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October 2014
Borrowed from:

7 Things Pet Owners Do That Drive Vets Crazy7 Things Pet Owners Do That Drive Vets Crazy

By Dr. Patty Khuly |

It’s a tough subject to tackle. After all, veterinarians do plenty of annoying things, too. But this particular post is all about you — well, not you, but the annoying yous among you. Not that most of you deserve this, but some of you just might! So without any further hedging, let me launch into the most annoying things pet owners do.

1. Answer Their Cells

Need I say more? Is there anything more annoying and disrespectful than answering a phone call while your vet is delivering her state-of-your-pet’s-health address? OK, it might be worse if you dug out your phone to initiate a call midexam, but only by a smidge. They’re both just plain rude.

Related Stories: Two Little Words Your Vet Wants to Hear, 10 Things to NOT Say to Your Veterinarian, 10 Questions Veterinarians Really Want You to Ask

2. Bring Their Kids

I dearly love children (mine mostly, but yours can also be cool), but very young or badly behaved children are an unnecessary liability in a veterinary environment. It’s hard enough to keep pets safe — much less kids. So unless your children are old enough and/or chill enough to hang out in a vet setting, they should probably stay home.

One exception: If your pet has an emergency and you have no one to care for your kids, you are most definitely excused. We’ll understand. Call ahead and we may even assign an employee to keep tabs on them so you can concentrate on what’s wrong with your pet.

3. Let Their Dogs Run Amok

This is not the dog park. And, for the record, retractable leashes should remain in the shortest, locked position for the duration of your visit. After watching an innocent human get taken down in the lobby by an overlong retractable line, I decided there should be a law against these in vet hospitals.

4. Carry Their Cat

I’ve never been able to fathom why some owners insist upon bringing their cats to the vet hospital without carriers. Some will use harnesses, which won’t help them when faced with a truly motivated dog. And, honestly, I’d never blame a dog for attacking a cat in a veterinary hospital environment. After all, these cats are probably giving off cornered prey vibes that some dogs can’t ignore.

Remember my post on cats in carriers? Cats are more comfortable in uncertain environments when they’re enclosed.

5. Deny, Deny, Deny

It drives us crazy. These clients effectively employ us to be their experts, then they put up roadblock after roadblock: No, my pet is not fat. No, my pet’s teeth are not rotting. No, he’s too old for surgery. No, her claws are not too long. It’s exasperating!

I can understand why you might (and should!) question your veterinarian about health care issues that are important to you, but why come to the vet if you’re unwilling to have an open dialogue about what your pet needs and doesn’t need?

6. Refuse to Pay

It happens more often than you’d think. Pet owners agree to hospitalization and procedures — and later refuse to pay. Sometimes they say that they forgot their checkbooks. Other times they claim to have misunderstood the payment policy, even though there’s a sign in almost every veterinary hospital in the United States that explains payment is expected when services are rendered. I even had a client cancel her Amex payment after we saved her anemic cat’s life with a blood transfusion.

7. Don’t Follow Through

There’s no shame in admitting that you can’t medicate your difficult cat or trim your unruly dog’s toenails. Veterinarians are pet owners, too. We absolutely understand why you might not be able to manage these not-so-simple tasks.

But you’ve got to let us know if you can’t, don’t or won’t do what we say. After all, we have plenty of alternatives to offer. And there are few things more frustrating to a veterinarian than failing to treat a patient who could have been helped if only the vet were able to employ some ingenuity.

Want to give your veterinarian the best holiday gift ever? Resolve to be a more honest, open, conscientious, cat box-carrying, child care-finding, cell phone-shirking client. For my part, I promise to offer you a New Year’s post on my personal mea culpa. It’s a fair trade, don’t you think? That is, as long as I do as I say and follow through.



Do Animals Cry?July 2014

Do Animals Cry?

By Discovery
Borrowed from:

Rescuers of a male elephant brutally abused for 50 years in India claim that after the chains and spikes were removed from elephant Raju's legs, tears streamed down his face, but were the tears due to an emotional outburst?

Certain animals may weep out of sorrow, similar to human baby cries, say animal behavior experts. In this case, the tears appear to reflect Raju's astonishment and relief.

"The team were astounded to see tears roll down his face during the rescue," Pooja Binepal from Wildlife SOS UK, which transferred the elephant to a sanctuary, told The Independent. "We knew in our hearts he realized he was being freed."

This isn't the first time an elephant has been seen weeping after a traumatic event. Last year, a newborn elephant calf at Shendiaoshan Wild Animal Nature Reserve in eastern China reportedly cried inconsolably for five hours after being stomped on by his mother that then rejected the little elephant. The calf, named Zhuang-zhuang, was later "adopted" by a keeper, according to the news site Metro.

Elephant tears, as for human ones, often appear linked to feelings of sorrow.

"Some mammals may cry due to loss of contact comfort," animal behaviorist Marc Bekoff explained to Discovery News. (Bekoff wrote about the topic, himself, in this blog.)

"It could be a hard-wired response to not feeling touch," added Bekoff, former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who, with primatologist Jane Goodall, co-founded the organization Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Citizens for Responsible Animal Behavior Studies.

For elephant calves and human infants, crying is probably more out of stress than sorrow, he said. "But stress is an emotion," continued Bekoff, who is author of "Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed."

He pointed out that scientific studies have proven that chicken, mice and rats display empathy -- feeling another's pain -- which is an even more complex phenomenon. For crying, the animal would have to be of a social nature, possess eye anatomy similar to ours, and have brain structure for processing emotions.

Dogs are among the most social animals, but scientists and owners have yet to report on a depressed dog crying its eyes out.

"However, dogs and other animals certainly can suffer and may recognize suffering in others," said Brian Hare, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University who co-founded the dog analysis tool "Dognition" that any owner can use.

In a questionnaire on the Dognition site, 72 percent of owners reported that their dog suffers from mild to extreme separation anxiety, likely similar to what the elephant calf felt.

"This anxiety is manifested as whimpering, whining and howling when the dog is separated from a loved one," Hare said. "So dogs may not cry with tears, but they certainly can cry with vocalizations to say they are anxious, stressed or lonely."

Over half of the owners also reported that their dogs actively try to comfort or console them when they are sad and weeping, so the dogs seem to understand the person is in distress.

At such times, a dog might rest its head on the owner's lap or nuzzle the individual. In each case, the dog is making comforting physical contact -- the same kind that a human baby or elephant calf is hard-wired to crave. Human hugging might be akin to a dog nuzzle or a mother elephant using its trunk to caress a calf.

Writer and naturalist Virginia Morell told Discovery News, "Not so long ago, people thought that we were the only animals that could laugh, but now we know that rats and dogs and chimpanzees do as well. Laughter, in fact, may be a universal emotion in all mammals. If so, why not sorrow?"

Or why not tears of relief in Raju's case, after 50 years of reported beatings, starvation and other torture? Raju is now at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center at Mathura, India, where he is being treated for his many wounds and abscesses and is receiving food to help restore him to a healthy weight.

May 2014

How To Keep Your Pet Pest-Free

Itchy CatNo fleas or ticks for Mr. Whiskers

By Arden Moore  | Borrowed from Prevention

They're so tiny, you can barely see them. But there's nothing invisible about their pestiness: They suck blood, make your pet (and you) itch like crazy, and can transmit diseases to pets and people. So you're forgiven if your reaction to fleas and ticks is to want to annihilate them with the most powerful weapon handy. Though these two insects cause different health problems, both bugs can be knocked out with the same pesticide products. But how do you choose—and how safe are these big guns?

Sickening little pests

Ticks threaten pets and people in every state and transmit or cause more than a dozen diseases, including anaplasmosis, anemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the bogeyman of the moment (with good reason), Lyme disease. These days, ticks are a year-round problem. "Some ticks can survive under a blanket of snow," says Michael Dryden, DVM, PhD, distinguished professor of veterinary parasitology at Kansas State University.

Fleas, meanwhile, can spread murine typhus and bartonellosis (both are bacterial diseases) and cause flea allergy dermatitis, which can bedevil the heck out of your pet and household. A passel of fleas can make cats and dogs—especially puppies—anemic, because the little bloodsuckers sponge up 15 times their own weight in your pet's vital bodily fluids. Animals especially sensitive to bites may develop flea allergy dermatitis, a skin condition that causes itchy "hot spots" and hair loss. When finished with the animals, fleas often make the leap to humans, wrecking the mood in the house with a thousand little bites.

Flea and tick remedies used to be primarily messy dips, sprays, and powders, which were inconvenient for pet owners to use. Some products led to serious problems—even death—in some animals, causing the EPA to act in 2010. The new generation of products includes both topical (top spot) and oral formulations that are much more convenient and very safe if the label directions are followed carefully. "The newer top spot products are effective and easy, and there's virtually no mess," says Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, a staff doctor at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. The liquids come in applicators; once a month, you squirt the stuff on the skin between your pet's shoulder blades. If your pet doesn't tolerate the squirt-on formula, try pills, a different topical, or one of the new flea collars with prolonged effects.

Additionally, follow these simple 5 steps to beat bugs:

Listen to your vet.

He or she will know which products are safe and work best in your area. Select EPA- or FDA-registered products and follow the label instructions to the letter, says Dr. Dryden.

Don't miss a month.

Don't be fooled into thinking winter weather will freeze out the buggers.

Read the speed-to-kill times.

The first speed refers to how fast the product kills pests on your pet now; "residual speed" means how long it kills new pests—usually 3 or 4 weeks.

Apply correctly.

"Topicals must reach the skin. If you just apply it on the topcoat, it won't kill fleas," says Dr. Dryden. Part the hair until you see the dog's skin, then apply to the skin.

Comb them out.

Use a flea comb, says Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in Denver, and drown any fleas you comb off in soapy water.


March 2014

Downward-facing human? Yoga has gone to the dogs

Borrowed from:

Yoga is good for you. Could it be beneficial for your pooch? After all, they invented downward dog, right?

Doga class in Seattle
Brenda Bryan, Barking Buddha
Doggie yoga classes are now taught across the country and around the world. It's one-on-one quality time that's good for you and your pet.

It sounds silly at first – yoga for dogs, but the people who take doggie yoga, or “doga,” classes with their canine family members can’t stop raving about it.

Melba Sanchez has been doing doga with her miniature schnauzer, Kasey, for about three years now. 

“People think I’m kind of crazy, but I tell them it’s a great bonding time,” Sanchez said. “I feel that I’m not only doing something good for myself, but I’m also doing something good for him.”

Paula McNamer says her 12-year-old poodle, Stryder, is always excited to see the other dogs in the class, but calm and relaxed when they go home.

“I definitely feel he gets something out of it. He feels closer to me,” McNamer said. “I know that sounds kind of weird, but it’s all about getting on the same page with your dog and sharing the energy.”

McNamer and Sanchez take Sunday doga classes with Nicole Vykoukal, a registered yoga teacher and founder of Austin Doga.

“I love teaching this,” Vykoukal said. “To see my clients and their pets bond is amazing,”

She describes her classes as an hour of quality time, filled with petting, looking into each other’s eyes and cuddling.

“We do take the dogs through some gentle posses, but most of the time they’re just hanging out or snuggling with their mom or dad,” Vykoukal said.

Doga typically includes massage and meditation. And yes, there’s even the Savasana relaxation pose at the end of each class.

Brenda Bryan
Brenda Bryan, Barking Buddah
Brenda Bryan, a registered yoga instructor, also taught doga classes in Seattle. Her book, Barking Buddha, shows how to do various poses with your dog.

Brenda Bryan, a former Seattle yoga and doga instructor, wrote one of the best-known books about doga: Barking Buddha: Simple Soul Stretches for Yogi and DogiBryan says dogs make the perfect yoga companions.

“They’re in the moment and all about union because they’re pack animals,” she said. “And that’s what yoga is all about. It’s all about being in the moment and developing a sense of oneness. Dogs are natural healers and it’s nice to bring them onto our mats and incorporate them into such a healing practice.”

Some common doga poses include:

  • Chaturanaga: Your dog lies on his/her stomach while you stroke their back.
  • Chair: You hold your dog from behind while it’s in the sitting position and raise the front paws in the air.
  • Inner Dog Mudra: Rest your forehead on your dog’s forehead and connect the energy of your minds. Bryan created this one.

But is the dog really doing yoga with you. Or is this just another attempt by pet parents to ascribe human characterizes to their dogs?

“It’s the humans convincing themselves that it’s a really cool thing to do with their pooch,” said award-winning trainer Bill Berloni of Theatrical Animals, who works with TV, movie and Broadway producers. He took time out of rehearsals for "Bullets Over Broadway" to talk with NBC News.

Berloni doesn’t see anything wrong with bringing your dog to yoga classes, if your pet has a good time there and isn’t getting stressed by the experience. Spending quality time with your pooch and making a physical connection are both important, but it doesn’t have to be done in a doga class, he says.

Melba and Kasey
Melba Sanchez
Melba Sanchez of Austin, Texas, has been going to doga classes with Kasey, her miniature schnauzer, for almost three years.

“You could go for a walk and sit under a tree and read and pet your dog and it would probably be as pleasurable an experience,” he said.

As you’d expect, the people who teach doga strongly disagree.

Suzi Teitelman of Doga Dog is one of the pioneers of doga. She started teaching in Manhattan back in 2002. She now lives in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., and often holds classes on the beach.

“The dogs are doing yoga, even if they are just sitting there,” she said. “You’re looking at each other, you’re touching each other. It’s very calming for you and your dog.”

It’s great to take your dog for a walk or play fetch in the yard, but it’s not the same as doga, she said.

“It’s like bringing your child to yoga class,” Teitelman told me. “They don’t really know what they’re going to be doing, but if you’re really into it, they’re going to get into it, too.”

Dan Moorefield and his dog Gracie, a 7-year old Maltese, have taken doga classes with Teitelman.

“It’s good for us, why wouldn’t it be good for them?” he asked. “You have them stretch their legs and put them in certain positions. Doga provides exercise for parts of Gracie's body that could never be done otherwise.

Doga isn’t just an American thing. It’s being done around the world. Doggie yoga is very popular in Japan, as well as England and Australia.

In the U.S., it’s taught at health clubs, animal rescue shelters – even posh hotels.

Annie Appleby holds a monthly doga class at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Calif. It’s part of the hotel’s Yappy Hour, where people can bring their pets to play on the hotel’s lawn.

Appleby, who founded YogaForce, a company that designs and sells yoga clothing and mats, started doing doga a few years ago after she adopted a Pomeranian puppy named Madison. Now she teaches it. She strongly believes any dog can do doga.

“Madison is extremely hyper-active and she totally mellows out after doing doga. So yes, it works,” Appleby said. “The dogs relax and they totally bond with you. My students and my dogs all leave in a Zen-like state.”

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to try doga. There is no certification for instructors and the classes tend to vary greatly. At some, the dogs just hang out with their people while they do yoga. At others, the dogs are active participants, yoga partners. Most classes cost $15-$25 for an hour session. Private lessons are more.

Dogs of any size can do this. Even though a lot of publicity photos show people lifting their dogs over their heads or onto their back, that’s not required. Gentle stretching is just fine.

You should never force a dog to do a specific pose. You do doga to bond and build trust. Nothing about this should be unpleasant or scary for your dog. If for any reason they resist – stop.

And even if doga really isn’t yoga, it’s definitely a way to get closer to your four-legged family member.

“Who doesn’t want to get stretched and massaged and paid attention to for an hour?” Bryan asks.


Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him onFacebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website. Herb is a huge animal lover who has worked with local shelters and rescue organizations in the Seattle area. He currently volunteers at Homeward Pet in Woodinville, Wash.

February 2014

Winter StrollLove Among Pets, Partners Means Harmony At Home

Borrowed from:

LOS ANGELES (AP) It's got to be more than puppy love to move in with your partner. But that's just what you'll need for household harmony if that partner comes with a pet.

If you just walked down the aisle or took your relationship to the next level, both people and pets will need time to adjust to a new living situation. Maybe Fido is getting kicked out of his favorite spot on the couch, or Whiskers has never been around a pooch. Pets need to get comfortable with new animals and with a new person giving orders. As the household adjusts to different personalities, changed schedules and new ways of doing things, experts offer tips for a seamless transition, including establishing consistent habits as soon as possible and using treats to help bond.

Pets thrive on consistency, so if you have to change the rules, do it during the move-in — teach pets what's expected of them and stick to it, said Dr. Katherine Miller, a certified applied animal behaviorist for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York. Pets need to know their boundaries: can they sleep on the bed, sit on the sofa, play ball in the house? Where are the litter boxes, is there a doggy door, are there walks, where's the water?

Every pet-person relationship is different, but each is a two-way street, Miller said.

"When it comes to introductions, gradual is better and patience is a must. It can take weeks, months or a year," she said.

Rebecca Hjorten and Gavriel Kohlberg know all about taking time to adjust to a pet. The New York City couple started dating in medical school seven years ago, and Hjorten wanted a dog from the get-go but Kohlberg always came up with a reason to avoid adopting.

Two years ago, despite Kohlberg's continued worries, they went to a shelter and got a year-old Siberian Husky mix they named Maya.

There were problems: Someone had taught Maya to use the shower as a bathroom. The couple hired a behavior expert and trainer, and they still work on it.

Despite the potty training issues and early objections, Kohlberg easily fell in love with Maya. "It was one of the best things we ever did," Hjorten said of adopting the dog.

Recently, Kohlberg took Hjorten and Maya for a walk in Central Park and proposed to both.

Sometimes it's a more difficult transition than the New York couple faced. If there is friction between a pet and a partner, the whole household has to work it out.

"Ask your partner to be the bearer of all good things for your pet each day," Miller said.

Don't be afraid to use a pet's stomach to reach its heart. If a man just moved into his girlfriend's dog-friendly house, he should feed the animal and provide treats and rewards. And she should reward her dog for sniffing, approaching or its other investigating of the boyfriend.

"Encouraging this social behavior will grease the wheels of affection," Miller said.

Don't punish a pet for failing to bond instantly, Miller said. Tension is always highest at the first meeting, so it helps if you can make the introductions on neutral territory, like a park.

"It's hard to expect everybody to just get along, so it's good to have a couple of low-key dates," Miller said.

Don't force interaction, she warned, and never lock animals in a room.

People have to take relationships with their pets seriously, looking ahead to how their lifestyle will change and talking with their partner about it, Miller said.

Sometimes the transition doesn't work out, as Angela Gonzalez knows. The 56-year-old from Carrollton, Texas, and her 9-pound Pomeranian named Peaches have been together for 12 years. When Gonzalez brought her new boyfriend home two years ago, he seemed to like Peaches.

"I love my animals like they are my children," Gonzalez said. "He knew going in how I felt about Peaches."

After 18 months, he started spending more time at the house, and Gonzalez knew there would have to be little compromises:

  • He didn't want Peaches in the bed, so the dog learned to sleep on the floor.
  • He thought she spent too much time brushing Peaches, so she got the dog's hair cut short.
  • He said it was the dog's fault they couldn't go out on weekends, so she hired a pet-sitter.
  • He said Peaches barked too much and suggested a shock collar. Or maybe, he said, Peaches would be happier somewhere else.

That wasn't an option for Gonzalez. Now, Peaches is back in bed, the dog's hair is growing out and the boyfriend is history.

December 2013

5 Ways To Winterize Your Pet: Keep your furry friends warm and healthy this season

By HANNAH WOIT | Borrowed from Prevention®

Storm windows? Check. Snow tires? Check. Winter woollies? Check. What about your dog or cat? While you're prepping your home, your car, and your wardrobe for the colder months, don't forget to weatherproof your furry friend. Here are a few things the experts say you can do to keep your pet warm, healthy, and safe all season long.

Winterizing Your PetWarm Him Up

You might laugh when you see a Chihuahua wearing a miniature coat, but there are practical justifications for a coat that keeps your animal warm, especially for small dogs. "These breeds have a relatively high ratio of body surface to body weight, so they lose body heat more quickly than larger dogs," says Jeff Werber, DVM, of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles. "But large dogs can also benefit from an extra layer if they spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold." (Boots & Barkley Puffer Jacket, $10;

Keep Him Dry

As much as you hate getting caught in a rainstorm, getting soaked can actually be worse for pets. "Their coats retain water, so the impact of the cold and dampness is greater, increasing the risk of hypothermia," says Dr. Werber. Protect your pet with a poncho that folds up and can be worn around the neck, so it's there if you need it in case of an unexpected shower. (Rain Bandana by Quaker Pet Group, $13;

Soothe His Skin

If your pet's skin becomes red or itchy from the cold, Dr. Werber recommends washing the affected area with a gentle soap and applying a triple antibiotic ointment. For an on-the-go fix for a dry, cracked nose, try a healing balm formulated for pets. Just make sure to apply it right before a meal so that your pet doesn't lick it off. (Snoutstik, $4;

Improve His Visibility In The Dark

Reflective gear is a safety essential for walks at night or in snowy, rainy, or foggy weather—it helps drivers spot your animal if he bounds into traffic. "Reflective gear gets a thumbs-up for safety, even for cats. If your pet escapes out the front door, a reflective collar will alert drivers to his presence, and the name tag will help get your pet safely home," says Ann Hohenhaus, DVM, of the Animal Medical Center in New York City. (Lazer Brite Reflective Collar, $7;

Protect His Paws

When you tug on your snow boots, do the same for your pup if it's icy out. Pets can suffer frostbite, and the salt or chemicals commonly spread on streets to melt snow can irritate your dog's paws. Try protective booties, such as Protex Pawz Dog Boots ($14 to $18;

October 2013

Dogs are People, TooDogs Are People, Too!

By GREGORY BERNS | Borrowed from The New York Times SundayReview

For the past two years, my colleagues and I have been training dogs to go in an M.R.I. scanner — completely awake and unrestrained. Our goal has been to determine how dogs’ brains work and, even more important, what they think of us humans.

Now, after training and scanning a dozen dogs, my one inescapable conclusion is this: dogs are people, too.

Because dogs can’t speak, scientists have relied on behavioral observations to infer what dogs are thinking. It is a tricky business. You can’t ask a dog why he does something. And you certainly can’t ask him how he feels. The prospect of ferreting out animal emotions scares many scientists. After all, animal research is big business. It has been easy to sidestep the difficult questions about animal sentience and emotions because they have been unanswerable.

Until now.

M.R.I.’s are conducted in loud, confined spaces. People don’t like them, and you have to hold absolutely still during the procedure. Conventional veterinary practice says you have to anesthetize animals so they don’t move during a scan. But you can’t study brain function in an anesthetized animal. At least not anything interesting like perception or emotion.

From the beginning, we treated the dogs as persons. We had a consent form, which was modeled after a child’s consent form but signed by the dog’s owner. We emphasized that participation was voluntary, and that the dog had the right to quit the study. We used only positive training methods. No sedation. No restraints. If the dogs didn’t want to be in the M.R.I. scanner, they could leave. Same as any human volunteer.

My dog Callie was the first. Rescued from a shelter, Callie was a skinny black terrier mix, what is called a feist in the southern Appalachians, from where she came. True to her roots, she preferred hunting squirrels and rabbits in the backyard to curling up in my lap. She had a natural inquisitiveness, which probably landed her in the shelter in the first place, but also made training a breeze.

With the help of my friend Mark Spivak, a dog trainer, we started teaching Callie to go into an M.R.I. simulator that I built in my living room. She learned to walk up steps into a tube, place her head in a custom-fitted chin rest, and hold rock-still for periods of up to 30 seconds. Oh, and she had to learn to wear earmuffs to protect her sensitive hearing from the 95 decibels of noise the scanner makes.

After months of training and some trial-and-error at the real M.R.I. scanner, we were rewarded with the first maps of brain activity. For our first tests, we measured Callie’s brain response to two hand signals in the scanner. In later experiments, not yet published, we determined which parts of her brain distinguished the scents of familiar and unfamiliar dogs and humans.

Soon, the local dog community learned of our quest to determine what dogs are thinking. Within a year, we had assembled a team of a dozen dogs who were all “M.R.I.-certified.”

Although we are just beginning to answer basic questions about the canine brain, we cannot ignore the striking similarity between dogs and humans in both the structure and function of a key brain region: the caudate nucleus.

Rich in dopamine receptors, the caudate sits between the brainstem and the cortex. In humans, the caudate plays a key role in the anticipation of things we enjoy, like food, love and money. But can we flip this association around and infer what a person is thinking just by measuring caudate activity? Because of the overwhelming complexity of how different parts of the brain are connected to one another, it is not usually possible to pin a single cognitive function or emotion to a single brain region.

But the caudate may be an exception. Specific parts of the caudate stand out for their consistent activation to many things that humans enjoy. Caudate activation is so consistent that under the right circumstances, it can predict our preferences for food, music and even beauty.
In dogs, we found that activity in the caudate increased in response to hand signals indicating food. The caudate also activated to the smells of familiar humans. And in preliminary tests, it activated to the return of an owner who had momentarily stepped out of view. Do these findings prove that dogs love us? Not quite. But many of the same things that activate the human caudate, which are associated with positive emotions, also activate the dog caudate. Neuroscientists call this a functional homology, and it may be an indication of canine emotions.
The ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child. And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.

Dogs have long been considered property. Though the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 and state laws raised the bar for the treatment of animals, they solidified the view that animals are things — objects that can be disposed of as long as reasonable care is taken to minimize their suffering.

But now, by using the M.R.I. to push away the limitations of behaviorism, we can no longer hide from the evidence. Dogs, and probably many other animals (especially our closest primate relatives), seem to have emotions just like us. And this means we must reconsider their treatment as property.

One alternative is a sort of limited personhood for animals that show neurobiological evidence of positive emotions. Many rescue groups already use the label of “guardian” to describe human caregivers, binding the human to his ward with an implicit responsibility to care for her. Failure to act as a good guardian runs the risk of having the dog placed elsewhere. But there are no laws that cover animals as wards, so the patchwork of rescue groups that operate under a guardianship model have little legal foundation to protect the animals’ interest.
If we went a step further and granted dogs rights of personhood, they would be afforded additional protection against exploitation. Puppy mills, laboratory dogs and dog racing would be banned for violating the basic right of self-determination of a person.

I suspect that society is many years away from considering dogs as persons. However, recent rulings by the Supreme Court have included neuroscientific findings that open the door to such a possibility. In two cases, the court ruled that juvenile offenders could not be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. As part of the rulings, the court cited brain-imaging evidence that the human brain was not mature in adolescence. Although this case has nothing to do with dog sentience, the justices opened the door for neuroscience in the courtroom. Perhaps someday we may see a case arguing for a dog’s rights based on brain-imaging findings.

Gregory Berns is a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and the author of “How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain.”

August 2013

Good News for Cat lovers with allergies!Cat Allergy Breakthrough:
Give Your Kitty a Hug Today

By Sarah B. Weir, Shine Senior Writer | Borrowed from Yahoo! News

It's good news for cat lovers: A new, more effective treatment for allergies may be on the way. 

Scientists at the University of  Cambridge in the United Kingdom have discovered the receptor protein in human cells that triggers cat allergies. They anticipate that new drugs will be developed to bind the protein and prevent people from having an inflammatory response.

"It has long been known that cat allergies are caused by people reacting to cat proteins secreted by the salivary or scent glands being transferred to the fur," Dr. Clare Bryant, lead researcher, told Yahoo! Shine. "Other allergen—for example house dust mite allergy protein—trigger a receptor protein in host [human] cells and we wondered if cat allergen would have similar effects. We did not expect this to happen because the cat allergy protein is very different to the house dust mite protein, so we were very surprised to find that it triggered inflammation through the same receptor."

About 10 percent of people have pet allergies, and reactions to cats are twice as common as reactions to dogs. Cat allergies are especially pernicious because the proteins are small, light, and sticky. They float through the air and when they land on a surface—a piece of clothing for instance—they can be transferred to places that are cat-free. Symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, stuffy nose, sore throat, hives, wheezing, and in severe cases, asthma.

Currently the only way to treat cat allergies is to reduce the symptoms with antihistamines or decongestants or endure weekly shots to boost the immune system—which can take as long as a year to kick in and may not even be effective.

Bryant can't predict exactly how long it will take for new drugs to reach on the market—that's up to the pharmaceutical companies—but says that "drugs that inhibit the receptor have already been tested in clinical trials for conditions such as sepsis." She added, "I would anticipate that an allergic person could, say, inhale a blocking drug before going to a house with cats and not get a reaction."

And allergic dog lovers have cause for hope, too. Bryant believes the findings could lead to improved treatment for canine allergies. The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Immunology.



Flea and Tick Control for Your Dog


May 2013

Flea and Tick Control: Your Decision

By: Donna Solomon, DVM,
Veterinarian, Animal Medical Center of Chicago |
Borrowed from Huffington Post

Over the past 10 years there has been an explosion of newly released flea and tick products for dogs and cats. Choosing the right product for your pet has become daunting given the choices available. Additionally, advertisers and their makers make it more confusing to the pet owners by flaunting their flea and tick product as "the safest," "the most effective," "the most convenient," and "the quickest kill."

I've decided to tackle this confusing purchasing decision by educating you on how to make the most informed decision. I'm not going to recommend one product for all pets because you will soon discover that every pet faces its own risks. In my opinion, there is no one product on the market that is best for all pets.

These eight questions will help you select the best flea and tick control product for your pet:

1. Does my pet have exposure to ticks?

Yes, if it goes outside according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, which reports that ticks are present in every state of the United State. Why should I be concerned about ticks? Ticks carry diseases like Lyme, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Anaplasmosis.

2. Is my pet high or low risk for exposure to ticks?

Living in an urban setting does not mean ticks are not there. For example, 10 years ago, Chicago veterinarians rarely discussed tick control but due to our frequent traveling with pets and wildlife presence, we now have ticks in Chicago. Ticks live on the ground, whether it is on a city lawn or in a forest. They usually crawl up on a blade of grass, wait for a warm-blooded animal to pass by, and then drop onto their host to take a meal.

Determining your pet's risk for tick exposure will help narrow or eliminate some of the products on the market. Products containing Selamectin, Fipronil, Amitraz and pyrethoids are usually labeled to control ticks. If your pet has negligible exposure to ticks, then the tick efficacy of the product is not that important to you. You may want to select a product that just has flea control in it. If your pet roams in dense, wooded areas, then your tick exposure is high and tick control efficacy is a very important consideration when choosing an insecticide.

3. Does your pet go to daycare, grooming parlors, or parks? Or, does your pet stay in its own backyard?

If your pet is social, then this increases your pet's exposure to fleas. Although you may think that if your dog stays in its own backyard that its exposure to fleas is negligible, this assumption is incorrect. Unfortunately, wildlife - like opossums, raccoons, and stray cats can carry fleas into your yard. I believe all dogs and cats that go outside are at risk for exposure to fleas and should consider excellent flea control of utmost importance when selecting a product.

4. Does your pet swim or get bathed at least once every two weeks?

If yes, then it is imperative that you choose a flea and tick control product that is guaranteed to still be effective after exposure to water and soap. When applying topical insecticides that are labeled waterproof, don't forget to wait at least 24-hours before or after applying the insecticide before allowing your pet to swim. Most topical insecticides need this time to be absorbed by the skin in order to be effective. Obviously, if your pet does not swim, your chosen product does not need to be waterproof.

5. Do you own a cat?

Applying a pyrethroid (like cyphenothrin, deltamethrin, permethrin, and phenothrin) or amitraz containing product on your dog can be toxic to your cat. Just allowing your cat to rub next to your recently treated dog can be extremely toxic to your cat.
If you are choosing a flea and tick product for your cat, make sure when purchasing the product that it is specifically labeled for cats. Not only would I avoid the amitraz or pyrethroid containing products, but I would also avoid applying flea collars on cats. Cats that roam outside can get the collar caught on branches or fences, and strangle themselves.

6. How old is your pet?

Some products are not safe to apply on pets less than eight weeks of age. Some products are definitely not safe to apply on ill or pregnant pets. Read the label for age and health restrictions before choosing and applying them onto your pet.

7. Does the product kill both adult fleas and eggs?

I personally believe that a product that only prevents the flea eggs from hatching or larvae from completing it's life cycle (insect growth regulators) misses the mark of an acceptable product when used alone. Lufenuron is an example of an insecticide that prevents eggs from completing their metamorphosis. Examples of insect growth regulators are pyriproxyfen and methoprene. No one, including you or your pet, finds it acceptable to have an adult flea biting its skin. On the flip side, if the product only kills the adult fleas and not the flea eggs, this creates a situation where the eggs in the environment can hatch, jump on your pet, and bite them. One female flea will lay 20-40 eggs per day.

8. Are you concerned about absorbing this product when you touch your pet?

I hesitate to recommend any insecticide product that is intended to remain on the surface of the pet's fur. I do not want any personal exposure to these products. I would never apply flea powder or use a flea collar containing propoxur or tetrachlorvinphos on my pets for fear that not only could it be carcinogenic or toxic to my pet but also to anyone exposed to it. Reported by the National Resources Defense Council, when an adult plays with a cat or dog wearing one of these insecticide collars they could be potentially exposed to up to 500 times the safe levels of the pesticide set by the EPA. This number is substantially higher for children. Their exposure to the toxin is up to 1,000 times the safe level.

A case study:

My golden retriever, Zack, lives in Oak Park, Illinois but frequently goes to Michigan during the summer where his tick exposure is high. So, tick control is extremely important to me. He swims at least two to three times per week in the summer so I want to choose a flea and tick product that will not wash off him. Although he does not go to dog parks, he does walk the streets where many dogs pass by so his flea exposure is high. I own two exclusively indoor cats so I am going to avoid products containing pyrethroids or amitraz. My dog is 10 years of age and in good health so I don't have to worry about him being too young or too ill to apply. I definitely don't want adult fleas on him or eggs in my environment -- so both of these properties will be in my selected product. I don't want to smell or feel this product on him -- so topical sprays or collars are unacceptable. Next, I would contact my veterinarian to recommend a flea and tick product that kills ticks, waterproof, kills adult fleas and eggs, safe around cats, and is absorbed by his skin or taken orally.

Do not fall victim to a boastful flea and tick advertising campaign by the manufacturer. Choose the best product for your pet based on your concerns and the advice of your veterinarian. And then, apply your flea and tick control on your pet as directed by the manufacturer's label. Being proactive with your pet's health allows you to enjoy more sunny days with your beloved pet!

April 2013
Borrowed from:

Setting a price on loveHow to Set a Price on the Life of a Beloved Pet?

I COULDN’T begin to add up the number of times my husband and I have had the Talk. We know illness and death are two of life’s certainties. And we’ve taken care of the issue when it comes to ourselves. We’ve signed medical directives saying we want no extraordinary measures taken to extend our lives if we become incapacitated to the point that we’re a burden, emotionally and financially, to our families.
But when it comes to our pets, the Talk never resolves anything.

Luckily our two 14-year-old cats, 8-year-old Border collie and 3-year-old Labrador retriever are all in fairly good health. We haven’t had to make decisions about whether to spend thousands of dollars, possibly tens of thousands, to save or extend their lives. But those decisions are coming, and despite our efforts to have the Talk, we have no idea what we’ll be willing to do to keep them around as long as possible.

That so many more technological advances are available now than there were 10 years ago means pet owners have more ethical and financial choices to make. “In the last 30 years there’s been an increase in specialty veterinary medicine,” said our veterinarian, Dr. Woody Walker of La Cañada Pet Clinic, north of Los Angeles. “And the technology is amazing. Whatever we can do in people, we can do in pets.”
Pet owners, who represent 68 percent of United States households, spent a collective $53 billion on pets last year, according to the American Pet Products Association. That’s for everything from medicines and operations to toys and food.

No one has a figure for how much people spend on end-of-life care for their pets. But it’s safe to assume that the number mirrors ours; for humans, 90 percent of medical spending occurs in the last 10 percent of life. The choices involved in keeping pets alive can be as numerous, expensive and emotionally thorny as they are with people.

Lisa Sobieri of Greenwich, Conn., knows the choices all too well. The 49-year-old married mother of two lost two dogs to kidney disease in the last three years. The first, Kiefer, an American Eskimo, died just before turning 15, only after the family had spent several thousand dollars on chemotherapy for bladder cancer and then other drugs to keep him comfortable as his kidneys failed.

“I guess when you go into it you don’t really know how much you’re going to spend,” she said. “So it keeps kind of adding up, and you don’t really know. We were thinking, O.K., there is a limit, but when it’s $500 here or $1,000 there, you don’t really see it adding up that fast.”
After Kiefer died, the family got Perry, a 6-month-old golden retriever. When Ms. Sobieri took the dog to the vet to have him neutered, a routine blood test showed Perry had a genetic kidney disease. “I actually didn’t believe them,” she recalled. “I said, ‘No, you’re looking at my other dog’s file by mistake.’ ” Unfortunately, they weren’t. The vet sent Ms. Sobieri to a veterinary oncologist who said Perry probably would not live more than three years.

“I was thinking, Well, we’re such great dog owners that we’re going to defy that, give him all the medications and diet, experimental treatments, and he’s going to live longer,” Ms. Sobieri said. The family decided against a kidney transplant, which would have cost a minimum of $25,000 just for the operation, an amount she said would have taken money away from the children’s college fund. There was also no guarantee it would work. But they still spent, by Ms. Sobieri’s estimates, tens of thousands of dollars to keep Perry comfortable for the duration of his life, with pet insurance picking up the rest.

Many pet owners struggle with whether to buy pet insurance, because it has a mixed track record. Consumer Reports, in its August 2011 issue, said the insurance was “rarely worth the price.” Pre-existing conditions are usually excluded from coverage; routine care, like annual checkups, is sometimes not included in plans; and premiums can rise significantly as the pet ages.

The Sobieris, though, said their insurance, provided by Embrace, was invaluable and made their decision-making just a little easier. Still, Ms. Sobieri said, “We did some pretty good damage on the credit card toward the end.”

The puppy lived only an additional 18 months. And Ms. Sobieri said she now wondered if the money would have been better spent as a contribution to research to find a cure for the disease, even though they cherished the extra year and a half they had with Perry.

Read More:

Borrowed from DC Editors:

Keep your dog's mouth healthy!Dog Tooth Care: Infographic

Does your dog have bad breath? This could be a sign of dental disease. Brush up on dog dental care!

Your dog's "doggie breath" could be a sign of periodontal disease. The most common health problem for dogs, periodontal disease destroys the tissue and bone supporting his teeth. In fact, eight out of 10 dogs have it by age 3.

This might make you wonder a couple of things. First, could your dog be among this growing number? A visual test can get you started on answering that question. The second question that can come to mind is: How can I prevent or correct it? The good news is, dog dental disease is preventable.Check out this infographic for information on dog dental care.

For more in-depth information on caring for your dog's teeth, click here.

Dog Tooth Care: Infographic

January 2013
Borrowed from:

Mistakes With Pet Prescriptions Can Prove DeadlyMistakes With Pet Prescriptions Can Prove Deadly

Reporting Cynthia Demos

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — We’ve all heard stories of someone being prescribed the wrong medicine, or the wrong dose, with devastating consequences. Now, a warning has been issued for pet owners. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said these deadly mistakes are also being made with pet prescriptions. Sarah Schuck said she was heartbroken over the death of her beloved dog, “Rafter.” The 8-year-old lab died because of a prescription drug error.

“It was really hard,” she said.

Schuck said the label on Rafter’s prescription mistakenly said to give him two and a quarter teaspoons of medication, when it should have read 2.25 CCs, which is a much smaller dose.

“It was a tough realization,” she said.

Surprisingly, the deadly mistake was not an isolated case. The FDA has issued a warning about an increase in pet prescription mistakes.
Investigators discovered errors stemming from simple issues, including unclear medical abbreviations on vet prescriptions, drugs with similar names and packaging, and simple penmanship errors — all leading to mistakes where the pet paid.

"The consequences can be completely devastating,” veterinarian Howard Silberman said.

Silberman said he takes extreme prescription precautions at his veterinary practice. He types all medications and dosages into a computer, allows only vets or vet techs to fill prescriptions, and posts pet pictures onto prescription labels so there are no mix-ups.

“We do a tremendous amount to make sure that those things don’t happen,” Silberman said.

Many pet owners get pet prescriptions filled at human pharmacies, which is also contributing to the confusion.

“Currently, most of the pharmacy curriculums don’t touch upon vet medicine,” said Carmen Catizone of the National Association Boards of Pharmacy.

Experts said, ultimately, it’s up to pet owners to provide that extra layer of protection. The American Veterinary Medical Association said pet owners should make sure the pharmacist speaks directly to their vets about all prescriptions, and should always verify the name and dosage of their pets’ drugs with their vets themselves.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Schuck said.

Pharmacists aren’t alone. FDA investigators also found pet owners share some of the blame by misinterpreting labels and accidentally giving pets human drugs.

The FDA has more tips on its Web site on how to prevent pet medication errors and how to report mistakes.

Want more details on the Dogs & Storks program? Go here.


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