February 27, 2010

Why do Dogs Eat Grass?

Filed under: craving grass,dogs eating grass,eating grass,why dogs eat grass — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:45 pm

Most dogs eat it, and then they often throw it up. Eating grass is something of a strange phenomenon for dogs and veterinarians don’t know exactly why they do it. Dogs will eat almost anything, there’s no question about that, and their flexible pallets might explain why they eat grass; but there are other possible explanations. Of course, not all dogs will eat grass, but for those that do, cravings, dietary requirements, and illness might account for the behavior.

There is some evidence to suggest that dogs get cravings for particular kinds of foods. As such, many veterinarians believe that dogs may actually crave grass in the same way that some humans crave vegetables or snacks. Because grass was part of the natural diet for the ancestors of many dogs, it’s reasonable to expect that dogs today will still eat grass from time to time.

why do dogs eat grassMoreover, dogs are omnivorous and sometimes they’ll want to make sure they get their greens. Dogs like meat and plants and while most commercial dog foods contain all the nutrients your dog needs, they’ll sometimes eat grass out of habit. Some dogs like the taste of grass and some dogs may eat it just because they’re still hungry.

Finally, many dogs eat grass when they’re feeling sick. Even dogs that normally don’t eat grass will go for it when they’re not feeling well. Usually, after eating the grass they’ll throw up. Veterinarians aren’t sure as to whether dogs throw up because they have upset stomachs or if it’s because of the grass itself. In all likelihood, it’s the illness that leads to the vomiting as healthy dogs can eat grass without throwing up. So in this case, grass may trigger vomiting as a way to rid the body of toxins.

February 26, 2010

Thinking of Getting a Puppy? Should You Buy from a Breeder or a Pet Shop?

Filed under: breeders,buy from a breeder,pet shop,purchase puppies from the pet shop — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:35 am

getting a new puppyThe first decision that faces anybody who wants a puppy is where to get it from. You can adopt a puppy, which is always a great option because you’re saving a loving animal, but you can also get a young puppy from a pet shop or a breeder. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to make the decision and ultimately, your choice will depend on your personal preferences.

getting a new puppyPet shops are often associated with horror stories of animal treatment. Hundreds of dogs, cats, and other animals packed into a small space receive the minimal care required. How can pet shops not be a bad thing? It’s true, before you buy a dog form a pet store you need to do your research. Find a pet store with a good reputation and visit first. Decide if the animals are well cared for, in clean living environments, by loving professionals. In such cases, you can feel confident that you’re getting a happy and healthy puppy. But remember, there are pet shops that do not live up to these minimal standards and you run the risk of getting a dog that has various health or social problems.

Breeders are often a great alternative, especially if you want to make sure your dog is well cared for. Breeders, whether professional or not, often have much fewer animals to care for and their living conditions are much better. Dogs from professional breeders generally have good temperaments, are healthy, and friendly. Unfortunately, when you go through a breeder, you have much fewer options available to you. Usually, you can only select from one breed and there may only be one or two puppies at the time.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to both pet shops and breeders. You need to consider your own opinions and do some research before you decide where to buy your dog.

February 25, 2010

Do Cats Really Catch Mice?

Filed under: barn cats,cat and mouse,cats catch mice,cats chasing mice — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:09 am

cat hunt mouseIndeed, they do. Cats naturally love to chase and sometimes even kill mice. Some people even use cats to control problems with mice and rats. Barn cats are the most common example of this phenomenon but people have even been known to get a cat when they have mice in their homes or apartments. Unfortunately, not all cats, especially domesticated ones, are interested in hunting mice because they have a guaranteed food source. Still, many cat owners will tell you stories of their cats bringing home a dead mouse to show gratitude, whether said owner appreciates it or not.

Surprisingly, it can actually be dangerous for your cats to eat these mice. Depending on where you come from, mice can be infected with a number of diseases that can be harmful to cats and humans. In 1993, a new virus, Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), was found in New Mexico. More than forty people were infected and 11 people died. This particular virus is spread by mice and can be highly infectious.

Should your cat deliver an unwanted guest, you need to be careful when handling it. Always wear rubber gloves and even a mask, as HPS can be transmitted through the air. Moreover, you should thoroughly clean any area that has had contact with the dead mouse in order to kill any remnants of the virus.

As a cat owner, you shouldn’t be surprised when your cat brings home a dead mouse. They are hunters by nature and mice are their typical prey. Still, remember that mice have been responsible for the spread of many diseases in the past and it’s always advisable to take extra precautions to protect the health of your cat and your family.

February 24, 2010

5 Reasons Why Your Dog Is Whining

canine stressDogs whine naturally for many reasons. When humans have problems we have the benefit of language to communicate our feelings and thoughts. But dogs and other pets must rely on more simple methods of communication and whining is a common response for dogs in various situations. This article will help you understand the reasons dogs whine so that you can deal with the behavior more effectively.

  1. Pain
    Dogs will often whine when they are in pain. If you can see no obvious reason for your dog’s whining it’s probably a good idea to visit the veterinarian. To be sure that pain is the route of the whining look for other signs of injury like limping or swelling.
  2. Needs
    Just like babies, dogs will whine when their needs aren’t met, regardless of their age. If your dog needs food, water, or toileting, they will often whine to show you that they are in some kind of discomfort. As you become more familiar with your dog, it should be easier to determine the cause of the whining.
  3. Attention
    Whining is a very effective way to get attention so dogs whine. If you want to prevent whining for attention you can pay more attention to your dog. If this doesn’t work, try to avoid giving attention only when your dog whines. You want to teach your dog that whining won’t be effective.
  4. Frustration
    Dogs get angry or annoyed and may whine because they’re unhappy. Consider a dog that is chasing a squirrel. When the squirrel disappears your dog may whine because they’re frustrated that they didn’t catch the little critter.
  5. whining dogStress
    Finally, dogs will often whine in stressful situations. Visits to the vet or long days spent alone will cause your dog stress and he will whine.

Basically, dogs whine to communicate. So pay close attention to your dog’s whines and you’ll have a better understanding of how he’s feeling.

February 22, 2010

Cat Dental Problems

Filed under: cat dental problems,cat teeth and gums,dental problems for cats — Dr. Amber Reed @ 7:54 am

Somewhat surprisingly, many cat owners are unaware that dental diseases are as common (or more) in cats as humans. In order to maintain your cat’s teeth, a regular program of brushing and veterinary teeth cleaning as well as dietary restrictions is necessary. Proper dental care ensures the health of your cat’s teeth and gums and will prevent future dental problems.

Cat owners are usually very vigilant about health problems in their cats. We’re careful to take our beloved cats to the vet if their behavior changes or they exhibit signs of pain and we even take precautions to prevent future illnesses. However, we often overlook dental care and as a result 85 per cent of adult cats suffer from periodontal disease. A careful dental plan will not only save your cat’s teeth but can also be beneficial for other health processes as well. Bacteria from the mouth can spread to other organs through the blood causing infections in the lungs, heart, kidneys, and liver (which may result in feline liver disease).

Some of the dental problems that cats often face include periodontal disease, feline stomatitis, and malocclusion. These are all very painful conditions that can interfere with your cat’s ability to lead a happy, healthy life. A cat suffering from dental problems may not eat properly and this can have a domino effect on its overall health.

Surprisingly, pain when eating is one of the last symptoms to appear when your cat has a dental problem. Halitosis, or bad breath, may also indicate dental problems but it can be extremely difficult to diagnoses dental disease yourself. The best treatment here is prevention. Instead of waiting for dental problems to present, take care of your cat’s teeth by brushing regularly. Also, conduct at home examinations of your cat’s teeth and feed your cat a balanced diet. Through vigilance you can protect your cat from the pain associated with dental problems.

February 19, 2010

How many hamsters can I have in a cage?

feline stressHamsters make great pets because they are not aggressive and it’s relatively easy to care for them. When it comes to how many hamsters you can fit in one cage, the answer is not exactly straightforward. In fact, it depends on the kind of hamster you have. Generally, there are 3 species of pet hamster: Syrian hamsters, Dwarf hamsters, and Chinese hamsters.

Syrian Hamsters

Sometimes known as golden, teddy bear, or black bear hamsters, Syrian hamsters are solitary, territorial, and can be aggressive. They should always be caged alone. They have been known to tolerate other hamsters before 10 weeks of age but in adulthood they will fight to the death to defend their territory.

Dwarf Hamsters

Dwarf HamsterSome examples of Dwarf hamsters are Campbells Russian hamster, dwarf winter white Russian hamsters, and Roborovski hamsters. These hamsters are more sociable than Syrian hamsters and can safely be kept in pairs or small groups. It’s best not to mix sexes because they will breed (and then you’ll have a whole lot of hamsters on your hands). Also, you shouldn’t put more than 2 or 3 dwarf hamsters in one cage in order to ensure that they have enough space to be comfortable.

Chinese Hamsters

Chinese HamsterThese hamsters are often grouped with dwarf hamsters but they are not true dwarfs. They are smaller than Syrian hamsters, but there is still a lot of debate about whether they’re social or not. As these hamsters become more mature, especially females can become aggressive with other hamsters. If you want to cage pairs or small groups of Chinese hamsters, you need to introduce them from a very young age. Attempting to group older hamsters may result in territorial fighting. Also, small groups of Chinese hamsters will need a larger cage than groups of dwarf hamsters.

February 18, 2010

Top 10 Popular Cat Names

popular cat namesYou’ve just brought home a new kitten and it’s time to pick a name. Some people know a name, even before they get the cat. They had a beloved pet die with the same name or they heard a name sometime and thought it would be a great name for a cat. I had a friend who liked to dance and she’d always wanted to get a black cat and name it Disco. But, you want to choose a name that matches your cat’s personality, so that makes the choice a little more difficult. Perhaps this is your first cat, or maybe you just really like to get a sense of your kitty before you choose a name. Whatever the reason, you’re here because you’re trying to think of some different cat names.

While making the popular choice is always a sure bet, you can’t go wrong with a name that everybody immediately associates with cats, you may want to be more creative. Personally, I like naming my cats with regular names. Tom is the obvious one (do you need a reminder or did you get it right away…I’ll only give you a hint – think of the most famous cat and mouse rivals); but I also like to pick older, relatively normal names that are not commonly used like Homer, Zeke, Amelia or Polly.

popular cat namesNaming your cat after one of your favorite TV characters or movie characters is also fun. Or perhaps you could name your cat after a character (even a cat) in a book. I have a friend who named his cat Azrael after Gargamel’s cat in The Smurfs.

Still, if you prefer to pick something a little more popular, here is a list of the most popular male and female cat names from the last year:

popular cat namesMale 1.)Max 2.)Tigger 3.)Tiger 4.)Smokey 5.)Oliver 6.)Buddy 7.)Charlie 8.)Simba 9.)Sammy 10.)Oscar Female 1.)Chloe 2.)Lucy 3.)Molly 4.)Bella 5.)Sophie 6.)Princess 7.)Cleo 8.)Angel 9.)Lily 10.)Maggie

February 17, 2010

What do I do if my hamster bites me?

Filed under: biting hamster,hamster bit me,hamster biting,Uncategorized — Dr. Amber Reed @ 9:32 am

feline stressLike many other animals, hamsters will bite from time to time. That’s just a fact of life. Furthermore, hamsters are notoriously difficult to train because they’re often bought as adults. It is always more difficult to train an adult animal than a young one and this is true of hamsters as well. Especially when they have not been handled much, hamsters will bite out of fear. Typically, hamsters are not aggressive, but they will bite to defend themselves. Since many pet store hamsters are not accustomed to being handled by humans, they feel a lot of anxiety when they’re first held; consequently, they bite.

hamster biteIf your hamster bites, you need to be patient and calm. A strong reaction to bites can induce more fear in your hamster and make biting more likely in the future. What you need to do is build a trusting relationship with your hamster. Be gentle and relaxed and let your hamster get to know you. Before handling your hamster, try reading or singing to your hamster so it becomes familiar with your presence. Let your hamster sniff your hand while you hold it in your hamster’s cage. Your goal is to gradually acclimatize your hamster to being held.

When your hamster seems to be comfortable with your hand, you can begin gently stroking it. Provide positive reinforcement, like treats, when your hamster doesn’t bite. Sunflower seeds can be fed in moderation and are a great assistance during training. When your hamster seems calm and totally comfortable with your presence, it’s time to pick it up. Remember to be careful, and always begin by stroking the hamster. You can even put a sunflower seed in your palm to try and encourage the hamster to willingly walk onto your hand without biting.

February 16, 2010

10 Human Medications that are Harmful for Pets

canine pill delivery Just because something is safe for people, does not necessarily mean that it is also safe for our pets. Take the example of chocolate. For humans, chocolate is a wonderfully tasty treat but it is like a poison for dogs. The same can be said of some medications, whether prescription or over the counter, and as such we need to be careful to keep these medications away from our pets.

Although not an entirely comprehensive list, the following medications can be very dangerous for your pets.

  • NSAIDs:
    Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications, like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are common household medications that can seriously harm your pets even in small doses. One or two pills may lead to stomach or intestinal ulcers in dogs, cats, birds, ferrets, gerbils, hamsters, and other small mammals. In addition, kidney failure is a possible outcome of NSAID exposure in pets.
  • Acetaminophen:
    The most common medication containing acetaminophen is Tylenol but it is actually a very common analgesic found in many anti- cold, flu, or pain medications. While acetaminophen can be very helpful for people, this medication can be deadly for cats and dogs. In cats, acetaminophen destroys red blood cells and ultimately interferes with their ability to get oxygen. In dogs, acetaminophen is known to cause liver failure or red blood cell damage.
  • Antidepressants:
    Effexor, Cymbalta, Prozac, and Lexapro are well known antidepressants that in small dosages may be used for pets but overdoses can cause very serious neurological deficits. Sedation, problems with balance and muscle movements, tremors, and even seizures are the most common examples; moreover, antidepressants are often stimulant medications that can cause dangerous increases in heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature in pets.
  • ADD/ADHD Medications
    Medications like Concerta, Adderall, and Ritalin which are diagnosed to attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) patients are stimulants which have been known to cause fatal tremors and seizures and can also dangerously increase body temperature and heart rate and can even cause heart problems in pets.
  • Sleep Aids
    Often designed to reduce anxiety so people can sleep better, sleep aids like benzodiazepines, or more specifically Xanax, Klonopin, Lunesta, and Ambien, can cause agitation in pets and in some cases these drugs can cause extreme lethargy, imbalance, and reduced respiration. More worrisome is the fact that some benzodiazepines can cause liver failure in cats.
  • Birth Control Pills
    Birth control pills usually contain female hormones like estrogen, estradiol, and progesterone and if ingested in small doses they won’t be harmful for your pets. However, large dosages can suppress bone marrow, especially in birds. Also, if your female pets are not spayed, estrogen poisoning is a more serious issue.
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE)
    Zestril and Altace are the most common brands of ACE drugs that are used to treat high blood pressure in humans and even pets. Unfortunately, pet doses and human doses are not the same and overdoses can cause low blood pressure, weakness, and dizziness. While all heart medications should be kept away from pets, ingestion of ACE drugs is not a major issue. Nevertheless, carefully monitor your pet if you suspect it has ingested these medications and visit a veterinarian if you are concerned about more serious health issues.
  • Beta-Blockers
    Tenormin, Toprol, and Coreg are beta-blockers that are also used to treat high blood pressure. Beta-blockers however are very dangerous for your pets as they can cause fatal drops in blood pressure.
  • Thyroid hormones
    Dogs can also suffer from thyroid problems and may require treatment using the same medications as people. In fact, dogs often require much higher dosages than humans so overdose is less likely. Nevertheless, if your dog or cat ingests a large dose, tremors, nervousness, panting, and rapid heart rate can result.
  • Cholesterol Treatments
    You may be familiar with some of the most effective cholesterol medications like Lipitor, Zocor, or Crestor as they are very common in North America. Long-term use of these medications can cause major problems for pets but the most common side-effects seen in pets are mild vomiting and diarrhea.



February 12, 2010

How can I train my dog to stop biting?

Filed under: biting dog,dog bites,dog biting,stop dog biting — Dr. Amber Reed @ 8:42 am

stop dog bitingA biting dog cannot be ignored. Left to continue this anti-social behavior dogs can become more and more aggressive. However, most importantly, serious dog bites are often met by serious consequences as large dogs that bite are sometimes put down. In many cases, your dog might be playing or may be suffering from depression or anxiety but because they don’t really understand the implications of biting, they won’t moderate their own behavior. This is why it is the responsibility of the owner to train dogs not to bite.

The following tips should help you teach your dog not to bite. First of all, you should react loudly and seriously when your dog bites you, even in play. A loud yip or cry of pain, even if feigned, can teach your dog that he has behaved inappropriately. This should startle your dog to release his grip and at this point you can praise your dog for letting go. Hitting your dog or acting aggressively may work in the short term but in the long run this kind of behavior is more likely to encourage biting rather than not.

canine teeth careIf your dog is biting things around the house, like shoes for example, try replacing these biting objects with appropriate alternatives. Buy some chew toys and encourage your dog to replace the shoe with the toy. When he does, be sure to praise him.

Finally, be vigilant about the signs of aggression. If you can recognize early that your dog is likely to bite, you can remove him from the situation. Body tension, erect ears, and snarling are all signs of aggression so when you notice these triggers, ask your dog to sit and stroke him to induce calm. Also, remember to always praise your dog when he demonstrates proper behavior. Reward is the single strongest motivator when it comes to behavioral intervention.

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Disclaimer: CritterCures is an educational resource, and all information herein is strictly for educational purposes. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure diseases, nor is it meant to replace the (prescribed) treatment or recommendations of your veterinarian or healthcare provider. Always inform your veterinarian or healthcare provider of any products that your pet are taking, including herbal remedies and supplements.