safe. We can’t tell dogs to swim parallel to the shore if they get caught in one, so whether you’re tossing a ball into the waves for him to fetch or going paddleboarding with your pup, ask a lifeguard about conditions beforehand.
Keep a brightly colored pet life jacket on your dog. If he gets swept away, it will help keep him afloat until he’s rescued. For dogs who aren’t strong swimmers or don’t have life jacket protection, toss a ball along the beach, not into the water.
• Water intoxication. Dogs playing in water may accidentally take in large quantities while swimming, or get overheated and drink too much. Either way, the excess water can dilute the concentration of electrolytes in the blood, causing vomiting, lethargy, diarrhea or more severe signs such as seizures or coma. Keep him hydrated by frequently offering small amounts of water so he takes it in slowly. And pay attention to behavior.
“If you see your dog acting lethargic, vomiting, having diarrhea and progressing to ataxia (wobbling), get him to a vet,” Dr. Nicholas says. Treatment can require hospitalization for slow, steady normalization of electrolyte levels and close monitoring of the dog.
• Near-drowning. When dogs (or humans) go underwater, they may accidentally inhale water. It might not be enough to cause immediate drowning, but water that gets into the lungs sets up an inflammatory process. And if saltwater is inhaled, that draws more fluid from the blood into the lungs. The result is that lungs become flooded and the dog drowns hours, or days, after water exposure. Any time you notice a respiratory change or change in activity level after a dog has been in the water, get him to the veterinarian.
“Let the veterinarian know that there might have been an incident where they swallowed or inhaled water,” Dr. Nicholas says. “If they’re having respiratory issues, it’s just more indication to get X-rays.”
• Pool safety. Teach your dog how to swim (check out FearFreeHappyHomes.com for an article on canine swim lessons) and where and how to enter and exit the pool. Protect pets with a pool alarm such as Safety Turtle that goes off if they fall in. Flimsy pool covers can entrap dogs who walk on them, so choose a sturdy one that won’t submerge. Fences around the pool should not have spaces large enough for puppies or small dogs to wiggle through. A product such as a Puppy Bumper can prevent them from going through a fence or gate.
Finally, rinse and dry dogs thoroughly after playing in any water to ward off skin and ear infections. Then they’ll be ready to go out and do it all over again the next day!
PHOTO CAPTION: Bodies of water can be hazardous in ways that might not be visible to the naked eye.
Depending on circumstances, a dog of any size can be a good companion for a senior. Here are factors to consider
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
I’ve had cavalier King Charles spaniels for 20 years. My husband and I switched to the small spaniels after the death of our greyhound, Savanna, from bone cancer. We lived in a condo and decided our next dog should be one we could easily carry up and down the stairs if necessary — something we had to do with Savanna after a leg amputation. We planned to go back to bigger dogs when we bought a house.
That house purchase never happened, but occasionally I still yearn for a larger dog — before I get too old. But is there such a thing as “too old” for a big dog?
Age doesn’t have to preclude dog ownership, not even of large breeds. Bobbie Thrutchley, 88, of Leawood, Kansas, was feeling lonely after the death of her goldendoodle, so she went down to the shelter and adopted a Lab mix, whom she named Coco.
“We’re good for each other,” she says.
As with any choice of a dog, though, there’s a lot to consider.
“Variables include owner experience with dogs, owner ability to train the dog, the relationship between dog and owner and the dog’s temperament,” says dog trainer Liz Palika of Kindred Spirits in Escondido, California. Other factors are a person’s own health and fitness and the dog’s size and health.
Barbara Saunders, 47 at the time, injured her back carrying her 19-year-old 65-pound dog up and down two flights of stairs. Vision-impaired and arthritic, the dog was afraid to walk down them himself. For her next dog, she chose one weighing only 20 pounds.
If you’re a senior considering getting a puppy or adult dog, think ahead. Does your local senior housing, assisted living center or nursing home allow pets? If so, is there a cap on weight or height? Choose a dog who won’t exceed the limit. For the same reason, a dog who’s quiet — or can learn to be that way — is a necessity. And consider whether a puppy might outlive you. Adopting a middle-aged or senior dog may be a better option.
Experts have favorites they recommend for people of a certain age. Journalist, breeder and dog show judge Allan Reznik of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, recommends a well-trained adult greyhound, Doberman pinscher or standard poodle for people who own their own home, don’t face community size restrictions and enjoy walks. “If they prefer something smaller to cuddle and spoil, I’d suggest a cavalier, papillon or pug,” he says.
Dog groomer Julie Ellingson of Sacramento, California, is a fan of Chihuahuas — “clever, brave little dogs” — and miniature poodles. She says clients who are seniors most often have Pomeranians or Shih Tzus. “The Poms require a bit of effort for brushing, but have distinct shedding seasons, and Shih Tzus are best kept in short teddy bear clips. Both have sunny temperaments.”
Longtime dog owner Edie Jarolim of Tucson, Arizona, wouldn’t want to live with a dog she couldn’t pick up and carry to the car if necessary, so big dogs are out for her.
A small dog isn’t always the best choice, though. While they don’t weigh much, it can be difficult to bend down to pick them up if necessary or to attach a leash or harness. It’s also easy to trip over or step on them. Karen Henderson of Minerva, Ohio, has a goldendoodle and a yellow Lab. She says they are easier to care for than smaller dogs.
Gail Parker of Philadelphia lives with an Irish setter, Daisy. For her, a tall dog is nice for help with balance when going down steps or walking on an uneven sidewalk. She adopted Daisy, then 8 years old, from an Irish setter rescue group, and notes that some shelters discount or waive adoption fees for seniors, especially if they adopt older dogs.
PHOTO CAPTION: Willingness and ability to train a dog can make all the difference in a senior’s ability to live happily with one. Bobbie and Coco work well together.
Beat the Heat
Heat and humidity pose hazards to pets, but the
following tips can help them stay cool and comfortable
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
After a cold and rainy winter, temps are starting to sizzle. That means it’s time to think about your pet’s safety and well-being while he’s outdoors — and indoors, too. Heat exhaustion is one of the risks facing dogs and cats in summer. Here’s what you might not have known about recognizing and preventing it, as well as protecting pets from other effects of heat.
Heat exhaustion or heatstroke can sneak up on pets and people. It doesn’t occur just in hot cars or after playing too strenuously in the hot sun. Brachycephalic pets — think pugs, Persians, bulldogs and other short-nosed breeds — can die indoors if the power goes off, leaving them for hours with no air conditioning. Sign up for power outage alerts from your local provider, or look for an app that will notify you so you can get home or ask a neighbor or petsitter to make sure your pets don’t overheat.
Those same breeds can develop difficulty breathing after just a few minutes outdoors when temperatures and humidity are high. That’s because they rely on the ability to pant to dissipate heat. Pets with heart disease, conditions such as laryngeal paralysis in large breeds such as Labrador retrievers or Newfoundlands, or collapsing trachea — especially common in toy breeds — as well as very young or old dogs are also at greater risk.
“Even just taking your brachycephalic or obese dog or dog with existing bronchitis or certain heart conditions on a walk in the middle of the day could result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke and a trip to the emergency hospital,” says veterinarian Jason Nicholas, chief medical officer of PreventiveVet.com. “We tend to see a lot of cases in the spring and fall,” he says. “In spring, people aren’t really yet thinking about the heat, and sometimes you’ll get those uncharacteristically warm days. In fall, people tend to let their guard down after summer and then we get those warm days that spring up unexpectedly.”
If your dog stays outdoors during the day or has access to the yard, make sure there’s reliable shade and fresh water available as the sun moves. A number of pet beds, some elevated for better air flow, come with covers. Look for one with fabric made to block the sun’s rays. An outdoor misting fan is another option to consider. In extreme temperatures, though, your dog will be cooler, safer and happier in the air-conditioned indoors.
A pup tent or soft crate made of similar fabric provides sun protection for dogs at agility or nose work trials or just having fun at the beach. Shade sails, canopies and tarps made of UV-resistant fabric are available at big-box stores and online. Regular misting from a handheld sprayer on the belly and paws helps keep pets cool, too.
Cooling boots can protect paws from hot asphalt, concrete or sand on walks. Better yet, schedule walks and play for cooler mornings and evenings.
A cooling mat or cooling coat or bandana can help your pet, but don’t rely on it for full protection on hot days. A cooling coat won’t allow your dog to participate in strenuous exercise or stay in a hot car for long periods. “The main thing with keeping them cool is paying attention to the temperature outside and their activity level and existing health conditions,” Dr. Nicholas says.
Most important, be your dog’s caretaker. He may love sprawling in full sun on hot concrete in 100-degree temps, but it’s smart to reduce the risk of sunburn or heatstroke by limiting sunbathing time. Keep him indoors or in a shady spot between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
PHOTO CAPTION: Dogs cool themselves by panting, which isn’t very efficient, so it’s important to help them chill when it’s hot outside.
Did you know? 9 fascinating facts about cats from a feline expert
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
The 25th annual conference of the Cat Writers Association took place last month, so this seemed like a good time to focus on felines. The keynote speaker at the CWA conference was veterinary behaviorist Debra Horwitz, DVM, who is currently raising two new Devon rex kittens herself. Here’s just a little of what attendees learned about cats from her talk.
1. Friendly interactions between cats include nose touches and a tail-up greeting. You probably knew that. But did you know that domestic cats and lions are the only members of the cat family who use the tail-up body posture to greet? No other felines do that.
2. Cats are adaptable, and they can learn a lot of things. “We have this idea that they’re independent and aloof, but we really don’t ask much of our cats,” Dr. Horwitz says. “You’d be surprised what they can learn when you ask them to do things.” You can’t train a cat with force, but with positive-reinforcement training, they can learn anything you can teach.
3. Cats have social relationships in their own particular way. They aren’t normally group-living animals; Horwitz describes them as not antisocial, but asocial. That means they are happy to live in groups or by themselves. Most often, they live in groups of related females — mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts — all sharing food resources. “So when you’re forming a household of cats, choose two sisters who are littermates,” Horwitz says. That’s what she did when she acquired her kittens.
4. Cats who like each other show it through touch. They sleep together, bodies touching, more frequently than would occur by chance and unrelated to ambient air temperature. Whether you’re observing a feral colony or cats in your home, you may notice that unless it’s extremely cold, only cats who are bonded will be touching each other. “Cats that like each other and live together amicably usually mark each other; they’ll go body to body, and they may even wrap tails,” Horwitz says. “We think part of that is the shared body odor.”
5. The cat’s meow? You may think he’s asking for food, but Horwitz says sometimes cats just want to know what’s going on. Talk back to him!
6. Grooming is a normal feline behavior, but when cats groom themselves — or other animals — excessively or aggressively, that normal behavior is being expressed abnormally. The cat could have a behavior problem, a skin problem or a painful internal problem. For instance, Horwitz says, cats with painful interstitial cystitis often groom their stomachs excessively.
7. Feline personality and temperament are genetically determined, primarily by the father, and fall into three basic categories: sociable, confident and easygoing; timid, shy, nervous and unfriendly; and active or active aggressive. At different times, cats may express variations from their normal temperament, but in general it should stay the same. For instance, if a cat who is normally friendly suddenly becomes aggressive, something is wrong. A change in behavior can mean a cat doesn’t feel well or is uneasy with the current situation.
8. Cats love to explore, but unlike dogs, they are more random in the way that they check out a new place. Dogs usually go into one room, sniff all around, then go into the next room. Cats tend to go back and forth.
9. One of the unique things about domestic cats and small wildcats is that they play a dual role in life: They are not only predators, but also prey. That makes them good at hiding. You may think your cat is lost, but chances are she just has a hiding spot that you know nothing about — and never will.
PHOTO CAPTION: Understanding how cats have social relationships is a key part of living successfully with them.
What we know about managing pain in pets
By Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
What is pain? It’s sensory awareness of injury or illness, of course, but there’s more to it. Pain is unique to each individual. Factors that influence pain perception include genetics, the degree of injury and past history of pain.
Two types of pain affect pets. Most of us have experienced acute pain, from stubbing a toe to breaking a bone. Acute pain is protective, warning us to pull back from that hot fire, for instance. Animals experience acute pain, too. It usually goes away with time or treatment.
Chronic pain persists for longer than the normal healing period and is considered a distinct disease of the central nervous system. In essence, it’s pain that has lasted beyond its usefulness or that lingers after an injury has healed. Sometimes it’s the result of an ongoing physical problem, such as osteoarthritis. Other conditions that can cause chronic pain in pets include cancer, glaucoma, interstitial cystitis, pancreatitis and stomatitis.
Both physically and emotionally, chronic pain has a damaging effect on a dog or cat’s well-being. Animals with chronic pain may change their movement or behavior in an attempt to limit discomfort. When they move less or move in abnormal ways, they become stiff, and pain increases. They may also reduce their interactions with humans or other animals because being touched causes pain. That puts a kink in their social relationships with family members.
One of the problems with chronic pain is that it often goes unrecognized. Pet pain isn’t always easy to assess. You may notice that your dog or cat is sensitive in certain areas or has odd behaviors, but those things don’t always make an appearance during a veterinary exam. What to bring to your veterinarian’s attention, with videos, if possible:
• decreased grooming habits in cats
• intensively licking specific areas
• changes in posture when sitting or
• difficulty or slowness standing up
or lying down
• breaking housetraining
• reluctance to be petted or groomed
• reluctance to go down stairs
• difficulty jumping on or off furniture
• poor appetite or nausea
• any behavior that is unusual for that
A number of medications and techniques can aid in pain treatment and prevention. Especially for chronic pain, early recognition of the problem is key. Multimodal therapy incorporating nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, injectable disease-modifying osteoarthritis drugs such as Adequan, diet, nutritional supplements with anti-inflammatory effects, weight loss, massage, laser, and acupuncture can all benefit pets in pain. Multimodal treatment attacks pain through multiple pathways in the body, with the goal of directly or indirectly reducing inflammation that causes pain.
The best way to prevent chronic pain from developing is to treat acute pain promptly and aggressively. For acute pain related to surgical recovery, long-acting extended-release drugs are available for dogs and cats, providing post-operative pain relief for 24 to 72 hours. Some pain-relief medications for dogs and cats are chewable, making them easier to give. Others can be compounded into tasty liquids.
Dogs can take NSAIDs relatively safely for long periods, but no NSAIDs are approved for long-term use in cats. Cats are more sensitive than dogs to the side effects of drugs such as NSAIDs because they lack certain enzymes needed by the liver to safely break down the drugs.
Chronic pain develops over a long period, and treating it successfully takes time. With your veterinarian, set specific goals for managing your pet’s pain. It may be four to six weeks before you begin to see a response, but with good management, your pet can be moving well and feeling good again.
Photo caption: Chronic pain is often overlooked, but recognizing and treating it can help pets regain mobility and a happy spirit.
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
How an abandoned pit bull went from desertion and starvation to a forever home
By Dr. Marty Becker
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Last August, my wife, Teresa, and I were in Louisiana, volunteering at a shelter animal clinic. Before heading there, Teresa and I agreed not to adopt any pets that day. We even shook on it.
You probably know where this is going.
Along with a team of veterinarians and veterinary nurses and a scrum of veterinary and pre-vet students, we methodically but tenderly examined 300 dogs, drawing blood for heartworm checks, giving dewormer for internal parasites and products for external parasites, and implanting microchips. Throughout, we focused on each dog’s physical and emotional well-being, guided by our Fear Free philosophy.
Then Relic staggered in. The adult male pit bull was the thinnest dog I’ve ever seen in 39 years of practice. He was covered in fleas, ticks and lice, and inhabited internally by roundworms, whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and heartworms.
Then he did something special. I had drawn a smiley face with aerosol cheese on the palm of my left hand. Relic walked over slowly and started licking it out of my hand. His tail wagged so hard, it made him unstable. I’d never seen a dog fall over from being happy.
I looked down at Relic and up at Teresa. In unison, we said, “We’ll adopt him.”
Relic had been abandoned in a decrepit house. When the landlord found him, he thought the fly-covered unresponsive dog was dead and called animal control to come get the body. When they discovered Relic was still alive, they rushed him to Bellevue Veterinary Clinic in Opelousas, Louisiana. The dog weighed only 19 pounds and was near death, but Dr. Kevin Fuselier gave him a chance, and he slowly began to recover.
When we spoke with him, Dr. Fuselier said Relic (now called Lazaruff for his rise from the dead) had only a 33% chance of survival.
Lazaruff made it. But we weren’t able to adopt him. The veterinary behaviorists who evaluated him recommended that he go to a home where he would be the only dog and where someone would be home with him most of the time. Lazaruff had separation anxiety, and he was happiest lying next to somebody with his big “meat head” on their lap.
The right home hadn’t come along, so last month, when Teresa and I were in New Orleans for Animal Care Expo, we decided to drive him back home with us to see if the right family was in northern Idaho, where we live.
During that weeklong road trip, his light shone bright. He never got carsick, never barked, never soiled his crate. He went from having to be lifted into his crate to jumping into it in the back of the SUV. We made “pit stops” at shelters along the way, spreading our message of emotional well-being and enrichment.
Then the miracle happened: Our friends at Panhandle Animal Shelter in Sandpoint, Idaho, connected us with Breanna Franck and her husband, Terry, who owned their own home, had no other pets, worked opposite schedules so somebody would be home most of the time and, most important, loved dogs.
Lazaruff walked over to Breanna, she knelt down and he washed her face with one lick of his dishrag-size tongue. He went into their arms, into their vehicle and into their hearts.
Teresa and I have stayed in close contact with them, and Lazaruff continues to fall over from being happy. But now it’s not because he’s too weak to stand. It’s because he’s waiting to get his belly rubbed.
PHOTO CAPTION: Lazaruff adapted quickly to hotel living on the road to his new life.