5 Ways to Keep Your Cat Happy and Healthy
While cats can be quite independent animals, they still rely on their pet parents to maintain their well-being. It’s up to pet owners to provide the adequate care, nutrition and home environment to ensure their furry friends live long and healthy lives.
Consider these tips and visit temptationstreats.com and iams.com for further guidance on raising healthy and happy cats.
1. Designate a Special Spot – Make sure your cat has a space in the home where he can be unbothered and relax. This space can also be somewhere your cat can hide or snuggle up. Putting a cat tree with a lookout in a quiet spot can give your pet a perfect place for a catnap.
2. Provide a Healthy Diet – Diet is a vital part of your cat’s health and wellness, and it’s important to find a food that caters to your pet’s specific needs and preferences. Look for food that fits your cat’s needs like senior care, hairball control and oral care, so he receives the best nutrition at every life stage. For example, IAMS™ formulas provide wet and dry food options tailored to your pet’s age, activity level and dietary needs.
3. Regular Checkups – Cats are notoriously secretive about how they are feeling. Scheduling regular visits with your local veterinarian for vaccinations and checkups can ensure your pets are as healthy as they can be. Ask your vet how often you should schedule appointments, as every cat requires unique care.
4. Groom Regularly – While cats may not need regular baths, they do sometimes need a little extra TLC to look their best. Depending on breed and lifestyle, each cat requires a different grooming routine. Longhaired cats should be brushed regularly to keep their coats nice and shiny while indoor cats may need their nails trimmed more frequently to avoid scratching.
5. Playtime with Toys and Treats – Enrichment and bonding are key factors in a pet’s well-being. Providing stimuli, like toys or scratching surfaces, encourages your furry friend’s curiosity and natural behavior. Dedicate time each day to play and snuggle up with your cat to solidify your bond. A simple shake of a bag of treats, such as TEMPTATIONS™ treats, can make your cat come running and signal it’s time to play.
Photo courtesy of Fotolia
Know Your Dog
Before choosing a breed, research its historical purpose and decide whether you’re prepared to live with its associated behaviors
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
The dog trainer received a phone call from a couple wanting to hire her to help train their new 9-week-old German shorthaired pointer. “You must like those high-energy hunting dogs,” she commented as they spoke.
“No; why do you say that?” the man replied.
She learned that he had chosen the breed because he’d always thought they looked nice, and he wanted a dog to hang out with. The couple didn’t realize that their highly active puppy would grow up to be a highly active dog. They were prepared to walk the dog around the block, not go running or hunting with him.
As human lifestyles have changed, from hunting mammoths and gathering roots and berries to pushing a cart through the supermarket, it’s easy to assume that our dogs have evolved right along with us to have a more relaxed lifestyle. In fact, the brains of different breeds have evolved differently depending on the traits for which they were bred, according to a study (“Significant Neuroanatomical Variation Among Domestic Dog Breeds”) published earlier this month in the Journal of Neuroscience.
That’s right. Now there’s science behind the advice to consider working heritage before choosing a breed.
Researchers looked at brain scans of 62 pet dogs representing 33 breeds. Their findings established that brain anatomy varies significantly in dogs, likely in response to human selection for particular behaviors. “Through selective breeding, humans have significantly altered the brains of different lineages of domestic dogs in different ways,” the researchers write.
Those differences in brain anatomy aren’t simply linked to the dogs’ body sizes or head shapes. Their neural networks are actually different, based on the traits selected for in particular breeds. For instance, breeds that tend to have cognitively complex jobs such as herding or police work have larger prefrontal cortexes, the area of the brain involved with planning and decision-making.
In an interview with Jill Radsken of The Harvard Gazette, lead author Erin Hecht, Ph.D., assistant professor of evolutionary biology at Harvard, said she and her collaborators could see that breed differences weren’t randomly distributed, but were focused in certain parts of the brain. They identified six networks of the brain where anatomy correlated with types of processing important for different breeds: reward; olfaction; eye movement; social action and higher cognition; fear and anxiety; and scent processing and vision.
The finding? Dogs have multiple types of intelligence that suit them for specific types of work, such as retrieving, herding, seeking out scents, guarding and, yes, companionship. They aren’t born knowing how to round up sheep or retrieve pheasants or sit in a lap, but they do have a propensity to learn those behaviors.
So if you’re thinking about a Dalmatian, for instance, know that they were bred to run behind carriages for long distances.
German shorthaired pointer: bred to seek out and retrieve all types of prey in rough terrain.
Border collie: bred to run miles daily and control challenging livestock.
Siberian husky: bred to pull sleds with endurance and speed in snowy, icy conditions.
Beagle: bred to hunt rabbits over hill and dale.
Jack Russell terrier: bred to chase and dig out prey.
Rottweiler: bred to drive cattle to market and pull carts for butchers.
Miniature poodle: bred to be a circus dog or truffle hunter.
Papillon: bred to be companions, but with the highly active nature of their spaniel ancestors.
Greyhound: bred to sprint after and bring down prey.
Labrador retriever: bred to retrieve bird after bird, all day, every day.
Chihuahuas: bred as companions and ratters.
You get the picture. Do your research and choose wisely.
Million Cat March
Rethinking cats and their needs helped shelters save more than 2 million feline lives. They’re not stopping there
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Being in a shelter is stressful — at best — for cats. Stress plus crowding leads to illness. And when there are too many cats and too few homes, euthanasia is often the outcome. But two veterinarians, in partnership with shelters, are working to change that equation.
Five years ago, Dr. Kate Hurley and Dr. Julie Levy challenged themselves — and shelters — to save a million cats over a five-year period. By 2018, more than a year early, a million cats had found new lives outside of shelters. Since then, more than a million additional cats have followed in their pawprints.
The secret? Providing cats with more secure, healthful and comfortable living quarters, and recognizing that some cats do best living on their own or working a job instead of being housecats.
Dr. Hurley is the director of the University of California, Davis Koret Shelter Medicine Program, and Dr. Levy is a professor of shelter medicine at the University of Florida. One of the key initiatives of the Million Cat Challenge, as they called their campaign, is “capacity for care.” That means not just avoiding overcrowding, but also providing conditions that let cats be cats.
To be happy and healthy, cats need freedom from fear and distress, freedom from illness and disease, and freedom to express normal behavior. Sometimes meeting those needs is as simple as installing portals — little round doorways — to combine two cages into one unit. Portals allow cats to have separate areas for sleeping and eating, away from litter boxes. For cats, that’s huge.
“We designed that as an intervention to reduce upper respiratory infection, and we’ve heard from shelters that have reduced it by 90% or more,” Dr. Hurley says. “Upper respiratory infection is a stress-induced disease in cats, so those kinds of reductions speak to not just the health of the cats, but to their mental well-being.”
The difference is visible. Cats play more and scratch to mark their space. It’s still a small area, but because the cats are happier, they look better and stay healthier. That means they find homes more quickly. Preventing overcrowding by managing when and how many cats come in is also key. Foster homes, behavior counseling and trap-neuter-return programs for feral cats are among the solutions that keep cats out of shelters.
Feral cats are among those at greatest risk in shelters. Not every cat who lands in a shelter has lived life as an indoor pet — or wants to. Some have grown up outdoors and are savvy at caring for themselves, sometimes with a little help from humans who feed them and make sure they have shelter from inclement weather.
When those cats are brought to shelters, they aren’t going to suddenly enjoy being around humans or appreciate the opportunity to live indoors. Ensuring that they are healthy; vaccinating them (even once can potentially protect them for a lifetime); treating them for parasites or wounds; spaying or neutering them so they can’t add to feline population numbers; and returning them where they came from is one way to help these cats leave shelters alive.
“We loan traps and pay 100% of spay/neuter costs, plus rabies vaccine, if people agree to allow the cats to remain on their property afterward,” says Dee Dee Drake, executive director of Calaveras Humane Society in California.
Placing feral cats on farms as barn cats or in warehouses, distilleries and other businesses where rats and mice may be a problem is another solution. That allows them to lead independent lives without having to interact with humans or be confined indoors. “I think trap-neuter-return is more and more widely practiced and accessible, and I think that’s a hugely positive trend,” Dr. Hurley says.
Working Dog Blues
Is it time for your dog to retire from a sport or job? The answer is intensely personal and depends on the dog’s attitude and physical ability
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
My dog Harper and I recently flew to Oregon to compete in a nose work trial. I worried a little bit before we left that traipsing through three different airports, taking two flights and participating in a high-level competition on a hot day might be too much for an 11 1/2-year-old dog, but she breezed through all of it with a smiling prance.
But every dog ages differently, depending on factors such as genetics, size, overall health and diet. At other trials recently, owners of 12-year-old dogs told me that it was their dogs’ last day of competition because the dog just wasn’t up to it anymore.
Teaming up with a dog to compete in a sport, make therapy visits to hospitals or other facilities, or do detection work is one of the most satisfying experiences a dog lover can have. It builds trust, confidence and communication between you and your canine pal; fosters happiness and emotional well-being for both of you; and reduces stress in your lives. But like professional athletes, working and sport dogs can have a limited shelf life. They begin to slow down, become injured more frequently or simply indicate that they’re no longer having fun.
One sign that it’s time to stop is loss of enthusiasm.
“With therapy dogs, if they start hiding when you bring out the vest, it’s a good indication that they’re done,” says Daleen Comer. “Usually evaluators can catch that at the evaluations, which is why it’s good that they are every two years.”
Signs that a dog is reluctant can be subtle. It’s essential to carefully watch and interpret body language, or to decide for the dog that all the preparation — baths before therapy visits, for instance, or waits in the sun between runs or searches — are too hard on an aging dog’s body.
Health is another issue. Comer’s dog Duffy made therapy visits until he died, but Bonnie retired due to heart problems and Macy retired at 13 when she began to have trouble walking on slippery floors.
Terry Albert retired her 11-year-old dog Tank from agility after they came home from a trial one day and she noticed that two hours later he was still panting. He was diagnosed with laryngeal paralysis.
“My dogs retire from agility when they start spending more time recovering from injuries than training in the sport,” says Jenn Stollery.
Some dogs don’t want to give up their work despite health issues. Bison, a Bernese mountain dog, finished his last agility title just weeks before he was diagnosed with lymphoma. “Even deep into chemo, he insisted on carting the recycling out to the curb,” says owner Adam Conn.
If you’re not sure your dog is ready for retirement, a second opinion can help.
“It truly helps to have another pair of eyes to give one an honest appraisal,” says Barbara Brill. “I had asked a trainer to observe me practicing obedience with my then-3-year-old collie. What was I doing wrong to cause her to lag? The trainer recommended I have my dog X-rayed because she suspected a structural fault. I did, and Tiffy was diagnosed with spondylitis. The doctor recommended no more obedience practice.”
Retirement doesn’t mean your dog has to stop playing, though. Many people transition their dogs from active sports, such as agility and obedience, to slower or more low-impact activities, such as nose work, rally, swimming or walks on the beach.
Adam Conn’s Australian shepherd, Pockets, earned her Rally Novice title when she was 15 years old. That level of competition has no jumping and is done with the dog on a lead.
“Until your dog tells you she’s done, let her keep going,” he says. “Even if she runs out of things to compete in, you can still do training sessions.”
Harper? We’re road-tripping to Colorado this week so she can nose around for a good time.
ONE-TWO PUNCH AGAINST HEARTWORM
New approach to preventing infection in dogs may stem tide of resistance
By Dr. Marty Becker
Andrews McMeel Syndication
If you’ve heard that heartworm, a dangerous parasite that can cause serious disease and death in dogs as well as cats, is becoming resistant to the drugs we’ve long relied on to protect our pets, you’ve heard correctly.
“Failure of oral preventive drugs is reported most often from the Mississippi Delta area, where transmission rates are very high and resistance to preventive drugs has been confirmed,” said Dr. John McCall, professor emeritus in the department of infectious diseases at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine. “But the spreading of resistance to other parts of the country is just a matter of time.”
The threat of heartworm that can’t be prevented with our present drugs is not a minor one. Infection with heartworm, a parasite spread by mosquitos, can cause life-threatening immune system reactions, respiratory distress, kidney failure, heart failure and other symptoms in both cats and dogs. However, there’s some good news, too. McCall recently published a study of a new two-step approach to fighting heartworm infection in dogs: one that targets both the heartworm and the mosquito that carries it.
“Heartworm is a two-parasite system,” said Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, director of veterinary relations for Ceva Animal Health, which makes Vectra 3D, a topical mosquito repellent and insecticide for dogs that also fights fleas and ticks. “Until now, we have not targeted one of these parasites, the mosquito. We’ve relied on preventive drugs against the worm to do the ‘heavy lifting’ alone.”
This flies in the face of how human public health programs fight mosquito-carried diseases like Zika virus, where the mosquito is always the primary target. Not only that, but putting all your health eggs in one prevention basket will always be less effective than protecting against disease with more than one strategy.
“When you get a flu vaccine, you still take other precautions, don’t you?” asked Hodgkins. “You still wash your hands and avoid standing in the air space of someone who’s coughing. You know there are other things you need to do to give that vaccine the best chance to keep you from getting sick.” It’s the same, she said, with heartworm.
When it comes to preventing the spread of resistant heartworm outside the South, or protecting dogs in areas where resistance is already present, targeting the mosquito is a valuable extra layer of prevention.
Resistance is thwarted because the topical medication stops more than 95% of mosquitos from biting protected dogs. As a result, the dog has a greatly reduced risk of getting infected — and so does an uninfected mosquito, who might bite an infected dog later. That stops the transmission of both resistant and non-resistant heartworm.
On top of that, the repellent and insecticide killed 98% of the mosquitos exposed to a protected dog. That’s good news for everyone, including humans, cats and other pets, who would benefit from a reduced mosquito population. “In areas where mosquitoes are abundant, hundreds, and possibly thousands, of mosquitoes can bite a dog in a 24-hour period,” said McCall. “The use of a repellent and insecticide could reduce this by 95% or more for an entire month.”
While there’s no such thing as 100% protection when it comes to living creatures, this double-defense of topical repellent and oral preventive medication is about as close as you can get.
Although cats also suffer from heartworm infection, there is currently no repellent safe for use on them. Owners of both cats and dogs should keep the treated dog away from the cat until the topical repellent is fully dry, usually a few hours after application.
Dog owners can learn more at fightheartwormnow.com, and should consult their veterinarian about how to best protect their pets from heartworm infection.
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Happy Cat Habitat
What makes your cat happy? We share the secrets
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Smokey loves sunny spots for cat- napping. Chester chooses chicken. Summer likes to wear dresses and hang out in airports.
OK, Summer’s a little unusual, but her preference is just an example of the many different things that make cats happy. From snuggling with their favorite humans to swirling around our legs at mealtime to chatting with us about their day, cats express happiness in a variety of ways.
“Every cat is an individual, so it’s going to vary from cat to cat,” says behavior expert Debra Horwitz, DVM. “Some cats like when you spend time with them. If they’re cuddle kitties, they like to sit on your lap. If they’re playful cats, they like if you engage them in interactive games.”
While there’s no doubt that cats love their food, many of them will choose human companionship over a meal or treat, according to a study by the Human-Animal Interaction Lab at Oregon State University. For both pet and shelter cats taking part in the 2016 study, social interaction with humans was the preferred stimulus category for the majority of cats, with food taking second place.
Happy cats snuggle close, purr, bump heads with us — known as bunting — and give slow blinks, communicating affection and trust.
Sofiya and Mollie follow owner Sally Bahner around the house. Sofiya “meeps” when Bahner comes into the room. Her cat Tekla hops onto the counter so they can have a conversation. Mollie reaches out and “combs” Bahner’s hair.
At their Florida home, Frank and Relina Sockman’s cats R.J. and Abby enjoy happy hour with the couple. “We all go to the lanai to kick back,” Frank says.
Janiss Garza’s Abyssinian cat Summer makes therapy visits and is a blog star who frequently travels with Garza to conferences. Summer loves strutting her stuff, whether it’s in a hospital, airport or convention center.
Cats play favorites when it comes to letting us know who makes them happy. Sandra Toney is the one who does everything for her cat Angel, but Toney’s husband Ray is the apple of Angel’s eye: “All her love goes to him. She lays across his legs every time he sits in his recliner and has a look that says, ‘He belongs to me.’”
As Angel demonstrates, being in touch with their people — literally — is an important part of feline happiness. Brigitte Cowell Moyne’s Savannah cat, Zari, sleeps in bed with her, sprawling on top of one arm to keep her in place. Teo, a Peterbald who loves Moyne’s daughter, sleeps curled around Lola’s head.
Purple sleeps next to Alison Taub, purring as she pets his head, the back of his neck and his throat. Purple is normally high-strung, Taub says, so when he relaxes and snuggles, purrs and “talks” to her, she knows he’s a happy cat.
Routine also makes cats happy. Liz Moe’s Miss Kitty enjoys watching her litter box being cleaned. That makes sense, Dr. Horwitz says. She believes cats are happy when their life is predictable. And that includes knowing when the litter box will be clean. It’s not unusual for cats to wait for their box to be scooped and then immediately jump in to use it.
People, food and routine are important to cat happiness, no doubt, but here are a few more of their favorite things: boxes to sit in, batting at a small ball or wadded-up piece of paper, special toys. Gail Parker’s cats Leo and Athena enjoy loving on their dog buddy Daisy.
But Kim Hundley may have the real answer to what makes cats happy: “Doing whatever they want.”
Put on the dog for Dog Day
• It’s National Dog Day! Celebrate on Aug. 26 (or any day, for that matter) by giving your dog a special treat or toy, going for a “dog’s choice” walk (he gets to stop and sniff whenever he wants), taking a selfie with your dog, or making banana-peanut butter “pupsicles” by blending two ripe bananas and two tablespoons of peanut butter (make sure it isn’t sweetened with xylitol) and freezing the mix in an ice cube tray or popsicle mold. You may also want to make a donation to one of the many groups working to improve dogs’ lives and health. Some to consider are Morris Animal Foundation, the Grey Muzzle Organization, Waggle Foundation or your local shelter or breed rescue group.
• Some people look for the perfect retirement town, others for a location with an active outdoor lifestyle. Dog owners want a welcoming attitude toward their pets. This year, Scottsdale, Arizona, is top dog when it comes to pet friendliness. The city was named most pet friendly by WalletHub after comparing 24 metrics, such as number of veterinarians and pet businesses, cost of pet care, amount of pet-friendly parkland and trails, and strength of animal protection laws. Following Scottsdale are Orlando, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Austin, Texas; Phoenix; Las Vegas; Atlanta; St. Louis; Seattle; and Portland, Oregon.
— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and 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:National Dog Day is a good time to show your dog just how special you think he is.
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.