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

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.

7 Ways to Ease Dog Arthritis in Cooler Weather

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on November 26, 2018, by Katie Grzyb, DVM


If you live with an arthritic dog, you know all too well that cooler weather can aggravate her symptoms. While there is no cure for arthritis in dogs, there are actionable, vet-recommended steps you can take to help relieve the pain, stiffness, joint popping and other dog arthritis symptoms.
Because your pup has specific health needs, always discuss any new treatment options with your veterinarian. Here are seven things you can do to help a dog with arthritis.

  1. Manage Your Dog’s Weight
    Veterinarians say weight control is one of the most important tools for managing arthritis in dogs. “The heavier our pets are, the more stress that gets placed on their joints. Studies have shown that keeping your dog lean can improve mobility and exercise tolerance,” says Dr. Liliana Mutascio, a veterinary surgeon with VetMed in Phoenix, Arizona.
    How can you tell if your pup is overweight? Dr. Mutascio says that “Ideally, you should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs, and your pet should have a natural waistline when viewed from above and from the side.” Having your veterinarian perform regular weight and body condition scoring checks is ultimately the best way to monitor her weight.
    When consulting with your veterinarian about your dog’s diet, ask about dog hip and joint care dog food, like Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d joint care or Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets JM joint mobility.
    Dr. Mutascio says prescription dog food contains ingredients like fish oil that has omega-3 fatty acids for joint health. “There is some evidence that animals on these types of diets are more comfortable and require less anti-inflammatory medication.”
  2. Get Your Dog Moving
    Movement can provide pain relief for dogs with arthritis, says Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, a veterinarian with Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin. “Dogs that move less due to arthritis get into a cycle of pain, causing less motion that then leads to stiffness. The stiffness makes it harder to move, which causes more pain.”
    Arthritic dogs should avoid high-impact activities like running, jumping and rough playing, says Dr. Mutascio, whose clinical interests include orthopedic surgery. “Instead, consistent and regular low-impact activities like leash walks and swimming can help avoid additional joint damage, as well as improve mobility. You should strive to achieve the same level of activity each day and avoid overdoing it on weekends.”
    If your dog is small or thin-haired, she may benefit from wearing a dog coat or dog sweater when it’s cold outside, says Dr. Jo Ann Morrison, a board-certified veterinary internist with Banfield Pet Hospital in the Portland, Oregon area. “But be careful when putting it on or taking it off, especially if you have to manipulate your dog’s legs. Consider coats or sweaters with Velcro attachments that wrap around, which may be easier to put on and take off.” (Examples are the Ultra Paws red plaid cozy dog coat and the Canada Pooch Everest explorer dog jacket.)
  3. Consider Dog Supplements
    Dog joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for dogs have natural anti-inflammatory properties, which can help ease joint pain associated with dog arthritis, says Dr. Mutascio.
    The caveat is that dog supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so the amount of active ingredients can vary, she adds. “Nutramax Dasuquin and Nutramax Cosequin are good name brands formulated for dogs that can be purchased over the counter or from your veterinarian. A joint supplement called Adequan canine injectable for dogs is also available and can be administered by a veterinarian.”
    Other key ingredients to look for in dog hip and joint care products are omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), phycocyanin and manganese, says Dr. Morrison. “Talk to your veterinarian about the best options for your dog based on their unique needs and medical history, while keeping in mind that some dogs may do better on multiple supplements,” she advises.
  4. Ask Your Veterinarian About Arthritis Pain Relief for Dogs
    Some dogs may occasionally need stronger pain medicine for dog arthritis pain, especially if they over-exert themselves, says Dr. Mutascio. “A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory dog medication called Galliprant tablets for dogs recently became available and is approved for use in dogs to treat pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. You can ask your veterinarian if this or other NSAIDs such as Rimadyl chewable tablets and Metacam (Meloxicam) oral suspension for dogs are right for your pet.”
    Since pain killers carry side effects, she recommends avoiding long-term use. “If your pet is on long-term pain killers, it is recommended that you visit your veterinarian regularly for checkups and blood tests to screen for systemic side effects,” she says.
  5. Prevent Falls and Slipping
    Falling can be especially painful for a dog with arthritis. To help your dog rise safely, consider using a sling or a dog lifting harness for additional support, offers Dr. Morrison. “Commercially available options … exist, but a large beach towel can also serve as a sling to provide support. If a sling is used, ensure it does not interfere with your dog’s ability to urinate.” (One option is the GingerLead support and rehabilitation unisex dog lifting harness.)
    To prevent falls and slipping outdoors, provide surfaces that give your dog better traction. You should also check your dog’s paws to make sure they’re free of snow, ice and dirt when they make their way back inside after a trip outdoors, says Morrison.
    Dr. Knabe says some dogs may benefit from the increased traction that dog socks or dog boots can offer. “These help arthritic dogs navigate smoother surfaces, as the rubber on the pad or nails acts like grippers we use on our shoes. These also help indoors on smooth flooring.” Products like Ultra Paws durable dog boots and Doggie Design non-skid dog socks provide pets with a little extra traction so they can maneuver safely.
    Dog steps and ramps can also help your pup get up onto the couch or bed safely without falling.
  6. Try Physical Therapy to Relieve Arthritis in Dogs
    Physical therapy can relieve some of the symptoms of arthritis in dogs. A veterinary physical therapist can tailor exercises for your dog’s specific needs, helping her to achieve low-impact activity levels, says Dr. Mutascio.
    “Often, an exercise regimen can be developed for use at home, with or without regular therapy appointments. Physical therapists may recommend additional therapies such as warm compress, massage and passive range of motion to help relieve discomfort and build muscle.”
    Other complementary treatments, like acupuncture, may also offer some relief, she says. “Ask your veterinarian about where you can pursue these options for your pet.”
  7. Provide Comfy Bedding
    Comfortable bedding is important for all dogs, but is especially essential for those who suffer with arthritis, says Dr. Morrison. “This could be an orthopedic mat, a memory foam bed or an elevated platform. Some dogs prefer a low-to-the-ground option that doesn’t require stepping up or over into a bed, so it may take some trial-and-error to find the best solution for your pet.”
    (Examples of orthopedic dog beds include the Frisco orthopedic sherpa cuddler and cushion dog and cat bed and the FurHaven plush and suede orthopedic sofa dog and cat bed.)
    While some dogs may enjoy additional heat, others might prefer cooler temps, says Dr. Morrison. “If using a heating pad or blanket (or heated dog bed), it is critically important to always keep it on the lowest setting, and ensure the heating element does not take up their entire bed or crate. Your pet needs to be able to quickly and easily move away from the heat if it becomes too warm. It’s also imperative to ensure there is always additional bedding in between your dog and the heating element. Never allow them to lie directly on top of a supplemental heat source.”
    If your dog has trouble going up and down staircases, be sure to set up your pet’s bedding appropriately so that they can nap in a comfortable spot without climbing stairs.
    While these tools can provide pain relief for dogs, keep in mind that every dog has individual needs, reminds Dr. Morrison. “As such, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for pets with arthritis. That is why it is important to monitor and keep track of what works best for your dog, what he or she does not tolerate as well—like temperature, environment and stairs—and partner with your veterinarian on their long-term care.”
    By Paula Fitzsimmons
  1. Manage Your Dog’s Weight
    Veterinarians say weight control is one of the most important tools for managing arthritis in dogs. “The heavier our pets are, the more stress that gets placed on their joints. Studies have shown that keeping your dog lean can improve mobility and exercise tolerance,” says Dr. Liliana Mutascio, a veterinary surgeon with VetMed in Phoenix, Arizona.
    How can you tell if your pup is overweight? Dr. Mutascio says that “Ideally, you should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs, and your pet should have a natural waistline when viewed from above and from the side.” Having your veterinarian perform regular weight and body condition scoring checks is ultimately the best way to monitor her weight.
    When consulting with your veterinarian about your dog’s diet, ask about dog hip and joint care dog food, like Hill’s Prescription Diet j/d joint care or Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets JM joint mobility.
    Dr. Mutascio says prescription dog food contains ingredients like fish oil that has omega-3 fatty acids for joint health. “There is some evidence that animals on these types of diets are more comfortable and require less anti-inflammatory medication.”
  2. Get Your Dog Moving
    Movement can provide pain relief for dogs with arthritis, says Dr. Elizabeth Knabe, a veterinarian with Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin. “Dogs that move less due to arthritis get into a cycle of pain, causing less motion that then leads to stiffness. The stiffness makes it harder to move, which causes more pain.”
    Arthritic dogs should avoid high-impact activities like running, jumping and rough playing, says Dr. Mutascio, whose clinical interests include orthopedic surgery. “Instead, consistent and regular low-impact activities like leash walks and swimming can help avoid additional joint damage, as well as improve mobility. You should strive to achieve the same level of activity each day and avoid overdoing it on weekends.”
    If your dog is small or thin-haired, she may benefit from wearing a dog coat or dog sweater when it’s cold outside, says Dr. Jo Ann Morrison, a board-certified veterinary internist with Banfield Pet Hospital in the Portland, Oregon area. “But be careful when putting it on or taking it off, especially if you have to manipulate your dog’s legs. Consider coats or sweaters with Velcro attachments that wrap around, which may be easier to put on and take off.” (Examples are the Ultra Paws red plaid cozy dog coat and the Canada Pooch Everest explorer dog jacket.)
  3. Consider Dog Supplements
    Dog joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for dogs have natural anti-inflammatory properties, which can help ease joint pain associated with dog arthritis, says Dr. Mutascio.
    The caveat is that dog supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so the amount of active ingredients can vary, she adds. “Nutramax Dasuquin and Nutramax Cosequin are good name brands formulated for dogs that can be purchased over the counter or from your veterinarian. A joint supplement called Adequan canine injectable for dogs is also available and can be administered by a veterinarian.”
    Other key ingredients to look for in dog hip and joint care products are omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), phycocyanin and manganese, says Dr. Morrison. “Talk to your veterinarian about the best options for your dog based on their unique needs and medical history, while keeping in mind that some dogs may do better on multiple supplements,” she advises.
  4. Ask Your Veterinarian About Arthritis Pain Relief for Dogs
    Some dogs may occasionally need stronger pain medicine for dog arthritis pain, especially if they over-exert themselves, says Dr. Mutascio. “A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory dog medication called Galliprant tablets for dogs recently became available and is approved for use in dogs to treat pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. You can ask your veterinarian if this or other NSAIDs such as Rimadyl chewable tablets and Metacam (Meloxicam) oral suspension for dogs are right for your pet.”
    Since pain killers carry side effects, she recommends avoiding long-term use. “If your pet is on long-term pain killers, it is recommended that you visit your veterinarian regularly for checkups and blood tests to screen for systemic side effects,” she says.
  5. Prevent Falls and Slipping
    Falling can be especially painful for a dog with arthritis. To help your dog rise safely, consider using a sling or a dog lifting harness for additional support, offers Dr. Morrison. “Commercially available options … exist, but a large beach towel can also serve as a sling to provide support. If a sling is used, ensure it does not interfere with your dog’s ability to urinate.” (One option is the GingerLead support and rehabilitation unisex dog lifting harness.)
    To prevent falls and slipping outdoors, provide surfaces that give your dog better traction. You should also check your dog’s paws to make sure they’re free of snow, ice and dirt when they make their way back inside after a trip outdoors, says Morrison.
    Dr. Knabe says some dogs may benefit from the increased traction that dog socks or dog boots can offer. “These help arthritic dogs navigate smoother surfaces, as the rubber on the pad or nails acts like grippers we use on our shoes. These also help indoors on smooth flooring.” Products like Ultra Paws durable dog boots and Doggie Design non-skid dog socks provide pets with a little extra traction so they can maneuver safely.
    Dog steps and ramps can also help your pup get up onto the couch or bed safely without falling.
  6. Try Physical Therapy to Relieve Arthritis in Dogs
    Physical therapy can relieve some of the symptoms of arthritis in dogs. A veterinary physical therapist can tailor exercises for your dog’s specific needs, helping her to achieve low-impact activity levels, says Dr. Mutascio.
    “Often, an exercise regimen can be developed for use at home, with or without regular therapy appointments. Physical therapists may recommend additional therapies such as warm compress, massage and passive range of motion to help relieve discomfort and build muscle.”
    Other complementary treatments, like acupuncture, may also offer some relief, she says. “Ask your veterinarian about where you can pursue these options for your pet.”
  7. Provide Comfy Bedding
    Comfortable bedding is important for all dogs, but is especially essential for those who suffer with arthritis, says Dr. Morrison. “This could be an orthopedic mat, a memory foam bed or an elevated platform. Some dogs prefer a low-to-the-ground option that doesn’t require stepping up or over into a bed, so it may take some trial-and-error to find the best solution for your pet.”
    (Examples of orthopedic dog beds include the Frisco orthopedic sherpa cuddler and cushion dog and cat bed and the FurHaven plush and suede orthopedic sofa dog and cat bed.)
    While some dogs may enjoy additional heat, others might prefer cooler temps, says Dr. Morrison. “If using a heating pad or blanket (or heated dog bed), it is critically important to always keep it on the lowest setting, and ensure the heating element does not take up their entire bed or crate. Your pet needs to be able to quickly and easily move away from the heat if it becomes too warm. It’s also imperative to ensure there is always additional bedding in between your dog and the heating element. Never allow them to lie directly on top of a supplemental heat source.”
    If your dog has trouble going up and down staircases, be sure to set up your pet’s bedding appropriately so that they can nap in a comfortable spot without climbing stairs.
    While these tools can provide pain relief for dogs, keep in mind that every dog has individual needs, reminds Dr. Morrison. “As such, there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for pets with arthritis. That is why it is important to monitor and keep track of what works best for your dog, what he or she does not tolerate as well—like temperature, environment and stairs—and partner with your veterinarian on their long-term care.”
    By Paula Fitzsimmons

Top 3 Reasons Your Dog Vomits Yellow & What To Do About It

By Rita Hogan
Dogs vomit.
Anyone who’s spent a lot of time around canines knows this for a fact.
The most common form of vomit is bile or bile reflux. It’s yellow or greenish in color and usually odorless.
This is yellow bile vomit. It can have the consistency of goo, be full of mucus … or air-filled and foamy.
Your dog vomiting might cause you concern … but yellow bile in vomit is actually quite normal.

What Is Bile?
Bile comes from the liver and gallbladder.
It breaks down fats and oils in the small intestine … it helps your dog’s body to absorb nutrients.
The digestive process uses bile continuously throughout the day. The liver and gallbladder release bile into the small intestine … to prepare for digestion.
Bile is essential for proper digestion in small amounts. But it sometimes builds up in the stomach or gastrointestinal tract. And then it can cause your dog to feel uncomfortable and vomit.
Bile can often accumulate and flow through the pyloric sphincter into the stomach. It then travels up into the esophagus (between the stomach and mouth).
The pyloric sphincter is usually a one-way valve. But sometimes due to pressure … or not able to close properly, bile flows in the wrong direction.
So let’s talk about why your dog might vomit bile.
3 Common Reasons Your Dog Throws Up Bile
Here are some of the common reasons your dog might vomit yellow bile.

1 Inflammation

Heat in the gastrointestinal tract can be a reason your dog vomits bile.
Heat can come from inflammation in the stomach and small intestine. This happens when fluids that circulate run low.
So when your dog has an empty stomach … he might vomit bile.
Lack of food can cause bile to build up and irritate your dog’s stomach lining. Usually this happens overnight … so your dog will throw up soon after he wakes up.
Acids in a dog’s stomach are similar to ours … but digestive secretions aren’t released in the same way.
Your dog’s digestive system releases bile and enzymes even if he hasn’t eaten.
This type of bile vomiting is sometimes known as bilious vomiting syndrome. People also call it hunger pukes.
This type of vomit cools the stomach and brings down heat. As dogs age, vomit happens more due to an empty stomach.
What To Do About It
This condition has an easy fix:
• Feed smaller meals and …
• Give your dog a snack at bedtime
These two things will help him avoid nausea in the morning.

2 Feeding Kibble

Feeding your dog kibble can cause bile vomit.
Kibble can dry out the digestive tract and increase heat. Kibble absorbs moisture in the digestive tract. That causes the stomach to expand and overproduce stomach acids.
What To Do About It
Feed your dog a fresh, whole food, raw diet. This is always the best choice for your dog.
But … if you must feed kibble, divide it up into 3 or 4 small meals and feed throughout the day.

3 Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities can cause inflammation (gastritis) … which leads to bile reflux.
Certain foods cause an immune response and rapid inflammation. This produces excess bile and nausea.
In this situation … you may also see diarrhea from heightened food motility through the intestines. You’ll also likely see undigested food in the stool.
While there are common reactive foods like soy, corn and wheat … any type of food can cause a reaction.
It can often happen if you give foods that are too warm or cooling for your dog’s individual constitution. (This article lists neutral, warming and cooling foods.)
New foods or additions to your dog’s current diet can also be upsetting to the stomach. When you introduce a new food, try it first in a separate meal before adding it to your dog’s regular food.
Gastritis is a fancy word for an irritated stomach.
Sometimes you’ll see your dog eat grass or dirt … and then throw up yellow bile mixed with grass. Dogs do this to help cool the stomach. Gastritis is usually due to food sensitivities.
What To Do About It
If your dog has severe gastritis … give his digestive system a break by:
• Fasting for 24 to 48 hours, or …
• Giving room temperature or slightly warmed bone broth for 24 to 48 hours
Inflammatory vomiting weakens the spleen. So it’s important to avoid serving your dog’s food cold or straight out of the fridge.
If your dog frequently vomits bile, here are some other things that can help you get to the bottom of it.
Keep A Journal Of Your Dog’s Schedule
Record your dog’s daily eating (and vomiting) habits. Keep notes of:
• Your dog’s mealtimes
• What food he eats
• When he vomits
• What day and time
• What it looks like
• Any other symptoms
It can be helpful to snap a picture of the vomit. You can keep it to compare later … or to show your vet if you have to take your dog in for an exam.
Sometimes your dog may have other symptoms along with vomiting yellow bile. You may see diarrhea, fever, low appetite or lethargy.
Jot down details about the who, what, where and when. It can help you recognize patterns you might not notice otherwise.
4 Herbal Solutions For Yellow Vomit
Here are some herbs you can use to help with your dog’s yellow vomit. Read the descriptions and find the one that best fits your dog.

1 Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet is good for acidity in the stomach, over-reactivity and pain. It’s well indicated for dogs who are thin, cool and lacking vitality.
Meadowsweet Dosage
Dried herb: Give twice daily with food:
• 150 mg. for extra small dogs to small dogs
• 300 mg for medium dogs,
• 500 mg for large to extra large dogs
Tincture: 1 drop for every 10 pounds twice daily before eating. Dilute in a small amount of water and drop into mouth.

2 Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow root calms the stomach and decreases heat. It coats and soothes the gastrointestinal tract, bringing down inflammation.
Marshmallow Root Dosage
Use a capsule of marshmallow or take chopped root and infuse it in cold water overnight. You can give either one with food.
For capsules, use the following amounts twice daily:
• 1/2 capsule for small dogs,
• 1 capsule for medium to large dogs
• 3 capsules daily for extra-large dogs (2 capsules morning and 1 in the evening).
For an infusion, take 2 Tbsp of marshmallow root to 2 cups water and let it sit overnight. Strain and give these amounts twice daily:
• 2 tsp for extra small dogs
• 3 tsp for small dogs
• 2 Tbsp for large dogs
• 4 Tbsp for extra large dogs

3 Chamomile

Chamomile helps decrease spasms and inflammation in the digestive tract. It coats and soothes the mucosa and tissues. It also helps prevent acid and bile reflux.
Chamomile Dosage
Make an infusion with 2 Tbsp of chamomile to 1 cup of almost boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes. Let it cool and strain. Give these amounts 2 to 3 times a day:
• 1-2 tsp for extra small dogs
• 3 tsp for small dogs
• 1-2 Tbsp for large dogs
• 3-4 Tbsp for extra large dogs
Chamomile Blends
When there’s inflammation (gastritis) in the digestive tract I like to use a combination of herbs. You can mix chamomile and lemon balm leaf infusion with marshmallow glycerite.
Directions: Infuse chamomile and lemon balm as described above. Mix 4 oz of cooled infusion with 20 drops of marshmallow. Use the same dosage schedule as the chamomile infusion.
Here’s another blend for yellow vomiting, from holistic veterinarian Cheryl Swartz. (She’s the author of Four Paws Five Directions). It’s a mix of goldenseal root, dandelion root and chamomile. It cools and calms the stomach and removes stagnation from the liver.
Directions: Blend the following ingredients:
• 1 oz of spring water
• 10 drops of golden seal tincture
• 5 drops of dandelion root tincture
• 5 drops of chamomile tincture
Give these amounts 2-3 times a day.
• 1/2 dropper for small dogs
• 1-2 droppers for medium dogs
• 2-3 droppers for large dogs

4 Licorice

Licorice coats the digestive tract and has a cooling effect. You can use it short-term for reducing acute bile vomiting as well as heartburn.
Licorice Dosage
Use a licorice glycerine extract. Give these amounts twice daily, on an empty stomach, for 1-10 days during an active episode of bile vomiting.
• 3 drops for extra small dogs
• 5 drops for small dogs
• 8 drops for medium dogs
• 12 drops for large dogs
• 15 drops for extra large dogs
In most cases, vomiting bile is something you can resolve yourself at home. But there are some times when you might need to consult your holistic veterinarian.
When To See A Vet
Vomiting yellow bile is common. But sometimes your dog may have other symptoms that mean it’s more serious.
Let’s go over a few conditions that warrant bringing your dog to the vet.
Intestinal Blockage
Some dogs will eat things that aren’t edible … like socks or hard toys. These objects can cause a blockage inside the digestive tract.
If your dog’s vomiting bile but also has constipation or can’t keep any fluids down … take him to the vet right away.
Bloat or GDV
Torsion or bloat is another type of blockage. It’s also called GDV – gastric dilation and volvulus. This is a deadly condition and it happens fast!
The stomach fills with gas and twists, closing it off at both ends. If your dog has some of these symptoms, don’t delay in getting him to a vet.
• Vomiting yellow or white foam, or trying to vomit with nothing coming out
• Drooling
• Tight stomach
• Lethargy
• Pale gums
• Restlessness
• Looks distressed
Don’t stop to wonder about it. Timing is everything when it comes to bloat.
Giardia
Giardia is a parasite that causes vomiting. Yellow bile vomit can be one giardia symptom. Other symptoms include profuse diarrhea and possible lethargy.
If you suspect that your dog has giardia, take a fecal sample to the vet for analysis. If the test is positive, here are some natural ways to manage it.
Pancreatitis
Inflammation of the pancreas is painful and sometimes serious. Pancreatitis is usually because your dog can’t digest fats and oils.
Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic. Symptoms include lethargy, spasms, decreased appetite, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
If you see these symptoms, it’s best to get your dog into the vet for an exam.

Severe Gastrointestinal Upset
If your dog has chronic, severe yellow bile vomiting … it can be a symptom of a larger gastrointestinal issue. This could include things like cancer, ulcers, or chronic inflammation.
In these cases your dog may have additional symptoms like …
• Loss of appetite
• Lethargy
• Dehydration
• Fever
• Weight loss
When your dog vomits yellow bile without any other symptoms, it isn’t anything to worry about. Just keep in mind the above situations that warrant a trip to the vet.
Most of the time, you can troubleshoot vomiting yellow bile at home.
Rita Hogan CH– is a canine herbalist and co-founder of Farm Dog Naturals, an herbal remedy company for the All-Natural Dog. Rita combines nature with her love for dogs by offering consulting that focuses on dogs as individuals: mind, body and spirit. Her practice incorporates herbal medicine, complementary therapies and environmental stewardship to help dogs and people find balance and partnership with nature. Connect with Rita through her website canineherbalist.com

Laser pointers and Cats!

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

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

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