Month: November 2009

Winter Health Tips for Your Pets

let-it-snow

Do you enjoy winter and love to play in the snow, or would you rather curl up in front of a warm fireplace with your favorite feline?  Regardless of your preferences for this cold season, being aware of the challenges this time of year can bring for your pets can help keep them safe all winter long.

1. Keep your cat inside. Outdoors, felines can freeze, become lost or be stolen, injured or killed. Cats who are allowed to stray are exposed to infectious diseases, including rabies, from other cats, dogs and wildlife.

2.  During the winter, outdoor cats sometimes sleep under the hoods of cars. When the motor is started, the cat can be injured or killed by the fan belt. If there are outdoor cats in your area, bang loudly on the car hood before starting the engine to give the cat a chance to escape.

3. Never let your dog off the leash on snow or ice, especially during a snowstorm – dogs can lose their scent and easily become lost. More dogs are lost during the winter than during any other season, so make sure yours always wears ID tags.

4. Thoroughly wipe off your dog’s legs and stomach when he comes in out of the sleet, snow or ice. He can ingest salt, antifreeze or other potentially dangerous chemicals while licking his paws, and his paw pads may also bleed from snow or encrusted ice.

5. Never shave your dog down to the skin in winter, as a longer coat will provide more warmth. When you bathe your dog in the colder months, be sure to completely dry him before taking him out for a walk. Own a short-haired breed? Consider getting him a coat or sweater with a high collar or turtleneck with coverage from the base of the tail to the belly. For many dogs, this is regulation winter wear.

6. Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

7. Puppies do not tolerate the cold as well as adult dogs, and may be difficult to housebreak during the winter. If your puppy appears to be sensitive to the weather, you may opt to paper-train him inside. If your dog is sensitive to the cold due to age, illness or breed type, take him outdoors only to relieve himself.

8.  Does your dog spend a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities? Increase his supply of food, particularly protein, to keep him in tip-top shape.

9. Like coolant, antifreeze is a lethal poison for dogs and cats. Be sure to thoroughly clean up any spills from your vehicle, and consider using products that contain propylene glycol rather than ethylene glycol. Visit the ASPCA Poison Control Center for more information.

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Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Your Pets

Thanksgiving dog and cat

ASPCA experts offer these tips for a fulfilling Thanksgiving that your pets can enjoy, too.

Sage Advice

Sage can make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste delicious, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

No Bread Dough
Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him raw bread dough. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal’s body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake
If you’re baking up Thanksgiving cakes, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs-they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.

Too Much of a Good Thing
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse-an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.

Keeping these tips in mind will ensure a happy and healthy Thanksgiving for all family members, human and furry!

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Book Review: Animal Magnetism by Rita Mae Brown

animalmagnetismAnimal Magnetism is the first memoir by Rita Mae Brown since Rita Will – Memoir of a Literary Rabble-RouserIn sometimes funny, always heartwarming stories, Brown introduces us to the animals that have touched her life:  Franklin, a parrot with a wicked sense of humor; Suzie Q, the horse who taught her the meaning of hard work; Baby Jesus, a tough tiger cat from New York City with an attitude to match; and of course, Sneaky Pie, who needs no introduction to the legions of fans of the Sneaky Pie Brown murder mystery series.  Brown shares stories of these animals, and the lessons they taught her.  She makes no secret of the fact that she prefers the company of animals to people.  As Brown explains, “There’s no such thing as a dumb dog, but God knows there are continents filled with dumb humans.”  By observing the animals on her farm and in her life, Brown has gained insights into herself and other human beings that she shares in her inimitable prose. 

As someone who just published a book about the lessons one little cat taught me, this book resonated with me on many levels, but at times, I felt a bit lost in the author’s lengthy descriptions of fox hunting.  However, even though this is not a topic that is close to my heart, I was captivated by the passion with which Brown describes it, and I gained a better understanding of the practice in the process.  You know you’re reading a book by a great writer when they can make you keep reading about a topic you didn’t think you really cared about!

I loved these words from the book, that perfectly summarize what the book is all about: “I hope you are lifted by the love of a cat, dog, horse, even a parrot… More, I hope you recognize it and return it. … We are all in this life together.  We need one another.”

A wonderful book for all animal lovers, as well as fans of Brown’s Sneaky Pie Brown and Sister Jane novels.

Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sister Jane novels–Outfoxed, Hotspur, Full Cry, The Hunt Ball, The Hounds and the Fury, The Tell-Tale Horse, and Hounded to Death–as well as the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries and Rubyfruit Jungle, In Her Day, Six of One, and The Sand Castle, among many others. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia.

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Training Cats

Guest Post by Elaine Viets

There are people who can train cats to do tricks, to walk with a leash, to use Elaine Vietsthe toilet and flush afterward. Dominique, the Key West cat man, has a whole show using his specially trained “flying house cats.” He gets them to walk on tightropes and jump through hoops.

After hearing about these feline successes, Don and I tried to train our cats. Three cats back, we adopted a young semi-Siamese named Sylvie. We’d heard that Siamese cats liked to walk with a leash and were easy to train. We bought a Chihuahua leash for her. Sylvie flopped down on the sidewalk like a passive resistor and went limp. We wound up dragging the protesting cat half a block, which caused talk in the neighborhood.

“Be patient,” the text books advised us potential cat trainers. We kept trying to use the  leash. Finally clever Sylvie learned to escape its leather confines like a hairy Houdini.

The cats quickly succeeded in training us. They started yowling every morning, and we learned to leap out of bed at seven a.m. and feed them.

It took six cats before Don succeeded in training one. Now my husband regrets his success.

We adopted Harry, a brown-and-black striped tiger, from our local vet. Some idiot had shot Harry’s family. Harry escaped with his life, but he was left with a fear of large, white males, which proved he was a sensible animal. Whenever a big, white guy loomed at our condo door, Harry hid under the couch. If it was a bill collector, I joined Harry.

It took Harry nearly six months and lots of coaxing before he would let Don pet him. After a year, Harry permitted Don to scratch his ears.

Another six months later, we had a breakthrough. At least, we thought so at the time. Harry let Don scratch the base of his tail. Don was thrilled. So was Harry.

The cat would follow Don around and jump up on chairs so Don could scratch his tail. Don thought this was hilarious.

He’d slap a chair seat and say, “Present butt!” Harry would jump up for his tail scratch. He would fold back his ears and look blissfully happy.

Harry started following Don everywhere. If Don took a nap or stretched out on the couch, Harry was there, demanding a scratch. He was polite about it, in a catlike way. He’d give Don a formal forehead bump, which is cat for “hello” or maybe, “wake up, stupid.” We weren’t sure on our cat translations.  Then Harry would turn around and present his rear end for a scratch. The cat looked like a brown-and-black watermelon. A very happy watermelon. Don obliged and scratched him.

Harry has become a scratchaholic. If Don lights anywhere for a moment or two, there’s Harry, demanding a butt scratch.

It’s ceased to be funny. Don can’t read a book or fall asleep until Harry gets his butt scratch. Now the cat has started waking up Don in the middle of the night.

“This is kind of kinky,” Don said, as he scratched the cat’s rear end at three in the morning.

“Couldn’t you train the cat to turn on the coffee maker, or dial 911 in case of an emergency?” I asked. “You did pretty good with all those dogs.”

Don has trained the neighborhood pooches to line up at their fences when he passes by on a walk. He says, “Present ear,” and the dogs get their ears scratched. It’s a much more wholesome pastime.

“Why couldn’t you have trained Harry to get his ears scratched?” I asked.

“That’s for dogs,” Don said.

I guess I should be grateful he doesn’t scratch Clydesdales.

The Fashion Hound MurdersElaine Viets writes two mystery series, The Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series, set in her hometown of St. Louis, and the Florida-based Dead-End Job series. She has won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards for her writing.  In Elaine’s lastest release, The Fashion Hound Murders,  Mystery shopper Josie Marcus investigates a chain of doggie boutiques and discovers those fashionable pets come at a killer price.

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Book Review: Catsong by T.J. Banks

catsong-cvr-2Catsong is a charming and delightful collection of stories about special cats and the impact they had on the author’s life.  T.J. Banks shares the stories of the cats that have graced her life, and the immense love, joy and comfort they have brought, each in his or her own individual and special way.  There is Alexander Czar-Cat, the magical cat of the author’s childhood.  There is Jason, a black-and-white stray whose love and affection accompany Banks through her college years and into her marriage.  There are Cricket and Tikvah, and Solstice and Kilah, cats that connect with the author on a soul level.  T.J. Banks clearly knows and understands cats, and her appreciation of and love for each individual cat shines through in her sensitive and beautiful prose.  By sharing her stories about these cats, the author makes us feel that we actually knew them, and she also shows us how truly special all the feline spirits that come and go from our lives are.  For those of us willing to listen with our hearts, cats have so much to teach us.  They enrich our lives through their simple, loving presence, bring us joy and entertainment with their endless antics, and provide quiet love and support during our dark days.  This collection of stories covers all of these aspects, and more.

It’s impossible to pick one story over another – they’re all wonderful and special in their own way.  But for me, the title story, Catsong, touched me  most deeply.  This is the story of Kilah, the seventeen-year-old tortoiseshell cat who helps her human through personal tragedy and countless animal crises – and whose loving spirit continues to bring comfort even after passing into the non-physical dimension.

This book is a treasure for any cat lover and makes a wonderful holiday gift.   The author has a limited number of autographed copies available for sale.   E-mail T.J. Banks at [email protected] for more information and to order. 

T.J. Banks is the author of Souleiado and Houdini, a novel for young adults that Cleveland Amory has enthusiastically branded a “winner.”  Her work has appeared in numberous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul and A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love.  She lives with her daughter Marissa and their cats and rabbits in a sometimes peaceable, but always interesting kingdom in Connecticut.

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Benefits of Probiotics for Cats and Dogs

Probiotics for Cats and Dogs

Source:  Holistic Pet Info

Many of us think of bacteria as harmful, or even deadly, but did you know that certain bacteria are not only desirable, but necessary for your pet’s good health?

“Friendly” bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifido-bacterium bifidum, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are just a few of the helpful microorganisms that can reside in your dog or cat’s intestinal tract where they play an important role in defending his body against disease and illness. These kinds of bacteria are referred to as “friendly” because, rather than causing illness and disease, they serve to defend your pet from harmful organisms which can invade his body from time to time.  

Keeping this complex ecosystem of microorganisms in balance, however, is not always easy.  In this ongoing “tug of war” between friendly and harmful bacteria, sometimes the friendly bacteria get outnumbered due to a number of causes:  

  • The use of prescription drugs
  • The aging process
  • An inadequate diet
  • A compromised immune system
  • Fertilizers, pesticides and chemical pollutants
  • Stress 

Probiotics and Antibiotics

One of the most common ways that the ratio of friendly-to-harmful bacteria gets nudged out of balance is through the use of antibiotics. Of course, the use of these drugs is not always avoidable, especially if your dog or cat is fighting a serious infection.

Unfortunately, antibiotics are not able to distinguish between friendly and harmful bacteria, so when eradicating the harmful bacteria (the source of many serious infections), they also kill off a large number of friendly bacteria. This leaves your pet with even less of a defense the next time he is exposed to harmful microorganisms.  

Chemicals in the water supply and soil can have much the same effect. They do eliminate many of the harmful bacteria your pet is exposed to; but they also upset the balance between good and harmful bacteria. In this way, chemicals can also have a negative impact on your pet’s health.  

Even a natural event such as aging can affect the balance of good and harmful bacteria in your pet’s intestinal tract. Regardless of the cause, if your pet shows any of the signs of an unhealthy intestinal tract, this should serve as a red flag: It’s time to intervene and help your pet get his intestinal ecosystem back on the right track. Some of the most common symptoms of an unhealthy digestive tract are the following:  

  • flatulence
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • sluggishness
  • skin problems
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
    Irritable Bowel Syndrom (IBS)    

Probiotic Supplements for Dogs and Cats

One of the simplest and most effective remedies for poor digestion is to administer probiotics to your pet. Probiotics are  supplements comprised of different kinds of friendly bacteria. The ingredients in them may vary from brand to brand, as do the methods of delivery. For instance, probiotics may come in capsule, paste, liquid, or tablet form. They may even be included in some brands of commercial pet food, although this is not considered the best source since, according to some studies, certain brands do not contain the amount or even the kind of probiotics that are stated on the labels. For this reason, supplements are considered the more effective way to go.  

The Right Formula

So what should you look for when shopping around for probiotics? Above all, you want a formula that is comprised of quality ingredients that will help restore the balance of microflora in your pet’s intestinal tract. A formula that contains a 1:1:1 ratio of Lactobacillus Casei, Bifidobacterium Thermophilum, Enterococcus Faecium should address this need.

If you are looking for information on how to manage your pet’s health with holistic or natural pet care products like nutritional supplements, vitamins, nutraceuticals and other natural medicines, Holistic Pet Info is the place for you.  They carry more than 100 natural pet products including vitamins and nutritional supplements, nutraceuticals and other natural medicines.  The site also offers a wide range of well-written and researched articles and other information on animal health issues.

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The Importance of Good Dental Health for Your Pets

cat dental health

Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for pets.  Dogs and cats are particularly prone to tooth and gum diseases.  An astounding 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3, according to the American Veterinary Dental Society.

Normal teeth in both cats and dogs should be white or just a little yellow.  Gums should be light pink and smooth (except in breeds with pigmented gums). 

Oral disease begins with a build up of plaque and tartar in your pet’s mouth.  Without proper preventive and therapeutic care, plaque and tartar buildup leads to periodontal disease, which manifests in red and/or swollen and tender gums, bad breath, and bleeding.  When the gums are swollen, they can be painful – a good rule of thumb is that if it looks like it might be painful, it probably is. Pets are masters at masking pain – when in doubt, assume that your pet is experiencing at least some discomfort.

The inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease can lead to damage to other organs such as the heart, kidney and liver, and lead to other serious health problems.  Dental disease can also be an indicator of immune system disorders, particulary in cats.

Common indicators of oral disease in dogs include bad breath, a change in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth and depression.  If you notice any of these, don’t wait until your dog’s next annual check up, take him to the veterinarian for a thorough exam.

Cats rarely show any symptoms at all unless the situation is literally life-threatening.  They will eat even when their level of chronic mouth pain would send a person to the emergency room.  They almost never paw at their face, even with loose or abscessed teeth.  They get pretty smelly breath from eating cat food, so it’s tough to tell by smelling the breath whether your cat has dental disease or just had breakfast.  But even though they don’t show us much in the way of outward symptoms, chronic dental/periodontal disease can cause severe and often irreversible damage to internal organs.  So it’s important to get regular veterinary exams at least once a year, and twice a year for cats six and older or for cats with a known history of dental problems. 

Since our pets won’t just sit still and open their mouths to have their teeth cleaned like humans, dental procedures for pets require general anesthesia, something that makes many pet owners nervous.  While there are always risks with anesthesia, they can be minimized with a thorough pre-anesthetic check up, including bloodwork to assess kidney and liver function and rule out other underlying health issues.  This will allow your veterinarian to customize the anesthesia to your pet’s health status and potential special needs.  Keep in mind that leaving dental disease untreated may present a far greater risk than anesthesia.

For more information on anesthesia for pets, read this guest post by Dr. Louise Murray about Safe Anesthesia for Pets.

A special thank you goes to Dr. Fern Crist of the Cat Hospital of Fairfax for her contribution to this article.

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