Why It’s so Hard to Cut Kitty’s Calories

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM


Estimates are that around 60% of cats in the U.S. are not only overweight, but obese. Owners of obese cats are often advised by their veterinarians to do the obvious — restrict the amount of calories kitty eats. However, this is apparently easier said than done, based on the low rate of compliance.
To try to answer the question of why it’s so difficult for cat parents to comply with recommendations to restrict how much their pets eat, scientists at Nestlé Purina Research set out to determine how much of an effect calorie restriction has on the feeding patterns of cats.
Specifically, “the objective of the present work was to better elucidate the impact of calorie cut-off on individual cat feeding behaviours, as well as on interactions between cats during food anticipation.”1
6% Reduction in Calories Has Dramatic Effect on How Cats Eat
For the study, the researchers assigned 80 domestic cats to two groups (40 per group) that were balanced for sex, age, weight, and body condition score. Cats being cats, several who “couldn’t adjust to their social group” were sent on their way, leaving 38 cats in the test group and 31 in the control group.
All the cats were fed the same commercially available diet on the same schedule. Canned food was the morning offering, kibble was served in the afternoon and overnight, along with very occasional treats. The test group of 38 cats was mildly calorie restricted (6%), which was accomplished by cutting off access to additional food when their allotted calorie intake was reached. All cats were monitored for 9 months, at which point the calorie restriction was ended.
The cats were free fed and typically consumed about 30% of their calories in the morning serving of wet food and 70% in dry food over the remainder of the day. However, the cats in the calorie restricted group quickly changed to rapidly consuming 70% of their calories in the first meal, leaving only 30% of their calories for the rest of the day. The cats in the control group, who continued to be free fed, didn’t change their eating behavior.
“While the control cats’ feeding behaviour remained unchanged throughout the trial, the study cats ate fewer but larger meals, came back faster to the food bowl after each meal, and ate their meals faster on the caloric restriction regimen compared to ad libitum feeding,” explained lead study author Séverine Ligout, PhD, in an interview with International Cat Care.
“However, one month after returning to ad libitum feeding, the study cats’ eating behaviours had returned to their baseline levels, showing that cats were able to readjust their feeding behaviours back to normal.”2
Calorie Restriction Also Increases Conflicts Between Cats
The researchers also observed an increase in conflicts between the calorie-restricted cats just before the first meal of the day. According to the researchers, it is likely linked to higher hunger and food motivation, since the cats have fewer calories to consume and they consume them faster, which leads to a longer period without food between the evening meal and breakfast the next morning.
The higher food motivation undoubtedly creates tension when several cats approach the food bowls for breakfast, leading to an increased likelihood of negative interactions. This behavior has been termed “irritability aggression” in other scientific studies and can be loosely compared to the hunger-driven irritability in humans known as “hangry” (a combination of hungry and angry).
“[The] conflicts consisted of avoidance of each other, one cat displacing another from a location by staring or approaching, lifting a paw in a threatening manner (i.e., as if to swat the other cat with its paw), and some cats actually made contact with another when swatting with their paws,” said Ligout.
“Thus, it looked like cats, just like us, are no strangers to the “hangry” (hungry + angry) feeling of hunger-driven irritability! Although no physical harm occurred during the study period, these interactions have the potential to impact negatively on the cats’ mental wellbeing and therefore welfare during the caloric restriction period, at least at actual feeding times.
These cats were housed in an enriched manner that allowed them to distance themselves from one another using space and physical structures, allowing them to avoid further conflict. In addition, their welfare was continually monitored throughout the study by veterinary professionals.”

Pet Parents Tend to Cave-in to Their ‘Hangry’ Cats
The researchers concluded that restricting the calories cats consume can change their feeding behavior significantly. Specifically, they eat larger meals faster, consuming their daily calorie allotment more quickly, which is outside the normal feline behavior of eating multiple small meals throughout the day.
So, while calorie restriction is a common strategy that humans employ when addressing feline obesity, from the cats’ perspective, it not only results in less food to eat, but also removes their sense of control over certain aspects of food availability and how much to eat.
Given that kitties like to feel in control of their living environment, it makes sense that they get “hangry” when their human attempts to restrict their food intake. According to the researchers, this leads to begging behavior, which then leads to lack of owner compliance.
Carnivores Fed Like Herbivores Results in Metabolic Confusion
Ideally, not allowing cats to free feed and become overweight is always the best advice when it comes to intentionally creating long-lived, disease-free cats. Cats, like other carnivores who remain well-muscled and lean throughout their lives, maintain innate metabolic flexibility when they’re at their ideal body weight and have periods of digestive rest in between meals.
Unlike carnivores, vegan animals (such as cows, goats and horses) need to nibble almost constantly to maintain their metabolic and physiologic wellbeing. The problem is when people feed their cats like goats, creating unhealthy and delicate metabolic butterflies that are prone to all sorts of health problems, especially when dieting.
As cats spend their days nibbling more and more, they can lose their ability to be sensitive to insulin and a variety of other metabolic hormones and end up with an overburdened liver and gallbladder and a sluggish and overworked digestive tract.
Many cats who nibble 24/7 lose their ability to effectively metabolize fatty acids at a normal rate, making them more metabolically fragile and prone to fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) if they skip meals. This is the exact opposite of how nature wired cats to be — resilient, athletic, stealthy hunters who stalk their prey and take long naps in between meals.
As guardians, we often unknowingly fail cats in all sorts of ways. We feed them far too much and far too often and we feed them ultraprocessed, high carb foods, which only fuels the problem. By the time we realize we’ve created hangry addicts, it can be really difficult to switch gears. If you find yourself in this position, working with an integrative feline veterinarian or health coach who can help you map out a strategic, safe and effective plan is the best approach.
Pro Tip: Encourage Hunting Behaviors at Mealtime
The researchers recommend strategies such as puzzle feeders and/or dividing food into multiple smaller meals to help mitigate “hangry” behaviors. This advice makes sense, as wild and feral cats are always on the move in search of their next meal.
Many domesticated cats, on the other hand, are free fed at the same location every day. The more you feed, the less interested your kitty is in “hunting” — which is good exercise — around the house. If the only time you see her in motion is when she’s walking to or from the buffet, she’s getting zero exercise.
My mom adopted two older, obese cats just over a year ago. We weaned them off kibble and onto raw food in a series of small steps and very slowly, so as not to create stress. They were free fed kibble their whole lives (hence the obesity), so first we transitioned them to scheduled feedings: 6 small meals a day. Then after a few weeks we reduced them to 4 meals and then 3 meals a day.
Next we transitioned them from dry to canned food (this took about a month), then weaned them from canned food to cooked commercial food (we used Smalls), then onto raw food. The entire process took over 3 months.
Lastly, we separated their daily food allotments into several small portions at dusk and dawn and placed them in different locations around the house for them to find (we feed them in separate parts of the house while they are “hunting” to make sure they don’t eat each other’s food). I recommend making use of indoor hunting feeders, which encourage natural feline behaviorsand provide mental stimulation as well.
Also consider putting food bowls or the hunting feeders at the bottom and top of as many flights of stairs as you have to encourage muscle-building exercise throughout the day.
A recent study suggesting cats may be healthiest being fed just once a day had many feline fanciers up in arms. If people suddenly cut meals for the majority of indoor, under-exercised, overfed cats all sorts of bad things can happen.
This study demonstrates the behavioral component of “dieting” cats and the correct assumption that the entire process of changing a cat’s food, food volume or feeding schedule is stressful and must be done very slowly (and patiently).

Pet Parents Tend to Cave-in to Their ‘Hangry’ Cats
The researchers concluded that restricting the calories cats consume can change their feeding behavior significantly. Specifically, they eat larger meals faster, consuming their daily calorie allotment more quickly, which is outside the normal feline behavior of eating multiple small meals throughout the day.
So, while calorie restriction is a common strategy that humans employ when addressing feline obesity, from the cats’ perspective, it not only results in less food to eat, but also removes their sense of control over certain aspects of food availability and how much to eat.
Given that kitties like to feel in control of their living environment, it makes sense that they get “hangry” when their human attempts to restrict their food intake. According to the researchers, this leads to begging behavior, which then leads to lack of owner compliance.
Carnivores Fed Like Herbivores Results in Metabolic Confusion
Ideally, not allowing cats to free feed and become overweight is always the best advice when it comes to intentionally creating long-lived, disease-free cats. Cats, like other carnivores who remain well-muscled and lean throughout their lives, maintain innate metabolic flexibility when they’re at their ideal body weight and have periods of digestive rest in between meals.
Unlike carnivores, vegan animals (such as cows, goats and horses) need to nibble almost constantly to maintain their metabolic and physiologic wellbeing. The problem is when people feed their cats like goats, creating unhealthy and delicate metabolic butterflies that are prone to all sorts of health problems, especially when dieting.
As cats spend their days nibbling more and more, they can lose their ability to be sensitive to insulin and a variety of other metabolic hormones and end up with an overburdened liver and gallbladder and a sluggish and overworked digestive tract.
Many cats who nibble 24/7 lose their ability to effectively metabolize fatty acids at a normal rate, making them more metabolically fragile and prone to fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis) if they skip meals. This is the exact opposite of how nature wired cats to be — resilient, athletic, stealthy hunters who stalk their prey and take long naps in between meals.
As guardians, we often unknowingly fail cats in all sorts of ways. We feed them far too much and far too often and we feed them ultraprocessed, high carb foods, which only fuels the problem. By the time we realize we’ve created hangry addicts, it can be really difficult to switch gears. If you find yourself in this position, working with an integrative feline veterinarian or health coach who can help you map out a strategic, safe and effective plan is the best approach.
Pro Tip: Encourage Hunting Behaviors at Mealtime
The researchers recommend strategies such as puzzle feeders and/or dividing food into multiple smaller meals to help mitigate “hangry” behaviors. This advice makes sense, as wild and feral cats are always on the move in search of their next meal.
Many domesticated cats, on the other hand, are free fed at the same location every day. The more you feed, the less interested your kitty is in “hunting” — which is good exercise — around the house. If the only time you see her in motion is when she’s walking to or from the buffet, she’s getting zero exercise.
My mom adopted two older, obese cats just over a year ago. We weaned them off kibble and onto raw food in a series of small steps and very slowly, so as not to create stress. They were free fed kibble their whole lives (hence the obesity), so first we transitioned them to scheduled feedings: 6 small meals a day. Then after a few weeks we reduced them to 4 meals and then 3 meals a day.
Next we transitioned them from dry to canned food (this took about a month), then weaned them from canned food to cooked commercial food (we used Smalls), then onto raw food. The entire process took over 3 months.
Lastly, we separated their daily food allotments into several small portions at dusk and dawn and placed them in different locations around the house for them to find (we feed them in separate parts of the house while they are “hunting” to make sure they don’t eat each other’s food). I recommend making use of indoor hunting feeders, which encourage natural feline behaviorsand provide mental stimulation as well.
Also consider putting food bowls or the hunting feeders at the bottom and top of as many flights of stairs as you have to encourage muscle-building exercise throughout the day.
A recent study suggesting cats may be healthiest being fed just once a day had many feline fanciers up in arms. If people suddenly cut meals for the majority of indoor, under-exercised, overfed cats all sorts of bad things can happen.
This study demonstrates the behavioral component of “dieting” cats and the correct assumption that the entire process of changing a cat’s food, food volume or feeding schedule is stressful and must be done very slowly (and patiently).

Why Is My Dog Scared of Everything?

Reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM
By: Victoria Schade


If your dog is scared of literally EVERYTHING, then you understand that life with a fearful dog can be limiting.
Instead of greeting the world with a confident walk and a wagging tail, a fearful dog might shy away from anything new, or worse yet, react preemptively to avoid a new situation altogether.
It’s not easy for a pet parent to admit that their dog is scared of everything because trying to work through those fears can be overwhelming.
Fearfulness does have a place in the wild; it increases an animal’s chance of survival by keeping them away from danger. But when your dog is acting strange and scared in everyday life, it’s stressful for both ends of the leash and can even have long-term health implications.
Let’s take a look at why certain dogs are scared of everything, how to recognize fearful behaviors, which situations trigger fear, and how you can help your dog deal with their fear.
What Makes a Dog Scared of Everything?
Dogs that seem scared of everything can be products of nature and nurture. A dog’s genetic makeup, early experiences, environment and daily life can all have an impact on their temperament.
Lack of Socialization
A common reason for fear in dogs is a lack of positive exposure to new people, animals and environments during the critical fear period of the puppy socialization process.
This important developmental stage in a puppy’s life occurs between 8 and 16 weeks of age, when pups need to have a variety of pleasant interactions with the world around them.
Puppies that don’t have positive exposure to the world around them might be more likely to be wary of anything new or unusual. This can lead them to be scared of things we wouldn’t associate with fear, like people wearing large hats or having a stroller/skateboard/skater go past you.
Genetic Predispositions
However, some nervous dogs might also have a genetic predisposition to fearfulness or shyness. Puppies born to anxious mothers are more likely to be fearful as well.
Traumatic Experiences
For some dogs, all it takes is a single traumatic experience to create lifelong fear responses. For example, a dog that’s caught off guard by firecrackers during a walk might then generalize that fear response to any loud noise—like a car door slamming—and might also develop a fear of walking anywhere near where it happened.
Pain
It’s important to note that some behaviors that look like fear might be related to pain. Dogs that seem “hand shy” and nervous about being touched might actually be dealing with an undiagnosed medical issue.
Your veterinarian can help you determine whether your dog is experiencing pain or suffering from fear-based issues.

Recognizing Fear in Dogs
The first step to helping a dog that’s scared of everything is understanding their body language.
Some fear displays are hard to miss—like a trembling, hunched-over dog that has their ears back and tail tucked. But learning to recognize subtler fear reactions will allow you to intervene before your dog’s fear escalates.
Some of the telltale signs of fear in dogs include:
• Trembling or shivering
• Hunched body with head down
• Ears back
• Tail tucked
• Hair standing up on the neck and back
• Growling
• Showing teeth
A dog that’s afraid might also show these more subtle signs:
• Freezing in place
• Moving in slow-motion
• Repeatedly licking their lips
• Yawning frequently
• Trying to move away from the stressor
• Panting heavily or suddenly stops panting
Keep in mind that some behaviors that look like aggression, like leash reactivity and barking, can also be signs of an underlying fear of something.
Common Things That Dogs Are Scared Of and How You Can Help
Many dog fears are universal—it’s rare that a dog actually enjoys a trip to the vet—however, a dog that’s scared of everything might have a difficult time coping with common, everyday noises or encounters.
Loud Noises
It’s almost impossible to avoid having a startle reflex when you hear an unexpected loud noise, but dogs that are scared of everything will react more dramatically to noises.
For example, a typical dog might jump at the sound of a dropped pan, but a fearful dog might run, hide and then refuse to come out.
How to help:
If your dog only reacts to certain types of noises, like sirens or fireworks or thunder, you can use behavioral modification to help your dog learn to tolerate the sound. Use a recording of the sound to gradually desensitize him to the noise by playing it at a low volume and pairing it with treats.
Increase the sound over a series of training sessions, watching your dog’s body language to make sure that he isn’t becoming uncomfortable with the noise. If your dog is trying to cope with ongoing scary sounds like construction noise, use a white noise machine to muffle the sounds.
Children
Kids can be fast, loud and unpredictable, and because of that, they can be challenging for even the most even-tempered dogs.
But dogs with generalized fear reactions will find children even more distressing, particularly because a child doesn’t understand canine body language and will have a hard time recognizing when a fearful dog is trying to get away.
How to help:
If you don’t typically have children in your home, it’s easiest to manage your dog’s behavior by keeping him in a safe, quiet space when small guests visit.
If you discover that your new dog is fearful around your own children, make sure that he has an area where he can spend time away from them. Then you will need to find a positive-reinforcement dog trainer to help you assess the situation and create a training plan that keeps everyone safe.
Other Dogs
Unfortunately, not every dog wants to be friends with his own kind, particularly timid dogs. If a dog hasn’t had the opportunity to meet dog friends and develop canine language skills, he might wind up feeling overwhelmed when faced with other pups.
How to help:
Helping fearful dogs learn to feel more confident around other dogs requires a slow approach and a good understanding of canine body language. You will need to slowly work through dog introductions in order to keep your dog feeling comfortable.
For dogs that are mildly uncomfortable around other dogs, you should find a mellow, dog-savvy dog and try walking them together, at the same pace but with distance between them. When both dogs seem relaxed, gradually begin to bring them closer together, making sure that they remain calm and happy as they get closer.
Keep early introductions short and end sessions before the nervous dog gets overwhelmed. And remember that making friends with one dog doesn’t mean the behavior will generalize to all dogs.
Strangers
Some dogs are uncomfortable around people that look different from their family (for example, large men with beards or people wearing hats and bulky jackets), but dogs that are afraid of anyone outside their family can make going into public or having guests over traumatic.
How to help:
Using desensitization and counter-conditioning can help a stranger-shy dog start to overcome his fears.
To begin, figure out your dog’s “buffer zone”—the area at which he can remain calm when faced with a stranger. Then have the stranger come into view at the edge of that buffer zone and feed your dog a bunch of extra-special treats that he doesn’t normally get.
Continue giving treats while the person is in view for a few seconds, then have the stranger disappear.
Gradually bridge the gap between your dog and the person over a series of training sessions. Always watch your dog’s body language to make sure they remain calm and confident throughout the training process.
Going Outside
Sometimes the world outside your front door is a scary place. Dogs that move to a different environment, like from the suburbs to the city, might find the noise and crowds in their new neighborhood overwhelming.
Similarly, a traumatic experience outside, like having a fight with another dog, can be enough to create an overwhelming fear of going outside.
How to help:
Dogs that are afraid to leave their home can benefit from a training process called “shaping.” Shaping makes it easier for dogs to face their fears by breaking behaviors down into manageable steps and rewarding the dog for making progress toward the finished product.
Pet parents can begin the process by standing near the door with a handful of treats. When your dog makes any movement towards the door, mark the behavior with a clicker or verbal marker like, “good!” then toss a treat to your dog. Continue to build on and reward each step towards the door until your dog is able to cross the threshold.
Be Patient With Your Dog
Keep in mind that a fearful dog should always set the pace for training. Trying to push a nervous dog beyond his comfort zone could derail the training process, so be patient and encourage your fearful pup as he learns to be a more confident dog.
Talk with your veterinarian about pairing training and desensitization efforts with natural, holistic calming supplements or pheromone collars. Sometimes, medication is very helpful to calm some dogs in certain situations if natural options have not worked. Also, working with a veterinary behaviorist may be the best option if all other routes have failed.
By: Victoria Schade

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

By Katherine Smith, DVM, CVA, CVSMT as seen in PetMD

When you have an upset stomach, you probably reach for ginger ale or crackers to settle your tummy. But what should you do when your dog’s stomach is out of sorts?

Here’s some information about the causes and symptoms of upset stomach in dogs and tips for how to make your pup feel better with natural remedies.

Common Causes of Upset Stomach in Dogs

There are many reasons your dog may have an upset stomach, though there’s one common cause: they ate something they shouldn’t have, says Kathy Backus, DVM, at Holistic Veterinary Services in Kaysville, Utah.

“Dogs are curious like kids; they’re always putting things in their mouth,” she says. “Vomiting and diarrhea are signs that a dog’s body is trying to expel something that shouldn’t be in their system. In a healthy dog, it’s a protective mechanism of the body that’s totally normal.”

These are a few (of many) things that can trigger an upset stomach in dogs:

  • Ingesting something that they shouldn’t
  • Bacterial imbalances within the digestive tract
  • Chronic conditions such as food sensitivities

Symptoms of Upset Stomach in Dogs

The most common signs of upset stomach in dogs are diarrhea and vomiting. If your dog is nauseous, you may also see him eat grass to soothe his stomach or try to induce vomiting, says Jody Bearman, DVM at Anshen Veterinary Acupuncture, Madison, Wisconsin.

Watch for other signs of upset stomach in dogs, such as:

  • Decreased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Drinking less water
  • Seeming depressed
  • Looking uncomfortable and stretching more often (like they are attempting a downward dog)
  • Gulping to combat reflux
  • Licking their lips, the air, or objects

When to Call Your Vet

Monitor your pup’s symptoms. If your dog is consistently uncomfortable, or if the signs worsen at any point, call your veterinarian.

Watch for these signs:

  • Increasing discomfort
  • Vomiting or having an episode of diarrhea more than twice
  • Blood in their vomit or stool
  • Toy or other foreign object in their vomit or stool
  • Weakness or collapse

These can all be signs of something more serious, including pancreatitisstomach bloating, a severe allergic reaction, or internal parasites.

If you realize that your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t have—a plant, food, toy, or chemical—you should seek immediate veterinary care.

If your primary veterinarian is unavailable, call your local emergency veterinary hospital. They will be able to advise whether your pet needs to be seen or whether you can continue to monitor him at home.

You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435 for a fee. They can also determine a poison’s level of toxicity and recommended care for your dog.

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

It is crucial to consult with your veterinarian before administering any home remedies to soothe your pup’s tummy troubles. If your veterinarian recommends at-home monitoring, these are a few ideas you can ask them about trying while you are at home with your dog.

Fasting

When your dog’s stomach is trying to get rid of something, it can be helpful to stop putting more things in their stomach for 12-24 hours, Dr. Backus says. “If the gastrointestinal (GI) system is having a tough time, you don’t want it to digest things.”

Fasting may seem simple enough, but it’s important to speak with your veterinarian first because some dogs (particularly small breeds or those with prior health conditions) cannot tolerate fasting as well as others.

If your veterinarian does recommend fasting, ask whether they would like you to start a bland diet (and what they recommend) after the fasting period is complete.

Ice Cubes

When your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, you want them to stay hydrated, but giving him too much water may make his stomach even more upset, Dr. Backus says.

Monitoring your dog’s water intake and discouraging gulping is important. Offer your dog ice chips to help encourage drinking.

If your dog can keep down small quantities of water or ice chips, you can gradually increase the amount and how often you are offering the water and ice.

Canned Pumpkin

When fighting indigestion and upset stomach in dogs, 100% canned pumpkin is a favorite of many holistic veterinarians.

“It has a low glycemic index, so it slowly absorbs, which helps with upset stomach and digestion,” Dr. Bearman says.

Make sure to get 100% canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix, as you don’t want to feed your dog spices and other ingredients, she says. Check that there are no ingredients listed other than pumpkin (such as sugar or sugar substitutes).

According to Dr. Bearman, smaller dogs (approximately 5 pounds) can be fed one-half teaspoon of canned pumpkin, while larger dogs (approximately 75 pounds) can be fed 1 tablespoon.

Is Upset Stomach in Dogs a Sign of Food Allergies?

An upset stomach every once in a while can be normal in a dog, but if it happens often, it could signal that something is wrong in their GI tract, says Randy Aronson, DVM, of P.A.W.S. Veterinary Center in Tucson, Arizona.

If digestive upset is a frequent occurrence for your dog, discuss the possibility of a food allergy with your veterinarian. When food allergies are diagnosed in dogs, it is often an allergy to a protein source, which is why a more “novel” protein (one that your dog has never eaten) may be recommended.

There are many options on the market, but examples may include beef, buffalo, venison, or lamb.

How to Help Prevent Upset Stomach in Dogs

To help your dog maintain a healthy gut, consider giving them a prebiotic and probiotic, Dr. Aronson says. There are both prebiotics and probiotics that are made specifically for dogs, some of which are available over the counter. Be sure to ask your veterinarian if they have a particular brand recommendation.

Always talk to your veterinarian first to find out the best course of action.

 

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.

 

Do Dogs Have a Sixth Sense That Helps Them Read Your Mood?

By Sarah Wooten DVM as seen in PetMD and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

Whenever I am sad, my dog Alma never fails to sit by my side, put her head into my lap and bring comfort. Conversely, when she has done something naughty, Alma has this uncanny ability to slink away as soon as I look at her.

Do you ever feel like there’s a dog sixth sense that allows your pup to read your moods and react accordingly? I can imagine you reading this right now, vigorously nodding your head yes!

If you have ever wondered about this phenomenon, or if you like you are losing it for thinking that your fur friend has supernatural dog senses, you are not alone. Pet parents across the globe have the same question: Can dogs pick up on our subconscious cues, and essentially, read our moods?

The Love Hormone Helps Process Those Emotions

It turns out that animal behaviorists have the same question, and this very concept has been studied in both dogs and cats. Dogs, who have been evolving alongside humans for thousands of years, have clearly demonstrated an ability to recognize and respond to human emotions, and scientists now know that they use ordinary and extraordinary dog senses to do this. A 2009 study found that dogs gaze much longer at happy versus sad human faces, indicating that they may be sensitive to human emotions.

Dogs preferentially look to our eyes to read our emotions, and the hormone oxytocin is also involved in this connection. Secreted by the mammalian brain, oxytocin is nicknamed “the love hormone,” and it affects social behaviors and cognition, among other things.

In a 2017 study, researchers used eye-tracking technology to follow gaze patterns of untrained dogs in response to human faces. The faces displayed positive or negative emotions in order to investigate the effect of oxytocin on eye patterns in the dogs. What they noticed was that in order to process the emotions of humans, all of the dogs looked at the eye region of the human faces.

Researchers found that oxytocin decreases the amount of time that dogs looked at the angry human faces and also decreased the dogs’ preference for gazing at the eye region altogether, even with happy human emotions. While more research needs to be done, oxytocin is definitely involved in our fur friends’ ability to read our emotions.

Dogs Avoid Angry Humans

Another study, published in 2016, found that dogs process human emotions from gazing not just at the eye region, but also the midface and mouth regions. Dogs are a highly social species, and they are evolved to evaluate social threats rapidly, including threats the come from humans.

This study found that when dogs viewed images of other threatening dogs, they reacted with increased attention to the image. However, when they viewed images of threatening humans, they responded by avoiding the image.

This makes a lot of sense when you think about it—if you come home and you chew your pup out for chewing on the couch, they are going to slink away to avoid you. Your pet isn’t feeling guilty, but is afraid of you.

This has massive implications on the way we interact with and train our canine companions. The fact is, expressing anger by yelling, shouting or frowning at your dog creates conflict within your relationship and can severely damage the human-animal bond.

Some dogs are more sensitive than others; at the slightest hint of displeasure, my dog Alma slinks away from her human family and hides.

A dog that is afraid is more likely to have behavioral problems, a reduced attention span, increased stress, fear-based aggression, anxiety and a shortened life span. They are also more likely to be relinquished to a shelter and have an overall reduced quality of life.

So How Do I Use This Information?

Knowing how your dog interacts with your emotions and facial cues is empowering. You can modify your interactions with your dog to create a healthy relationship that is based on mutual trust and love—both of which dogs give in spades when they feel safe.

First, be extraordinarily mindful of your emotions around your dog and emotions that you direct toward your dog. This is especially important in high-stress situations like veterinary visits, where the dog is already likely to be triggered.

You can use this information to your benefit when training your dog. Your dog is always looking for positive reinforcement from you to guide behavior development. When your dog does something right, make sure to communicate this with your whole face and your voice; that way, your dog will be more attune to your signals and more likely to repeat the desired dog behavior.

If your dog is engaging in undesirable behaviors that you want to stop, in order to avoid conflict in your relationship, you will need to communicate in a way that is not threatening. Simply by lowering the tone of your voice when you say, “No” can be enough to get a dog to stop what they are doing and look to your face for cues.

As soon as they stop what they are doing and look to you, smile, praise your dog and give a dog treat, or provide some fun playtime! That communicates clearly to your dog what is and what is not desired by you.

The more you work with your dog in a non-threatening manner, the closer your bond will become and the easier it will be to communicate. Remember—your dog can read your facial cues, so keep it positive, and enjoy all the benefits that a healthy relationship with a dog can bring.

As an animal communicator for close to 20 years, I can assure you that your pets, indeed know when you are sad, lonely, upset or happy and share all those emotions with you in an attempt to help your situation/mood or to join in the gladness with you!

7 Signs of Tummy Troubles in Your Pet

7 Signs of Tummy Troubles in Your Pet

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Just like us, dogs can get the occasional upset stomach that makes them feel lousy. And since they can’t talk to us, often the first we know of a dog’s discomfort is when he suddenly starts vomiting. When it happens in your car, while you’re driving, it’s especially stressful for both you and your woozy furry friend.

Symptoms of Nausea in Dogs

The most common signs of upset stomach in dogs are diarrhea and vomiting. Many dogs will also eat grass given the opportunity, to either quell their nausea or induce vomiting. Other signs of an upset stomach include:1

Decrease in or loss of appetite Appearing depressed
Fatigue Gulping to combat reflux
Drinking less water Licking their lips, the air, or objects
Looking uncomfortable and stretching a lot

If your dog tends to suffer with sporadic bouts of nausea and vomiting, the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is make an appointment with your veterinarian. There are many disorders that have vomiting as a symptom, so it’s important to rule those out before assuming your dog’s nausea is the result of motion sickness or another relatively harmless cause.

As long as he receives a clean bill of health from your vet and your dog is bright, alert and responsive (and otherwise acting normal) your vet will probably suggest some at-home remedies to help resolve the gastrointestinal (GI) upset. Here are my favorites:

6 Natural Remedies for An Upset Stomach

1.Bone broth fast — When the GI tract is irritated or inflamed, allowing the stomach and colon to rest is a wise idea. The body can’t digest, process or assimilate food while simultaneously attempting to heal and resolve inflammation. Skipping one or both of your dog’s daily meals and replacing regular food with bone broth can provide the much-needed GI tract rest needed to quickly recover from the incident.

2.Bland diet with slippery elm — When vomiting or diarrhea is noted, resting the GI tract allows the body time to heal a bit. When it’s time to introduce food again, a bland diet is wise. My favorite is canned or steamed pumpkin and cooked turkey (click here for directions).

Adding slippery elm (“nature’s Pepto-Bismol”) helps soothe irritated bowels and can be easily mixed into a bland diet, using ½ teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight.

3.Activated charcoal — If your dog has diarrhea, activated charcoal (active carbon, the carbon residue derived from vegetable material) can offer at-home help. The adsorptive ability of this natural substance is a function of its massive surface area. Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body — it stays in the GI tract binding aggravating substances and irritants, excreting them in feces.

The only time it’s not safe to use activated charcoal is when a dog is constipated or may have consumed caustic materials (in which case you should be at the veterinary ER anyway). Recommended dose is 1mg/kg twice daily of coconut charcoal for intermittent episodes of diarrhea.

4.Homeopathic remedies — By far the most popular homeopathic remedy for nausea caused by motion sickness is cocculus (Indian cockles). It can be given right before you put your dog in the car. Other remedies that are often very beneficial, depending on her particular symptoms, include Nux Vomica, Carbo Veg, China, Arsenicum Album, Argentum, and Ipecac.

When giving homeopathic remedies, try not to touch the pellets with your fingers. Instead, shake 3 of the large pellets or a ½ capful of the smaller granular pellets into the cap and try to pop them into your pet’s mouth (they taste sweet, so most dogs don’t mind). Alternatively, you can dissolve the pellets in pure water and give orally. Make sure to give remedies away from food.

5.Herbs — Catnip is a very effective herb for calming a pet with an upset stomach. I recommend using a glycerine tincture, about 12 to 20 drops for every 20 pounds of body weight. You can also combine fennel with catnip to treat your dog’s nausea.

Other herbs that help with indigestion and nausea include peppermint, chamomile, fennel, and one of my personal favorites, ginger. I recommend using fresh ground ginger or the dry herb, in the following amounts mixed into a delicious meatball or in canned pumpkin:

  • Dogs under 10 pounds — 1/8 teaspoon
  • Medium-size dogs — ¼ teaspoon
  • Large dogs — ½ teaspoon
  • Giant breeds — ¾ to 1 teaspoon

Give the ginger 1 to 3 times a day as needed, mixed into bone broth or a bland diet. If you’re using it to help with motion sickness, be sure to give it to your dog at least an hour prior to travel. Alternatively, you can add ¼ cup ginger tea per 20 pounds to food daily as needed.

6.Kefir — Some pet parents swear by the benefits of kefir to soothe their dog’s indigestion. Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains beneficial probiotics. Although regular, pasteurized cow’s milk can be irritating to pets’ gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, fermented milk is different.

It’s easy to convert raw milk to kefir yourself. All you need is one-half packet of kefir starter granules in a quart of raw milk (preferably organic and if possible, unpasteurized), which you leave at room temperature overnight.

You can offer the kefir once an hour over the course of 3 hours after your pet stops vomiting. Give 1 to 2 teaspoons to small dogs, 1 to 2 tablespoons for medium-sized dogs, and 2 to 4 tablespoons for large dogs. Going forward, you can add 1 to 3 teaspoons of this super probiotic to your pet’s food once or twice a day for overall improved GI defenses.

What if My Dog’s Upset Stomach Doesn’t Resolve?

It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog’s symptoms, and if her tummy issue doesn’t improve throughout the day or the signs worsen at any point, call your veterinarian. Be alert for:

  • Ongoing or increasing discomfort
  • More than two episodes of vomiting or diarrhea
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • A toy or other foreign object in vomit or stool
  • Weakness or collapse

Any of these can be a sign that something more serious is going on, including bloat, pancreatitis, a foreign body, a severe allergic reaction or internal parasites. If at any point your pet exhibits additional symptoms or a worsening of symptoms, it’s important to seek medical care immediately.

If you know or suspect your dog has ingested something she shouldn’t have (e.g., a toxin of some kind or a foreign object), or if the problem is bloat, it’s important to seek immediate emergency veterinary care and not wait.

In the case of a potential poisoning, you can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435.

 

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Decline

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Veterinar­ians sometimes use the acronym DISHA to evaluate evidence of dementia in a senior dog:

• Disorientation — Is your dog walking aimlessly about the house, staring at the walls, or even losing her balance and falling? The key here is that even when she’s in her normal, familiar environment, she gets disoriented, for example, she goes out her doggy door to the backyard, and then seems to forget how to get back in. There can also be a loss of spatial awareness.

• Interactions — Is your dog interacting differently with family members or other pets in the home? This can involve sudden or increasing irritability or even aggression in a dog who’s been friendly and social all her life. It can also take the form of withdrawal from family members and the features of daily life she was once very interested in, such as a knock at the door or the appearance of her leash, meaning she’s about to get a walk.

• Sleep — Is your dog no longer sleeping through the night, or is restless or wakes frequently? Like many older people, senior dogs can experience changes in sleep patterns or even a disruption in circadian rhythms. Your dog may begin pacing at night instead of falling into a deep slumber as he once did. Some dogs even reverse their schedules entirely, doing during the daytime what they used to do at night and vice versa.

• House soiling — Is your dog no longer alerting you when he needs to go out? Is he urinating or leaking urine indoors? When a dog seemingly “loses” his housetraining, there’s no clearer evidence that something’s amiss with either his health or his cognition.

• Activity level changes — Does your dog seem restless, agitated, or anxious? Does she have a decreased appetite? You may notice she’s no longer coming to the door to greet you or loses focus and no longer responds as she once did to familiar stimuli.

Some dogs seem to forget how to get the food or water out of their bowls or forget where the bowls are located. There can also be periods of restlessness, or repetitive behaviors such as pacing in circles, head bobbing or leg shaking.

Suggestions to Help Your Older Dog Stay Mentally Sharp

1. Offer lots of opportunities for exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation — Senior and even geriatric dogs still need daily exercise to maintain good health and physical conditioning.

While older dogs can’t exercise or compete with the same intensity as their younger counterparts, they still derive tremendous benefit from regular walks — especially gentle, unhurried sniffaris — and other age-appropriate physical activity on a daily basis. There are also a variety of strengthening exercises that can be of tremendous help to aging canine bodies.

No matter how old your dog is he still needs regular social interaction with other pets and/or people. Short periods of socialization and playtime in controlled situations are ideal. Food puzzle and treat release toys provide fun and a good mental workout, as does nose work and brief training sessions to refresh his memory or teach him a new skill.

2. Schedule regular senior wellness check-ups — I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits for pets no matter the age, but this becomes even more important for dogs getting up in years. Ask your functional medicine veterinarian to perform a blood test, including an A1c test to check your pet’s internal organ and metabolic health to make sure you’re identifying possible issues early on.

Alzheimer’s is also called Type 3 Diabetes because so many patients have insulin resistance and persistent hyperglycemia. Keeping your dog’s A1c low and steady means you’re controlling for this variable. If you notice A1c rising in your senior dog, it’s time to take action. Keeping abreast of your animal companion’s internal metabolic changes as she ages is the best way to catch any disease process early.

Over-vaccinating is something older animals do not need, so advocate for your older dog by refusing additional vaccines and insisting on titer tests instead. A titer is a blood test that measures protective immunity against disease. Chances are your dog is very well-protected.

3. Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-specific fresh food diet — A species-specific, nutritionally balanced diet that is rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids such as krill oil and others such as MCT oil, is very important for cognitive health.

The best fuel for an aging dog is a variety of living, antioxidant-rich whole foods suitable for a carnivore. Eliminate all refined carbohydrates (which are just unnecessary sugar), as well as grains, potatoes and legumes.

Calculate how much starch your dog is eating and keep it under 20%. Replace those unnecessary carbs with extra high-quality protein and healthy fats. Eliminate extruded diets (kibble) to avoid the toxic byproducts of the manufacturing process that have been linked to neurodegenerative disease.

Processed dog foods are manufactured in a way that creates byproducts that can affect cognitive health, including heterocyclic amines, acrylamides and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

Fresh, biologically appropriate foods provide the whole food nutrients your pet’s aging brain requires. The right diet will also support the microbiome, which has been linked to improved cognitive health in humans, and I’ve seen an improvement in dogs as well.

4. Provide beneficial supplements — In dogs with CCD and older pets in general, nutraceuticals can significantly improve memory, and the effects are long-lasting. Studies of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) such as coconut oil show they can significantly improve cognitive function in older dogs.

Supplementing with MCTs is a great way to offer an instant fuel source for your dog’s brain. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil for every 10 pounds of body weight, added daily to food. If you use MCT oil instead of coconut oil start slowly and use less, as loose stools aren’t uncommon when beginning this supplement.

I also recommend providing a source of methyl donors, such as SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine), which can assist in detoxification and reduce inflammation. Other supplements to consider are jellyfish extracts, glutathione and resveratrol, which is Japanese knotweed. Japanese knotweed has been proven to help reduce free radical damage and beta-amyloid deposits.

Lion’s mane mushroom has some impressive research tied to improved cognition and vinpocetine has been trialed on dogs with positive results. Phosphatidylserine and ubiquinol, which is the reduced form of CoQ10, feed your dog’s mitochondria and improve cellular energy.

When it comes to general senior health supplements, I typically recommend digestive enzymes and probiotics for all older pets. I also recommend an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as sustainably sourced krill oil (my favorite, because it’s the cleanest) or algal DHA for pets who can’t tolerate seafood. Curcumin is another supplement that benefits the brain and body.

5. Minimize stress in all aspects of your dog’s life — Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize anxiety and stress in your older dog.

Senior and geriatric dogs, especially those with dementia, are often disoriented, so sticking to a consistent daily routine your pet can count on can help him stay oriented, which will in turn reduce his anxiety. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, feed him at the same times, and go for walks on a set schedule.

Keeping him at a healthy weight and physically active will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease as he ages. Acupuncture and chiropractic care, stretching, and hydrotherapy (exercising in water) can also provide enormous benefits in keeping dogs mobile in their later years.

Regular massage can help keep your senior dog’s muscles toned and reduce the slackening that comes with aging. Massaged muscles are looser, which makes it easier for him to move around comfortably. Massage also improves circulation and encourages lymphatic drainage.

It can ease the stiffness of arthritis, which helps him maintain his normal gait and active lifestyle. Massage also loosens the muscles around joints, which helps promote ease of movement.

If your dog is having some urine dribbling or incontinence as a result of his age (and not caused by an underlying condition that should be addressed), provide him with more frequent potty trips outside. You can also reintroduce him to a crate if he was crate trained initially. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for age-related incontinence.

If your dog has problems hearing or seeing, use odor cues like pet-friendly essential oils or pheromone products to help him find his way around. Also consider purchasing or building ramps if he’s having trouble getting into the car or up on the bed or a favorite chair, and if he’s slipping or unsure on bare floors, add some runners, yoga mats or area rugs.

For sleep problems, try increasing his daytime activity level. Let him sleep in your bedroom. Sleeping near you should help ease any anxiety that may be contributing to his nighttime restlessness. Melatonin supplementation can also be beneficial.

Guide him with clear cues and easy-to-follow instructions, and when you talk to him, keep your voice quiet, calm and loving.

Can Your Dog’s Kiss Make You Sick?

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

In a survey of 2,089 U.S. pet owners, more than half (52%) said they’re just fine with their dog licking, or “kissing,” their face.1 Another survey revealed that 52% of dog owners smooch their dog more than their significant others, while 61% kiss their dogs on the mouth.2

So it’s clear that many people who share their lives with dogs also share their affection with them — an understandable concept, since many regard their pet as part of the family.

From your dog’s point of view, licking your face is likely a sign of affection. Mother dogs lick their pups from the moment they’re born in order to clean them and stimulate breathing. Puppies will also lick around their mother’s mouth, which may be an instinct carried over from their wolf ancestors, which lick the mouths of adult wolves to trigger regurgitation of partially digested food.3

It’s possible, too, that your dog likes the way your skin tastes or licks your mouth because it contains some leftover food — as is often the case with children. Most likely, though, it’s a friendly gesture your dog uses to show you he loves you.

In dog packs, subordinate members often lick the dominant members to promote pack harmony, and doing so releases endorphins that promote feelings of pleasure.4 Giving your face a lick is probably an extension of this.

Can Kissing Your Dog Make You Sick?

In the majority of cases, a quick kiss from your dog is harmless and will serve to further cement your bond together. It is possible, though, that it could also expose you to bacteria or viral diseases that could, theoretically, make you sick. You may have also seen occasional cases highlighted in the media where a lick from a dog turns catastrophic.5

In Germany in 2019, a 63-year-old man died after becoming infected with capnocytophaga canimorsus bacteria. The bacteria are common in the mouths of dogs and cats, and it’s believed he was exposed when his dog licked him.

Severe and fatal infections occur more often in people with compromised immune systems, but the man in this case was previously healthy. He experienced flu-like symptoms, which progressed into severe sepsis and purpura fulminans, a condition involving blood spots, bruising and discoloration of the skin that can progress to necrosis.

“Pet owners with banal, for instance flu-like, symptoms should urgently seek medical advice when symptoms are unusual,” the researchers wrote in a case report in the European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine.6 This is especially true if you’ve been bitten by your pet, even if it’s just a small nip.

In a separate case in 2019, a woman in Ohio had her hands and legs amputated due to an infection with capnocytophaga canimorsus, which she contracted from her German shepherd licking an open cut.7 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), capnocytophaga have been detected in up to 74% of dogs, and it is a normal part of their flora.8

Another case occurred in 2018, resulting in an otherwise healthy 48-year-old losing his hands and feet due to capnocytophaga canimorsus. While doctors aren’t sure where he contracted the bacteria, they hypothesized that it was due to a dog lick.

Still, Dr. Silvia Munoz-Price, an infectious disease physician who treated the man doesn’t believe there’s cause for alarm: “I have a dog. Many people have dogs, and most of us will never have problems with infections related to our pets.”9 It’s important to understand, however, that capnocytophaga canimorsus rarely pose a risk to humans.

“[I]n the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong patient … it can lead to severe infections,” Dr. Stephen Cole, a lecturer in veterinary microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, told CNN, “but very, very rarely.”10 “Every time your dog licks you,” he added, “you may come into contact with this bacterium, but the vast, vast, vast majority of times, that causes absolutely no problem.”11

 

The Wrong Way to Train Your Dog Not to Jump Up on People

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker DVM

A misbehavior that is annoying, potentially dangerous, and also quite common in dogs is jumping up on people. It’s so common, in fact, that it feels like a natural canine reaction to the excitement of greeting a favorite human, or at least a human who is known to offer treats!

The person being jumped on is often reluctant to correct the behavior — especially if the dog is small — because, well, it’s nice to receive such a joyful, lavish welcome! However, failing to discourage jumping in your dog can have unforeseen consequences that are difficult to predict as you look down at her happy, fuzzy little face.

Experts generally agree that a dog’s behavior is almost always linked to something his owner, caretaker and/or trainer did or didn’t do at some point in her life. There are three behaviors in particular that most dog parents don’t appreciate but may be unintentionally reinforcing: begging, leash pulling and yes, jumping.

These behaviors have been making pet parents crazy forever, and they seem almost impossible to extinguish — perhaps because it’s actually easier to inadvertently encourage them than to train dogs not to perform them, and once trained, it’s also easy to undo your hard work.

Why Punishment Is Never the Right Approach

I think one of the most difficult concepts for dog parents to grasp when it comes to training their canine companion is that punishment is typically ineffective, and it’s often counterproductive. In other words, you can make your dog’s behavior worse using punitive tactics. As veterinary behaviorist Dr. Valarie Tynes explains:

“When punishment is used incorrectly, it will appear unpredictable and confusing, so many pets become anxious or fearful around the owner that administers the punishment. When punishment is used in an attempt to train an animal that is already afraid or anxious, [the] fear and anxiety are likely to worsen and may lead to aggression.”1

According to Tynes, three important rules must be met for punishment (correction) to be effective:

1.     The punishment must occur every time the unwanted behavior occurs

2.     The punishment must be administered within a second or two of the inappropriate behavior

3.     The punishment must be aversive enough to stop the dog from repeating the unwanted behavior in the future but not be so aversive as to frighten the dog

Unless your dog is physically tethered to you (e.g., you have him on a leash and the leash is attached to you in some manner), it will be extremely difficult to be on top of him when he misbehaves, and within a second or two of his mischief.

In addition, in my experience it’s the rare individual who can deliver “just enough” punishment to train a dog not to repeat the behavior without frightening him, or conversely, without teaching him to simply ignore verbal commands.

In other words, it’s easy to over-deliver or under-deliver punishment. If you allow anger into the equation, it can result in both physical and emotional harm to your dog. The flip side of the coin is punishment that’s so wishy-washy and non-committal the dog learns to simply ignore you. As Tynes points out:

“Meeting all three of these criteria can be difficult. That’s why punishment often fails to solve behavior problems and should not be the first training method of choice. Positive reinforcement training, in which animals are rewarded for appropriate behaviors, is safer and more effective.”

I absolutely agree with this, and 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 trust, and the close and precious bond you share with him.

Punishment Can Backfire With a Jumping Dog

Tynes gives the example of a dog who greets people by jumping up on them, and the owner’s response is to either knee the dog in the chest or kick her when she does it to them. As a result, the dog learns to avoid the owner because the kicking has caused her to be fearful. However, she continues to jump on everyone else.

“Many dogs are highly motivated to greet people by getting close to their faces,” Tynes explains. “In most cases, kneeing or kicking such a dog is less powerful than the dog’s desire to greet people by jumping on them.”

I think this is good information that can further your understanding of your dog’s motivation if he’s also a “jump greeter.” Just as some people greet everyone they meet with a big hug and a kiss, it seems there are dogs who are similarly inspired!

Since not everyone the jumping dog meets responds to her behavior with a knee or a kick (thank goodness), the punishment she receives is intermittent, and therefore ineffective. In addition, there are dogs who don’t perceive being kneed as punishment, but rather reinforcement because they’re receiving attention, albeit negative attention.

Kneeing a jumping dog or worse, kicking her as a form of punishment (or simply to keep her off you) doesn’t teach her a more acceptable behavior to replace the unacceptable one. In addition, you can cause injury to her and/or yourself using your knee or foot against her. And there’s also the issue of unintentionally reinforcing the bad behavior because you’re paying attention to her when she jumps.

A Better Way to Manage Your Jumper

Canine “jump greeters” need a replacement behavior that is equally motivating. Tynes suggests teaching your dog to sit to greet everyone. Sitting becomes the alternative behavior that gets rewarded with petting and/or a food treat.

While he’s being taught to sit to greet people, it’s important to stop reacting when he jumps on you. Turn your back, stand straight, and ignore him. This is the opposite of what he wants (attention) and sends the message that you don’t welcome his exuberant jumping routine.

The goal of positive reinforcement behavior training is to use very small-sized treats (pea sized is good, and you can even use frozen peas if your dog seems to like them) and verbal praise and affection to encourage desired behaviors in your dog.

1.     Come up with short, preferably one-word commands for the behaviors you want to teach your pet. Examples are Come, Sit, Stay, Down, Heel, Off, etc. Make sure all members of your family consistently use exactly the same command for each behavior.

2.     As soon as your dog performs the desired behavior, reward him immediately with a treat and verbal praise. Do this every time he responds appropriately to a command. You want him to connect the behavior he performed with the treat. This of course means you’ll need to have treats on you whenever you give your dog commands in the beginning.

3.     Keep training sessions short and fun. You want your dog to associate good things with obeying your commands. You also want to use training time as an opportunity to deepen your bond with your pet.

4.     Gradually back off the treats and use them only intermittently once your dog has learned a new behavior. Eventually they’ll no longer be necessary, but you should always reward him with verbal praise whenever he obeys a command.

 

5.     Continue to use positive reinforcement to maintain the behaviors you desire. Reward-based training helps create a range of desirable behaviors in your pet, which builds mutual feelings of trust and confidence.

No matter what you’re trying to train your dog to do or not do, consistency is the key to success. If your mind is often elsewhere during interactions with your dog, in an instant you can begin to unravel days, weeks or even months of training.

If your dog is a jumper or has other undesirable behaviors and you’re not sure you can deal with it on your own, talk with a positive dog trainer or a veterinary behaviorist. You can also find directories of credentialed dog professionals at the following sites:

·         Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (C.C.P.D.T.)

·         International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (I.A.A.B.C.)

·         Karen Pryor Academy

·         Academy for Dog Trainers

·         Pet Professional Guild

 

 

Spoil Your Senior Pet with These Fun and Frugal Ideas

Spoil Your Senior Pet with These Fun and Frugal Ideas

by Cindy Aldridge

 

Seeing your pet age may not be easy, but you can still show your furry friend that you care with some special pampering. Older pets can still enjoy love, attention, and bonding with their humans. But there are other ways to treat your favorite friend without going beyond your budget. To ensure your senior pet is especially spoiled, try these frugal yet fun ideas.

Host a Senior Pet Spa Day

Grooming sessions at the puppy salon can add up quickly. A budget-friendly fix is to bring the doggie spa home instead. Everything from bathing and brushing to hair and nail trimming can happen at home.

Make sure to keep the right supplies on hand — like pup-friendly shampoo and conditioner, a waterproof collar for security, and treats for afterward. Investing in a pet-specific comb and some extra towels can help, too.

Not only is the DIY spa method cheaper for you, but it may also be less stressful for your senior pup. Older pets with vision, hearing, or mobility challenges may feel scared at the groomer’s, so staying home means more security and more fun in the bath.

Invest in Must-Haves for Aging Pets

When it comes to making your pet comfortable, you may want to spend whatever it takes. But with a narrow budget, you’ll need to make each purchase count.

Items like a soothing heated bed, raised food dishes, snacks to hide medications in, and older-pet food blends are practically necessities for your pet’s comfort and overall health. Fortunately, you can find a Chewy promo code to help make these must-haves more affordable.

Some senior pet products do lend themselves to DIY, such as steps to make your dog’s climb into bed easier, or you might make a simple ramp to help your aging pet navigate stairs more safely. Think about the biggest challenge to your pet’s mobility and brainstorm ways to make daily living easier.

Bake Special (Nutritious) Snacks

Store-bought snacks can be an excellent treat on occasion. But since many older pets have unique dietary needs, making critter snacks at home could become a regular routine in your household. From minty snacks that help freshen your pet’s breath to pumpkin-flavored bites, there are all types of treats you can bake at home.

Since you’re controlling the oven and ingredients, you can also make softer treats that are gentler on senior teeth — not to mention, kinder on the budget. Once you find the perfect recipe, baking could become both you and your senior pet’s new favorite hobby.

Make Tasty Diet Tweaks

Senior dogs have unique nutritional requirements, says the AKC, including a need for more protein, less sodium, and possibly even more fat. Each pet is different, but older animals, in general, do well with diets rich in L-carnitine, which is present in red meat, chicken, fish, and dairy.

Though you can purchase affordable supplements for your older pet, changing up their diet to feature tasty staples is also a great and more cost-effective idea. Many of the foods that are healthy for humans are great for animals, too. Foods like peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, and bananas are all great snacks to offer your senior pet, notes Whole Dog Journal. Bonus points if the tidbits come from your plate — everyone knows pets love to be treated like one of the family.

Even if they’re slowing down a bit, senior pets love pampering and special treats just as much as younger animals. With these frugal ideas, you don’t have to shell out a ton of cash to keep your pet comfortable and cared for. Need more ideas on showing your furry friend some TLC?

Hoof traction in the winter

By
Geri White comments by Diane Weinmann


Sleet, snow, rain and freezing mud can cause traction problems for horses and humans alike. Here’s how our horses cope, and what we can do to help.


Living in upstate New York, we get very cold temperatures, brutal wind chills and a moderate amount of snow in the winter. We also have to deal with hard frozen ground when there’s no snow, as well as freezing rain, slush mixed with mud, and what many of us call “lava rock” or “moon rock”, when slushy mud freezes solid and every hoof print is frozen in time, leaving a rough textured surface that’s very difficult to navigate. All these conditions cause traction problems for both us and our horses.
Nature’s guidance


Many years ago, when I first started trimming my own horses and didn’t have the experience I do now, my trimming approach was one of routine maintenance. One winter during a brief warm spell, I took the opportunity to trim my horses in more comfortable temperatures.


We had a lot of rain and some melting snow, but about five days later, it all froze solid overnight. It became quite a struggle for us to get to the barn. One of my morning chores was to check the water hole to make sure the spot the horses drink from wasn’t frozen over. I took careful baby steps all the way there, slipping and sliding even while holding onto the fence.


Before I even made it to the end of the fence line to go down the slight incline to the water, my horse, Sage, walked passed me with each of his feet simply sliding forward a little before stopping. He just kept going forward, using this slide-stop, slide-stop motion on each foot. He made it to the water hole, took his drink, and walked back past me again toward the barn area, seemingly without a care.


When I finally made it back to the barn, I took a look at Sage’s feet to see how he was able to navigate the terrain so much better than I did. To my surprise, the bars I had trimmed only days ago had returned to the same length they were before, providing a natural heel caulk. A V-shaped caulk on each heel gave him the traction he needed to navigate the icy terrain. From then on, when I trimmed horses, I started to really pay attention to environmental and seasonal changes as they relate to traction.


I was determined to learn from nature rather than interfere with each horse’s ability to navigate our winter conditions, so I challenged myself by really studying each foot. I mostly left the bars alone or trimmed very little, and backed off on the amount of wall length I removed. Over the course of a couple of trim intervals, I found there was much less growth if I allowed for that bit of extra hoof and bar material for traction. I found a balance that gave most horses what they needed. Of course, there will always be exceptions, as each horse needs to be maintained for his individual needs as well as his environment.


The “self-trimming” domesticated horse in winter conditions
I had an opportunity to observe some horses that lived as feral as any I have seen, apart from wild horses. They were in a large herd living on 100+ acres with fields, streams, steep hills, woods and severe winter conditions. One of them was a three-year-old Appaloosa gelding that I was going to bring home to my own herd. After looking at his feet, and those of the other horses in the herd, it was clear their hooves were quite different from the classic western desert foot (see photos below for comparison).


A visual comparison: Different environments forge and demand different hoof characteristics.
The hoof on the left is from the Appaloosa gelding that was living on a large range with fields, streams, steep hills, woods and severe winter conditions. The hoof on the right was found by a friend and came from a deceased wild horse in Nevada. As you can see, there is quite a difference between the length and definition of the heels, walls and bars on these two feet.

What about snowballs?
I am often asked about snowballs getting stuck in horses’ hooves. For the most part, a horse that lives outside in a large enough environment where he can move in a herd will remove snowballs naturally. Since my horses live in a Paddock Paradise track system, we often see hoof-printed snowballs on the trails as we put out hay and clean up manure.


Where I live and trim, the moisture content in the hoof horn is generally higher in the winter. My thoughts and observations suggest that the extra flexion in the moist hoof horn helps remove packed snow as the horse moves and the hoof mechanism expands and contracts. Movement also creates heat by sending blood through the hoof capsule, which will also assist in removing the snow.
Again, there are always exceptions, especially in horses compromised by hoof pathologies, injuries or lameness issues.

Diane used a Phillip’s screw driver to remove snow balls from her horse’s hoofs when they occurred.  She firmly believes that when you feel a snowball on the hoof you should dismount and walk your horse back to the barn to dislodge the ice ball or do it on trail.  It’s dangerous for a horses legs to let them walk with a snow ball.

Hoof boot studs
For brave souls who don’t mind bundling up and riding in cold and snowy conditions, hoof boot studs save the day. These studs are available through many hoof boot companies. They give a horse the extra traction he needs for safe riding in winter conditions. When you are finished riding, the boots are removed. The studs themselves can be removed from the boots when the season is over. Talk to your hoof care professional about studs for your horse’s boots.

Diane used books for her horses and they worked very well for traction as well as alleviating snow balls.  It was always entertaining for her the first couple of times during the winter season when she’d put the boots on her horse.  Inevitably they always lifted their leg funny almost like they had a weight on it because it was unfamiliar to them and they would forget from year to year.  Once they realized why they were on their feet they were fine with it.

In the early days of the barefoot movement, the focus was on the desert foot as a model. It has its place, but we have to consider that different environments forge and demand different feet. My advice for professionals and owners who trim their own horses would be to challenge yourself, as I did. It took one horse to lead me to rethink my approach. Consider working with nature and the environment by observing how your horse’s hooves respond to changing environmental conditions.

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.