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.
Check calendar for dog and cat days
• May is an eventful month for pets. Take time out to observe Pet Cancer Awareness Month, National Pet Month, Be Kind to Animals Week (May 5-11), National Animal Disaster Preparedness Day (take a pet first-aid class or set up a “go bag” with everything your pet might need if you have to evacuate on May 11), International Chihuahua Appreciation Day (May 14), World Turtle Day (May 23) and International Hug Your Cat Day (May 30). Cats don’t especially enjoy being hugged, so maybe just give her a good scratch behind the ears.
• Which is cleaner, your dog’s fur or your husband’s beard? Swiss researchers found that dog fur wins out. They swabbed the beards of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs of assorted breeds and compared the results. All the men had high bacterial counts in their beards while only 23 of the dogs (76 percent) had the same result. The remaining seven dogs had medium-to-low levels of bacteria. Maybe it’s time to retire the phrase “You dirty dog!”
• If you have a new kitten, be sure she is properly vaccinated. Current recommendations are an initial inoculation for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia when kittens are 6 to 8 weeks old, followed by additional doses every three to four weeks until the kitten is 16 to 20 weeks old. A single, separate rabies vaccine can be given when the kitten is 12 to 16 weeks old. Even if your locale does not require cats to be vaccinated for rabies, it offers important protection in case your cat ever encounters a rabid animal. Bats can fly into homes, and it’s not uncommon for cats in their own yards to come in contact with skunks and raccoons, which often carry rabies.— Dr. Marty Becker,
Kim Campbell Thornton
and Mikkel Becker
Rough Side of the Tongue?
The spines on a cat’s tongue serve a variety of purposes
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
If you’ve ever been licked by a cat, you know the rough feel of the tongue, lined with rows of backward-facing barbs called papillae.
It used to be thought that papillae were in the form of a solid cone, but engineering researchers at Georgia Tech took a closer look and made a surprising discovery. Using 3D scanning with micro-computed tomography, the actual shape of the small spines was revealed to be not conical, but hollow. And that shape has a specific purpose.
“I liken them to ice-cream scoops,” says Alexis C. Noel, lead author of a paper published last December in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “They have this little U-shaped hollow from the tip down. We found that this cavity holds fluids really well.”
To test the action of the papillae, Noel and co-author David L. Hu introduced drops of food dye to the tip of the spine. “It sucked it up like a straw,” she says.
The scoop shape enables cats to use surface- tension forces to pull up water as they lap it, as well as to wick saliva deep into their fur, a way of cooling themselves.
“This shape makes much more sense, from a biomechanical standpoint,” says feline veterinary specialist Drew Weigner, DVM, who practices in Atlanta and is president-elect of the Winn Feline Foundation.
The investigation was inspired by Noel’s own cat, who was sitting on her one day while she watched TV.
“He decided to lick this microfiber blanket that he was on top of, and he got his tongue stuck in it,” she says. “I had to detangle him from the blanket, and it made me think. Everybody says cat tongues are kind of like sandpaper, but it really looks like the tongue is a lot more like Velcro.”
She and Hu hypothesized that when cats lick themselves, saliva — containing enzymes that break down fats and particulates — is distributed from the hollow spines, all the way down to the root of the hairs. They used high-speed videography to film three adult cats grooming themselves. During grooming, papillae become erect, increasing their contact area with fur. This contributes to saliva’s cooling effect.
Cats don’t have sweat glands over their bodies, except on their paws, so the thorough distribution of saliva helps to remove heat from the skin. Without papillae to push saliva deep into the fur, it would wet only the top layer of hairs.
The spines also help cats lick up oils, dirt, blood, feces and other contaminants. This not only keeps cats clean, but it also reduces odors that might otherwise expose their presence to predators.
Beyond domestic cats, Noel and Hu were able to examine the tongues of five other members of the feline family: bobcat, cougar, snow leopard, tiger and lion. What they found surprised them: Papillae are the same size and shape regardless of species.
That means the papillae of your tabby or tortoiseshell are just like those of a tiger or lion — except the big cats have more of them. Cats have about 300 papillae, while tigers have approximately 1,200.
“We thought that was strange because generally when you go from a small species to a large species, these things tend to scale, but these papillae didn’t,” Noel says.
On further investigation, they learned that no matter what the species, feline papillae are almost always long enough to penetrate fur and reach the skin. The exception is the Persian, with long, thick fur that’s impenetrable. “With these cats, the cat physically cannot push the tongue spine through the fur and reach the skin,” she says.
11 smart ways to help your puppy become the dog of your dreams
By Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Whether your new puppy is your very first or the latest in a long line of family dogs, a little advice on bringing him up can help ensure that he has a great start in life. Sometimes we forget what puppies are like, especially if the last one was 10 or more years ago, and if you’re new to puppies, they can be a mystery. The following tips can put you and your new pup on sound footing.
1. Start as you mean to go on. “What’s cute at 18 pounds isn’t cute at 118 pounds,” says Bernese mountain dog owner Adam Conn. Teach young pups to sit instead of jumping up when greeting people, especially if they are going to be jumbo-size as adults. If you don’t plan to allow your dog on the furniture when he’s grown because he’ll be too big or furry or drooly, don’t make an exception when he’s a small puppy.
2. Introduce puppies to being brushed and combed and having teeth brushed from day one. Even if a pup doesn’t have much coat yet, becoming used to the grooming process will save both of you stress in the long run.
3. Live by a schedule. “They poop and pee a lot more than you’d expect,” says beagle owner and dog trainer Denise Nord. Set a timer, and take them out every hour during the day until you get a handle on their personal schedule. Every pup is different.
4. Don’t take them out to potty and then go right back in. Let them have a little fun outside first. Sniffing and exploring are important to dogs.
5. Speaking of exploring, puppies need plenty of socialization — exposure to new people, places, objects and experiences — but in a positive way. “The more new experiences you can introduce your puppy to under calm, controlled conditions, the more likely he will be to accept new situations with a confident attitude,” says Fear Free Pets lead trainer Mikkel Becker. New situations should be fun, not scary, with the pup having the option to investigate at her own pace.
6. Don’t miss your puppy’s peak socialization and learning period (3 to 12 weeks of age) by keeping him at home until all his vaccinations are completed. “If you wait until your dog is 10 months old and 75 pounds before you take them anywhere except the vet, you will have issues,” says dog trainer and Labrador owner Liz Harward. It’s safe to take your pup to a socialization or “kindergarten” class as long as he has had at least one set of vaccinations and the other puppies have had vaccinations as well. Avoid places where unknown dogs gather, such as parks and pet stores.
7. Exercise appropriately. Puppies are active, no doubt about it, but they aren’t ready to become jogging partners until they are 18 to 24 months old. Running with them too early during bone development can cause permanent damage and pain, says English springer spaniel breeder Linda Prouty. Talk to your veterinarian about when your pup’s growth plates will close.
8. Schedule downtime. Puppies need plenty of rest, or they’ll become cranky, just like a toddler. Use a crate, exercise pen or puppy-proofed room for naptime — and for any time you can’t actively supervise your puppy’s activities and whereabouts.
9. Too much freedom too soon makes it difficult for puppies to become housetrained and learn house manners. For instance, they can learn to chew on the wrong things, says trainer Liz Palika.
10. Puppies need guidance, but it’s important not to push them too quickly. “I encourage people to let their pup grow up and take that time to build a solid working relationship that will pay dividends in the end,” says flat-coated retriever breeder Xan Latta.
11. Most important, enjoy that first year. “It goes fast,” Harward says.
Labs hold on to top-dog status
• For a record 28th straight year, Labrador retrievers are the No. 1 pick of dog lovers in the United States. The American Kennel Club’s registration statistics track the numbers of the 192 AKC-recognized breeds. The Lab hit first place in 1990 and hasn’t left it since, mainly because of his friendly character and ease of training. The Lab’s devotion to people may also be a factor. “They live to breathe your air,” says Lab breeder Linda C. Rehkopf. Following the Lab are the German shepherd, golden retriever, French bulldog, bulldog, beagle, poodle (all three varieties), Rottweiler, German shorthaired pointer and Yorkshire terrier.
• Poet T.S. Eliot called April “the cruelest month,” but for animal lovers, it’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Ways to help animals during this month — and year-round — include training them early in life using positive reinforcement techniques so as to prevent behavior problems; playing with them, whether that’s with a rousing game of fetch, a teaser toy for cats or participating in a fun sport such as agility or nosework; adopting from, fostering for or volunteering at a shelter; and supporting laws that protect farm animals and pets from abuse.
• We think of cats as loners, but they can live together amicably given enough space for each cat and a consistent and predictable daily routine. According to cat expert Tony Buffington, DVM, a happy cat has unrestricted access to high-perch resting areas free of loud noises and pursuit by dogs and small children. There should be enough space in a room for each cat to keep a social distance of at least 3 feet. Some cats are happy to share space and groom each other, while others take turns using resting areas at different times of day. Sort of a kitty timeshare! — Kim Campbell Thornton
Photo caption:The multitalented Labrador retriever is not only a popular family companion but also a super service and detection dog and search and rescue partner.