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

Is Dry Nose a Sign of Illness in Dogs?

By Sarah Wooten, DVM

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How Dogs Use Their Nose

Dog noses are fascinating little structures. Not only do dogs use their noses for breathing, dog noses also drain excessive tears from the eyes through tear ducts. In addition, they have sweat glands, which help to cool the body through sweating.

Dog noses are also involved in collecting information about the environment. They do this through sniffing, but not all of the “information” is carried through the nasal passage. When a dog licks her nose, she transfers all sorts of scents to specialized scent detection olfactory glands located on the roof the mouth. This allows the dog to process her environment.

Check out your dog the next time she is intently sniffing something; you will notice that she sniff, sniff, sniffs, and then licks her nose, transferring all the information about what other dogs, cats, squirrels, or other creatures might have left — a “scent mail”, if you will — for her to read.

Does a Warm, Dry Nose Mean a Dog is Sick?

Clients often ask me if their dog’s nose is warm and dry, does that mean the dog is sick? Not necessarily, I tell them. Some dogs have dry noses because they just don’t lick their noses often. Sometimes, however, a dog will have a warm, dry nose in relation to a fever, but it can get tricky. That is because if a dog has the flu, she can have a fever with a warm, dry, nose, or a wet, runny nose.

Dogs can also lick their noses excessively due to neurological conditions (partial seizures), excessive anxiety, behavioral reasons (dogs will lick their muzzles to signal submission), or because their nose itches from allergies.

If your dog is acting sick, feels warm, seems to licking her nose excessively, and/or is coughing or sneezing, then it is time to the see your veterinarian to figure out what is wrong, and then fix it.

Diseases That Can Cause Dry Nose in Dogs

There are some diseases that can cause a chronically dry nose. Auto-immune disorders, such as lupus or pemphigus, can cause changes in the surface of the nose that leads to dryness, cracking, and bleeding.

Auto-immune disorders are diagnosed with blood and urine testing, and a biopsy of the nose. They are treated with immuno-suppressive drugs, such as prednisone.

Severe allergic reactions to pollenmoldfood, etc. can lead to redness and swelling of the nose, as well as to excessive rubbing and scratching of the face. Allergies can be treated with anti-histamines, and in severe cases, steroids must also be prescribed.

Dry Nose from Sunburn and Face Shape in Dogs

Excessive sun exposure, especially in dogs that have pink skin, can cause sunburned skin on the nose that can peel and crack.

Still other dogs, especially brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs, can’t lick their nose very well because of the conformation of their skull. These dogs will often develop a lumpy, crusty, chalky, cracked, uncomfortable nose in place of the cute little black button that used to sit on their face.

Treatment for Dry Nose in Dogs

For a case of chronically dry nose, your dog may benefit from a prescription lotion specifically designed to hydrate and nourish the skin on the nose.

Because dogs are nose lickers, whatever lotion is used must be safe for ingestion. Most skin lotions that are sold over the counter are not safe for ingestion. It is for this reason that I do not recommend treating the nose with any over the counter lotions unless your veterinarian has specifically recommended it to you.

If you notice changes in the way the skin on your dog’s nose looks, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss options in diagnosis and treatment.

The Contrasting Communication Styles of Dogs and Cats

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Dog barks and cat purrs couldn’t sound more different, but they do share one thing in common, which is that they can serve as a form of communication with you, their owner. Your cat may use a special “solicitation purr,” which is more urgent and “less pleasant” than a typical purr, as a tool to get you to feed her.

You may hear the solicitation purr — a low-pitched purr with a high-frequency voiced component that sounds almost like a cry or meow — early in the morning when your cat is hungry.1 Dogs also use barking as an effective form of communication, both with humans and other dogs. Yet, this natural and beneficial vocalization is sometimes perceived as a nuisance, especially if it’s persistent or takes place at inopportune times.

Like cats’ purrs, dogs also use different types of barks in different situations and for different reasons, which you can become more in tune with to develop a deeper bond with your pet.

Different Types of Dog Barks

Generally speaking, dogs use longer, lower frequency barks in response to a stranger approaching and higher pitched barks when they’re isolated.2 Your dog’s voice is also capable of communicating in a variety of nuanced tones beyond barks, including huffs, growls, whines, whimpers, howls and more. Each will be unique to your dog, and if you have multiple dogs, you can probably easily distinguish one dog’s bark from another’s.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, ranging from distress to trying to attract your attention. The key to understanding why a dog is barking lies in looking at the context, as although dogs make an incredible variety of sounds, comparatively little research has been done to uncover what individual barks mean. Examples of why dogs bark include:3

Excitement — A high-pitched yip or yowl is often a sign that something exciting is happening in your dog’s mind, and may be accompanied by an alert body position, wagging tail, spinning in circles and feet tapping.
Attention — If your dog looks at you and barks, then pauses and barks again (then repeats and repeats again), he’s probably trying to get your attention. He may want food, a belly rub or a game of tug-of-war; he’s trying to tell you something about what he wants.

One word of warning before giving in, especially if your dog is barking for treats — if you give your dog a treat in response to the barking, it will teach him to bark more to get more treats.

Boredom — A bored dog may bark because he’s got nothing better to do, or because he’s trying to get your attention to play with him or take him for a walk. If your dog barks due to boredom, increase his physical activity and provide outlets for mental stimulation.
Fear/Anxiety or Territorial — If a strange dog or person is approaching your home, or your dog feels threatened, he may use defensive barking, which tends to be deep, persistent and may have a growl tone to it as well. A fearful dog will have a low tail, possibly between the legs, and a low head posture, while a territorial dog will have a straight tail and more alert posture.
Stress — Dogs may also bark due to stress, such as due to a change in your household. In this case, consider talking with an animal behavior specialist about desensitization and counter conditioning exercises for a stressed-out pet. Basic obedience training may also help.
Surprise — If you startle your dog, he may let out a single, high-pitched bark because he’s surprised, similar to the way you might say “Oh!” when startled.
Pain — A dog in pain may bark a higher pitched bark with a staccato quality. If your pet does this when you touch him in a certain area or suddenly starts barking at unexpected times of the day or night, it’s time for a trip to your veterinarian.
Canine Dementia — If your dog barks into a corner or a wall, barks unusually at night or in response to nothing, cognitive dysfunction could be behind it. You should have your dog checked out for canine dementia.

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Why Your Cat Purrs

Cat purrs have been described as “opera singing for cats” and involve a neural oscillator sending messages to laryngeal muscles, which causes them to vibrate during inhalation and exhalation, similar to vibrato.4 Domestic cats, some wild cats and other animals, including hyenas, guinea pigs and raccoons, also purr, so why do they do it?

It’s been suggested that purring may have developed to keep cats healthy as they spent long hours silently, and stilly, in wait of prey. Cats purr with a frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz, a sound frequency that is beneficial for improving bone density and healing.5

“Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy,” Scientific American reported.6

Purr frequencies also correspond to vibrational and electrical frequencies used to treat bone fractures, pain, muscle strains, wounds, joint flexibility and more, adding more credence to the theory that purrs may be a form of self-healing.7 While humans often associate the soothing sound of a cat’s purr as a sign that their cat is content, cats also purr when they’re injured or frightened, while they’re in shelters and at the vet.

They may use purrs as a form of stress relief or to calm down, and cats may also use purrs after giving birth to lead their kittens, which are born blind and deaf, toward them.8

Since cats also often purr when they’re cozy on their owner’s lap, getting a good scratch, it could also be a sign of happiness or a way to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. Purring is normal and natural in cats, but if your cat is acting unusually, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian, even if he’s also purring.

 

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

An old study from the 1970s identified 12 positions that 60 intact male and 53 intact female adult beagles used to pee:

  • Stand: Standing normally
  • Lean: The body is leaning forward and the hind legs are extended to the back.
  • Flex: The hind legs are partially flexed so the rear end is slightly lowered. The hind feet usually remain under the body (no straddle).
  • Squat: The hind legs are straddled and sharply bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is kept straight.
  • Handstand: Both hind feet are lifted off the ground. They may be unsupported or placed against a vertical surface.
  • Arch: The hind legs are usually spread and bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is rounded, and the tail is lifted away from the ground.
  • Raise: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground but the leg is kept relatively low.
  • Elevate: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground. The foot and leg is held high.
  • Lean-Raise: A combination of the Lean and Raise postures.
  • Flex-Raise: A combination of the Flex and Raise postures.
  • Squat-Raise: A combination of the Squat and Raise postures.
  • Arch-Raise: A combination of the Arch and Raise postures.

The researchers found that females squatted most of the time but that the squat-raise was also quite popular. Females used most of the other positions too, albeit on a limited basis. Male dogs, on the other hand, had a more restricted repertoire. All of them demonstrated the elevate posture and some used the raised position, but the squat-raise and lean-raise only occurred rarely and the other positions weren’t noted at all. Keep in mind, however, that all the male dogs in this study were mature and intact.

 

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

 

Now that all the positions that a dog is likely to take to urinate have been identified, the question “Why?” has to be asked. What does it mean when a dog picks a particular posture at a particular time?

It’s important to remember that urination serves two purposes for dogs—elimination and marking. Both male and female dogs scent mark, but the behavior is more pervasive in males. Dogs who are marking preferentially urinate on vertical surfaces. If they urinate high up on that surface, the urine can flow downward covering a greater area, which leaves a stronger message to anyone who subsequently passes by. Peeing up high may even make a dog seem bigger than he actually is. This is probably why the elevate posture is so popular among males.

Interestingly, leg-raising is a behavior that only develops in male dogs as they mature. The authors of the study on beagles note that the lean posture, which deposits urine directly on the ground, “is typically used by male puppies and juveniles.”

But what about females? That’s where the handstand posture comes in. There’s no better way for a female dog to urinate at least as high as and maybe even higher than a similarly sized male can.

Research supports this hypothesis in female dogs. A paper published in 2004 looked at the urinary behaviors of six spayed and six intact female Jack Russell Terriers while they were being walked close to and further away from their “home area.” The scientists found that when away from their home area, these dogs were more likely to urinate frequently and aim their urine at objects in comparison to when they were walked close to home. The authors concluded “urination in female dogs does not function solely in elimination, but that it also has a significant role in scent marking…”

So, when dogs take a position that results in their urine hitting an object above the ground’s surface, chances are they are doing so to maximize the value of the scent they are leaving behind.

It’s important to note how many peeing positions are perfectly normal for both male and female dogs. Which ones they use depends on many factors including the dog’s location, age, sex, and possibly their reproductive status. The only time to be concerned is when a dog that usually pees in one position switches to another. This could be a sign of pain or another medical problem that needs to be addressed.

3 Summer Safety Tips to Keep Companion Animals Healthy

3 Summer Safety Tips to Keep Companion Animals Healthy

By Ryan Goodchild

Picture of Zoey Heath ( one of Diane’s beloved clients)

 

Pets are a constant source of love, affection, loyalty, and support. So when it comes time to plan some summer fun for your family, you should be sure to include any furry members.

Summer can be a blast for your animal companions, as long as you’re aware of some potential hazards. You can protect your pets, keep them healthy and happy, and focus on fun with these three important summer safety tips every pet parent should know.

Furkids and Summer Fireworks Don’t Mix

 Summer celebrations tend to involve fireworks, which can be pretty scary for your pets. In fact, shelter stats show that more animals are reported missing from July 4-5 than any other days or time of the year. One of the most helpful steps you can take is to update microchip info.

However, you may also want to keep your pets safe by adding a fence to your yard. Fence installation prices average right around $4,500, but this number can vary according to the size of your yard and the sort of materials you prefer. Where you live can also impact pricing.

 

Speaking of location, if you need to find reliable local contractors to install your fence, you should try searching online first. There are plenty of websites that offer reviews and ratings, and you can also use these websites to check whether the pros you’re considering have a license and insurance. With a secure and new fence, you won’t have to stress about letting pets out around holidays.

Beware of Ticks

Now for a summer statistic that will make your skin crawl. Although the warmest months always see a rise in tick populations, entomologists are predicting that this summer will be THE summer of ticks and tick-borne diseases. That’s bad news if you and your pets love the outdoors!

The good news is that protecting yourself and your pets from these creepy crawly pests is pretty easy. If you plan on taking some summer walks in the woods with your furkids, and your area is prone to ticks, consider treating your clothes with a quality repellent. Ask your vet about flea and tick preventatives for your pet to keep them safe on wilderness adventures.

If your pet does bring some ticks home, you should use CDC recommended guidelines to safely remove them and disinfect the affected area. Proper disposal is key since coming into contact with a crushed tick can also spread diseases to you and your furry family members.

Furry Coats Can Leave Pets Prone to Heat Exhaustion

 

Another summer pet hazard to be mindful of? The sun and heat. Because your pets have fur, walking them outside in peak summer temperatures is like you trying to run outside in a thick winter coat. The normal range for a dog’s body temperature is between 100.5 – 102.5 Fahrenheit.

If your pets are active in the sun, heat, and humidity for too long, their temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels. Their respiratory rate will elevate as well, which can have severe consequences and even be fatal. Flat-faced or brachycephalic breeds are at an increased risk.

The best thing you can do to prevent deadly heat stroke in your pets is to keep them indoors and cool during hot summer afternoons. If you can’t keep them inside, be sure to provide them with plenty of shade and cool water. You should also know how to cool down overheated pets. Most importantly, never leave your pets in a hot car as death can occur rapidly.

Pets are like family. So be sure to protect yours like family this summer! Watch out for dangers like fireworks, ticks, and extreme temps, and have a happy, healthy season with your furkids.

 

With Diane Weinmann’s guidance and resources, you can communicate with your beloved pet. Be sure to check out her website for more guides like this one and to discover how you can open the door for communication with the animals you love.

 

Treating Compulsive Dog Behaviors

By Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB

Can dogs have OCD? Not really, but they do get compulsive behaviors. What is the difference? Obsessive compulsive behaviors include obsessive thoughts, which don’t apply to dogs since we can’t know what they are thinking. Instead, in dogs, these disorders are called compulsive disorders. Here are some other important insights into this curious dog behavior we call compulsive disorders…

What are Compulsive Disorders?

Compulsive disorders (obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD) occur in dogs, although not with great frequency. These behaviors are exaggerations of normal dog behaviors. They are exhibited for longer than expected periods of time, are repeated out of context, and in situations in which they would be considered abnormal.

Common dog behaviors which can be classified as compulsive include spinning, tail chasing, fly biting, light chasing, barking, chewing, staring into space, sucking on a toy, or sucking on a part of the body.

What Causes Compulsive Disorders in Dogs?

Compulsive disorders are caused by conflict, stress and/or frustration. With each stressful event that your dog encounters, there is a release of neurotransmitters involved with the stress response. When a dog is frustrated or stressed, he may start to perform a normal behavior such as holding a toy in his mouth in order to relieve that stress. If holding the toy in his mouth actually reduces the neurotransmitters involved with the stressful event, the dog is likely to perform that behavior again when he is stressed. For some dogs, this behavior becomes ritualized and repetitive because of the intense reward that is associated —reduction of the physiologic feeling of stress or frustration.

Over time, compulsive behaviors progress and get worse. Dogs often start to perform the compulsive behavior with any stressful event, not just the original inciting situation. The behavior can take over the dog’s life replacing normal sleep and feeding habits. It can cause injury to the dog as the impulse to perform the particular behavior becomes stronger and stronger. Dogs that chase their tails often end up mutilating the tail requiring amputation, while dogs that suck on themselves frequently cause skin infections.

 

Sometimes, what appears to be a compulsive behavior is actually an attention seeking behavior. Even behaviors which start as a frustration related behaviors can be rewarded inadvertently when owners pay attention to the dog when he performs the behavior. For example, if an owner yells No!, that is still regarded by the dog as attention and can perpetuate the behavior.

If you think that your dog exhibits a behavior for your attention, try the following tests. First, videotape your dog when you are not home to see if and when the behavior occurs in your absence. Next, try walking out of the room the next time that your dog performs the behavior. If he does not perform the behavior in your absence, your attention or presence is most probably a part of the problem.

Some dog breeds are predisposed hereditarily to certain compulsive behaviors. For example, Bull Terriers and German Shepherds are commonly seen for tail chasing. Labrador Retrievers exhibit oral compulsive behaviors such as pica, whereby the dog is driven to pick up any object and eat it. Doberman Pinschers are well known for flank sucking, whereby the dog holds and sucks on the skin of the flank for long periods. The best way to know if your dog is predisposed to a certain type of behavior is to speak to your veterinarian about your breed’s genetic predisposition. Then, if possible, speak to the owner of your dog’s parents to learn of their behavior.

How Do You Treat Compulsive Disorders in Dogs?

The first thing to do if you think that your dog has a compulsive disorder is to go to your veterinarian for help. Because medical conditions can cause signs similar to compulsive behaviors in dogs, it is extremely important to rule out medical diseases such as neurologic, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and orthopedic disorders. Your dog should receive a thorough physical examination as well as screening labwork before considering treatment for a compulsive disorder.

If your dog is completely healthy and is free of pain, he may have a compulsive disorder. Compulsive disorders are treated with medications to lower arousal and conflict as well as behavior modification to give the dog an alternate coping strategy outside of the compulsive behavior. Treatment is often prolonged and continues for the life of the dog. If your dog is diagnosed with compulsive disorder you can expect some ups and downs in treatment and in your dog’s behavior. Often chronic cases are referred to a board certified veterinary behaviorist for treatment.

The best thing that you can do for your dog if you suspect a compulsive disorder or if your dog repeatedly displays any behavior, even if it seems harmless now, is to seek help from your veterinarian. When compulsive behaviors are treated early and quickly the prognosis is much better than if they have progressed to a chronic state.

What Do Cats Recognize and Respond To?

As a veterinarian who has listened to my clients’ perspectives over the past 30 years and a person who has been “owned by cats” since I was 17 years old, I definitely have my thoughts on the answer—and it seems to be very selective.

An interesting article from 2013 affirms that cats do recognize human voices and respond primarily by ear and head movements. They further found that using harmonics and broad pitch were more effective in eliciting that response. They concluded that cats recognize their owners voice specifically by using the voices of three strangers followed by the owner and then another stranger.

Another interesting study from 2017 discussed how we talk to our pets compared to babies using high-pitched voice, simple content and harmonics. The study used “kitten directed speech” that was simple, higher pitched and musical or harmonic. They found that a cat’s hearing range had a wide scale and pitch and that cats may be attentive to human utterances with more variation.

Teaching a Cat to Respond to Voice Commands

One of the strongest variables I see in how responsive cats are to their owner’s voice is whether they are hungry or not. It is well-known among animal trainers that food is a powerful motivator to respond to verbal or audible cues. Common sense says that food, coupled with the owner’s voice, should result in a response at least some of the time.

If you think about cats only really having only two modes, predator or prey, their responses are typically in line with those modes, to seek food or hide. If we can erase any fear of us, the owner, and use food as a reward, they should come to us for food using an audible cue—or even a clicker.

Training a cat to respond to a verbal cue, such as their name, from a young age is very important. Because kittens have a very early human association period that can begin at 17 days old, it is important that kittens are handled and get used to human voice and touch to make sure there is absolutely no fear and they associate us with attention, love and food.

By starting as a kitten, using a harmonic pitch and variation, and possibly a multi-syllable name in association with food rewards, we should get a better response from our beloved felines (which could be anything from an ear twitch to running to us). As cat lovers we know, we simply need to accept graciously whatever they choose to do!

Now, Diane, as an animal communicator, has found that many cats do indeed respond to their names when called.  Her own cat Milo came to her when he was called and when she talked to one client, the cat told her that his owner comes home at night  from work and yells LEEEEOOOOO  when she wants him. (obviously his name is Leo).  It was so cute they way he imitated his owner.

Do cats know their names or recognize our voice in some other way? Although we’ve spent over 10,000 years sharing our time with cats, there’s very little research to determine the answer to this question.

Fortunately, things do seem to be changing a bit as we share even more time and experiences with our favorite felines, and there are a few interesting recent research pieces that says there is evidence that cats may indeed know their names.

By: Ken Lambrecht, DVM comments by Diane Weinmann

 

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

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

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

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

Common Causes of Upset Stomach in Dogs

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

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

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

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

Symptoms of Upset Stomach in Dogs

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

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

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

When to Call Your Vet

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

Watch for these signs:

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

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

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

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

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

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

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

Fasting

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

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

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

Ice Cubes

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

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

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

Canned Pumpkin

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

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

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

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

Is Upset Stomach in Dogs a Sign of Food Allergies?

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

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

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

How to Help Prevent Upset Stomach in Dogs

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

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

 

Dog Anxiety Help: How to Calm Down an Anxious Dog

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

 

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

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

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

Recognize the Signs of Dog Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk With Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Anxiety

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

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

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

Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorists

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

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

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

Tips for Calming Your Dog’s Anxiety

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

Remove Triggers That Cause Your Dog’s Anxiety

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

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

Try Dog Appeasing Pheromones

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

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

Exercise With Your Dog

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

Create a Sanctuary Space

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

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

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

Ask Your Veterinarian About Anti-Anxiety Medications

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

Some pet owners worry about using these medications:

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

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

Try Behavior Modification

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

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

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

Be Supportive

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

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

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

Citations

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

The Love Hormone Helps Process Those Emotions

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

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

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

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

Dogs Avoid Angry Humans

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

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

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

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

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

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

So How Do I Use This Information?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Signs of Tummy Troubles in Your Pet

7 Signs of Tummy Troubles in Your Pet

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

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

Symptoms of Nausea in Dogs

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

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

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

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

6 Natural Remedies for An Upset Stomach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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