Dog Anxiety Help: How to Calm Down an Anxious Dog

by Megan Petroff, DVM (Clinical Behavior Resident) as seen in PetMD

 

For people, anxiety can feel overwhelming and debilitating at times. If you have a dog that struggles with fear, anxiety, or stress, it’s important to be supportive and patient.

Calming a frequently anxious dog is possible, but it may require collaboration between you and your veterinarian, or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

If you have a nervous dog, here’s some insight you can use to identify the signs and triggers, and steps you can take to help calm your dog’s anxiety and improve their quality of life.

Recognize the Signs of Dog Anxiety

“Dogs use body language to communicate how they are feeling,” says Ashley Atkinson, CPDT-KA and behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

For example, if your dog seems uneasy or is fixated on licking, they could be communicating nervousness, stress, or fear. There are many subtle signs of dog anxiety.

According to Dr. Susan Konecny, RN, DVM, medical director of Best Friends Animal Society, some clinical signs include:

  • Pacing
  • Trembling
  • Shaking
  • Hypervigilance
  • Lip licking
  • Frequent yawning
  • Decreased appetite

She also says that some physiological effects of anxiety can include:

  • Increased salivation or drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate and panting
  • Skin lesions from self-trauma
  • Over-grooming

Talk With Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Anxiety

Once you learn how to detect when your dog is anxious, you can begin to identify the triggers that are causing the anxiety. Write down the signs that you see and describe the situations and circumstances when your dog showed these signs. Then schedule an appointment with your vet so they can rule out underlying medical issues,and help you get the right treatment for your dog.

Anytime a behavior change is noted in a pet, medical problems in other areas of the body could be at play. Your veterinarian can perform diagnostic tests to confirm that your pet is otherwise healthy.

In all cases, it’s best to seek the help of your veterinarian to make sure you are doing everything you can for your dog. When no other cause is found, your veterinarian can prescribe anxiety medication if needed, and/or recommend a veterinary behaviorist.

Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorists

If your veterinarian thinks it’s necessary, they may refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to help your dog.

These veterinarians are specialists who have done a residency for three or more years in clinical behavior medicine, and passed a board-certification exam. Board-certified veterinary behaviorists are experts in treating fear, anxiety, and aggression in pets.

The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists has a directory on their website with the current board-certified veterinary behaviorists near you.

Tips for Calming Your Dog’s Anxiety

Your veterinarian can help create a plan for relieving your dog’s anxiety, and it may include the following steps. Some are simple actions you can try at home, and others require your veterinarian’s oversight.

Remove Triggers That Cause Your Dog’s Anxiety

If you’ve already gone to your veterinarian to rule out other illnesses, and they’ve helped identify possible stressors, then it may be as simple as removing those stressors and seeing if your dog’s anxiety lessens.

For example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs or people, you can skip the dog park. Alternatively, you can take your dog for walks when fewer people will be outside, play in a fenced yard if you have one, and play games inside the home.

Try Dog Appeasing Pheromones

Dog appeasing pheromones are synthetic pheromones similar to the calming pheromones that female dogs give off while nursing puppies.

These pheromones can help reduce anxiety in some dogs and are available in a few different forms. There are collars, sprays, and diffusers, so you can choose the best option for your dog.

Exercise With Your Dog

Exercise can help with our own anxiety, and research studies have shown that greater levels of exercise in dogs are associated with lower levels of aggression, fear, and separation anxiety.1

Create a Sanctuary Space

Some dogs get so anxious in certain situations that no amount of calming, praising, or rewarding will give them relief. “When this is the case, they need a quiet space with no stimulation where they can turn off all the input and simply unwind,” says Dr. Konecny.

This can help in many situations, such as if they are nervous:

Drowning out ambient sounds with white noise may also help them relax in their sanctuary room.

Ask Your Veterinarian About Anti-Anxiety Medications

If your dog is truly struggling with anxiety, you can talk to your veterinarian about whether anti-anxiety medications would be beneficial.

Some pet owners worry about using these medications:

  • Will it make their dog sleepy all the time?
  • Will it change their personality?
  • Will these types of medications shorten their dog’s lifespan?

When treated with the proper medications, your pet should exhibit less anxiety, seem happier, and still have the same personality. If your veterinarian isn’t sure what to prescribe, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist can help you find the best medication for your dog to help them thrive.

Try Behavior Modification

Sometimes, additional modalities are needed to treat behavior problems in pets. Behavior modification can help you change the emotional response your dog has to offending situations or triggers.

Through this cognitive therapy, your dog can learn to become less afraid of stressors and more calm. In some cases, behavior modification can help a dog to the point where they will no longer need to be on medications.

This is something a veterinary behaviorist can help you with as well.

Be Supportive

Learning and avoiding what causes your dog stress, ruling out possible underlying illnesses, and seeking professional help will all improve the quality of life for your anxious dog.

Scientific evidence has shown that stress has negative effects on health in people, and this is true in dogs as well. A 2010 study of 721 dogs concluded that, “The stress of living with a fear or anxiety disorder can have negative effects on health and lifespan in the domestic dog.”2 For this reason it’s important to be proactive to help your dog with their anxieties.

Don’t give up. The solution may not be quick or easy, but with dedication and the right professional assistance, you can help your dog be happier and healthier.

Citations

  1. Lofgren, Sarah E., et al. “Management and Personality in Labrador Retriever Dogs.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 156, 2014, pp. 44-53.
  2. Dreschel, Nancy A. “The Effects of Fear and Anxiety on Health and Lifespan in Pet Dogs.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 125, no. 3-4, 2010, pp. 157-162.

 

Why Dogs Respond to Their Names Better Than Cats

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM comments by Diane Weinmann
If you happen to have both a dog and a cat in the family, I’m sure you’re aware of the difference between them when you call them by name. If your canine companion isn’t focused on something more interesting (such as eating), chances are she’ll respond almost immediately when you call her because there could be food or a treat involved, a walk, a nice petting session or something equally delightful.
However, when you say your cat’s name, you probably get a distinctly different response or often, no response at all. Does my cat not recognize his name, you may wonder to yourself, or is he simply ignoring me?
Cats Prefer to Interact With Us on Their Own Terms
Not long ago, a team of university scientists in Tokyo decided to study cats’ ability to understand human voices similar to the way dogs, parrots, apes and dolphins are able to understand certain words. However, compared to those highly social species, “… cats are not so social,” observes lead study author Atsuko Saito, Ph.D., a psychologist at Tokyo’s Sophia University. “Cats interact with us when they want.1
Interestingly, learning more about simple social behaviors in cats such as name recognition may help researchers understand more about how humans became social. According to ScienceDaily:
“Both humans and cats have evolved through the process of self-domestication, where the population rewards certain traits that then become increasingly common in future generations.”2
Past research with cats has revealed they can read human gestures to find hidden food, recognize their human’s voice, and beg for food when someone looks at them and says their name.3 According to Saito, these three behaviors suggest cats may know their names.
“I think many cat owners feel that cats know their names,” Saito told ScienceNews magazine,4 but until now, there was no scientific evidence to back that up.
Cats Probably Know Their Names — Even If They Don’t Respond
The Japanese study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, involved 77 cats living in homes and cat cafes (typically tea or coffee shops where customers can interact with the many cats who live there), and four separate experiments conducted over a three-year period.5 The kitties were from 6 months to 17 years old, of both genders, mostly mixed breeds, mostly spayed or neutered, and all but one lived indoors only.
The researchers recorded their own voices and those of the cats’ owners saying five words — the first four were words that sounded similar to each cat’s name, and the fifth was the actual name. The team also evaluated whether the cats could tell the difference between their own names and those of other cats with whom they lived.
The behavior the researchers were looking for from the cats to indicate they knew their names was no response upon hearing the first four words, and head or ear movement (or rarely, moving their tails or bodies, or vocalizing) upon hearing their own names.
The researchers noted that the cats who had weak responses to similar-sounding words or the names of other cats they lived with were significantly more likely to show a strong response to their own names, even when spoken by someone other than their owner.
Cats living in homes were more likely than cafe cats to distinguish between their own names and the names of cohabitating cats, whereas cafe cats almost always reacted to their own names and those of other cats living there.
Since at cafes the cats’ names are often called together, the researchers theorize it may be more difficult for kitties to associate their own names with positive reinforcement in those environments. According to Saito, cats who didn’t respond to their names may still recognize them.
“Their lack of response may be caused by their low motivation level to interact with humans, or their feelings at the time of the experiment,” she said.6
Saito’s advice to cat parents who want to communicate more with their pets is to “… interact with your cat when she shows that she wants to interact with you.”

Dogs Are Social; Cats Are Independent and Semi-Domesticated
Saito makes the point that unlike cats, dogs “… are literally born to respond to their names.” This is because humans have purposely bred dogs to be obedient and responsive in their interactions with us. Cats, on the other hand, are semi-domesticated. They’re about 20,000 years behind the domestication curve as compared to dogs.
Dogs have other advantages in this arena as well. They’re a social species, whereas felines are independent, preferring to spend much of their time alone. In addition, one of the first things dogs are taught is their name, and training and socializing dogs is easier because unlike most kitties, they’re motivated by treats and other types of rewards.
It wasn’t that long ago that most cats spent most or all of their time outside. Now that more and more feline family members are living indoors exclusively and spending their days and nights in close contact with humans, it’s possible their ability to interpret and respond to our verbal and physical cues will continue to develop. “Social evolution is an ongoing process,” says Saito, and cats are still evolving.
Take home message: When you call your feline family member by the name you so carefully chose for her and receive absolutely no response, make no mistake, she heard you and is simply choosing not to acknowledge you. But she’ll come around eventually, as she always does, on her terms, not yours!
It has been Diane’s experience, with the two cats that she has been blessed to own, that they do respond to their names and come when called. Now, is this because Diane is an animal communicator and was also calling to them in her head—probably, but you too can connect with your pets in your mind when you give them a command. Simply show them or visualize what you are asking them to do in your mind.

Dogs Are Social; Cats Are Independent and Semi-Domesticated
Saito makes the point that unlike cats, dogs “… are literally born to respond to their names.” This is because humans have purposely bred dogs to be obedient and responsive in their interactions with us. Cats, on the other hand, are semi-domesticated. They’re about 20,000 years behind the domestication curve as compared to dogs.
Dogs have other advantages in this arena as well. They’re a social species, whereas felines are independent, preferring to spend much of their time alone. In addition, one of the first things dogs are taught is their name, and training and socializing dogs is easier because unlike most kitties, they’re motivated by treats and other types of rewards.
It wasn’t that long ago that most cats spent most or all of their time outside. Now that more and more feline family members are living indoors exclusively and spending their days and nights in close contact with humans, it’s possible their ability to interpret and respond to our verbal and physical cues will continue to develop. “Social evolution is an ongoing process,” says Saito, and cats are still evolving.
Take home message: When you call your feline family member by the name you so carefully chose for her and receive absolutely no response, make no mistake, she heard you and is simply choosing not to acknowledge you. But she’ll come around eventually, as she always does, on her terms, not yours!
It has been Diane’s experience, with the two cats that she has been blessed to own, that they do respond to their names and come when called. Now, is this because Diane is an animal communicator and was also calling to them in her head—probably, but you too can connect with your pets in your mind when you give them a command. Simply show them or visualize what you are asking them to do in your mind.

Laser pointers and Cats!

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

We’ve all done it … flashed a laser pointer across the floor (and up the wall and onto the ceiling) to see at what lengths our cats will go to catch that little dot of light. But why are cats so obsessed with laser pointers? Let’s look at the science involved to find out why cats love laser pointers and whether or not they’re actually an appropriate toy for our feline friends.
How Cats’ Eyes Differ from Ours
The retina is the structure at the back of the eye that converts light energy into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain to be turned into images of our world. Two types of retinal cells – cones and rods – are found in both human and feline retinas. Broadly speaking, cones are involved with color vision and the ability to focus on and appreciate fine detail while rods are responsible for vision under low light conditions and for the detection of movement.
Humans have more cones than cats do, while cats have more rods than humans do. Therefore, cat eyes are great at picking up movement, even if it is quite dark, but they don’t see details or colors very well. The opposite is true for us (for a neat comparison, check out All Eyes on Paris). In other words, the feline retina (and other parts of the eye as well) is perfectly designed to maximize the chances of catching quickly moving prey at dusk and dawn when cats most like to hunt.
What does this mean with regards to cats and laser pointers? First of all, because of their relatively poor color vision, the color of the laser pointer shouldn’t matter to your cat. This is particularly true since the contrast of the bright laser against the comparatively dark background is so intense.
Stimulating a Predatory Response
Though the color of the laser pointer doesn’t matter, what is alluring to your cat is the way that you make that bright dot of light move. When it darts here, then pauses, and then dashes over there, you are mimicking the actions of prey animals, which cats find hard to ignore. This type of movement stimulates the predatory sequence – stalk, pounce, kill and eat – that is hardwired into our cats even though their survival no longer depends on a successful hunt.
Did you notice that laser pointers only satisfy the first two steps in the predatory sequence – stalk and pounce – while leaving the desire to kill and eat unfulfilled? For some cats, this isn’t a problem. They’ll happily chase that little dot of light around for a while and then walk away unperturbed, but other cats seem to get agitated after taking the laser pointer on for a round or two. The inability to ever truly be successful is probably why.
If you are worried that your cat is frustrated by chasing a laser pointer, try switching to a different type of game that allows your cat act out more of the predatory sequence. Kitty fishing poles that that let you flick a stuffed mouse or feathers across the floor, into the air and onto the couch will provide your cat with the opportunity to stalk, pounce and eventually kill (or at least bite and claw) their “prey.” Toss out a few treats at the end of the game or give your cat a food dispensing ball to chase around for a while, and playtime should end on a satisfying note for everyone.

We’ve all done it … flashed a laser pointer across the floor (and up the wall and onto the ceiling) to see at what lengths our cats will go to catch that little dot of light. But why are cats so obsessed with laser pointers? Let’s look at the science involved to find out why cats love laser pointers and whether or not they’re actually an appropriate toy for our feline friends.
How Cats’ Eyes Differ from Ours
The retina is the structure at the back of the eye that converts light energy into nerve impulses that are sent to the brain to be turned into images of our world. Two types of retinal cells – cones and rods – are found in both human and feline retinas. Broadly speaking, cones are involved with color vision and the ability to focus on and appreciate fine detail while rods are responsible for vision under low light conditions and for the detection of movement.
Humans have more cones than cats do, while cats have more rods than humans do. Therefore, cat eyes are great at picking up movement, even if it is quite dark, but they don’t see details or colors very well. The opposite is true for us (for a neat comparison, check out All Eyes on Paris). In other words, the feline retina (and other parts of the eye as well) is perfectly designed to maximize the chances of catching quickly moving prey at dusk and dawn when cats most like to hunt.
What does this mean with regards to cats and laser pointers? First of all, because of their relatively poor color vision, the color of the laser pointer shouldn’t matter to your cat. This is particularly true since the contrast of the bright laser against the comparatively dark background is so intense.
Stimulating a Predatory Response
Though the color of the laser pointer doesn’t matter, what is alluring to your cat is the way that you make that bright dot of light move. When it darts here, then pauses, and then dashes over there, you are mimicking the actions of prey animals, which cats find hard to ignore. This type of movement stimulates the predatory sequence – stalk, pounce, kill and eat – that is hardwired into our cats even though their survival no longer depends on a successful hunt.
Did you notice that laser pointers only satisfy the first two steps in the predatory sequence – stalk and pounce – while leaving the desire to kill and eat unfulfilled? For some cats, this isn’t a problem. They’ll happily chase that little dot of light around for a while and then walk away unperturbed, but other cats seem to get agitated after taking the laser pointer on for a round or two. The inability to ever truly be successful is probably why.
If you are worried that your cat is frustrated by chasing a laser pointer, try switching to a different type of game that allows your cat act out more of the predatory sequence. Kitty fishing poles that that let you flick a stuffed mouse or feathers across the floor, into the air and onto the couch will provide your cat with the opportunity to stalk, pounce and eventually kill (or at least bite and claw) their “prey.” Toss out a few treats at the end of the game or give your cat a food dispensing ball to chase around for a while, and playtime should end on a satisfying note for everyone.

Going to Foster a Dog?

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

 

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to bring a foster dog into your home — or you’re seriously considering it. This is an altruistic act that will change the animal’s life forever, and is key to helping the approximately 3.3 million dogs that enter U.S. animal shelters annually.1

Not only is there simply not enough room to keep every dog in need of a permanent home in a community animal shelter, but such shelters are notoriously stressful places to be. As a result, dogs don’t show their true personalities, making it harder for them to get adopted.

It’s also common for animals to become sick in shelters, and the typical animal shelter environment, with its concrete floors, kennels and chaotic environment, is so traumatic for many dogs that it brings out behavioral issues, like fearfulness or excessive barking, that may keep them from getting adopted.

Imagine, then, that a dog that would otherwise end up cowering in a corner in a shelter kennel is able to instead spend his days waiting for his forever family while cozying up on a couch, in a home, with a temporary family to show him love and get him used to the routines of a household environment. Fosterers like you make that possible.

Getting Prepared for Your Foster

Once you fill out an application to foster a dog, be aware that your new foster could arrive sooner than you expect, so it’s a good idea to get prepared right away. While the animal shelter or rescue group that you’re fostering for will typically pay for veterinary care for the animal, you’ll need to supply basics, like food, shelter and other supplies.

Not knowing the personality of the animal you’ll be fostering, it’s also smart to prepare your home for your new guest much like you would do for a human toddler coming to visit: put away all items on the floor you don’t want investigated, keep electrical cords out of reach, and close off rooms you don’t want the foster pup to have access to.

Items to have on hand include food and water bowls (preferably non-plastic), a leash and harness, a pet bed, toys, food and treats. You’ll also need poop bags and a crate or pen. If your foster has had a negative experience with the crate, time in your home is a perfect opportunity to help them reframe this experience.

Next, decide where in your home you plan to keep these items, particularly where your foster dog will sleep, eat, go to the bathroom and spend time in his crate.

The biggest part of being prepared for a foster animal is knowing that your time with your pup will vary, and you’ll be working together to develop a relationship during this time, as well as care for a dog that may come with physical and behavioral challenges that need to be positively and appropriately addressed.

According to Second Chance Rescue, based in New York, the average time a dog spends in foster care is two weeks, but some dogs get adopted in a couple of days, while others may spend a month or more in foster care.2 In addition to caring for the dog in your home, some rescue organizations will ask their foster volunteers to bring the animal to adoption events to increase their chances of being adopted.

Making Your Foster Feel at Home

As soon as you bring your foster pup home, show him where to use the potty and where he can find a safe place to rest. This will help the dog feel less anxious, as he’s just been through a number of sudden, unpleasant experiences. You’ll want to do your best to keep his first hours and days in your home as calm as possible to help him feel at ease.

According to Karen B. London, Ph.D., who co-authored the book, “Love Has No Age Limit: Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home,” “For introductions, that means having him meet every person in your household one at a time in a calm way with no pressure and perhaps some treats or toys if he likes them. He should also meet other dogs, cats and any other species in your household one at a time, with a break between each introduction.”3

During this time of transition, London also advises keeping the dog on a leash when you take him outside, even if you have a fenced yard. A stressed-out dog may run away and be difficult to convince to come inside when you call him, and he may also appreciate having you nearby when he’s outside.

Helping your foster dog feel safe, secure and loved is the primary goal of foster care. While you may want to engage in some brief positive training sessions, the goal right now isn’t to teach him obedience but rather trust and acceptance.

“He may know a lot or he may not even know his name or how to sit when asked. Perhaps he is too overwhelmed to learn much right now. Keep training relaxed and low-key. Consider it a fun way to interact with him rather than a way for him to learn any particular skills,” London says, suggesting that you want your foster dog to associate you with love and attention more than anything else.4

Fostered Animals Are More Likely to Get Adopted

Fostering a dog is rewarding for those who want to make a difference in a dog’s life without making the full-time commitment to adopting. And it’s a proven fact that fostering makes an immense difference to animals, helping dogs to get adopted into permanent homes.

In a comparison of 30 dogs put into foster care and 30 dogs that stayed in a shelter for one week or more, those given foster care had significant improvements in behavior and wellbeing. Specifically, dogs in foster care were rated as being more playful, happier, friendlier and confident than the shelter dogs, as well as showing less signs of insecurity, anxiousness, barking and repetitive behaviors.5

Not only will your love help your foster find a home faster, but it will open up space in shelters and rescues so more animals can get the help they need. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved — and sometimes foster parents even end up falling for their foster and becoming their permanent home.

The possibility of “foster failure” is just one more part of the job to be aware of, but when it happens, it’s still a winning scenario for everyone.

 

 

Got Dog? They go back to the Ice Age!!!!

Stunning Evidence Suggests Dogs Lived During the Ice Age

by Dr. Karen Becker

 

 

While it’s known that dogs descended from wolves to become humans’ best friends, when — and exactly how — this occurred remains a great mystery and highly debated topic. Genetic data confirms that dogs are descendants of Eurasion grey wolves, and early humans and wolves were known to share resources and territories dating back hundreds of thousands of years.

Skeletal changes suggestive of dog domestication have been discovered dating back to the Aurignacian period some 43,000 to 26,000 years ago, and by 16,000 to 12,000 BP (before present), domestic dogs were known to exist in Western Europe, Asia and North America, with purposeful burials of dogs also occurring at this time.

Still, researchers wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science, “The beginning of this domestication process … remains a point of debate, with purported originations ranging from 15,000 to over 40,000 BP.”1

Understanding when this process occurred isn’t only a matter of satisfying curiosity — animal domestication signals a shift in humans’ relationship with nature and changes in human cognition and behavior. Uncovering when this first occurred will help researchers to also understand early Homo sapiens.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas may be one step closer to figuring out the mystery, after an analysis of Paleolithic-era teeth showed evidence of two groups of canids — “one dog-like and the other wolf-like”2 — existing at that time.

Dental Differences Suggest Dogs Emerged During Ice Age

The study involved fossils from a 28,500-year-old site known as Predmostí in the Czech Republic. A dental microwear texture analysis was performed on the ancient teeth, which identified distinctive microwear patterns on the differing canids. The dog-like canids, which the researchers called “protodogs,” had larger wear scars that suggest they ate more hard, brittle foods such as bones.

The wolf-like canids, on the other hand, had smaller scars, which could indicate they ate more flesh-based food, such as mammoth flesh. Peter Ungar, distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, explained in a news release:

“Our primary goal was to test whether these two morphotypes expressed notable differences in behavior, based on wear patterns … Dental microwear is a behavioral signal that can appear generations before morphological changes are established in a population, and it shows great promise in using the archaeological record to distinguish protodogs from wolves.”3

While the fossil site is believed to contain fossils from wolf-like and dog-like canids, the dental differences provide supporting evidence that the animals had distinct diets. The wolf-like canids likely feasted on flesh caught by hunting while the dog-like canids may have eaten more bones and other food scraps that came from a human settlement.

“Dental microwear is a behavioral signal that may appear generations before morphological changes are established in a population. It shows promise for distinguishing protodogs from wolves in the Pleistocene and domesticated dogs from wolves elsewhere in the archaeological record,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science.4

Paleolithic Dog Skulls Revealed

In 2012, researchers analyzing skull material from the same fossil site in the Czech Republic came to the conclusion that both dog and wolf skulls exist there.5

Three complete skulls were identified as belonging to ancient dogs, which were characterized by short skulls and snouts and wide palates and braincases compared to wolves. The ancient dogs had skulls shaped similar to that of a modern-day Siberian husky, but larger in size and heavier.

Three other skulls could not be identified, with researchers suggesting they could be from hybrids or captive wolves. Further, they noted that the skull and canine remains were modified by humans, which suggests a relationship existed between humans and large canids at the time.

For instance, one of the dogs had a mammoth bone in his mouth, which was believed to have been placed there after death. “The mammoth bone in the dog’s mouth could signify “that the dog was ‘fed’ to accompany the soul of the dead (animal) on its journey,” according to lead study author Mietje Germonpré.

Their conclusions, however, particularly the supposed presence of two distinct canid populations at the fossil site, were met with debate. The featured study, with its detailed dental analysis, adds further support that ancient dogs may have existed alongside wolves during the Ice Age. The researchers even made suggestions as to their respective diets:

“Isotope analysis suggests wolves and humans focused on mammoth, while dogs and lions focused on reindeer and other prey. Protodogs fed scraps would have been better able to break and consume the bones of reindeer and smaller prey compared to mammoths, and this may help explain the signal.

Alternatively, protodogs may have opportunistically scavenged off felid kills, as felids typically leave more flesh as well as marrow containing bones than do canids or hyaenids.”6

Still, even with this combined evidence, it’s possible that the two canid groups were actually different wolf populations that had developed different dietary behaviors due to increased competition or environmental changes. Further research will be necessary before the ongoing debate will be ended revealing when dogs were first domesticated.

As for why domestication occurred, it’s believed that wolves may have become integrated into human society because canids fulfilled important functions in the daily life of Paleolithic people, helping them with hunting and other work, offering protection and, just as they do today, providing a source of faithful companionship.

 

Changes to Animal Communications/Healing and Bach Flower Essences

 

Attention: Clients of “For The Love of Animals” (Diane Weinmann)

To become in line with other animal communicator’s practices, I am changing how I perform my sessions and structure my fee schedule for Animal Communications, Distance Healing and Bach Flower Essences

 

Starting July 1, 2020 – All client communication/healing will be charged using the fee schedule below:

 

Animal Communications– performed 1 session of up to 5 questions, additional questions charged at $10 per question

With Email to Client on pet’s responses- $50

With Email on pet’s responses plus phone call to Client – $75

Distance Healing- performed 1 session

Energetic Assessment = free

Healing Touch for Animals Distance healing session with email to Client – $50

Healing Touch for Animals Distance healing session with email and phone call to Client -$75

Custom Bach Flower Essence – $30 includes shipping

A First-Timer’s Guide to Caring for a Cat

A First-Timer’s Guide to Caring for a Cat

By Cindy Aldridge

 

As it was once so succinctly put, “Everybody wants to be a cat, because a cat’s the only cat who knows where it’s at.” Although being a cat may be out of our reach, having one might just be the next best thing. If you’re preparing for your first cat, you’re in for an exciting journey. Cats are curious creatures, and they’ll spark plenty of joy and laughter for years to come. Here are some tips for getting your first cat and making it feel at home.

 

Choosing a Cat

 

Your first step is figuring out what kind of cat you want to adopt. A first-time cat owner might be tempted to pick up a kitten, but that’s probably not the best call. Kittens are cute, but they’re also very high energy and tons of work. Moreover, it’s pretty impossible to tell what a kitten’s adult personality will be like, so a young cat is more of a gamble.

 

An adult cat, however, is more mature and settled. When you meet them, you can get a good sense of how cuddly or distant they’ll be, what kind of play they’ll like, and generally what you can expect from them. This will help you find a cat that suits your lifestyle. Cat personalities run the gamut from high-energy hunters to lazy lumps, from lap cats to the look-don’t-touch variety. Spend some time with different cats in the shelter to get a sense for who you click with best.

 

Gearing Up

 

You’ll need some supplies to help your cat feel at home. In addition to the basics — food, bowls, litter box, etc. — you’ll want to get some extras for your new pal. Cats love to go into small, cozy spaces, especially when they’re in an unfamiliar environment. A cat bed, from fancy self-warming models to the old-fashioned types, will give them a safe space to chill out while they adjust, and to nap once they’ve settled in.

 

Another great gift you can give your cat is a cat tree. These are tall structures with lots of levels of seating, usually made of a nice, scratch-safe material. Think of these as kitty jungle gyms. They’ll give your cat the chance to climb, jump, scratch, and lounge.

 

Finally, get plenty of different toys to ensure you’re satisfying your cat’s hunting instincts. Even the laziest cat will need playtime. Not only does this keep them physically healthy, it also helps reduce feline anxiety and aggression. Without playtime to work out energy and instincts, cats can be prone to biting, poor litter box etiquette, and other destructive behaviors.

 

Your New Roommate

 

It’s important to have the right expectations when you bring your new pet home. Cats have instincts of both predator and prey creatures, and they tend to be skittish in new environments. Many people barely see their cats for the first few days or even weeks after they’ve brought them home. This is okay! Your kitty needs time to adjust and feel safe around you.

 

The best thing you can do during this period is to give your cat distance and let them come to you. It may take some time, but being patient will pay off. By following your cat’s cues and allowing them to define the relationship, you send off signals that say “I’m safe!” Earning your cat’s trust will allow a positive relationship to blossom. Before you know it, you’ll be getting plenty of head boops and slow blinks — sure signs that your cat is in love.

 

Cats are great pets. When you get your first one, it may take you a little while to understand their style of communication and learn their personality. Once you do, however, you’ll see why so many people are obsessed with these wonderful creatures.

 

Why Cats Aren’t Wired to Live Together

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM comments by Diane Weinmann

 

Many pet owners make the mistake of assuming cats are just small dogs, when in reality, the two species don’t have much in common outside their roles as family pets. More than a few cat guardians have learned the hard way that it’s almost never as easy to add a second feline to the family as it is to welcome another dog.

In fact, it’s actually more likely than not that two unfamiliar adult cats, suddenly expected to coexist under the same roof, will not get along — at least initially.

Solitary Versus Social

According to U.K. veterinarian Dr. Sarah Heath, a certified clinical animal behaviorist, in an article for veterinary journal dvm360:

“Introducing cats to each other abruptly can be very stressful if they are not socially compatible. While physical confrontation may not be seen, passive signs of social tension, such as social and physical withdrawal, are likely to occur.

This may result in owners considering that there has been no problem with the introduction since there is no fur flying or blood being shed.

However cats that are expected to live close to cats with whom they are not socially compatible can suffer from chronic stress, and this can have physical health implications as well as behavioral ones.”1

Unlike dogs, cats aren’t naturally social beings. Heath calls them “solitary survivors.” Even domesticated kitties aren’t wired to seek out interactions with other animals (including humans), especially strangers. If they do choose to socialize, it’s usually with close relatives (e.g., siblings), cats they’ve grown up with, or their preferred humans.

When two unfamiliar cats are placed together in the same household, they usually don’t come with the skills necessary to cohabitate peacefully. The problem is exacerbated because often they are forced to live in close physical proximity to each other and must share food bowls, litterboxes, bedding, cat perches, etc.

Felines in the wild can easily avoid cats they don’t like. But inside your house, your kitties have limited options for steering clear of each other. This can set the stage for feline friction, which often takes the form of one cat stalking, chasing and showing aggression toward another cat.

Cats Don’t Require the Company of Other Cats

Since cats don’t need other cats around to be happy, if you already have a feline companion, don’t assume another cat will become your current cat’s BFF. It’s very likely cat #1 will not automatically welcome cat #2 simply because they’re the same species.

In fact, cat #1 will not initially view the new kitty as part of his social group. He may at some point … or he may not. As Heath explains:

“Anyone taking on a new cat should realize that the newcomer will be a single cat within the already existing household, like another tenant moving into a house of multiple occupancy.

The cats may tolerate each other’s presence if they are introduced gradually and their need for separate core territories is respected, but wanting the resident cat to have a friend is not a valid reason for taking on a second cat.”2

Even cats who have been friendly for years, including siblings, can lose their relationship.

“Natural feline social behavior leaves little capacity for reconciliation,” says Heath, “and the fragility of feline social relationships can be distressing for owners.”3

Seemingly minor bumps in the road from a human’s perspective can permanently damage the bond between cats. For example, a cat who has been hospitalized returns home smelling not like herself, but like the veterinary clinic she just left. In response, her feline housemate no longer views his long-time friend as part of his social group.

Setting the Scene for Success

The ideal way to create a harmonious multi-cat household is to bring home kitten siblings or unrelated young kittens who can establish a bond in their first few months of life. Getting cats are under the same roof at a young age is key, because by the time they reach social maturity at 2 to 3 years of age, they are naturally less open to interacting with new cats.

No matter the circumstances of who comes home when, it’s important to take steps to ensure a new kitty doesn’t present a perceived threat to the existing cat’s territory.

• Heath and other feline behavior experts recommend that cats who are cohabitating for the first time not be allowed to see each other for a few days or even a few weeks, to help cat #1 get used to the new cat’s scent in what he considers his territory before they actually meet.

• Forcing an introduction is an absolute no-no, as is offering food or treats as an enticement to get the cats physically closer to each other. Remember, kitties prefer to dine alone. To your cats, eating with another cat in close proximity is stressful.

• Provide the new kitty with her own food and water bowls separate from the existing cat’s. The new arrival should also have her own litterbox away from the existing one, and her own napping spot. Often the easiest way to do this is to set up a spare bedroom or bathroom for the new kitty with all the essentials.

• Consider using natural products like those from Bach Flower Remedies or Holistic Solutions to help your cats manage stressful feelings and events in their lives. Also talk to your integrative veterinarian about homeopathic remedies that fit each cat’s personality and symptom pattern to help reduce emotional responses. Diane has a “get along” bach flower remedy treatment that really works with most situations where pet cannot get along with each other!  Contact her at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com to learn more.

Also consider using Feliway, a pheromone product, to reduce stress levels and ease tensions between your cats. This product has been of huge benefit in assisting my two cats (who grew up together but don’t get along), in terms of reducing inter-cat aggression.

Keep in mind your goal in introducing the cats is to simply help them learn to live peacefully together. If they wind up friends, that’s wonderful, but if it happens it will be on their terms.

Additionally an animal communicator can sometimes explain the situation to each pet and provide expectations for getting along in harmony with each family member be it human or animal.  Sometimes all the pets need is a good talking to …explaining the reasoning for an additional pet and how they can coexist together for the good of the entire family.  If you have this situation and want an animal communicator to step in so to speak and discuss the reasoning with your pets email dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com for information on her communication policy and fees.

Environmental Enrichment To-Do List

There are a number of things you can do to prevent and relieve stress for the feline members of your family:

• Make sure each cat has an individual, out-of-the-way resting spot. It could be the top of a cat tree, or a crate (with the door left open), or a little comfy spot on a closet shelf. If you notice one of your cats likes to hide or nap in a certain spot, consider adding a soft cat bed or blanket. It’s extremely important that each of your kitties has at least one private area he can retreat to.

• Offer plenty of scratching surface — one for each cat at a minimum. Cats scratch not only to sharpen their claws, but also to stretch, and to mark territory. There should be both vertical and horizontal surfaces, since cats often prefer one or the other. Also consider experimenting with different textured surfaces that offer a bit of variety.

• Provide lots an ample supply of toys that appeal to your cats’ prey instinct, including indoor hunting feeders, and also offer interactive toys that you can play with, with your cat. Also consider building or investing in a catio, which is an outdoor enclosure that allows kitties to get all the benefits of being outdoors, while keeping them safe from harm.

• Consider providing multiple perches at eye level or higher. Many cats are drawn to high roosts because they feel safe from predators and can keep an eye on activities and intruders at ground level.

You can provide access to high spaces in your home such as high closet shelves or plant ledges. Alternatively, you can buy traditional cat furniture like cat trees, or you can get creative and design your own custom kitty perches. Try to put at least a perch or two near windows so your cats can bird watch and keep an eye on neighborhood activities.

• Offer a multitude of litterboxes (one per cat, plus a spare, at a minimum), several water bowls and a food dish for each cat (that can be placed in different rooms so the cats can eat alone).

Finally, offer your kitties a fresh, nutritionally optimal, species-specific diet, and make sure they get adequate exercise. Many housecats today don’t get the physical activity they need to be optimally healthy. Under-exercised, under-stimulated cats can accumulate pent-up energy that takes the form of hostility toward other felines in the household.

 

 

Is your Dog Depressed?

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Dogs may or may not suffer from depression in the same way humans do, but they definitely experience mood and behavior changes that are typically short-lived and the result of a recent event in a dog’s life.

Some dogs feel let down at the start of the school year when their playmates are no longer around. Often, an existing dog shows signs of sadness when a second dog is added to the family. Dogs who suffer the loss of a family member (human or pet) often go through a grieving period. And of course, many new canine residents at animal shelters suffer a period of sorrow and uncertainty.

The problem with diagnosing clinical depression (which is different from transient episodes of depressed behavior) is that even in humans, there’s no biological test to identify the condition. A physician makes note of symptoms and what the patient tells them about their feelings and arrives at an “educated guess” diagnosis.

Using our powers of observation you can determine if your animal companion is feeling blue. Generally speaking, when a vet or veterinary behaviorist describes a patient as depressed, the dog is displaying a change in normal behavior.  Dogs can talk with an animal communicator so please contact Diane at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com if you believe your dog is suffering from depression.

Possible Causes of Depression in Dogs

Lack of exercise — Some dogs actually become socially inhibited when they aren’t getting enough exercise and playtime. This can take the form of a decrease in interaction with other family members or choosing to isolate themselves in their crate or another room. If your normally happy dog suddenly isn’t, consider the possibility that she needs more exercise. A lot more daily exercise.

Most dogs need much more physical activity than their owners realize. Your dog should be getting an absolute minimum of 20 minutes of sustained heart-thumping exercise three times a week. Thirty minutes is better than 20, and six or seven days a week is better than three.

Minimum exercise requirements prevent muscle atrophy, but don’t necessarily build muscle mass, strengthen tendons and ligaments, hone balance and proprioception, or enhance cardiovascular fitness, which is why more is always better. If you can provide your dog daily walks as well as additional daily training sessions to meet your other exercise goals, even better!

Lots of long smell sessions, as a part of your dog’s “cool down” period after exercise, is a fantastic way to let your dog meet her daily outdoor sniffing requirements, another important behavior that can provide tremendous mental enrichment. I believe sniffing isn’t just enjoyable for dogs, it’s a requirement for healthy cognitive stimulation.

Lack of human interaction — A healthy dog who is feeling depressed may lose interest in eating or playing, become destructive, have accidents in the house, or stop running to greet you when you come through the door. Like a sleepy, sluggish dog, a depressed pooch often just needs more quality time with his human.

Get into the habit of spending an uninterrupted hour with your dog each day engaging in physical pursuits, grooming rituals, training exercises, and good old belly rubs. It will lighten both your moods!

Punishment — Dogs who are punished for undesirable behavior instead of being rewarded for positive behavior may stop interacting with their owners in an attempt to avoid mistreatment. They adopt a depressive state of mind called “learned helplessness” because they feel powerless to avoid negative situations.

I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of positive reinforcement behavior training, not only to help your dog become a good canine citizen, but also to preserve and protect the all-important bond you share with him.

Undiagnosed medical problem — If your dog’s behavior changes, even if you suspect you know why, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Many changes in behavior symptomatic of depression, including lack of appetite, potty accidents in the house, sleeping more than usual, reluctance to exercise and sudden aggressive behavior in a dog who has never shown aggression, can also be signs of any number of underlying medical conditions.

You’re depressed — Your dog is very sensitive to your emotional state, which she can detect by observing the tone of your voice, your body language and other subtle clues, including your pheromones (how you smell). The way you move, speak and behave all send subtle signals to your dog that indicate your mood.

For example, when you’re in a situation that’s stressful to your dog, such as at your veterinarian’s office, she’ll look to you to help her calm down. If she senses tension in you, she’ll likely become even more anxious. Your dog is extremely intuitive; so, if you’re feeling blue, don’t be surprised if she seems depressed as well.

Loss of a human family member or pet — It’s not unusual for dogs to grieve the loss of a person or animal friend they’re bonded with. Experts in animal behavior believe dogs feel the same basic emotions humans do, including grief, fear, anger, happiness, sadness, and even possessiveness.

When a dog is mourning a loss, depression is common. Signs of depression in dogs mimic those in people, and include sleeping more than normal, moving more slowly, eating less, and showing a limited interest in playing.

If your dog seems depressed at the loss of a person or animal he was close to, engage him in daily activities he enjoys, such as a walk, a game of fetch, or a trip to the dog park. It’s really a matter of distracting him with things he enjoys until sufficient time has passed and he’s no longer looking around every corner for the one who is now absent from his life.

And it’s best not to expect a quick fix. It can take from a few weeks to a few months before your dog’s depressed mood begins to lift. Planning several engaging activities each day during this time is the best way to help him out of his funk.

5 Tips for Helping a Depressed Dog

  1. Keep daily routines as consistent as possible — Pets do best when they know what to expect from one day to the next. Try to keep mealtimes, exercise, walks, playtime, grooming, bedtime and other daily activities on a consistent schedule. Exercise is a powerful tool to help increase your pooch’s endorphins, or “feel good” hormones. Lots of walks (with plenty of opportunities to sniff) can be a powerful mood enhancer.
  2. Keep your dog’s diet and mealtimes the same and spice up the menu — It’s important to continue to offer him the same food he’s used to, at the same time each day, but if you find your dog isn’t interested in eating much, consider offering a yummy knucklebone for dessert, or make a tasty treat for training time that he hasn’t had before.

Store what he doesn’t eat in the fridge and offer it to him again at his next regularly scheduled mealtime. Use his hunger to help him get his appetite back by resisting the urge to entice him with unhealthy food toppers.

  1. Use natural remedies, if needed — There are some excellent homeopathic and Bach flower remedies that can be easily administered to your depressed dog until you see an emotional shift for the better. Some of my favorites include homeopathic Ignatia, several Bach flower remedies including Mustard and Honeysuckle, and Green Hope Farm Grief and Loss. Diane can make a special blend of Bach Flower essences for grief and loss if your pet has experienced these issues.
  2. Be careful not to inadvertently reward your dog’s depression — It’s only natural to want to comfort your sad pet, but unfortunately, giving attention to a dog who is displaying an undesirable behavior can reinforce the behavior. Obviously, the last thing you want to do is reward a lack of appetite, inactivity or other types of depressed behavior in your dog. Instead, you want to help her over the hump.

A better idea is to try to distract her with healthy, fun activities that provide opportunities for positive behavior reinforcement. This can be a walk, short training sessions, a game of fetch, nose work or offering her a food puzzle toy or recreational bone.

  1. Give it time — Your dog’s depression may take a few days or even weeks to blow over, but eventually most pets return to their normal lively selves. If at any point you feel your pet is suffering unnecessarily or there is something more going on than a case of the blues, I recommend discussing the situation with your animal communicator, vet or a veterinary behaviorist.

 

Additionally there are essential oils that can lift the spirits of both humans and pets that can be used daily.  Contact Diane for recommendations and links to purchase these oils. Dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com

Happy Cat??

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

How to Create a Happy Cat

In addition to feeding a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate diet, keeping kitty at a lean-and-healthy weight, and providing exercise incentives, there are several components to her indoor environment that you’ll need to consider from her uniquely feline perspective. These include:

  1. Litterbox location — In the wild, cats not only hunt prey, they are prey for other animals. Certain activities make them vulnerable to predators, including eliminating. This vulnerability is what causes anxiety in your kitty when her litterbox is in a noisy or high traffic area.

Your cat’s “bathroom” should be located in a safe, secure location away from any area that is noisy enough to startle her or make her feel trapped and unable to escape.

  1. The opportunity to “hunt” for meals and snacks — Your cat, while domesticated, has maintained much of his natural drive to engage in the same behaviors as his counterparts in the wild, including hunting for food, which also happens to be excellent exercise. A great way to do that with an indoor cat is to have him “hunt” for his meals and treats.

Separate his daily portion of food into three to five small meals fed throughout the day in a variety of puzzle toys or indoor hunting feeder mice (available for raw and canned food, too!). You can also hide his food bowls or food puzzle toys in various spots around the house.

  1. Places for climbing, scratching, resting, and hiding — Cats are natural climbers and scratchers, and those urges don’t disappear when they move indoors. Your cat also needs her own resting place and a hiding place where she feels untouchable.

Cats prefer to interact with other creatures (including humans) on their own terms, and according to their schedule. Remember: well-balanced indoor kitties are given the opportunity to feel in control of their environment. Jackson Galaxy has written several books on creating feline environmental enrichment around the home that I highly recommend.

  1. Consistency in interactions with humans — Your cat feels most comfortable when his daily routine is predictable, so performing little rituals when you leave the house and return can help him feel more comfortable with your comings and goings. A ritual can be as simple as giving him a treat when you leave and a nice scratch behind the ears as soon as you get home.

Playtime should also be consistent. Learn what types of cat toys he responds to and engage him in play, on his timetable. Of course, while you can encourage him to play, it’s pointless to force the issue. Oh, and when he’s had enough, he’s had enough!

  1. Sensory stimulation — Visual stimulation: Some cats can gaze out the window for hours. Others are captivated by fish in an aquarium. Some even enjoy kitty videos.

Auditory stimulation: When you’re away from home, provide background noise for kitty that is similar to the ambient sounds she hears when you’re at home, for example, music or a TV at low volume. Olfactory stimulation: You can stimulate your cat’s keen sense of smell with cat-safe herbs or synthetic feline pheromones (e.g., Feliway).

All in all, paying attention to your kitty, interacting and talking with them will go a long way to ensure their happiness. Provide stimulation—you get bored right?  Well, they will to!   If they seem upset or sad consider what may have changed in their life or environment to have caused their issue.  When all else fails, contact Diane who is an animal communicator at dianefortheloveofanimals@yahoo.com.