May 31, 2010

Preventing Behavior Problems in Cats

Filed under: cat aggressive behaviour,Cat behavior,cat stress — Dr. Amber Reed @ 4:01 pm

feline stress Do cats feel stress? This is a valid question, one that many people believe they know the answer to. How could a cat feel stress when they have no responsibilities in life? The fact is, stress is a normal coping behavior for all animals, human or not, and as such your cat does indeed feel stress from time to time. One particular instance that can cause a great amount of stress for your cat is when you leave her home alone. Moreover, when you have multiple cats, leaving them alone in a confined space (your home) can also be extremely stressful. As a pet owner, it’s your responsibility to prevent stress and the subsequent behavioral problems that cats may demonstrate.

The easiest way to help your cat with stress is through playtime. Even just five minutes of play every day is enough mental stimulation and exercise to prevent stress in your cat. And, if you have multiple cats, you may want to play with them separately. When cats sleep and groom together they are demonstrating that they have a good relationship and it’s ok to do group play. However, when cats are distant from each other, they may view other cats as a threat and you’ll want to separate play behavior problems

By engaging your cat, you prevent many potential behavioral problems like aggression and you even contribute to their overall health. Daily play provides exercise so that your cat is less likely to become overweight or obese. Plus, play time is a great way to demonstrate appropriate and inappropriate behaviors. Make sure your cat knows that scratching and biting are unacceptable behaviors and remember that it’s easy for cats to misinterpret your behaviors as play so be patient.

May 29, 2010

Juvenile Osteoporosis in Dogs

Filed under: Dog Diseases,joint pain — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:56 pm

dog with leg painOsteoporosis is a bone disease that we usually associate with older dogs; yet the structural changes that occur in the bones of dogs with osteoporosis can be seen in young dogs as well.  Indeed, juvenile osteoporosis leads to the degradation of the supporting tissue in the bones leaving a highly mineralized, brittle bone that is more easily damaged.  Diet and exercise as well as vascular and hormonal changes are all associated with juvenile osteoporosis in dogs.  In most instances of the disease, a lack of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in the diet or an insensitivity to these minerals leads to juvenile osteoporosis in dogs.

While it occurs more often in cats, juvenile osteoporosis is relatively common in dogs.  Dog juvenile osteoporosis first appears shortly after weaning.  Dogs with this condition usually appear normal but their bones are much thinner and weaker than the average dog.  In some cases, the dog’s front legs will be bowed and you will notice some lameness.  In very extreme cases, weak bones may collapse as a result of a folding fracture leaving dogs with deformed bones and usually suffering quite a lot of pain.  Diagnosing juvenile osteoporosis in dogs requires an x-ray by your veterinarian as well as a careful look at your dog’s diet.

Larger breeds are especially at risk of juvenile osteoporosis and the condition may be seen in the first six or eight weeks of life. German Shepherds and Saint Bernards are the most likely breeds to suffer from juvenile osteoporosis probably because of their greater need for calcium during skeletal development.  Fortunately, dogs with juvenile osteoporosis can be treated; in fact, juvenile osteoporosis may be reversed given an adequate diet that is rich in calcium.  If you suspect your dog may be suffering from juvenile osteoporosis, you should visit your veterinarian immediately to seek proper treatment.

May 27, 2010

Diarrhea in Cats

Filed under: cat diarrhea,diarrhea for cats,diarrhea in cats — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:46 pm

my cat has diarrheaDiarrhea is a symptom that all animals can suffer and while not necessarily a very serious condition, diarrhea can be the sign of a more serious illness.  Moreover, left untreated, diarrhea can also be dangerous as it leads to dehydration and malnourishment.  Acute diarrhea is less of a concern.  Perhaps your cat eats something that doesn’t agree with her stomach, she may have a sudden bout of diarrhea that lasts a few hours or at most a few days.  A change in diet like increased consumption of milk is the most common cause of acute diarrhea.

On the other hand, chronic diarrhea is usually a symptom of a more serious illness.  The difference between chronic and acute diarrhea is that in chronic cases, the diarrhea persists for a longer stretch of time.  Generally speaking, with acute diarrhea there are no other symptoms.  Your cat is eating, playing, sleeping, and doing everything it would normally do.  However, chronic diarrhea is almost always accompanied with other symptoms.  If you notice any of the following symptoms, you should visit a veterinarian:

– Fever
– Vomiting
– Pain
– Blood in the stools
– Lethargy
– Weight loss
– Dehydration
– Loss of appetite
– Foul smelling stoolsfeline diarrhea
– Fatigue
– Straining during bowel movements.

Chronic diarrhea should be treated by a veterinarian because it will usually require identifying the underlying cause to treat the diarrhea.  Alternatively, there are some precautions you can take to prevent acute diarrhea.  Carefully control your cat’s diet and ensure that it includes all of the necessary nutrients for your cat.  Also, remember that cheap cat food is often full of inexpensive vegetables and carbohydrates which may lead to loose stools.  In most cases of acute cat diarrhea, the problem will be resolved once the normal diet is resumed.

May 25, 2010

How to Stop Your Dog from Chewing

Filed under: Dog Behavior,dog biting — Dr. Amber Reed @ 12:29 am

how to stop a dog from chewingChewing is a natural behavior for dogs that can help them to relax while also promoting good dental health.  As such, it is important to always have good chew toys around the house for your dog.  Still, chewing can also be a serious nuisance for the dog owner because dogs will sometimes chew on anything but chew toys.  In cases where dogs engage in destructive chewing, it is necessary to try some behavioral intervention.

First of all, it’s important to understand that excessive or destructive chewing is not healthy for your dog and may even be a symptom of an anxiety disorder.  In such cases, curbing the chewing is achieved through helping your dog learn stress management techniques.  Most dog owners will want to teach their dogs to comfort themselves when they are alone.  When dogs become too attached to their owners, their anxiety can lead to chewing.  Spend ample quality time with your dog but also ensure that your dog has time alone, even when you are home and be sure to teach your dog that attention is not always available on demand.

Obviously, you’ll also want to introduce your dog to chew toys so that they have the opportunity to chew when necessary.  Puppies will be especially prone to chewing when they are teething but chewing is not a behavior that is limited to young dogs.  Many dog owners can eliminate destructive chewing by combining chew toys with anti-chew sprays.  canine tooth careWhen you notice your dog has a preference for chewing a particular household item, apply the anti-chew spray.  The next time your dog approaches the item give him a firm instruction like “Stop” and then replace the item with a chew toy.  Play with your dog and the chew toy to reinforce his preference for the chew toy.  With consistent praise and behavioral intervention, your dog should stop chewing.

May 21, 2010

Children and Cats

Filed under: cat health,Children and Pets,pet health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:33 pm

kitten care, children and kittensGetting a pet cat means that you are adding another member to your family.  Cats and children make great companions but you may be aware of special health concerns for children with pet cats.  A lot of times people feel cats are better pets for children than dogs but you need to take some time to ensure that the health and well being of your cat and children will not be compromised.  Always make every effort to understand the responsibilities that come with owning a cat and ensure you children understand as well.

Kids love kittens.  They’re small, fluffy, and cute but they become full grown cats very quickly.  Many irresponsible families get kittens every year and then become overburdened with the responsibilities that come with owning a cat.  Even as a kitten you need to spend lots of time grooming, playing with, and socializing your kitten so it’s not all just fun and games.  Nevertheless, when you take the commitment of cat ownership seriously, you will have a loving pet that is a central member of your family.

feline ear mitesChildren can sometimes be overly aggressive with small pets so you’ll need to teach them that cats are vulnerable.  Because cats can more easily escape from rambunctious children, they are often a better pet than dogs (for the pet’s sake, that is).  Still, you should spend some time demonstrating to your children how to handle cats and how to play with them.  Overly aggressive children may cause the cats to develop anxiety leading the cat to reciprocate the aggressive behavior.

Finally, when you get a cat you need to be aware of toxoplasmosis.  This bacterial infection can be contracted through contact with cat feces and when infants are infected they are at risk of brain damage and possibly even death.  By taking a few precautions you can protect your infants from toxoplasmosis.  Regularly clean the litter box and never allow children to play near it.  Sandboxes are a favorite place for cats to defecate so they should always be covered when they’re not in use.  As long as you maintain a clean environment and keep your children away from cat feces the risk of toxoplasmosis is very low.

May 20, 2010

Crate Training your Dog

Filed under: Crate Training,training your dog — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:30 pm

dog crate trainingCrate training is an excellent tool in house training your dog but also has various side benefits as well.  Because dogs don’t like to toilet in their sleeping quarters, crate training can help teach a dog to relieve himself at more appropriate times.  By temporarily confining your dog to a crate, your dog learns to fight the urge to urinate or defecate.  Moreover, kennel crates are the ideal travel cabin for your puppy and when dogs are comfortable in a crate it can be much easier to travel with them.  Nevertheless, the main reason to crate train your dogs is to control early toileting habits.  When your dog is in the crate, he will refrain from urinating and defecating.  Then, when you release your dog from the crate, you can praise it for toileting outside.

To crate train your dog you must first make your dog familiar with the crate.  Try leaving a small treat or bit of kibble in the crate to attract your dog.  Because your dog finds treats in the crate, he will build a positive association with it.  Be sure to give your dog lots of praise when he enters the crate to further reinforce this positive association.  canine stressAlso, be sure to gradually increase your dog’s time in the crate.  Allow him to enter the crate for short periods during the day before closing him in the crate overnight.  Leaving your dog in the crate overnight will prevent unnecessary accidents but may cause anxiety for your dog as well.  Finally, acclimatize your dog to the notion of your absence while it’s in the crate.  Leave the room for short periods of time, gradually lengthening the amount of time your dog is alone in the crate.

Eventually, your dog will happily enter his crate and will probably take comfort in the crate.  Remember that all training is most effective when it is combined with praise and reward.

May 19, 2010

How to Care for Aging Dogs

Filed under: age of dogs,dog age,Dog health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:25 pm

Age advances whether you are talking about humans, birds, cats or dogs.  As we get older, we become more susceptible to illness and we endure the natural degeneration of various body systems.  Proper care for an aging dog ensures that your beloved pet can enjoy the last years of his life comfortably.  Moreover, certain behaviors can even extend the life of your pet; for example, it is important that your dog is fed a healthy diet and gets lots of exercise.

As dogs age, they often develop special health needs.  Decreased activity level, increased sleep, and less excitement are all signs that your dog is starting to age. In addition, older dogs tend to be more sensitive to extreme temperatures; they may suffer hearing loss; and their skin and coat may change color.  In fact, many of the signs of aging in humans are quite similar to the signs of aging in dogs.  As your dog’s age advances, you can help ease the transition while also stressing the importance of regular exercise.

Still, you will need to consider the fitness of your dog as age advances.  Walks or runs will become shorter and your dog is likely to suffer from some muscle stiffness in his senior years.  Early in the morning you’ll want to give your dog plenty of time to stretch out and work out any stiffness.  Also, as your dog gets older, he will probably have more difficulty climbing stairs or getting in and out of cars so you will have to provide assistance.  Try to give your dog a comfortable bed to prevent unnecessary muscle pain.

As dogs get older, their skin and coat tends to dry out as well.  You can find some great moisturizing shampoos at the local pet store to help stimulate the production of oils.  Regular brushing can also help keep your dog’s coat healthy.  Generally speaking, you want to make your dog as comfortable as possible so he can enjoy his final years.

May 18, 2010

Can Cats Groom Too Much?

Filed under: Anxiety and Over-grooming,cat hair,cat stress — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:20 pm

feline healthy coat The simple answer to this question is yes.  Over-grooming is an anxiety disorder in cats that can be compared to obsessive compulsive behavior in humans.  Many cats find grooming themselves to be quite relaxing and in stressful situations will turn to grooming to calm down.  Over-grooming, however, is a sign that your cat may be suffering from a more serious anxiety problem and that they have difficulty relieving stress.  In many instances, over-grooming in cats begins when there is some kind of environmental change; for example, a move, the introduction of a new pet or family member, or even illness may lead to over-grooming.

Recognizing that your cat is over-grooming may be difficult.  Still, excessive licking or pulling at fur are two of the earliest signs of over-grooming.  Eventually, cats that groom too much may develop bald patches especially around the inside of the thighs, near the abdomen and groin, or on the forelegs.  Because over-grooming in cats may be caused by a medical condition, it is always best to visit your veterinarian if you notice these symptoms.  Hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, allergies, bacterial infection, and viral infection are all examples of medical conditions that may cause cats to over-groom.

In most cases, over-grooming is treated by dealing with the underlying medical condition.  However, if your cat over-grooms because of an anxiety disorder, the treatment is aimed at removing the stressful situation or helping your cat to cope with stress.  Anxious over-grooming in cats is usually caused by some environmental stressors.  Find and eliminate the stress causing factors and your cat may recover.  In addition, try to maintain a regular routine that includes a healthy diet, exercise, and play with your cat.  Finally, ensure that your cat has a stimulating environment so that she can entertain herself when you are away.  In very extreme cases, vets may recommend anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications.

May 17, 2010

Is Your Cat Constipated?

Filed under: cat constipation,pet health — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:12 pm

constipation in catsConstipation is a common condition that affects cats just as it affects humans.  Constipated cats suffer from the accumulation of feces in the bowel that makes it difficult to defecate.  Because the bowel is designed to absorb water, feces in the colon can sometimes become dry and hard making it painful and difficult for your cat to have a bowel movement.  When your cat is constipated, she will also strain to defecate and may even pass feces with a diarrhea-like consistency.

In many cases, the causes of constipation relate to poor nutrition and exercise.  Nevertheless, there are some causes of constipation that signify a more serious problem.  Other than hairballs, a cat may have an obstruction of the bowel perhaps due to tumors or the ingestion of foreign bodies.  Pelvic injuries due to accidents can lead to constipation as can damage to the nerves of the bowel.  While constipation is most commonly seen in middle-aged or older cats, it is not impossible for younger cats to suffer from the condition.  If you recognize that your cat is suffering from constipation, most obviously because she is straining to pass feces, you should visit your veterinarian immediately.

Your vet will assess your cat and try to determine the cause of the constipation.  The diagnostic process is designed to rule out constipation due to injury and to prevent further problems that may also be associated with a possible injury.  In very severe cases, cat constipation may need to be treated with surgery; but in most cases, cat constipation is treated with oral lubricants, regular grooming, improved diet, and exercise.  Your veterinarian will help you decide the best course of treatment and will also provide you with important information on how to prevent constipation in the future.

May 14, 2010

What are Puppy Mills?

Filed under: breeders,Puppy Mills — Dr. Amber Reed @ 6:05 pm

what are puppy millsDog lovers are often surprised to hear about the existence of puppy mills.  When you enter a pet store to find the perfect addition to your family, you don’t expect to hear about puppy mills that are essentially breeding facilities that produce large numbers of purebred puppies for commercial game.  But the reality of puppy mills is all too true and humane societies throughout North America have major concerns about puppy mills.

The biggest problems associated with puppy mills are almost always related to health factors.  Dogs born in puppy mills often receive poor veterinary care and may even be the result of severe inbreeding.  Over breeding, poor nutrition, poor socialization, and poor living conditions are all very serious concerns that humane societies have about puppy mills.  In fact, the prevalence of hereditary diseases, euthanasia of unwanted puppies, and malnutrition in puppy mills makes these very frightening institutions indeed.  And the problems with puppy mills are not exclusive to the health of the puppies alone; for example, breeder dogs are often forced to live in puppy mills for the duration of their lives so that they can continue to breed more puppies.

canine stressPet stores often stock purebred dogs from puppy mills.  While registration certificates are a requirement for purebred dogs, it is actually quite difficult to track the lineage of these dogs and subsequently the number of purebreds coming from puppy mills seems to be on the rise.  If you want to get a purebred dog but you want to avoid puppy mills the best thing you can do is find a qualified breeder and view his or her facilities.  Good breeders socialize their puppies with humans, feed them a healthy diet, give them plenty of exercise, and ensure that the puppies have access to adequate veterinary care.  Moreover, most reputable breeders will interview prospective owners to ensure that their puppies end up in loving, nurturing homes.

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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.