Nourish your senior horse with acupressure

By Amy SnowNancy Zidonis

Performing gentle acupressure sessions on your senior horse can help enhance his spirit, strength, and longevity.

The more time that passes, the dearer our senior horses become. We share many good times and a few hardships with these equines, growing closer to them through each new experience. So when their beautiful bones become more visible, the hairs around their muzzle turn gray, and they develop a hitch in their step – it’s not easy for us to watch. But while a senior horse often loses his status in a herd, and might not be able to sail over jumps with as much ease, he can still thrive well into his golden years! As long as he’s still here, there are steps you can take to maximize his quality of life – including acupressure.

Supporting his spirit

The more you can support your senior horse during this period of his life, the longer you will have him to love. Chinese medicine offers caring, gentle methods of nourishing your senior horse’s spirit, strength, and longevity. By promoting the harmonious flow of chi, blood, and other vital substances within the horse’s body, you can help him through these latter years in comfort.

Specific acupressure points, called “acupoints”, address and enhance the spirit as your aging horse adjusts to his changing status within the herd. Helping our horses live healthfully and comfortably as they age is the goal, and there are acupoints to help accomplish this.

According to Chinese medicine, emotions impact the horse’s entire being. The ancient Chinese saying, “The spirit is housed in the heart and revealed in the eyes,” couldn’t be truer for horses. When we see a horse with dull, absent-looking eyes, we know he is suffering. An aging horse is bound to lose status in the herd, and is bound to experience a wide variety of emotions during the adjustment period – from fear and anxiety to resignation and withdrawal. Offer your senior an acupressure session that can help calm and nourish his spirit, and clear his mind.

Strengthening muscles

Muscle tone and mass decrease with age; that’s the way it is. However, there are acupoints that enhance the circulation of energy and nourishing blood to the horse’s muscles, helping to sustain and build strength even as he ages. Two actions must occur to accomplish this. First, the horse’s digestive system must be able to break down the ingested forage into bioavailable nutrients; and second, the horse’s vascular system must be able to circulate nutrient-rich blood to the muscles.

When stimulated, the acupoints indicated in the chart below help strengthen muscles and sustain muscle tone, while also supporting digestion and blood circulation.

Equine longevity

Living a long time is one thing. Living a long time in good health is another. We all wish for our senior horses to live long and well. Chinese medicine is known for its attention to longevity. Ancient Chinese doctors knew that longevity is dependent on a robust flow of life-promoting energy (chi), blood, and the circulation and balance of all the vital substances needed to nourish the body. This is a tall order, acupoints known to enhance longevity have been used for thousands of years.

Between current conventional medicine and ancient Chinese medicine, we have the opportunity to enjoy our senior horses longer than ever before. These elders have nourished our lives, so it feels good to offer them acupressure sessions that help them feel their best. In many ways, our caring nourishes us both.

Why Do Dogs Hump?

As seen in PetMD

Humping is a common term for what veterinarians call mounting behavior. This is when a dog puts their front legs around another dog, and then thrusts their pelvis repeatedly (the humping motion). The mounting behavior can be directed towards the hind end of another dog, or sometimes the other dog’s head or side, or even toward a person.

Both male and female dogs, whether they are spayed or neutered or not, can perform mounting behavior. So why do dogs hump dogs, people, toys, or just the air, even after they are fixed?

Reasons Why Dogs Hump

Mounting behavior is a natural, instinctive behavior that occurs in puppies 3-6 week of age, most commonly during play. Both male and female puppies may mount each other.

Mounting can also occur when adult dogs play with another dog or person. People commonly think mounting behavior is strictly sexually motivated.

In unneutered male dogs, mounting behavior is in fact influenced by testosterone—it will occur in the presence of an unspayed female dog or a female dog in heat. But people assume the behavior will stop once their dog has been neutered. While neutering will reduce the mounting behavior by 50-60%, not all humping behavior is sexual in nature.

While there may be a hormonal reason that causes a dog to mount, humping behavior is not always triggered by hormones.

Humping can occur when dogs are excitable, such as during play or after greeting another dog. Some dogs may perform this behavior when they see their favorite dog friend or person.

Sometimes dogs hump to get their pet parent’s or another person’s attention. It is difficult for most people to ignore a dog when they are mounting their leg. If the person is sitting on the ground, the dog may mount them from the side or their back.

Mounting behavior can also be one way of conveying social status in dogs. Some dogs may mount other dogs to assert their status, but this behavior is usually accompanied by additional social signaling. Most social communication between dogs can occur without it escalating to one dog mounting the other. It is less likely to occur in a social context with the pet parent. In most cases of humping, there is another underlying cause.

Why Is My Dog Trying to Hump All of the Sudden?

This behavior may seem to come out of nowhere when a male dog reaches sexual maturity around 6-18 months of age, depending upon the breed of the dog. Some female dogs may mount people or objects when they are in heat. If the mounting behavior increases in frequency during this time period, it is most likely hormonally driven in intact animals.

If your dog is already spayed or neutered, then there may a learned component to this behavior. Every time your dog humps, you may be inadvertently reinforcing their behavior.

For example, your dog may mount you to tell you they want to play. You might push them away using your hands or legs. In your dog’s mind, this strategy worked to get your attention and you are now “wrestling” with them.

Why Do Dogs Hump People?

Humping behavior can be directed toward a person when a dog is excited. It is a sign of mental or emotional arousal. The behavior can be a physical outlet for the dog or a way of seeking attention.

Some dogs may just mount the person, but other dogs may mount and escalate to biting when the person tries to push them off. Legs are the most mounted areas because they are easily within a dog’s reach. However, it is not uncommon for dogs to mount any body part within reach.

Dogs may select a person to mount based on their relationship with the individual. It may be a sign that the dog prefers the person. Or it could actually be a sign that the dog may be anxious about that person. You would need to look at the dog’s relationship to the person to understand the underlying motivation.

Children can be targets of dog humping due to their size and depending on the dog’s previous experience or relationship with a child.

Why Do Dogs Hump the Air?

Some dogs may be excited or emotionally aroused but have been previously punished for humping. In this case, a dog may not be sure whether they should make physical contact or not. These dogs would be most likely to hump the air next to another dog or a person.

Why Is My Dog Humping My Cat?

If your dog humps your cat, it may be a sign of excitement or part of play, if the two pets do usually play with each other. Some small dogs may mount a cat if there is social conflict between them.

Should You Let Dogs Hump Things?

Some dogs hump their favorites toys, blanket, or pillow. They may hump regardless of whether you’re around or not and in any environment.

Some dogs may hump when they are anxious. This is referred to as displacement behavior. The dog is anxious and engages in a particular behavior as an outlet for their anxious energy, similar to an anxious person tapping their foot.

If your dog engages in this behavior for a short period of time and is not causing any injuries, then there’s no harm in allowing your dog to hump. It may be a self-soothing behavior for your dog.

However, if you think it’s an unsightly problem, you need to engage your dog in another behavior whenever they try to mount an object. This may mean keeping all pillows, toys, and blankets out of your dog’s reach.

When Is Humping a Problem in Dogs?

Humping can be a problem when your dog spends most of their time performing this behavior. If you have difficulty distracting and redirecting your dog from humping, it may be a sign of compulsive behavior.

In male dogs, frequent episodes of mounting may cause dermatitis over their foreskins. It is a serious problem when a male dog humps objects frequently enough that he causes lesions to form on the tip of his penis. The lesions can be painful, and in some cases, they can cause scarring at the tip of the penis, therefore forming a urinary blockage.

A dog with this condition needs immediate medical attention.

Frequent expression of mounting behavior can also exacerbate a painful condition, such as if your dog already has degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis in their hips or knees.

How to Stop Dog Humping

It may be very embarrassing to see your dog mount other dogs, people, or children. Many pet parents may pull their dogs away and scold them. This does not teach a dog to stop performing the behavior. Instead, it may increase a dog’s anxiety. 

Pet parents may also be inclined to place their dog on leash, tether them, or if at home, place their dog in a crate or another room to calm down. While these options do stop the humping behavior, better options include distracting your dog and redirecting them to perform alternate behaviors.

It is difficult for a dog to hump another dog if you focus your dog’s attention on chasing their favorite ball, for example. Or you could call your dog and engage them in calming behaviors, such as getting them to sit or lie down next to you.

When your dog engages in more appropriate behaviors, give them plenty of treats, praise, and attention. You can also keep your dog focused for longer by offering food puzzle toys or a long-lasting chew.

References

1. Beaver B V. Canine Behavior Insights and Answers 2nd Edition. 2nd ed. Saunders; 2009.

2. Hopkins S, Schubert T HB. Castration of adult male dogs: effects on roaming, aggression, urine marking, and mounting. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1976.

3. Bergman L. Canine Mounting: An Overview. NAVC Clin Br. Published online 2012.

Does my Cat love me?

As seen in PetMD

It’s a common misconception that our feline friends are not affectionate creatures. Yes, it’s true that earning the love of a cat is not always easy, but when a cat begins to show trust and adoration for you, there’s often no better feeling of accomplishment.

Their furry counterparts, dogs, are much more open with their love through licking, wagging tails, constant and sometimes overbearing attention, and obvious “come play with me” body language.

Cats are much more subtle in showing their love, though that does not mean that the shared bond between cats and humans is any less than with dogs. It just means that you’ll need to work harder to understand your cat’s love language and boundaries in order to build trust.

12 Signs Your Cat Loves You

Body language is most important when understanding how a cat shows love. Here are some common signs that your cat loves you:

1. Slow Blinking

Eyes are said to be the windows to the soul. With some animal species, eye contact should be avoided, as it can be interpreted as being aggressive.

Cats, on the other hand, use eye contact with their people to show adoration, and often only directly look into the eyes of those that they trust and love.

They often will make eye contact with lowered eyelids and steady, slow blinks. This is considered a feline version of a kiss, and you can even try slow blinking to show love back to cats.

2. Headbutting

Your cat may bump their head against you or rub their cheeks against you to show affection. This is a social behavior that is formed in kittenhood through headbutting other kittens and their mother.

It is often an attempt to mark you with their scent to claim you as one of their own. It helps cats bond together and is offered to their humans to show love.

3. Grooming

Cats groom each other as a display of affection, and this behavior will extend to humans when trust is built. Cats will often lick their people or allow them to brush them.

Licking is similar to the grooming they would perform on their feline friends and allows for marking of each other. Grooming builds a bond between cat and human. Just be certain to watch for fast tail swishing and listen for any growling or hissing, because grooming, especially with brushing, can be overstimulating if it’s forceful or goes on for too long.

4. Kneading

Cats usually knead with their front paws. This is a behavior that begins in kittenhood and is associated with nursing on their mother. Kneading is believed to bring comfort and perhaps endorphins to the brain after nursing has ceased.

Relaxed cats that knead are showing contentment. They will often knead when you gently pet or stroke them. Sometimes cats knead to create a softer sleeping spot, which is considered an innate behavior.

5. Showing Their Belly

This is often considered the ultimate sign of trust for a cat. Cats only lie on their backs and show their bellies when they are in their most relaxed state.

This is not an invitation to pet or rub your cat’s belly, though! They are simply communicating that they feel comfortable and safe enough to reveal one of the most vulnerable parts of their body. If you go in for the belly rub, be careful, as your cat might retaliate with a bite or scratch.

6. Meowing

Cats will often give us short, quiet meows when we speak slowly and softly to them and they feel comfortable. If the meows get longer and drawn out or turn to hisses, then that is a sign that your kitty has had enough interaction.

7. Purring

Cats often purr to show contentment when they are resting near you or when you’re petting them. They may also purr when they’re nervous, but this is often paired with different body language such as laying their ears back, putting their head down, fast tail-swishing, or hiding.

8. Greeting You at the Door

Your cat is trying to show you that they missed you when they greet you at the door. This is often followed by walking in-between your legs and curling their tail around your legs. Sometimes it’s also accompanied by meowing and “rattle-tail” behavior, where your cat will shake their tail quickly.

This is your cat’s way of welcoming you home. They may also be telling you something more important, like they’re ready to eat, they need fresh water, or their litter box needs to be cleaned, so be sure to check these things.

9. Following You

Cats will often follow those that they love and trust around the home, or even outdoors if your kitty is an outdoor cat. It is similar to the greeting at your front door, where they follow behind you and keep you in sight at all times. They may also weave around your legs.

10. Tail Language

Cats often use their tails to express adoration for their owners. A content cat will often hold their tail in an upright position with a “C-shape” or hook at the very top. They may slowly wag their tail back and forth and allow it to touch you when they are lying next to you. Sometimes they will even rattle their tail while walking when they are very happy to see you.

11. Bringing You Presents

Cats are hunters at heart. A cat that is allowed outdoors will continue this hunting behavior by killing rodents and birds and bringing the remains back to their humans as a “gift.”

Though this may turn your stomach, it truly is a sign of love and pride. Your cat wants to reward you for your love. Indoor cats will often do this with toys or objects since they do not have the option to hunt live game.

12. Sleeping Near You

A cat who chooses to sleep on or close to you is showing their love and trust in you. Even if they choose to lie just out of reach for petting, this means that they feel safe and trust that you will protect them, or they will protect you if danger appears.

Cats show love in many ways. Their body language, behaviors, and vocalizations often tell us a lot about their level of trust and adoration. Acknowledging and understanding these behaviors can help build a strong, loving bond with your cat. A cat’s love is not always easy to gain, but once trust is built, there is no better relationship.

SHOULD YOU HUG YOUR CAT?

As seen in  PetMD

You’ve probably seen cats being hugged, kissed, and carried, and still looking totally content with life. And then there’s the opposite scenario—a kitty that doesn’t hesitate to take a swipe at you if you just try to pet them or walk by them too closely.

With the big difference in personalities, it’s hard to know if a particular cat likes being hugged. Do some just tolerate it? Do some actually like being hugged? Should you hug your cat?

Do Cats Like Hugs?

The truth is, many cats HATE to be hugged. They don’t like being held against their will, and especially not in a firm fashion.

If you’ve witnessed the average cat being hugged, you’ve probably seen squirming, meowing, panting, and eventually, claws. Don’t take it personally—most cats view hugging as a form of human-induced torture, pleasurable to the human part of the equation only.

However, some cats do seem to enjoy it. So what is the difference here? There are a lot of factors that help determine whether cats love or hate hugging. Here are a few.

Learning to Like Hugs in Kittenhood

Some cats may get used to being hugged in kittenhood. If you have a very young kitten and they grow up being hugged, they are more likely to enjoy (or at least tolerate!) hugging than, for example, an adult feral cat that you bring into your home. 

Easygoing Cat Breeds

Some cat breeds are said to be more mellow than the average cat, including the RagdollScottish Fold, and Sphynx.

These breeds lean more toward the easygoing side, so they are more likely to enjoy handling or hugging. That said, cats are still individuals, and you may well find that your Ragdoll cat hates hugging every bit as much as your Domestic Longhaired cat.

On the whole, however, adopting a sweet and mellow kitty from your local shelter and spending time with them on a daily basis is just as likely to yield affectionate results.

How You Hug Your Cat

How you approach your kitty may influence the response you get, too. If you swoop in like a giant predator, catch them off guard, and hoist them to the ceiling, that probably isn’t going to go over well. However, if you work up to it slowly, starting with some face scratches, then body rubs, your cat may let you hug them, too.

How Can You Tell If Your Cat Likes Hugs?

Cats are the masters of subtlety, unless they don’t like something. You will likely know quite quickly whether your cat is a fan of hugs just by observing their body language. Cats that enjoy hugs lean into them. They will often purrheadbutt you, and sometimes even drool.

On the other hand, cats that don’t like hugs try to flee, push you away, and give you signals that they are annoyed. They may lay their ears back, swish their tail, and even growl. Some cats will actually “freeze,” leading you to think that they don’t mind being hugged, but if you look at them closely, they may have dilated eyes and a stressed expression.

A safe general rule is to immediately let go of any cat that struggles or acts like they don’t want to be held, cuddled, or hugged—and be prepared to beg for forgiveness.

There are other ways to share affection with your cat, such as gentle scratches, grooming them with a cat brush, and giving them treats. The best bet is to find out what your kitty enjoys so the bonding time is pleasant for both of you.

Do My Cat’s Gums Look Normal? Here’s How to Tell

By PetWellbeing

When your cat yawns, you might get a brief glimpse at what’s going on in their mouth. After taking a peek, cat owners often ask themselves, “Are my cat’s gums normal?”

The eyes might be the window to the soul, but the gums are the window to your cat’s oral health. Cats are masters at hiding illness, so inspecting the gums is a good place to start—if they let you!

If your cat is okay with it, check their gums on a regular basis to detect potential health concerns.

Traits of healthy cat gums

Gums with the following characteristics indicate your kitty is in good health.

  • Pink color: Healthy cat gums are light pink in color. The ideal shade of pink is one that’s neither too bright nor too pale. Some cats, particularly black and orange ones, naturally have black or spotted gums. This is normal as long as the gums have been black their whole life. Double check with a vet to make sure black is a normal color for your cat’s gums.
  • Slippery and wet: When you run a finger along your cat’s gums, they should feel slippery and coated in saliva. This is a good indicator that your kitty is well hydrated.
  • Smooth texture: Healthy cat gums should feel smooth, not bumpy. Some cats develop black or brown spots that look like freckles as they get older. Pigmentation is a normal part of the aging process for some senior kitties so long as the gums still have a smooth texture.

Unhealthy gums and their diseases

Schedule a trip to the vet if you notice any of these abnormal characteristics.

  • Red or bright pink gums: Redness indicates the presence of gingivitis when it appears around teeth or along the gum line. Gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, in which case the entire gum line will look either red or bright pink. Gums that suddenly change to these colors could mean your cat is experiencing heat stroke. Heat stroke can quickly turn fatal and requires an immediate trip to the vet.
  • Gums growing over teeth: Pet parents should be concerned if their cat’s teeth look like they’re sinking below the gum line. This is a clear sign of a dental disease called tooth resorption. Tooth resorption occurs when a tooth slowly deteriorates and gets absorbed back into the jaw bone. It’s a long, painful process that most older cats experience at some point in their life.
  • Dry or tacky gums: Your cat’s gums shouldn’t feel sticky or dry to the touch. If that’s the case, your cat might be severely dehydrated. This symptom sometimes appears along with the redness associated with heat stroke. Encourage your kitty to drink lots of water right away. If the gum’s moisture doesn’t return to normal, you’ll need to visit an emergency clinic, where vets can rehydrate your cat.
  • Blue, purple or gray gums: All of these colors are cause for immediate concern. Gums that have paled into a blue, purple or gray hue indicate your cat isn’t getting enough oxygen. This could be due to pneumonia or a blockage in the wind pipe. Don’t wait a second longer—these colors require immediate medical attention!
  • White or pale pink gums: While blue indicates a lack of oxygen, white or pale pink gums mean your kitty has poor blood circulation. It’s possible their body isn’t producing enough red blood cells, but these colors could also be a warning sign for internal bleeding. Most cats who recently sustained an injury will exhibit white or pale pink gums. Check with your vet for a proper diagnosis.
  • Bumps, craters or lesions: A bumpy gum texture usually indicates that something’s wrong. Cats develop bumps or lesions on their gums for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the bumps are malignant tumors associated with oral cancer. This is especially true if the bumps are quite painful. Gums that are pockmarked with craters or open sores could mean your kitty has a bacterial infection caused by poor dental hygiene. No matter the cause, anything other than a smooth texture warrants a trip to the vet.

If your cat seems off, their gums are the first place to look. A change in color, texture or moisture can speak volumes about your kitty’s health. While unhealthy gums can indicate a problem, pet parents shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what their cats may or may not be experiencing. Abnormal gum characteristics are your cue to visit a vet clinic where the experts can accurately determine the proper next steps.

Water-The Most Important Nutrient for Horses

by Nutrena Roy J.

Water is the most important nutrient that we provide for horses on a year around basis. Horses need 2 to 3 times more water than other feedstuffs. An 1100 lb horse on a dry forage diet at an average temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit will need a minimum of 6-7 gallons of water per day or 48-56 lbs of water, and many horses will drink more water than the minimum. We all appreciate that the water requirement may double at high temperatures, but may not realize that at -4 degrees Fahrenheit; the quantity required is about 10-12 gallons per day, or actually higher than at moderate temperature. The onset of cold weather can actually increase the requirement for water because there is no fresh grass and the air is very dry.

There is a misconception that domestic horses can easily eat enough snow to survive. While horses in the wild do adapt to lower water intakes, partially because food intake is also frequently reduced, horses can survive longer without food than they can without water. Reduced water intake can also impair digestion and potentially contribute to the incidence of impaction colic.

It also requires a great deal of energy to eat snow, melt the snow in the body and raise the fluid temperature to normal body temperature of 99.5- 100.5. Increasing the temperature of 10 gallons of water from 32 degrees to 100 degrees takes about 1372 Calories or about the amount of digestible energy in a pound of feed. Melting the snow to get to water will take a great deal more energy and the horses will not readily eat a pile of snow the size of 20 five gallon buckets. It takes about 10 inches of snow to have one inch of water.

Providing horses with fresh clean water at an appropriate temperature all year around is a great management tool to reduce the risk of colic, maintain healthy digestion, maintain body condition and even save a bit of money on feed cost!

How to Curb Destructive Cat Scratching Behaviors

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on January 2, 2019 by Katie Grzyb, DVM

As seen in PetMD

Behind every cat behavior there is a reason, and understanding some basic—and natural—cat behaviors may save you a great deal of time and energy when your cat is scratching at your carpets and furniture—and your patience.

But before you start trying to deter your cat’s scratching, it is important to understand why cats scratch and why it’s such an essential part of their overall health and happiness.

Why Do Cats Need to Scratch?

Dr. Leslie Sinn, CPDT-KA, DVM, and founder of Behavior Solutions for Pets, explains it like this, “Scratching is a normal behavior for cats. They do it to physically stretch as well as maintain their claws (in preparation for hunting). Vigorous scratching helps to dislodge old nail covers, expose the new growth underneath, and is also used by cats to mark their territory.” Dr. Sinn adds that it is really only when cats are scratching our furniture do we label it destructive.

Why does this matter? Scratching is a natural and healthy behavior for cats, so you should be redirecting the behavior rather than trying to stop the behavior. Lisa Stemcosky, CCBC, CPDT-KA, SBA, founder of Pawlitically Correct, a behavior modification and training organization, is known for her work in the shelter animal community. She puts it like this, “Cats aren’t intending to be destructive when they are scratching items in the home. Scratching is an instinctive behavior for cats, they have to do it. They scratch for many reasons. They scratch to groom their claws, to mark territory both visibly and with scent, when they are excited, and when they are stressed.”

Cat scratching is imperative in keeping cats healthy and well-balanced, so it is important that we give them the things they need to do it in a productive way. You wouldn’t withhold cat food or water from your cat, so why withhold something else they need to thrive?

Stemcosky explains, “Because scratching is so important to cats, you don’t want to alter the behavior. But, you can teach cats to scratch in the appropriate places. Cats want to scratch in social areas and areas that are important to them.”

Redirecting the Behavior

Stemcosky explains, “First, you’ll want to make the areas that you don’t want them to scratch undesirable. For example, if your cat is scratching your sofa, you can put foil over the area that they are scratching. But you need to add appropriate scratching surfaces in that area for your cat. A study showed that cats prefer a tall, sturdy post covered with sisal. In addition to providing cats with an appropriate scratching substrate, you should reward them for using it, a yummy treat when you see them investigate it or scratch on it.”

Cat scratchers are great for providing your cat with an appropriate place for cat scratching. It may take some experimenting to find a cat scratcher that matches your cat’s scratching style, but here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Does your cat prefer to scratch sides of furniture or your carpets? If she is a side-of-the-couch scratcher, start with a cat scratching post or hanging cat scratcher. If she is a carpet scratcher, try something horizontal like cat scratch boxes to mimic the floor she enjoys so much.
  • Which substrate does your cat prefer? As Stemcosky explained, sisal is a popular choice among the feline community, but there are a variety of other options out there. Try something made of recycled cardboard or carpeting.
  • Once you have chosen a cat scratcher, make sure to place it in the same area where your cat likes to do their scratching. You can also add a little bit of catnip onto the new cat scratcher to entice them over to that option. You want the cat to keep scratching but scratching the appropriate cat-designated furniture.

In understanding this basic instincts of our feline housemates and how to coexist comfortably, we can create a well-balanced home for all.

The Dangers of Deterrents and Declawing

Declawing is the amputation of part of the cat’s toes, and it is illegal in most cities nationwide, with strong support from the animal community. It strips the cat of its natural ability to climb and protect itself and can even cause chronic pain and behavioral changes. In fact, many rescue facilities have a no-declaw clause in their adoption contracts. Before considering this radical procedure, speak with your veterinarian regarding safer options.

Both Dr. Sinn and Stemcosky recommend against using cat deterrent spray. Stemcosky explains, “I never recommend using [deterrents], like canned air or a spray bottle to punish a cat for doing something. It’s better to teach them what you want them to do and where. As for pheromone sprays, the studies are 50-50 on their effectiveness. Using them won’t hurt anything but you may not get the benefits that you were hoping for.”

Dr. Sinn further explains, “The problem with using deterrent sprays is that the cat often associates the spray with the owner becoming worried or scared in the owner’s presence. At best, they learn not to scratch when the owner is around but go right back to it when the owner is absent.” She goes on to say, “Indoor cats need attention and exercise, so spending at least 15 minutes of ‘me’ time with your cat will help—playing, grooming and petting.”

5 Steps to Help Keep Your Pet’s Mouth Healthy

By Dr. Becker DVM

  1. Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-specific, fresh food diet, and feed it raw if possible. When your dog or cat gnaws on raw meat, it acts as a kind of natural toothbrush and dental floss.
  2. If you have a dog, offer recreational bones and/or a fully digestible, high quality dental dog chew to help control plaque and tartar. The effect of dental chews is similar to raw bones, but safer for power chewers or dogs who have restorative dental work and can’t chew raw bones.
  3. Brush your pet’s teeth, preferably every day. A little time spent each day brushing your dog’s or kitty’s teeth can be tremendously beneficial in maintaining her oral health and overall well-being.
  4. Perform routine mouth inspections. Your pet should allow you to open his mouth, look inside, and feel around for loose teeth or unusual lumps or bumps on the tongue, under the tongue, along the gum line and on the roof of the mouth. After you do this a few times, you’ll become aware of any changes that occur from one inspection to the next. You should also make note of any differences in the smell of your pet’s breath that aren’t diet-related.
  5. Arrange for regular oral exams performed by your veterinarian. He or she will alert you to any existing or potential problems in your pet’s mouth, and recommend professional teeth cleaning under anesthesia, if necessary.

Daily homecare and as-needed professional attention by your veterinarian are the best way to keep your pet’s mouth healthy and disease-free. They are also important for pets with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and kidney failure.

What to Expect From a Veterinary Oral Exam and Cleaning

Prior to the oral exam and cleaning, your pet should undergo a physical exam and blood tests to ensure she can be safely anesthetized for the procedure. The day of the cleaning, she’ll be sedated and a tube will be placed to maintain a clear airway and so that oxygen and anesthetic gas can be given.

An IV catheter should also be placed so that fluids and anesthesia can be administered as appropriate throughout the procedure. If you’re wondering why pets require general anesthesia and intubation for a seemingly simple procedure, there are a number of benefits:

  • Anesthesia immobilizes your dog or cat to insure her safety and cooperation during a confusing, stressful procedure
  • It provides for effective pain management during the procedure
  • It allows for a careful and complete examination of all surfaces inside the oral cavity, as well as the taking of digital x-rays, which are necessary to address issues that are brewing below the surface of the gums that can’t been seen and could cause problems down the road
  • It permits the veterinarian to probe and scale as deeply as necessary below the gum line where 60% or more of plaque and tartar accumulate
  • Intubation while the patient is under general anesthesia protects the trachea and prevents aspiration of water and oral debris

While your pet is anesthetized, her teeth will be cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler as well as a hand scaler to clean under and around every tooth. Your vet will use dental probes to measure the depths of the pockets in the gum around each tooth, and x-rays should be taken.

Once all the plaque and tartar is off the teeth, the animal’s mouth will be rinsed and each tooth will be polished. The reason for polishing is to smooth any tiny grooves on the teeth left by the cleaning so they don’t attract more plaque and tartar. After polishing, the mouth is rinsed again.

The oral exam, x-rays and cleaning with no tooth extractions usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour. The cost will depend on where you live, and typically ranges from around $400 to $1,000. Veterinary dental specialist visits will be more expensive; you’re paying for more specialized equipment and their ability to expertly manage complicated oral problems.

Extractions are typically priced according to the type of tooth and the time and work needed to remove it. There are simple extractions, elevated extractions, and extractions of teeth with multiple roots, which tend to be the priciest. Exceptional pain management after dental extractions should never be elective; always give adequate pain control for as long as necessary after more invasive dental procedures.

Urinary Incontinence In Dogs

Urinary Incontinence In Dogs

by Jean Hofve DVM

Urinary incontinence in dogs, means your dog has the inability to retain urine in his bladder … in other words, bladder leaks.

The urinary system is quite elegant. Urine is produced by the kidneys and fed through the ureters to the bladder. A sphincter (circular muscle) keeps the passage to outside closed until it’s voluntarily opened during urination. At that point, urine flows through the urethra to whatever object your dog decides to gift with his or her scent.

When the sphincter doesn’t stay fully tightened, involuntary leakage occurs. If the bladder is too full, urine can overflow into the urethra and escape. This often happens while your dog is resting or sleeping, or when she gets up from lying down.

Dribbling urine can also be a behavior issue if it happens when your dog is frightened or being submissive.

Signs Of Incontinence In Dogs

I probably don’t need to tell you how you’ll know your dog is incontinent. It’s usually pretty obvious!

The most common sign of urinary incontinence in dogs is wet spots wherever your dog sleeps. 

You might also notice …

  • Dampness around the hindquarters and thighs
  • Dribbling urine as she walks
  • Irritated skin or redness from the dripping (urine is caustic and can burn)
  • Licking the vulva or penis more than usual
  • Dribbling urine when she is excited, frightened, submissive, or stressed

What Causes Incontinence In Dogs

There are many potential causes and contributors to incontinence, including:

What this adds up to is the need for adequate testing to pin down an accurate diagnosis.

Breeds Prone to Incontinence

Research shows that females are more prone to urinary incontinence in dogs than males. Two UK studies found that urinary incontinence affects 3% of females overall, but more than 15% in high risk breeds. These include …

  • Irish Setter
  • Doberman
  • Bearded Collie
  • Rough Collie
  • Dalmatian

Prevalence in males is less than 1%, with breeds affected including …

  • Bull Mastiff
  • Irish Red Setter
  • Fox terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Boxer

Spay/Neuter Increases Incontinence

Urinary incontinence in dogs is more likely in spayed females, especially if they’re spayed early.  One study of 492 female dogs concluded that …

“Neutering itself and early-age neutering (<6 months) are major risk factors for early-onset urinary incontinence.”

Another study found that size was a factor in spayed females developing USMI (urinary sphincter incompetence). For every month neuter was delayed in the dogs’ first year, the risk of USMI was reduced in dogs weighing over 25 kg. The risk did not change for dogs under 15 kg.

So, if you decide to spay your dog of 50 lbs or more, it’s best to defer the procedure as long as you can.

RELATED: Read about other risks of early spay/neuter.

How Vets Diagnose Incontinence

Your vet will do (at least) a thorough physical exam, standard blood tests and urinalysis.

If these tests don’t point to an answer, your vet may do more specialized blood tests, urine culture, radiographs, ultrasound, or other types of scans.

If leaks started when your dog was very young, and the vet suspects an anatomical abnormality like ectopic ureter (see below), she may do a dye “urography” that traces the course of the ureter.

You want to determine the cause of your dog’s incontinence so you can treat it appropriately.  For example …

  • An older spayed female dog is most likely to have estrogen-responsive incontinence from spaying. But you don’t want to waste time and money treating that when the real problem may be something else that requires very different therapies.
  • Ectopic ureters or other anatomical issues may be corrected with surgery.
  • Incontinent dogs are more likely to develop urinary tract infections. That’s because the presence of urine in the urethra can provide a route for bacteria to climb up to the bladder and set up housekeeping.
  • If the problem is a urinary tract infection or uroliths (stones), then resolving that problem may quickly take care of the incontinence.
  • The same applies to hormonal issues that can be treated appropriately.

PRO TIP

Before we get to the details, my #1 recommendation for any kind of bladder problem is protect your stuff! Managing a dog with incontinence, a UTI, or inappropriate urination for any reason is unpleasant and frustrating.

Waterproof dog beds and washable pee pads make clean-up easy and convenient. If your dog sleeps on the bed, at the very least get a waterproof mattress pad, and perhaps a flannel or comfy waterproof flat sheet to put over the covers. Temporary use of doggy diapers may also reduce the emotional toll on the human family.

Conventional Treatments For Incontinence

There are several conventional approaches to treating incontinence problems.

Phenylpropanolamine (Proin®, Propalin®)

This drug releases chemicals that strengthen the bladder sphincter muscles. It’s not a cure … so if your dog stops taking it, she’ll go back to leaking urine.

Side effects in the manufacturer’s clinical trials included …

  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Proteinuria (protein in the urine)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Restlessness or difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Lethargy

Some more serious side effects can occur, usually at higher dosages. These include cardiac issues, tremors and difficulty urinating.

At low doses the risk of side effects is minimal, so some holistic vets may use this drug along with other alternative therapies.

Estrogen (Estriol/Incurin, DES)

This synthetic estrogen drug is often used for females with spay incontinence.  It comes with quite a list of side effects. Studies show adverse effects like …

  • Vomiting
  • Swollen/itchy vulva
  • Lethargy
  • Aggression (leading to euthanasia in some cases)
  • Hyperpigmentation and lichenification of vulva (black skin spots and thickened skin)
  • Hair loss
  • Vaginal hemorrhage
  • Seizures

Those are quite unpleasant side effects. But this drug also has some even more serious risks. It may cause cancer and bone marrow toxicity. There are good non-pharmaceutical substitutes.

Surgery To Correct Anatomical Abnormalities

If your dog’s incontinence is caused by an anatomical abnormality, your vet may recommend surgery.

The most likely kind of abnormality is ectopic ureter. It’s fairly rare, with reported incidence of less than 0.1%.

The ureters transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Ectopic ureter means that one or both ureters by-pass the bladder and connect to the urethra, uterus or vagina. This can cause continual dripping of urine.

This problem is usually seen in 3 to 6 month old dogs, and females are 8 times more prone than males.

High risk breeds for this problem are …

  • Siberian Husky
  • Miniature and Toy Poodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Collie
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Wire-haired Fox Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

This condition may be corrected with surgery to redirect the ureter into the bladder.

A less invasive method is cystoscopic-guided laser ablation. It’s done under anesthesia and involves inserting a ureteral catheter into the ectopic ureter. A laser then “ablates” (removes) the wall of the ureter. This effectively moves the opening from the urethra to the bladder. One study showed a 47% success rate for this procedure.

PRO TIP

However you decide to treat your dog’s incontinence … adjust and increase your dog’s potty break time. This will help reduce the amount of urine in the bladder at any one time.  Make sure she goes out to pee before you leave for work or school, and right before bedtime.

Natural Treatments For Incontinence

These are some of my favorite alternative approaches for urinary incontinence In dogs.

Chiropractic, Acupuncture, And Osteopathy

These hands-on treatments are excellent choices that can be very successful in resolving incontinence. They’re especially effective if urinary incontinence in dogs is due to physical issues like spine misalignment, muscle spasms, or nerve injury or impairment.

Read how to find a practitioner under the “Find A Holistic Vet” section below. You may also be able to find a local veterinary rehab facility that offers these modalities.

Herbs And Nutraceuticals

These are some effective options, depending on the cause of your dog’s incontinence.

  • Wild Yam extract has estrogenic and anti-spasmodic effects, but may require fairly high doses (100 mg per 25 lbs. body weight). It’s often included in herbal blends with Rehmannia, licorice, red clover, cranberry, and other herbs. Follow package directions for products intended for dogs. If using a human product, the dose is based on a 150 lb person, so reduce the dose proportionally for your dog’s weight.
  • Soy isoflavones are the best natural substitute for estrogen, but be sure you choose an organic product, since most soy in the U.S. is GMO (genetically engineered). Vetriscience Vetri-Bladder chews are a good choice; give 1 chew per 30 lbs. body weight once a day. The same dose applies to their canine Bladder Strength tablet, which also contains supportive herbs.
  • Estroven® contains Rheum raponiticum extract. he dose is based on a 150-lb person, so reduce the dose proportionally for your dog’s weight. It may work by itself or need to be combined with estrogenic herbs. Estrogenic herbs include soy, Mexican wild yam, black cohosh, dong quai, red clover.  It’s best to ask a holistic vet or herbalist for help using these herbs.
  • Herbs that are good for urinary tract infections (if that’s the cause of your dog’s leakage) include cranberrygingerturmericolive leaf, and uva ursi. Cranberry prevents E. coli bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall; olive leaf has antibiotic properties; uva ursi is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory; turmeric and ginger are great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herbs. They are available in a wide variety of combinations, usually with other natural antioxidants.
  • Anti-arthritic herbs, such as turmeric, ginger, Boswellia, yucca, and barberry, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidants work best in combination; many such products are available, but my favorite (which I take myself!) is Boswellia Complex by Standard Process. A small or medium size dog can take 1/2 tablet twice a day; for large and giant breeds, give a whole tablet twice a day. CBD also relieves pain and may be a good adjunct.
  • Chinese herbs are very useful; but it’s important to work with a veterinarian trained and experienced in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. These herbs are powerful, and appropriate formulas must be individualized for your dog.
  • Glandular support. Here again, Standard Process shines. Symplex F is excellent as a replacement for hormones missing due to spaying. Symplex M is for neutered male dogs. Both products also support the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands. Both synergize well with Vasculin, which contains a multitude of herbs and vitamins that support healthy blood vessel and nerve function.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from a marine source have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Protein and collagen are both important for any muscle, including the bladder sphincter. The bladder itself is also a muscular organ. Protein is also a natural urinary acidifier. Bone broth and a higher protein diet may be helpful.

Homeopathy

A good homeopath can work virtual miracles. There are many remedies indicated for urinary incontinence in dogs, but it’s important to work with a qualified homeopathic veterinarian. The choice of remedy and potency must be highly individualized for not only incontinence, but also for the dog’s personality, environment, history, and many other factors. 

I have seen homeopathy restore bladder and bowel control in a dog who had been hit by a car, after months of unsuccessful medical management. Find a homeopath at The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH).

RELATED: Homeopathy Basic For Dogs

The next two approaches are newer and less common, but worth exploring with your holistic vet. Studies show promising results with these therapies.

Botulinum Toxin Injections

Research has found that injections of Clostridium botulinum toxin into the bladder wall (50-100 botulinum toxin units per animal in 10 injections) successfully prevented recurrence of incontinence in dogs for up to 5 months.

Electrical Stimulation

Researchers are currently experimenting with implants that provide electric stimulation to the nerves in dogs with a spinal cord injury. While it’s not likely to be coming to your local veterinary clinic, veterinary teaching hospitals may incorporate it in the not-too-distant future.

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Support Your Dog’s Overall Health

Finally, as with all chronic health problems, it’s important to keep your dog as healthy overall as you can.

Not all incontinent dogs can be completely cured. But with the right management and therapies, it can be well controlled … so you and your dog can enjoy a long, happy, and puddle-free life together.

What to Feed a Cat for Weight Gain

by Liz Bales DVM

When veterinarians talk about a cat’s weight, it’s usually focused on feline obesity.

While obesity is a prominent health issue among cats, many cats are also struggling with being underweight. And similar to losing weight, gaining weight gain can also be a tricky issue for cats. It’s not just about changing food portions.

First, you’ll need to find out why your cat is losing weight. Then you can determine a plan of action that includes a diet that will safely help your cat return to a healthy weight.

Create a Plan of Action for Your Cat

Once you and your veterinarian have a plan for treating the underlying disease, you can get to the hard work of weight gain. Your veterinarian will likely have specific suggestions for your cat based on their age and medical needs.

A diet that is customized to your cat’s specific medical condition is likely to result in the best outcome. Your vet will also identify your cat’s ideal weight, and can do regular weigh-ins to make sure that your plan is effective and that your cat does not exceed his/her ideal weight.

For sick cats, returning to a healthy weight is about more than just calories. Diets for specific conditions are customized to have the right macronutrients and micronutrients to provide weight gain while addressing the unique disease-related concerns.

What to Feed a Cat to Help Them Gain Weight

If your cat’s medical problem is under control—parasites are treated or painful teeth are pulled—correcting the calorie deficit may be the only treatment necessary.

Here’s what your veterinarian will look for in a healthy cat food for weight gain.

Find a Type of Food That Fits Your Cat’s Preferences

The most important first step is to find a food that your cat enjoys eating but that doesn’t cause stomach upset. You want a food that fits their dietary requirements but is also highly palatable so they will want to eat it.

It’s not unusual for a cat to have a strong preference for a specific flavor, type (canned/dry) or even texture of food. The same goes for a cat being repulsed by one or more of these factors.

Navigating your cat’s preferences is the first, and most important, step of getting your cat to eat well.

Make Sure the Food Fits Their Nutritional Needs

Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats need to get the essential nutrients for their health from animal products.

The natural prey for cats, such as small rodents, are estimated to contain around 55% protein, 45% fat and 1–2% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis.

Although the macronutrient breakdown of prey is only 1-2% carbohydrate, most cats can use up to 40% of their diet in the form of carbohydrates as a good source of energy.

In general, dry food contains more carbohydrates than wet food.

Cat Food Options for Weight Gain

Good quality kitten food is an excellent choice for weight gain in healthy cats. And most cats enjoy eating kitten food.

Royal Canin Feline Health nutrition dry cat food for young kittens is nutrient- and calorie-dense and tends to be highly palatable to most cats.

Your veterinarian can also prescribe high-calorie cat foods like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Recovery RS canned cat food or Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care canned cat food.

These formulations are highly digestible and provide the extra calories your cat needs to gain weight.

Calculate How Much to Feed Your Cat

Once you have found a food that fits your cat’s needs and also gets them excited about mealtime, it’s time to work out the right portion sizes.

Math is our friend here. In general, for gradual and healthy weight gain, it’s best to assess your cat’s resting metabolic needs and then to feed this amount of calories plus 20% more.

Your vet can help you translate this into the correct amount of the food to feed.

Tips for Helping a Cat Gain Weight

Addressing the underlying health issues, selecting the right food and figuring out how much to feed are vital for success.

But that’s just the starting point. Once you have that sorted, you will need to establish a feeding routine.

Here are a few tips for getting your cat to eat reliably and gain weight safely.

Feed Small, Frequent Meals

A cat’s stomach is only about the size of a ping-pong ball. So it’s normal that your cat won’t eat a lot all at once.

Whether your cat prefers wet food, dry food or both, try feeding one tablespoon of food every few hours.

These small, regular meals are better tolerated than large meals and can reduce the risk of vomiting after a meal.

Try Warming Up Your Cat’s Wet Food

Cats are stimulated to eat by the smell of their food. Warming up wet food can help make the food more aromatic and enticing to your cat.

To heat your cat’s food, put their food in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for a few seconds.

The optimal temperature for most cats is at, or near, their body temperature—38.5°C (101.5°F).

Offer the Right Snacks Between Meals

Healthy snacks between meals can aid in putting weight on your cat.

Try tempting your cat with a few high-protein, simple bites of freeze-dried chicken, like PureBites chicken breast freeze-dried raw cat treats, between each meal.

Decrease Your Cat’s Anxiety

A calm cat is a happy cat, and happy cats are more likely to have a good appetite.

Cats are solitary hunters and solitary eaters. That means that they prefer to eat their meals without being bothered.

When your cat has been unwell, it’s normal to want to hover over them. But your cat will likely eat better if you give them some space.

Talk to Your Vet About Appetite-Stimulating Medicine

There are a few medicines available from your veterinarian that can help stimulate your cat’s appetite.

An hour or so after talking the medicine, your cat will feel the urge to eat. You can even ask if your vet can get the medicine in a transdermal form (patch or gel for the skin or gums), so that you can avoid having to give a pill.