My husband and I have two cats, now two years old. At their next vet visit, we plan to have them microchipped. We live in an urban area with lots of traffic so our cats don’t go outdoors. However, I know that sooner, rather than later, their curiosity about that outside world will entice them to escape the safety of the house for the great outdoors. Microchipping my cats is my insurance against losing them forever.

It’s sad but true that one in three pets goes missing during its lifetime, and getting lost is a pet’s #1 cause of death. Without ID, 90% of pets don’t return home. Those are statistics you’ll find on HomeAgain’s website: public.homeagain.com.  They are one of several pet recovery services that will record your pet’s microchip number acartoon%20dog%20and%20cat%20cropped%20and%20lightened.sig_medium[1]nd your contact information to help locate your lost pet.

Most pet owners don’t realize how easy it is to lose a pet. Digging under fences, running through an electric fence, fleeing from fear during fireworks or a thunderstorm, or accidentally being let out of the house through an open door are common ways pets become lost. Fortunately, microchipping your pets offers a way to permanently ID dogs and cats (or other pocket pets) and give them a chance to be reunited with their family if they are ever lost.

How Microchips Work

  • A microchip is inserted by a veterinary professional at a vet’s office, animal shelter, pet store or humane society. The microchip is the size of a grain of rice and it is injected just under the skin between the pet’s shoulder blades. It serves as a permanent ID that will never fall off or get lost.
  • Pet owners should register the microchip’s unique ID number with a pet recovery data base along with their contact information. Registration is what makes it possible for a pet to be positively identified. Until a pet is registered, it isn’t fully protected.
  • If a pet gets lost and is taken to an animal shelter or clinic, the staff will scan the microchip to read its ID code. Unlike GPS devices, the microchip doesn’t project a pet’s location, take batteries to run, or have any moving parts — so it will never need to be charged or replaced.
  • The staff will then call the appropriate pet registry with the pet’s ID code.
  • As soon as the contact information is retrieved, the pet owner will be contacted and arrangements made for the pet’s reunion with its owner. It’s important to keep the contact information up-to-date, so you, as the owner, can be contacted as soon as the pet is found.

Contrary to what you may think, the microchip insertion doesn’t hurt your pet. It takes only seconds to inject and is about as painless as a vaccination. If you’re adopting a pet from a shelter, your new fur baby may already be microchipped. Check the adoption paperwork or have your vet scan your new pet to detect the presence of a microchip.

The average cost for microchipping is $45 and to register the microchip with a registry about $20. It’s a small price to pay for a lifetime of protection for your furry friends.

I’ve been asking myself this same question. My two cats, Mia and Kali, both weighed in over 10 pounds at their last vet visit. According to the vet, they are overweight and, as their owner, I should be doing something to help bring their weight down.

linda 9-6-15 015In my cats’ case, I’ve been feeding them a good quality dry food twice a day and following the manufacturer’s directions for how much to feed them. Once food is in their bowls, however, I don’t have control over who eats it. I suspect my bulkier Mia of eating more than her slimmer sister Kali.

After some research, I found that a dry-food-only diet may not be the best even if it is a high quality brand. Here’s why: cats should eat a diet that is at least 45% protein for optimal health, according to animal specialists. Although some dry cat foods do have 45 percent or more protein, many contain only 35 percent protein.

I also found that cats should eat a low-carb diet to stay healthy. Cats lack the enzymes to digest carbohydrates and simple sugars. Any carbs that aren’t needed immediately for energy will be stored away as fat. Experts like Gary Norsworthy, DVM, DABVP, a specialist in feline medicine based in San Antonio, TX, recommend that carbs make up less than 15 percent of your cat’s diet. Many foods, he cautions, have considerably more than 15 percent carbohydrates. Check the label!

My average-sized cats need fewer than 200 calories per day to maintain their weight, according to Norsworthy. That’s far fewer calories than I, as a cat owner, had thought. Add it up: protein malnutrition, plus carbohydrate and calorie overload causes cats to lose lean muscle and gain fat.

Some suggestions if your felines are a bit on the porky side:

  • Make canned food — not dry — the foundation of your cat’s diet. Choose a high-quality, properly balanced, meat-based food containing at least 45 percent protein. A small amount of dry is acceptable as cats enjoy the crunchy sensation.
  • Avoid free feeding dry food. Cats eat several small meals per day so mimic how your cat would eat in the wild by feeding at least two times per day.
  • Measure your cat’s food to ensure the right number of calories per cup or can.
  • Monitor what your cat eats. If you, like me, have more than one cat it may be hard to supervise them both. You might have to separate your cats at mealtime to prevent overeating.

Any change to your cat’s diet needs to be done gradually so they don’t stop eating altogether. Mia and Kali may not like the change in their diets at first, but they’ll thank me later!

 

Cat owners who leave empty boxes lying around know that eventually the box will contain a cat. What makes a simple cardboard box so enticing to your cat? Scientists don’t know exactly why cats are attracted to boxes but have several theories.

Kitties in boxOne is the advantage a box provides to stalk prey – whether it be a fellow cat or human or something else that attracts their attention. Cats are ambush predators and boxes provide great hiding places for stalking prey. In the wild seeking out confined spaces is instinctual behavior for cats and lets them both hide from predators and stalk prey.

There’s also a boatload of behavioral research on cats focused on environmental enrichment. The research has found that cats find both comfort and security from enclosed spaces. Cats that are stressed can be profoundly affected by the security of a box in which to hide.

Those who study animal behavior, such as ethologist Claudia Vinke of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, have found that shelter cats in particular that are given hiding boxes while introduced to a shelter suffer less stress than cats without the boxes. The cats with boxes got used to their new surroundings faster, were far less stressed early on, and were more interested in interacting with humans.

This seems natural considering that cats don’t handle conflict well. Their response is to go hide rather than confront whatever the stressor is. In the wild cats retreat to tree tops, dens, or caves while our pet cats find comfort in a shoe box.

My cat Kali is quite shy so any new or odd noise will send her under her cat stoop, which has a blanket draped over it like a tent.kitty in box There’s just enough of an opening for her to peer out and see what’s going on while feeling safe and secure.

Another possible reason for cats liking boxes is that they’re cold and boxes provide the insulation they need to feel warm.  Corrugated cardboard is a great insulator and confined spaces force cats to curl up which then helps them to preserve body heat.

According to a 2006 study by the National Research Council, the thermoneutral zone for a domestic cat is 86 to 97 degrees Fahrenheit.  That’s the range of temps in which cats are “comfortable” and don’t have to generate extra heat to keep warm. That range is also 20 degrees higher than ours, which explains why it’s not unusual to see our cat Mia curled up close to the gas fireplace. To us it’s uncomfortably hot to be that close but she loves the heat.

And, finally, those insulated, stress-relieving, comfortable boxes also provide a safe place for cats to nap. Given that felines sleep for up to 20 hours a day, that’s a pretty big deal. Who wants a cranky cat that can’t get enough sleep?

November is “Adopt a Senior Pet Month.” Older pets are often at a disadvantage at shelters as potential owners find cute puppies and kittens more attractive to adopt.However, pet adoption — senior or otherwise — is actually good for you. Here are some scientifically-proven ways pet ownership improves the lives of human companions:

  • Pets can boost self-esteem. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology demonstrates that pet owners have stronger self-esteem than non-pet-owners. Research also indicated that pet owners are more extroverted and less fearful than people without pets.
  • Allergy risk is reduced. While it may seem counter-intuitive, owning a pet doesn’t make you more susceptible tosenior dog allergies. Studies suggest being exposed to a pet early in life may decrease your risk of animal allergies later on.
  • Pets keep us positive. Researchers say that thinking about your pet after a negative experience helps you feel less negative.
  • You feel less lonely with pets. One study found that people with pet dogs indicated their social needs were fulfilled just as effectively by their pets as by their friends. Dogs, they said, provided them with a strong sense of self-esteem, belonging and meaning.
  • Pets offer a sense of support. Studies revealed that pet owners feel they get just as much support from their pets as they do from family members.
  • Pets incent us to stay healthy. It’s hard to sit on the couch all day and watch TV if your dog or cat is begging for attention. Whether you’re tossing balls with Rover or dangling wand toys for kitty to chase, you’re substantiating studies showing pet owners are healthier and more active than non-pet-owners.
  • We feel less stress. There is evidence from animal experts that simply petting your dog or cat can help reduce your stress. Their unconditional love and the fact that they don’t judge us are other factors that make pets the best support system during stressful times.
  • We attract other people. Studies find that owning a pet can improve our human relationships and attract others to us. Pets are natural conversation starters, which can draw other pet lovers to us.
  • Pets can help stabilize our blood pressure. A study of stressed out stockbrokers revealed that a group given pets for the course of the study had significantly more stable blood pressure than brokers without pets.  After the study, many from the control group of stockbrokers without pets went on to get a loving pet to help them manage their stress.

 

Ask your local shelter about adopting a senior pet. Because senior pets are usually the last to be adopted and the first to be euthanized in a shelter, you can feel good knowing that you have very likely saved a life. Senior pets offer all the advantages above and, thanks to you, have the chance to live out their lives in a loving home.

If you’re planning a Thanksgiving dinner with pets present, here are some tips to make it a special time for you, your family, and your pets.I’ll never forget a client relating how her beagle  climbed up onto their Thanksgiving table once everyone had retired to an adjoining room for dessert, and gobbled down a huge portion of leftover turkey! No one noticed the deed until much later. Fortunately, the dog was O.K. but was obviously feeling left out of all the feasting happening that day.

There are lots of ways to include your pets in Thanksgiving celebrating without having your dinner spoiled by an overzealous pet. ASPCA experts offer these tips:

  • If you decide to give your pets a bit of turkey, make sure it’s boneless, skinless and well-cooked. Raw or undercooked turkey, as well as turkey left setting out for more than two hours, may contain salmonella bacteria. Mix the turkey in with your dog’s regular food for a treat. Puree turkey with sweet potatoes or pumpkin and add to your cat’s regular food.

 

  • Sage is a great ingredient in Thanksgiving stuffing but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

 

  • Keep raw bread dough away from pets. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is eaten. an animal’s body heat causes the dough to rise in its stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency.

 

  • If you’re baking Thanksgiving treats, be sure your pets stay out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs. The eggs could contain salmonella bacteria that may cause food poisoning.

 

  • Pets that overindulge in Thanksgiving food could wind up with stomach upset, diarrhea or — more seriously — an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. It’s best for pets to stay on their regular diets during holidays.

 

  • Some safe foods for pets from the Thanksgiving table include cooked vegetables like pumpkins, sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans and peas. Pet birds also love fresh veggies and fruits, including cooked sweet potatoes and cranberries. Even small pocket pets like gerbils can enjoy raw vegetables like carrots and broccoli if given sparingly.

 

  • While your guests are enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Offer them Nylabones or made-for-pet chew bones. Or stuff their usual dinner with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables like sweet potato or green beans, and dribbles of gravy into a Kong toy. This will keep them distracted and working hard to get at their dinner from the toy.

 

Make your pet thankful to you by supplying them with safe and healthy Thanksgiving treats. Everyone will have a better holiday experience when you do.

When ghosts and goblins come knocking on your door this Halloween, be ready to make it a good experience for trick-or-treaters as well as your pets. Americans spend an astounding $7 billiion on Halloween costumes, candy and decorations annually. Here are some tips to keep your pets out of harm’s way on this spooky holiday:

cat in Halloween costume– Candy, especially dark or baking chocolate, can be highly toxic to dogs and cats. Same goes for candy made with the artificial sweetener xylitol. For example, xylitol, found in gum and candy, can cause dangerously low blood sugar or liver disease in dogs. Chocolate can create a range of symptoms, from vomiting to abnormal heart rhythm to death. Even snacks that are healthy for humans, such as raisins, can cause a toxic reaction. Keep candy where it’s out of reach for pets.

– Make sure your pet has an I.D. — microchip, collar or ID tag — in case it escapes through an open door while you’re distracted with trick-or-treaters.

– We spend nearly $300 million on pet costumes, but we need to get it right for our pet’s safety. If you decide to dress up your pet in a costume, make sure it doesn’t mind. Some pets are o.k. with it, others are definitely not. If wearing a costume upsets your pet, then skip it.

– Pet costumes should fit properly, be comfortable, and not have any pieces that could be easily chewed off. Your pet’s costume should not impede their breathing, movement, hearing or vision. If possible, let your pet get used to a costume before Halloween by letting it wear the costume for short practice periods. Never leave your pet unsupervised while it’s wearing a costume.

– If you’ve decorated for Halloween, keep in mind that some pets may try to eat decorations, such as pumpkins or objects that include actual corn. These can cause upset stomachs or even more serious digestive blockage, so hang decorations up high and/or out of reach. Be especially careful with lit candles and jack-o-lanterns as pets can easily tip these over and cause fires.

– Kids ringing doorbells all evening can drive dogs and cats a little crazy. Dogs may bark excessively and cats may run and hide — and any pet could dart out an open door. Put your pets in a quiet room far from your front door; put up a baby gate or close the door; or turn on your TV or music to disguise doorbell ringing.

– Kids in costumes can be frightening to many dogs. Only very calm, unflappable dogs should be outside with you on Halloween and only on a leash. Calm, well-trained dogs can be asked to “sit” and “stay” to greet trick-or-treaters and then given treats to reward their good behavior.

– Unfortunately, Halloween can be a time for pranksters, especially those who get kicks out of being cruel to animals. Any pet can
be at risk, but especially black cats. Don’t let your pet out alone in the yard during the Halloween season. Outdoor cats should be kept indoors for the week leading up to and following Halloween.

– For families that want to include their pets in the Halloween festivities, there are Halloween-themed events scheduled in the Minneapolis metro area. Here are a few links to check out for pet-friendly Halloween events:

https://www.sidewalkdog.com/events/
https://woofntreat.com
https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/top-lists/best-pet-friendly-halloween-events-in-minn/

If your pet is still highly stressed by Halloween in spite of all your precautions, ask your vet for suggestions on herbal calming remedies or mild tranquilizers.

Dogs are wonderful companions, but they’re also not fussy when it comes to sampling things around the home. It pays to know about pet toxins to keep your home safe for your canine.Puppy and adult dogThe Pet Poison Helpline posts lists yearly of common dog poisons that result in emergency calls to them. This list shows the most emergency calls in 2013 for animal poisoning:

  • Chocolate: Bakers and dark are the most toxic, and milk chocolate, if ingested in large amounts.

 

  • Xylitol: This sweetener found in sugarless chewing gum and candy, medications and nasal sprays causes a rapid drop in blood sugar and liver failure only in dogs (not cats).

 

  • NSAIDS: ibuprofen, naproxen, etc., found in products like Advil, Motrin and Aleve. Dogs don’t metabolize these drugs well; ingestion causes stomach ulcers and kidney failure.

 

  • Over-the-counter cough, cold and allergy medications: Those that contain acetaminophen or decongestants, such as pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine, are particularly toxic.

 

  • Rodenticides (mouse poison): These may cause internal bleeding or brain swelling even in small amounts.

 

  • Grapes and raisins:  These harmless human foods cause kidney damage in dogs.

 

  • Insect bait stations:  These rarely cause poisoning in dogs–the bigger risk is bowel obstruction when dogs swallow the plastic casing.

 

  • Prescription ADD/ADHD medications:  These amphetamines such as Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine and Vyvanse can cause tremors, seizures, cardiac problems and death in pets.

 

  • Glucosamine joint supplements:  Overdose of tasty products such as Cosequin and Move Free typically only cause diarrhea; however, in rare cases, liver failure can develop.

 

  • Silica gel packets and oxygen absorbers: Silica gel packs, found in new shoes, purses, or backpacks, are rarely a concern. The real threats are the iron-containing oxygen absorbers found in food packages like beef jerky or pet treats, which can cause iron poisoning.

If your dog shows signs of pet poisoning, such as vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, weakness or lethargy, get them to your vet or an animal emergency clinic right away. The Pet Poison Helpline (800-218-6680) is another 24/7 resource to help you identify if your dog has pet poisoning. If you know or suspect the substance your dog got into, bring it along.

In any case, acting quickly is your best bet to save your pet from serious harm or even death.

A wagging tail means a happy dog, right? Not always…Since dogs haven’t found a way yet to talk to their owners, they use other means to convey what they’re thinking. Body language, especially tail wagging, is one.

The Science

A study completed by Italian researchers of dogs observing videos of other dogs wagging their tails to the right or left intended to determine whether dogs effectively utilize tail wags to communicate with each other. When watching dogs wagging their tails to the right, the observing dogs would relax and sometimes even try to approach the other dog. Dogs observed wagging their tails to the left, however, resulted in heightened heart rates and anxiousness in those dogs watching the videos.

The study concluded that dogs, like people, have asymmetrically oriented brains. The activation of one side of the brain based on an emotional response, would cause the tail to wag toward the opposite direction. According to the researchers, the directional wagging is not intended to be communication, it’s simply a byproduct of that mechanism of asymmetry, but it can still be a good indicator of a dog’s emotional state.

Dog wagging its tailWhile these studies of dog behavior may be valid, it can be hard for pet owners to put them to practical use. Dogs are much better at interpreting other dog behavior than humans. Plus, the tail wagging can be quite subtle and would require humans to see the wagging in slow motion to really observe differences.

The Practice

Dog trainer and educator Penny Layne has six dogs of her own and had this to say about the tail wagging study: “I don’t dispute the research, but what I have is the experience of the last 22 years of studying dogs and training them and as a speaker and I’m reading more than just the tail. You really have to look for a while to see if the tail is going left or right. You can’t waste that much time if your life is threatened,” she says.

The best way to tell if a dog’s tail wag is negative or positive, according to many pet experts, is to watch its overall body language. Happy dogs are relaxed, hold their tails at a natural height, and aren’t showing signs of anxiety or aggression in the rest of their body language. Pay attention to how they’re holding their ears, if their lips are tight or loose, if their hair or hackles are raised, and if they are vocalizing in any way.

You may also want to keep in mind the type of dog you’re observing. Dogs naturally hold their tails at different heights depending on their breed. In general, a broad wag to the side is typically a sign of a happy dog, especially if the hips are wiggling with the tail. This is often accompanied by relaxed ears and a soft or smiling mouth.

What to Watch For

According to VetDepot’s blog, there are three tail wagging behaviors that signal trouble:

  • A slow, low wag. This can be a sign of insecurity. If a dog is feeling fearful, it’s tail may continue to wag even if it’s tucked between the legs. If you think your dog is feeling uneasy for any reason, be cautious about introducing a new person or animal.

 

  • A slow, high wag. This is often a display of dominance. Be cautious if your dog is exhibiting this behavior.

 

  • A wagging tail accompanied by barking. This is often a warning sign of aggression or over-excitement.

Your dog has many ways to communicate with you, his or her tail is just one of them. Now that you know what signs to look for pay attention to what your pup’s tail is telling you and the dogs around them! This may help both of you stay safe and happy when interacting with other dogs.