When to Worry if Your Pet Refuses to Eat

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Generally speaking, healthy dogs and cats love mealtime. That’s why a change in appetite — especially a decreased interest in eating — is something pet parents and veterinarians must closely monitor. Cats, in particular, can’t go long without eating due to the risk of feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease. There are actually three different forms your pet’s lack of appetite can take:1

  • Anorexia is a complete lack of food intake. There is no such thing as partial anorexia.
  • Hyporexia is a reduction in food intake, regardless of the reason or cause.
  • Dysrexia is distortion of normal appetite or eating patterns, for example, a dog who refuses to eat his regular diet but will eat cooked chicken and rice.

While it’s beneficial to keep these terms in mind, what’s most important when a pet’s appetite suddenly decreases or disappears is finding the root cause.

8 Potential Causes of Lack of Appetite in Dogs and Cats

In the vast majority of cases, when a pet loses interest in eating, it’s a symptom of an underlying medical problem. Some potential triggers include:

  1. Pain — A painful condition anywhere in the body, and especially in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, can cause your dog or cat to eat less or refuse to eat.
  2. Nausea — While relatively uncommon in dogs and cats, nausea can certainly put your pet off her food. Unless there’s an underlying illness, nausea most often accompanies car travel.
  3. Illness — A pet who feels sick will often show little or no interest in eating. Sometimes it’s just a passing GI disturbance; other times it’s much more serious, such as liver or kidney disease, or cancer.
  4. Obtundation — This describes a lack of alertness more pronounced than lethargy, and is usually the result of an underlying medical condition such as hypercalcemia, or trauma.
  5. Dental or gum disease — Sometimes a problem in your pet’s mouth can make eating unbearably uncomfortable. This can be a broken or loose tooth, severe gum disease, an oral tumor or a condition such as feline stomatitis.
  6. Recent vaccination — Loss of appetite can be an immediate adverse effect of vaccination.
  7. Stress — If your pet is feeling stressed for some reason, he may turn away from his food bowl. For example, some dogs don’t have much appetite when they’re in an unfamiliar place, or when their favorite human is away from home. Your cat may refuse to eat if her food bowl is in a high traffic area or there are other pets around at mealtime.
  8. Food aversion or “pickiness” — Food aversion can occur if you make a sudden change to your pet’s diet. It’s almost never a good idea to do this quickly because it often causes diarrhea. If you want or need to change the diet you’re feeding your pet, do it gradually by mixing the new food in with the old food in a slow transition.

Some pets, especially kitties, refuse to eat certain foods for reasons that may or may not make sense. And some animals are simply notoriously picky eaters who often require special menus or lots of coaxing.

Loss of Appetite Always Requires a Veterinary Visit

If your dog or cat refuses to eat for longer than a day, especially if there are other symptoms, or if there’s a sudden noticeable reduction in her food intake, it’s important to see your veterinarian right away. If the decrease is gradual, it’s just as important to get her checked out, but it’s not as urgent a situation as a sudden, dramatic change.

It’s crucially important that your veterinarian searches thoroughly for the underlying cause of your pet’s loss of interest in eating, because there almost always is one, and her appetite isn’t likely to improve if the problem isn’t identified and addressed.

It’s also important to know that appetite stimulants (which were originally designed as antidepressants) prescribed by your veterinarian can be useful in the short-term, but they don’t address the underlying problem of inappetence. In other words, they may for a time successfully treat the symptom (refusal to eat), but not the cause.

When it comes to treating a pet who won’t eat, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Your veterinarian must do a thorough physical exam and diagnostic workup, and investigate metabolic changes such as hypertension, blood potassium levels, anemia or vomiting. He or she should also consider any medications or supplements your pet is taking to rule those out as a cause.

You’ll also want to fill your vet in on any changes that have occurred in your household or daily routine that might be causing stress for your pet. The cause of your dog’s or cat’s disinterest in eating will determine an appropriate treatment approach. If there’s an underlying disorder that can be successfully treated or managed, your pet’s appetite should pick up as the condition resolves.

Sometimes, In appetence Disappears With a Change to a Better Diet

Needless to say, the diet you feed your pet can play a big role in both maintaining his interest in food and for his health and overall vitality. As always, I recommend a nutritionally balanced, diverse, species-appropriate fresh food diet.

Over the years, I’ve known many dogs and cats on processed diets who were considered fussy eaters, or who spent as much time playing with their food as eating it. When their owners gradually transitioned them from a kibble or feed-grade canned diet to raw or gently cooked fresh food, the weird eating habits disappeared.

One client of mine adopted a tiny dog who came home with a bag of the same dry food he’d been eating at the shelter. She knew to continue the diet until he was settled in to avoid tummy troubles, but she wasn’t prepared for his odd eating behavior.

At mealtime, the little guy approached the bowl of kibble slowly and pushed it around on the floor with his nose. Eventually he’d pick a piece of food out of the bowl and drop it on the floor. Sometimes he ate it, sometimes he didn’t before pushing the bowl around some more. He seemed anxious about the whole experience.

Since he was tiny to begin with and slightly underweight, she was concerned he wasn’t getting enough calories. She noticed he seemed quite interested in her cat’s canned food, so she went out and bought a couple cans of high-quality dog food and mixed it with the kibble.

He immediately gobbled up the moist food and left the kibble in the bowl. He did have loose stools for a few days from the sudden change in diet, but since he was eating like a champ, she just kept a careful eye on him until his poop was firm again. From there, she did a gradual transition to a nutritionally balanced, commercial raw diet. He’s been a chowhound ever since, with no sign of his initial odd eating behaviors.

If your cat or dog gets a clean bill of health from your veterinarian but still isn’t eating well, review the diet you’re offering and see where it falls on my latest ranking of best-to-worst pet foods. Make upgrades as you’re able to, and see if your pet’s appetite improves.

 

 

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Dog’s Teeth

By Deidre Grieves

According to a veterinary study, dental disease is one of the most common disorders reported by veterinarians. Another study estimates that 80 percent of dogs will develop some form of periodontal disease by the age of 2.

 

Regular dog dental care is recommended by veterinarians, but few pet owners actually brush their dogs’ teeth. According to a study conducted by Ipsos, just 7 percent of dog owners polled reported brushing their dog’s teeth daily.

 

“Just as with people a hundred years ago, we used to think that tooth loss was a normal aging change,” says Dr. Milinda Lommer, a board-certified veterinary dentist who practices at Aggie Animal Dental Center in Mill Valley, California. “Now we know that tooth loss is the direct result of a disease process and it is not normal.”

 

To better understand how to care for dog teeth, it’s important to understand the makeup of dog teeth and how to best ensure dog tooth health. Here are some facts you probably didn’t know about dog teeth.

 

Facts About Dog Teeth

 

  1. Dogs Go Through Two Sets of Teeth in Their Lifetime

 

Just like people have baby teeth, dogs have puppy teeth that are later replaced, says Dr. Donald Beebe, a board-certified specialist in veterinary dentistry and the hospital director at Apex Dog and Cat Dentistry in Englewood, Colorado.

 

“Puppy teeth—also known as deciduous teeth or milk teeth—work much like an adult dog’s teeth but on a smaller scale,” he says. “Starting around 4 months of age and extending to around 6 months of age, the deciduous teeth begin to exfoliate. Compared to human children, in which the process takes place over years, in puppies, the transition is very rapid, over a matter of weeks.”

 

Dr. Beebe says that puppies lose their teeth in a way similar to human children—they become loose and eventually fall out. The root of the tooth is then naturally absorbed into the gums, he says.

 

  1. Adult Dogs Have More Teeth Than Humans

 

Dr. Beebe explains that puppies have only about 28 deciduous dog teeth that they shed to make way for permanent adult dog teeth.

 

“Adult dogs have 42 teeth. Most people have 32,” he says. “In comparison, adult cats have 30 teeth.”

 

Dr. Beebe says that adult dog teeth begin to form before birth. “Later in life, they erupt into position as their deciduous counterparts are shed,” he says.

 

  1. Dogs Use Their Teeth Differently Than Humans

 

While the makeup and chemical structure of dog teeth is similar to those of human teeth, the size and shape of dog teeth are where the biggest differences come into play.

 

“The most prominent teeth are the long and pointy canines,” Dr. Beebe says. “They are used for grasping, lifting, pulling and potentially for defense. Further back in the mouth, the large carnassial teeth are designed to shear against one another, to provide a slicing action.”

 

“This is in contrast to human teeth, which typically grind against one another to pulverize food. Dogs can’t really smash up their food like people because their teeth are not designed that way,” explains Dr. Beebe.

 

  1. Canine Teeth Root Structure Differs a Bit From Humans

 

“Canine root structures are similar to human root structures except that in dogs, the three upper molars have two roots, whereas the two lower molars have three roots,” says Dr. Lisa Lippman, a veterinarian based in New York City.

 

Additionally, the roots of a dog’s tooth are long, adds Dr. Lommer. “Most people are surprised by how long the roots are,” she says. “The visible crown is usually only about one-third the length of the tooth. For incisor teeth, the crowns are only about one-fourth the length of the tooth.”

 

  1. Cavities in Dog Teeth Are Extremely Rare

 

Because the bacteria in a dog’s mouth are different from the bacteria in a human’s mouth, cavities in dogs don’t happen often.

 

“Cavities are caused by specific bacteria that live on flat surfaces of teeth and metabolize sugars into acid,” says Dr. Lommer. “Dogs don’t usually consume as much sugar as humans do, and the species of bacteria that causes cavities are very rare in dogs’ mouths.”

 

Dr. Beebe explains that when cavities occur in dogs, they are usually caused by sweet treats such as bananas or sweet potatoes. “The treatment for cavities in dogs is the same as for people,” he says. “The diseased tooth structure is removed and replaced with a composite filling.”

 

Dog Teeth: Signs of Dental Disease

 

Pet parents should watch for signs of periodontal disease in dogs. If you notice any signs of dental or gum disease, you should consult your veterinarian for care tips.

 

“Most dog owners don’t recognize that their dogs have a problem until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage,” says Dr. Beebe. “Further, dogs instinctively try to hide any pain or discomfort to avoid showing weakness, making it even harder to recognize a problem is present.”

 

Signs of periodontal disease in dogs, according to Dr. Beebe and Dr. Lippman, include:

 

  • Red gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Plaque
  • Bad breath
  • Blood in water or food bowls
  • Thick saliva
  • Favoring one side of the mouth
  • Dropping food while eating
  • Facial swelling
  • Rubbing the face with the paws or on the floor

 

Dog Teeth: Tips for Care

 

“Brushing your dog’s teeth is the first defense against gum disease,” says Dr. Lippman. “Daily cleanings, coupled with occasional professional cleanings at your vet, will do a lot to keep gum disease at bay.”

 

For brushing dog teeth at home, pet parents can try the Vetoquinol Vet Solutions enzadent enzymatic toothbrush kit for adult dogs or the Nylabone advanced oral care dental kit for puppies. These dog dental kits come with a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste specially designed to care for canine teeth.

 

To keep plaque at bay, easy-to-use dog dental wipes, like Petkin fresh mint dog plaque tooth wipes, may assist in getting rid of daily residue. You can also help freshen your dog’s breath with a water additive, like the TropiClean fresh breath water additive, which is formulated to prevent tartar buildup and promote overall oral health.

 

And, if you want to keep your pet’s teeth healthy between brushings and veterinary dental cleanings, try using dog dental chews or treats, such as Greenies dental dog treats or Dr. Lyon’s dental dog treats. These dog dental treats help to fight plaque and tartar buildup as well as work to freshen your dog’s breath.

 

Another great option is VetriScience Perio Support powder, which is a natural enzymatic cleaner for dogs and is simply added to their food daily.

 

What You Need to Know Before You Adopt a Rabbit

What You Need to Know Before You Adopt a Rabbit

 

By Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice) and comments by Diane Weinmann

Rabbits are one of the most popular exotic animals kept as pets these days, and—when adopted into the appropriate home—they can make terrific companions. Bunnies come in all colors, shapes and sizes, and are readily adoptable from shelters and breeders.

 

They are perfect pets for small living quarters, as they don’t take up a lot of space, don’t need to go outside and are generally very quiet.

 

Typically cute and cuddly looking, rabbits can bond to their owners closely and respond to them by sight and sound. Unfortunately, because of their adorable appearance, too many people impulsively adopt a rabbit, especially around Easter time, without knowing what kind of care or supplies these animals require. 

 

As a result, new rabbit owners may ultimately become disillusioned with their pets once they realize that these animals require time and effort to care for properly. Too many bunnies are abandoned in shelters as a result of impulsive rabbit adoption.

 

If you’re deciding whether or not to adopt a rabbit, there are several things you should know before bringing one home:

 

Rabbits Have a Long Expected Life Span

 

With proper diet and medical care, rabbits can live eight-12 years or more—which is longer than many other small animal pets.

 

So, before you adopt a rabbit, be sure you are prepared to feed, house and offer attention to a pet for that many years.

 

Bunnies Do Best as Indoor Pets

 

Unlike their wild counterparts, pet rabbits live longer and healthier lives when kept inside. Outside, these prey species are exposed to dangerous wild predators, including hawks, foxes, coyotes and stray dogs.

 

Plus, their thick fur coats and absence of sweat glands often lead them to overheat easily when exposed to temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, rabbits typically have little fur on their ears and on the bottoms of their feet, predisposing them to frostbite if they are outside in freezing weather.

 

If bunnies are allowed outside, they should be provided with shade if it is excessively hot and a heated area if it is excessively cold. They also must have access to water at all times when they are outside and be monitored at all times to protect them from attack by predatory wild animals.

 

Rabbits Need Exercise

 

Although rabbits don’t need to go outside or be walked like dogs, they do need time every day out of their rabbit cages.

 

Daily exercise aids in their digestion and prevents excessive weight gain, plus many rabbits enjoy running around and jumping on top of things. Ideally, rabbits are provided with a bunny-safe room or penned off area indoors which they can explore.

 

However, they should never be out of their cages unsupervised, as they are known to chew on inappropriate objects (such as painted surfaces and electrical wires) and notoriously get into trouble.

 

Every Bunny Has Her Own Personality

 

Rabbits’ personalities differ just like those of people. Some bunnies are reserved and quiet, while others are energetic and outgoing. Before taking a new rabbit home, a person considering whether to adopt a rabbit should spend time getting to know the bunny’s demeanor to make sure it is well-suited to theirs.

 

Rabbits Need to Be Socialized

 

While some rabbits are gregarious, others may be shy and try to hide when they are first adopted. Therefore, it’s critical that new owners spend time petting and handling their new bunnies to help them transition happily into their new environment.

 

New owners must always handle their rabbits safely and gently, being sure to support their hind legs so they feel secure and safe from injury. Rabbits whose hind ends are not properly supported when they are held can kick their strong back legs and break their backs.

 

Rabbits Need a High-Fiber Diet to Stay Healthy

 

Bunnies are herbivores (vegetable eaters) who need to consume large amounts of hay each day, not only to help wear down their continuously growing teeth, but also to provide fiber to the bacteria in their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts that break down their food. 

 

A proper daily diet for a bunny includes unlimited amounts of timothy or other grass hay plus a smaller amount of leafy green vegetables—including romaine lettuce, carrot tops, endive, basil, kale, cabbage, radicchio, wheat grass, squash, brussels sprouts, parsley, pea pods (not loose peas), and collard, beet or dandelion greens.

 

While appropriate for young, growing bunnies and pregnant or nursing rabbits, alfalfa hay is not generally recommended for full-grown rabbits as they approach 1 year of age as it is too high in calcium and calories. Hay may be provided in a bowl or from a commercially available basket or net that hangs inside the cage.

 

In general, rabbits should not be offered much fruit other than an occasional small slice of high-fiber apple, pear, plum or peach. Carrots are also high in sugar and should be offered only in small quantities.

 

To ensure they receive all the micronutrients they need, rabbits should be provided limited amounts of high-fiber, timothy hay-based rabbit pellets (no more than ½ cup per 4-5 pounds of rabbit weight per day).

 

Excess pellet consumption can lead to diarrhea and obesity. Pellets should not be mixed with seeds, grains or nuts, as rabbits’ GI tracts are not equipped to digest these high-fat items. If ingested, these items can cause GI upset and weight gain.

 

Bunnies also should be provided with fresh water daily in both a sipper bottle and a bowl, as different rabbits have preferred methods of drinking.

 

Bunnies Are Fastidious Groomers

 

Rabbits typically groom themselves often and keep themselves quite clean, so they don’t require professional grooming. However, like cats and dogs, they need their nails trimmed every few weeks, and long-haired breeds—such as the Angora—should be brushed weekly to prevent matting of their hair.

 

Bunnies do not generally need to be bathed unless stool sticks to their hind ends. Bunnies normally produce two types of droppings: fecal pellets and cecotropes. Cecotropes are partially digested foods that rabbits ingest for essential vitamins and other nutrients.

 

Rabbit cages should be lined with paper-based bedding (shredded newspaper or a commercially produced, recycled, paper-based products) that should be spot-cleaned daily and completely cleaned out once a week.

 

Bunnies can be trained easily to use a small litter pan in the corner of the cage containing a type of paper-based bedding that’s different from that in the cage. The litter box should be scooped daily and completely cleaned weekly.

 

Bunnies Can Live With Other Pets

 

While rabbits are prey species, and other commonly kept pets, such as cats, dogs and ferrets, are predators whose instinct is to catch prey. However, these animals can live harmoniously in one household if they are constantly supervised.

 

A well-meaning predatory pet may only want to play with a bunny by picking it up in its mouth; however, their sharp teeth, long claws and germ-laden saliva may inadvertently hurt the bunny. Thus, dogs, cats and ferrets should never be left alone with a rabbit, no matter how gentle and friendly they seem.

 

Rabbits Must Chew

 

All rabbits’ teeth—both front and back—grow continuously. Thus, it is essential that they have an unlimited amount of hay as well as safe rabbit toys, such as hard wooden blocks and sticks (like commercially available applewood branches), to chew on to help keep teeth worn down.

 

If not provided with safe objects to chew on, rabbits will chew on furniture, moldings, door frames, carpets, flooring, wires and other inappropriate objects. Thus, bunnies must be supervised at all times when they are out of their cages, and all areas they have access to must be bunny-proofed in advance.

 

In addition, their cages should be lockable, as rabbits are notorious escape-artists.

 

Rabbits Require Veterinary Care

 

While bunnies don’t require annual vaccinations like dogs and cats, they do require annual preventative veterinary care, including checkups and fecal examinations to look for GI parasites. They also should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as they are adopted to ensure that they are healthy.

 

In addition, after 6 months of age, all female rabbits should be spayed, since 70-80 percent of unspayed female bunnies develop fatal uterine cancer after age 3.

 

Rabbits can be phenomenal, long-lived companions when cared for properly, but they are not right for everyone and should not be adopted impulsively.

 

If you learn about the care they require and have the time to spend with them, look no farther than your local rabbit shelter to find a bunny just waiting to be taken home.

 

Diane has had several rabbits in her lifetime and can attest to the fact that they are a joy to have.  They are loving and fun to play with but require consistent care.  Diane was allowed to have her first bunny when she was 10 years old so that became the rule for her son when he was 10.  Of course when her son got one, Diane had to have one too!  LOL

 

Hair Shedding

 

I have a husky and he sheds a lot! I vacuumed every day sometimes twice a day. If I skip a day, it looks like the fur is taking over and I have tumbleweeds of fur piles blowing through my house. No exactly a sight you want people to see when they visit.

 

Now everybody knows when you have a pet they shed a lot especially when they have a lot of hair.  It’s a constant struggle to keep the loose hair under control but there are some ways to help stop the constant shedding or at least control it a little better.

 

 First, let’s talk about hair— did you know that your pet’s coat grows in cycles?  This is a normal and it’s a necessary process just like your hair comes out of your head.  The initial phase is when the hair shaft is actually growing then the hair (actually the shaft) matures and as it comes to a mature length it enters what they call a resting phase.  After that resting phase the shaft actually loosens and falls out and that’s when the cycle begins all again. Most of your pets go through this process unless they’re the type that do not shed.  Those of you that have the breed of dog that doesn’t shed have probably chosen that dog for that very reason!

 

Did you realize that the shedding process begins because it’s actually influenced by the amount of light in the day.  For example, when the time changes and the days gets longer with more daylight hours you will notice that your dog will start shedding and when August rolls around especially late August you’ll start seeing that they shed less because the days are getting shorter and they’re starting to keep their hair in preparation for the winter.  It’s funny, that your pet is trying to get their winter coat but it’s still hot outside!  On the flip side, even though they still need their winter coat in February, as the days get longer, they start shedding so my rugs are filled with hair constantly.  Additionally, the health of your pet along with their DNA gene pool also plays into how much your pet will shed their coat.

 

Now sometimes you can think that the hair is an allergen but it depends on whether you’re actually allergic, like my husband is allergic to pet dander; however, it’s not actually the hair that causes the problem. It seems that it’s the dander that causes the allergic reaction in him so I have to keep the house very clean.

 

Be aware that cutting your pet’s hair doesn’t really stop the shedding—your pet is never going to stop shedding no matter what the length of the hair.  Short hair will not stop it from falling out.  Basically, in the war of the excessive hair –you can do a lot of de-shedding and brushing your pet which does help a lot.  If you had a really brave pet, you could actually vacuum them.  My dog doesn’t like the noise of the vacuum so I actually have to let him outside or have my husband take him for a walk while I’m vacuuming. (which is probably an evil plan hatched by the dog to get more walks)

 

Also, sometimes when your pet is nervous or stressed their hair will start falling out just like you’ll notice changes in your body when you’re nervous and stressed out.  Hair loss can occur especially if your pet is stressed for any length of time.  You may have noticed that if you’re going to a vet appointment it will trigger a stress-related issue with your pet.   Pets may lose more hair for a couple days if they actually go to the groomers, which sometimes stresses out a pet immensely.  So you may see them actually lose more hair.  In order to combat this stress response, you could try to keep them well-groomed at home by doing it yourself.   As you probably already know, it’s just a constant battle to eliminate those wonderful fibers of glistening joy out of your pet!  On the bright side, daily routine grooming will help control the mess that you have on your floor and the more you do it the easier it will be on your pet.  They just get used to it!

 

I’m sure you’ve all seen the pictures of a Husky who has been shed out and there is a whole other husky sitting next to you!  I used to have that –I actually still do have it with my husky and I used to have that with my horse too.   I figured all those magical fibers of love will help a whole lot of birds when nest building in the spring!  Since your pet is probably shedding right now because spring is coming, I gather the hair and throw it outside for the birds.   So that’s helping the birds is one positive aspect of shedding.  Some talented people can actually make things out of the collected loose hair but I have no talent in that area.

 

 

 

Hug and Kiss your Dog(or cat )!

By Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

Scientists who specialize in studying all things canine are building an impressive body of research on the extraordinary bond between people and their dogs. Of course, those of us who share our lives with dogs reached the same conclusion long ago, but it’s still nice to have our suspicions confirmed!

Indeed, studies prove there is true chemistry between dogs and their humans. Daily interactions with your canine companion have a measurably uplifting effect on your biochemistry, thanks to a hormone called oxytocin, sometimes called the “hug hormone” or the “love chemical.”

Oxytocin is a naturally occurring substance in the body that makes skin-to-skin contact feel good. It also acts as a natural painkiller, and lowers stress levels and blood pressure.

It has long been established that human-to-human contact, for example, bonding with children or partners, triggers the release of oxytocin. More recently, studies have revealed that bonding with a completely different species also promotes release of this wonderful hormone.

When You Interact With Your Dog, Feel-Good Hormones Abound

In 2003, a study conducted at the University of Pretoria in South Africa revealed some fascinating insights about the interaction between dogs and their humans.1 Dog parents sat on a rug on the floor with their dogs and for 30 minutes, they focused solely on their pets. They talked softly to them, and stroked, scratched and petted them. The owners’ blood was drawn at the beginning and again at the end of the 30-minute session.

The researchers found that the dog owners’ blood pressure decreased, and they showed elevated levels not only of oxytocin, but also several other hormones. These included beta-endorphins, which are associated with both pain relief and euphoria; prolactin, which promotes bonding between parent and child; phenylethylamine, which is increased in people involved in romantic relationships; and dopamine, which heightens feelings of pleasure.

Interestingly, all the same hormones were also elevated in the dogs, which suggests the feelings of attachment are mutual. Next, the dog parents sat in the room and read a book for 30 minutes. None of the hormones, including oxytocin, increased as much as they did during the session with the dogs.

A decade ago, a Japanese study proved that when our dogs gaze at us, our oxytocin levels increase.2 The study involved 55 dogs and their owners. The people whose dogs gazed at them for two minutes or longer showed higher levels of oxytocin than owners whose dogs gazed at them for less time, and claimed to be happier with their dogs than owners whose dogs’ gaze was only around a minute long.

In a 2011 Swedish study, researchers found that people who kissed their dogs frequently had higher levels of oxytocin than other owners.3 And along with kissing, there were two other factors that contributed to elevated levels of oxytocin. One was that the owners perceived their relationship with their dog to be pleasurable rather than difficult or a chore, and the other was that they offered fewer treats to their pet, preferring to offer attention and affection instead.

Diane feels that what this proves that we should all hug and kiss our pets repeatedly several times a day for long periods of time (at least 30 minutes) in order to maintain good health and happiness!  She is making that her goal although, in reality she probably does it more than that right now!

Another joy she loves is gazing into the big blue eyes of her husky.  In fact, she studies her dog daily for several minutes memorizing his every hair and movement and she could pick out the exact color of her dog’s eyes before she could find her husbands’!  LOL!!!!  The connection between Diane and her dog as they gaze at each other is priceless.  Peace enters her very soul and she knows it happens to her dog as well (she’s an animal communicator)!  Try it yourself with your pet—you’ll feel an immense love and connection that will bring peace and serenity into every fiber of your being.

More Proof of the Bond We Share: Dogs Can Read Our Facial Expressions

Last year, a team of Italian researchers published a facial expression study involving 26 dogs.4 As the dogs ate, the scientists showed them photos of the same two human faces (a man and a woman). The pictures were deliberately positioned to the sides of the dogs’ line of sight, and showed the humans intensely expressing one of six emotions — anger, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise or disgust. A second face displayed a neutral (non-emotional) expression.

The researchers observed that when the dogs saw facial expressions such as anger, fear and happiness, their heart rates accelerated and they tended to turn their heads to the left. They also took longer to resume eating than when they were shown the neutral face.

The scientists concluded the dogs were experiencing more stress while these three particular facial expressions were displayed, and theorized that the happy face caused stress because dogs instinctively view bared teeth as threatening. Interestingly, when the dogs were shown surprised facial expressions they remained relaxed and tended to turn their head to the right. They showed no “side bias” with their heads when shown pictures of sadness, disgust or a neutral expression.

These study results are further evidence of just how closely connected dogs are with people. According to the researchers, the dogs turning their heads either left or right also suggests our furry companions use different parts of their brains to process human emotions.

The right side of the brain plays a more important role in regulating the sympathetic outflow to the heart, and is fundamental in controlling the fight-or-flight response necessary for survival. Arousing, negative emotions seem to be processed by the right hemisphere of a dog’s brain, and more positive emotions by the left hemisphere.

And Still More Proof: Dogs Respond to Our Communicative Intent

Research shows that dogs track human eye movements, and eye movements are linked with intent. A study published in 2012 in the journal Current Biology compared this ability in dogs to a similar one shown by human babies.5 For the study, 16 dogs were shown videos of a person turning toward one of two identical objects. In one video, the person looks directly at the dog and says in a lively voice, “Hi dog!” In the other video, the person avoided eye contact and said “Hi dog,” in a low voice.

An eye tracker was used to capture the dogs’ reactions, and researchers concluded from the data collected that the dogs were more likely to look at the object in the video featuring the more communicative person. This was the first study to use eye-tracking techniques to observe how dogs interact with people.

The study brought out an additional aspect of dogs’ attentiveness to humans by demonstrating that when a dog’s gaze follows a human, it’s not simply a reflex. It’s linked to the human’s “communicative intent.”

Even though your dog’s brain doesn’t process information the same way a human child’s does, his ability to interact with you at this level helps strengthen the bond you share. And when you consider the biological differences between humans and canines, the fact that we’re able to communicate back and forth is pretty remarkable!

 

Safety precautions – tips to protect you and your horse

Safety Precautions – tips to protect you and your horse

By Tom Scheve and comments by Diane Weinmann

From the barn to the trail, and everywhere in between, preventing injury is a major consideration. These safety precautions can make all the difference.

Horses are big animals, and forgetting to take those extra safety precautions to protect yourself and your equine partner from injury could have serious consequences. An accident can happen fast, and afterwards is not the time to be thinking about how you could have prevented it. To help remind you what to keep in mind, clip this article of simple but invaluable safety precautions, and keep it in a prominent place for frequent reference.

Barn safety

  • Horses are curious and like to check out new things, so keep all chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, paints and medications securely locked in a storage room or cabinet.
  • Ensure barn doors and aisles are unobstructed and there are no projections that could injure you or your equine partner.
  • Tack, brooms, forks, shovels, wheelbarrows and other equipment and tools should be stored in their own space away from your horses. Tack rooms should be large enough to safely and conveniently store all your gear, without clutter.
  • Keep flooring surfaces clean, level, and free of ropes, halters and other equipment, and make sure the surface provides adequate traction to prevent slippage and falls. Consider slip resistant flooring if necessary.
  • Stalls for washing and grooming should be well lit and have cross-ties with safety release snaps to secure the horse. They should also be equipped with adequate drainage and ventilation. Keep these areas clean and neat.
  • Double check that all water sources inside the barn are properly grounded. Electrical outlets in wash stalls or other areas where water is used should be equipped with ground fault circuit interrupters.
  • It should go without saying that working fire extinguishers and a sprinkler system are musts in the barn.
  • Both the interior and exterior of the barn should be amply illuminated with UL or CSA approved lighting. All wiring and switches needs to be encased in weather proof metal boxes and metal conduit, while light fixtures should be protected with heavy duty screening wire.
  • Consider motion detector lights outside the barn to warn of potential intruders, or even a closed circuit video monitoring/security system.
  • Store hay away from sources of heat and electricity. In fact, it’s wise to keep all combustible material in a separate storage building away from horses, and keep a fire extinguisher there.
  • If your barn has a hayloft, ensure the ladder or stairs have handrails that are firmly secured and in good condition. Rails should also be installed around the loft area. All stall doors and latches should open easily.
  • Get rodent and weatherproof containers to store feed, grain, and treats in. Take further steps to rodent proof the barn by trimming trees, weeds and grass near the barn.
  • Are there any areas where moisture collects and puddles? Consider installing rain gutters and downspouts if you haven’t already.
  • Disposing of garbage promptly helps prevent rodents and reduces the risk of fire. Have several garbage cans or bins both inside and outside the barn.
  • Use safety glass or Plexiglas covered with metal screening or steel bars in stall windows.
  • Do regular safety checks of your barn, stalls and other outbuildings. Look for things like loose or protruding nails, splintered boards, curled stall mats, broken latches, etc.
  • Carry a cell phone on you at all times when you are at the barn, and have emergency numbers programmed into it.
  • Keep a close eye on any children or dogs around the horses.
  • Inside or outside the barn, stay aware when handling your horse. Lead him from the side, not in front. Do not walk directly behind him or under his neck. Make sure you let the horse know where you are at all times so you do not surprise him, and pay attention to how he is reacting to things.

Additional safety tips for riding

  • Make sure you’re riding a horse that’s suited to your skill and experience, and that you always can maintain control of.
  • Ride with a friend whenever possible. If you’re riding alone, let someone at home know your trail route, and give them your cell phone number and the time you expect to be back.
  • Carry your cell phone on your person. Do not pack it on your horse, as it will be useless to you if you fall off and your horse runs away, or you can’t get up.
  • Bring along emergency reins and a GPS.
  • If you’re riding with a group of people at different skill levels, stick to the speed of the least experienced rider and maintain a safe distance between horses.
  • Make sure your gear is in good shape.
  • Wear your safety gear, including your helmet and proper riding boots (a 1″ heel is recommended). Additional gear could include reflective wear for riding on the trails/roads and/or a safety vest.
  • Check out the weather forecast, and avoid riding if storms are imminent.
  • Bring water – for you and your horse.
  • Take along a basic first aid kit in your saddlebag.
  • Stick to marked trails; you don’t know what obstacles or hazards you might encounter in unknown areas.

Please be aware that all the planning, safety gear and training you have will not prepare you for someone to spook your horse intentionally thereby unseating you and cause an accident.  This happened to me and I was prepared with all the steps mentioned above.  Animals react to stimulus that you can’t expect.  It’s very unfortunate that some people don’t use the good sense God gave them and choose to risk lives with stupid acts.

Trailer safety

  • Make sure your trailer has brakes and that they meet state or provincial regulations. Electric brakes are the most common and more widely accepted than the hydraulic variety. In the U.S., two wheel brakes are required on trailers over 3,000 pounds in 31 states, while 11 states require brakes on both axles.
  • A breakaway brake is almost always required. Located on the coupler of the trailer, it activates the trailer brakes if the trailer separates from your vehicle. It must have a fully charged battery that will engage the brakes for 15 minutes.
  • All U.S. states either require or recommend safety chains on your trailer, whether it’s a tagalong or gooseneck type.
  • If you’re transporting one horse in a two-horse trailer, put him on the left side. This might seem less safe, but because most roads are higher in the middle, having the weight on the driver’s side will help keep your trailer more stable. It follows that if you’re traveling with two horses, you should put the heaviest one on the left.
  • Before heading out, check everything over carefully. Inspect the trailer hitch, ensure ramps are up and and that doors are securely closed. Check that your horses are tied.
  • If you’re traveling a long distance, stop every five hours or so, depending on the weather, and give your horse a break.
  • Make sure your horse has water in the trailer, and check the levels every time you stop.
  • Your horse should be tied so that he can comfortably lower his head.
  • Do your homework when putting together your rig. First, consider your horses, then fit the trailer to the horses, and finally fit the tow vehicle to the loaded trailer. Always buy a trailer that fits your current horses while also considering the size of your future horses. Consider the climate in which you live. Dark colors, single wall trailers and aluminum all hold heat. Insulated walls and roofs can help control the interior temperatures in colder climates.
  • When buying a new trailer, make sure it’s large enough to comfortably accommodate your equine partner. Horses don’t like being in enclosed spaces, so it’s important that the trailer has adequate space, light and ventilation. Your horse should have enough room to move his legs back and forth to keep his balance while the trailer is moving. Horses that stand more than 15.3h need 7’ of stall length and 3’ of headroom.
  • Consider a trailer that combines a variety of today’s technologically advanced materials, rather than one that’s all steel or all aluminum. A composite built trailer uses steel for the frame and chassis and aluminum or fiberglass for the parts that don’t get as stressed. This helps reduce the overall weight of the trailer without compromising on the strength and safety.

 

 

Safety when Traveling with your Pet

Excerpts from Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

The safety of our pets is paramount in our minds and hearts.  Plus, we love to be with our pet and have them experience all the wonderful things the world has to show us together.  Many people take their pets in their car for short rides to break up their routine and for enrichment purposes.

In addition to being mindful of the weather and heat index when leaving and traveling with pets in a car, you must also be careful to ensure they are safely harnessed in the car—after all you’re wearing a seatbelt right??? It’s the law—right?  Well, did you know that it is the law in some state for animals as well?

As of this writing, eight states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Rhode Island) have enacted laws requiring animals to be restrained while traveling in a vehicle.

 

10 Important Tips for Safe Road Trips With Your Pet

  1. Make sure your dog or cat is wearing a collar with a current ID tag. If your pet is microchipped, make sure the information is current in the microchip company’s database.
  2. Put together a travel kit for your pet. Include appropriate paperwork, food, fresh bottled water, bowls, treats, a harness and leash, and any supplements or medications your pet is taking.
  3. A first aid kit for emergencies is also a good idea. You can include a comb or brush, some toys and bedding. It’s also an excellent idea to include some recent pictures of your pet from various angles that would show any unique markings or any unique characteristics about her in the event (heaven forbid) she gets separated from you while traveling.
  4. If you plan to feed fresh or raw homemade food during the trip, obviously you need to pack an ice chest or some way to keep the food frozen. If you opt to switch to canned food for your journey, it’s important you make the dietary transition a week or so before you plan to leave, so you don’t encounter any unexpected bouts of diarrhea during your trip.
  5. Have clean up supplies on hand. Sometimes, there are potty accidents or vomit episodes that need cleaning up.
  6. Most cats won’t use a litterbox in a moving vehicle. If you make stops along the way, you can try to entice him to use the box at rest areas. It’s important to have a litterbox available when you make stops, but it also means that you’ll need a litter scoop and some plastic bags for used litter if your cat does decide to take advantage of the litterbox.
  7. Never open your cat’s carrier while there are any car doors or windows, even a sunroof, open. It’s a precaution you should follow religiously at all times when traveling with your cat.
  8. If you’re traveling with a dog, make sure his leash is attached to his harness or collar before allowing him off his travel harness or out of his travel crate.
  9. Don’t try to feed your pet while the car is moving. It’s best to offer a light meal a few hours before departure. If you’re traveling some distance and will be staying at a hotel in the evening, feed a second meal once your dog or cat has settled down in your room for the night. In the morning, feed some breakfast a couple hours before you get back on the road.
  10. Never leave your pet unattended in your car for any reason.