Sunday, December 21, 2008


Helpful Buckeye and Desperado wish all of our readers a happy and safe celebration of the Holidays!!! This issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats takes you through New Year's Day. The next issue will be available on 5 JAN 2009, so this is it for 2008!

One of my favorite videos of a Christmas song is this one, White Christmas, recorded by The Drifters (featuring Clyde McPhatter and Bill Pinckney) in sure to catch the choreography by the Santa and the reindeer:

As a final reminder that you only get out of life what you put into it, this quote from William Makepeace Thackeray (English author who wrote Vanity Fair) sums up Helpful Buckeye's final present for our readers this year: "Life is a mirror: if you frown at it, it frowns back; if you smile, it returns the greeting."


1) Scientists at the University of Illinois and the University of Massachusetts have come up with an interesting way of possibly "killing" pathogenic bacteria:

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they have developed a method of "fooling" a bacterium's evolutionary machinery into programming its own death. Researchers at the University of Illinois and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst said their achievement shows a synthetic "hole punching" anti-microbial depends upon the presence of phosphoethanolamine -- a cone-shaped lipid found within Gram-negative bacterial membranes. "The basic idea is for an antimicrobial to target something in a bacteria that, in order to gain immunity, would require the bacteria to kill itself through a suicide mutation," said UI Professor Gerard Wong, corresponding author of the study. "It's a Catch-22," he added. "Some mutations bacteria can tolerate, and some mutations they cannot tolerate. In this case, the bacteria would have to go through a mutation that would kill it, in order to be immune to these anti-microbials. The anti-microbial reorganizes PE lipids into holes in the membrane; the perforated membranes leak, and the bacteria die." The study that included graduate student and lead author Lihua Yang, as well as Professors Dallas Trinkle, John Cronan Jr. and Gregory Tew has been accepted for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is currently available on the journal's Web site.

2) Vice-President-Elect, Joe Biden, has gotten a new puppy, a German Shepherd. Read the account from MSNBC: It seems that the acquisition has aroused the ire of animal shelter supporters, who felt that any of the Presidential or Vice-Presidential dog adoptions should come from a shelter. Helpful Buckeye thinks the more important point here is that the German Shepherd puppy was chosen after an extensive background check. Vice-President Biden will have plenty of opportunities to show how well cared for his dog will be.

3) Comedian Jimmy Kimmel, not to be outdone by the shelter supporters, had this comment: "When Vice President-elect Joe Biden takes office next month, he's going to have a German shepherd puppy. That's good to know because his dog will stand by in case Barack Obama's dog becomes incapacitated."

4) Speaking of "First" Pets, former President Clinton's cat, Socks, is gravely ill with some form of cancer. Socks was adopted by Betty Currie, President Clinton's former secretary. For the story, see:


1) This interesting factoid aroused some thought: The average paper and paperboard consumption in the U.S. is more than 655 lbs. per person (World Resources Institute, 2005). Yes, you read that right...655lbs.!!! So, for those of you who print off a copy of each week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, you'll be using less paper this week! That's a GREEN benefit!

2) The National Weather Service has verified what Helpful Buckeye has been promoting:

(From The USA Today)

...and with the approximately 36" of snow we've gotten in the last 5 days, the white Christmas will be 100% this year!

3) Two new books, one about a cat and one about a dog, present an entirely new perspective on being a dog or a cat. Read a little about each one at these web sites (cursor to the lower half of each page): and

4) A new survey by Forbes Magazine has determined what the Ten Most Pet-Friendly cities are in the USA:

5) Forbes Magazine has also come up with a list of Ten Techie Things For Your Pet (some of these are pretty interesting and some are a little bit "out there"):

6) A third study by Forbes Magazine has produced a breakdown of America's Most Popular Pups by various cities:


The Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team is up to #17 in the rankings.

The Pittsburgh Steelers ran into problems in Nashville today. It appears they have had too many high-pressure games in a row and just ran out of gas...the Titans beat them soundly. We might face them again in the playoffs.


Helpful Buckeye extends a big "Thank You" to all of our regular and loyal readers for sticking with us for the last 8 months! Hopefully, you all feel that you have gained some insight into the world of dogs and cats, how they function, how they hurt, and how they love to be with a great owner. For those of you who have been infrequent visitors, Helpful Buckeye will leave you with the words of John Greenleaf Whittier, American poet, : "For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.' "

The best way to correct that oversight is to read Questions On Dogs and Cats every week and contribute when you find the opportunity. This will be the final issue of 2008. Helpful Buckeye and Desperado are looking forward to sharing this blog with all of you in 2009. Be safe over the Holidays!

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, December 14, 2008


...begin today! That's right, and according to PNC Wealth Management, of Pittsburgh, this year’s cost, according to their annual “Christmas Price Index”, which tallies the single partridge in a pear tree to the 12 drummers drumming, purchased repeatedly as the song suggests, will be $86,609!!! The price is up $8,508 or 10.9 percent, from $78,101 last year. Seems inflationary to me! Anyway, Helpful Buckeye has been adding up the cost of my holiday presents for all our readers, and you know what? Not only does Questions On Dogs and Cats come to you free of charge, but now, the Google Gadgets we've been able to include alongside the blog also come to you free! It's a deal you can't refuse....

Speaking of those Google Gadgets, what do you think about them? The "Labels" Gadget serves pretty nicely as a subject index...just click on a topic of interest and you will be transported to the blog issue with that item! Are there any of the Gadgets you don't like?

Considering the fair exchange of Christmas presents, all of our readers are encouraged to share this blog site for Questions On Dogs and Cats with 5 of your friends. Give them the blog site address, tell them there just might be something of interest to them, and ask them to give it a look. That way, you'll be able to give a present that doesn't cost you anything, they'll love you for it, and...we'll get more readers! It's a WIN, WIN, WIN situation!

We have had a few readers send e-mails saying that they have had some trouble clicking into the Google ads that are spaced down along the left column and at the end of each issue. Helpful Buckeye suggests that all of you try clicking into those ads to see if you are successful in getting to the advertising company. It won't cost you anything for looking. Send an e-mail if you also have any difficulty:

Calvin Coolidge, our 30th President, made this statement about Christmas: "Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." As a fitting closing for this introduction, Helpful Buckeye offers this slide show of "the real spirit of Christmas" around the world (my favorite is the one in Denver):


1) No matter what the season may be, there will still be some pet owners who don't have a clue about properly caring for a pet. Read this news story from Wisconsin and decide on your own what you'd like to say to this woman:

2) Going all the way to the other end of the spectrum of compassion for a dog, check out this video of a dog trying to rescue another dog that had been hit by a car in Chile: ( click on the icon on the video screen)

3) Some high school students in the Phoenix, AZ area are starting a "new, 18-month program, during which 12 students will have a puppy to raise and train every day, resulting in affordable service dogs for military, police, fire and emergency personnel who were injured on duty." Read the article in the Arizona Republic:


1) In a press release that came out after Questions On Dogs and Cats was published last week, The American Veterinary Medical Association proclaimed the week of DEC 7-13 as National Handwashing Awareness Week. Helpful Buckeye has discussed the benefits of appropriate handwashing in a previous issue. This proclamation calls attention to the advantages for all of us "in minimizing our exposure to infectious agents through proper handwashing often being the best way to avoid getting sick or spreading diseases to other people." The rest of the awareness alert is available at:

2) As our economic situation continues to worsen, there have been stories of how pet owners are skipping their veterinary visits due to their own financial difficulties. Although this is very understandable, pet owners need to be aware that sometimes a delayed visit to the veterinarian can lead to more severe considerations than their pet is already experiencing. So, the bottom line (no pun intended) is that you should always at least discuss your concerns about a pet problem with your veterinarian and then try to make the appropriate decision about how to handle it. A recent story on The Today Show presents some approaches for how you can work through this situation:

3) The American Kennel Club has conducted a survey that offers the conclusion that: "...despite a tough economy, pet owners are willing to sacrifice many daily luxuries to provide for the needs of their canine companions." Check out the results from this survey; you might be surprised by some of them!


1) After our discussion on fleas and flea control last week, and judging from all the questions readers sent in, these topics are a big deal to most of you! It seems that everyone wants that "magic bullet," something that you don't have to use very often, but it works 100% of the time, right? Well, if someone could figure out how to extract ALL the sulfur in the human body, it has been estimated that "the average human body holds enough sulfur to kill all the fleas on an average dog." Unfortunately, that's not going to happen,'ll still need to follow all the suggested solutions in last week's discussion.

2) Helpful Buckeye thought we had covered the hypoallergenic dog subject sufficiently in past issues. However, this article does present a slightly modified approach to the question: According to allergists, there is no such thing as a dog free of allergens. Even if the Obamas decided on an American hairless, it's not the hair that's the problem. It's the skin. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) reports: "Contrary to popular belief, people are not allergic to an animal's hair, but rather, to a protein found in the saliva, dander (dead skin flakes) or urine of an animal with fur. These proteins are carried in the air on very small, invisible particles, which can land on the lining of the eyes or nose, or be inhaled directly into the lungs. … A cat or dog produces a certain amount of allergen per week, and this amount can vary from animal to animal. All breeds are capable of triggering symptoms -- there are no 'hypoallergenic' breeds of cats or dogs." Chair of the Indoor Allergen Committee for AAAAI Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul reiterated that point in an interview with USA Today: "If you've got 50 dogs in the home, the dog allergens are going to be higher than if you've got one, and if you have a huge dog, there will be more allergens than with a small dog, but all dogs produce allergens." The Obamas can find hope in such a statement -- and they are not alone. A 1994 study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology estimated that 10 million Americans are at least somewhat allergic to dogs. While the only way to completely avoid allergens from a pet is not to have one, there are things that can be done to minimize exposure:

  • -- limit the household to one small dog

  • -- bathe and groom the dog at least once a week to remove dander

  • -- utilize HEPA air filters 24/7, especially in the bedrooms of the allergic

  • -- keep the dog out of the bedrooms and off of the beds of the allergic

  • -- switch to hardwood floors in lieu of carpeting

  • -- vacuum frequently with a HEPA-equipped vacuum cleaner

  • -- launder human and dog bedding (separately) weekly in 130-degree water to remove dander

  • -- visit an allergist for a proper diagnosis and treatment options

  • -- stick with shorthaired breeds that typically shed less

While myriad veterinarians, allergists and immunologists have hammered the point that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, it is accepted that the allergic may fare better in the company of certain canines. If you're allergic to dogs, the only real way to avoid a reaction is to avoid dogs. For some, that's easy enough. For many, a little sneezing, wheezing and itching is worth it. For Obama, it looks like he needs more time to make this particular pick. From dog trainer Matthew Margolis, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!"

3) The results for last week's poll question about pet health insurance were:

  • 14% own a policy right now
  • 14% are seriously considering getting one
  • 28% may purchase one in the future
  • 42% weren't interested, for one reason or another

Thanks for your responses!


1) Since you had to put up with the cats and their rendition of "White Christmas" last week, it's only fair that you now have to deal with the Jingle Bell Dogs:

2) In case you were looking for something to light up your New Year's Eve party, you might want to consider signing up for the FREE Glowstick offer at:


Are you a dog or cat person? You may already be pretty sure of the answer
to that question, but you might also
be surprised. Take this simple quiz from the
Today Show and see what you find out:

4) Then, taking this train of thought one step further, what does your choice of dog say about you? Check out this web site and click through the photos to find out:

5) Among the practically unlimited choices of presents to buy
for your pet or for the pet of a friend are these "Healthy Holiday" options...Food Dispenser Toys, Digital Litter Boxes, Designer Surgical Collars, Pet First Aid Kits, Dog Puzzle Board Games, Pet Strollers, Dog Treadmills, and a Warming Bed. These items can be found at:

One of Helpful Buckeye's all-time favorite dogs is Regal, the Beagle, and here she is with one of her Food Dispenser Toys:

6) Desperado has contributed an idea that might be not only appealing, but also quite appropriate for our readers who have friends with pets: Desperado, who raved about the book, Marley & Me, by John Grogan, is thrilled that the movie version is opening at theatres on Christmas Day. In a recent interview, in The USA Today about the movie, with Jennifer Aniston (who co-stars with Owen Wilson), Aniston mentioned a great gift her two dogs received when Jennifer and dogs Norman and Dolly moved into a new neighborhood in L. A.: "I got a basket that said, 'Welcome to the neighborhood,' and it was for Norman and Dolly, and there was a picture of the neighbor's dog. There were all these treats in it. I thought that was really nice." What a great idea for a Christmas basket for your neighbor's dog!

7) The Arizona Republic carries a daily column by Clay Thompson, in which Clay answers questions from readers. He's a pretty witty and sharp guy...sometimes his answers are cynical, humorous, or sympathetic, but he always tries to give a good answer. In today's column, he answers a very timely question that has to do with a cat, a Christmas tree skirt and aluminum foil. Enjoy his answer at:

8) Most of you probably have a favorite Christmas movie or two that you enjoy watching over and over again. Desperado and Helpful Buckeye have several favorites and we watch every one of them each December, some more than once! They are Holiday Inn, White Christmas, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Elf, Scrooged, The Family Stone, Love Actually, and The Holiday.


The Ohio State Buckeyes have been selected to play in the Fiesta Bowl against Texas and find themselves big underdogs. Considering their performances in the last 2 BCS bowl games, that is not a big surprise. Perhaps we can do something to correct that this year?

The OSU men's basketball team has moved back into the Top 25 this week and is still undefeated.

The Pittsburgh Steelers played in Baltimore today and pulled out another win in the last 2 minutes, defeating the despised Ravens!


There were a couple of really windy days this past week and Helpful Buckeye felt like my bicycle tires were square, trying to ride into the wind.

Now, to complicate things even further, we are expecting several days of winter weather as a mountain product of some Pacific storms, with accumulation predictions in "feet" rather than "inches." This will undoubtedly result in snow, ice, and cinders building up in the bike lanes, so...Helpful Buckeye will probably have to move the road show indoors to the stationary bike for awhile. It's not my favorite activity, but it'll do.

Let's end this issue with this anonymous quote: "Until one has loved an animal, part of their soul remains unawakened."

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, December 7, 2008


All of our regular, long-time readers here at Questions On Dogs and Cats know that Helpful Buckeye frequently uses a video of a song as a lead-in for a topic of interest. Think about a probable connection for a moment as you enjoy Vanity Fair singing "Hitchin' A Ride," from 1969:

In a column this week about blogs by Kathleen Parker, of the Washington Post Writers Group, Ms. Parker states, "...blogs feed our need for speed. They also give an impression of human contact without the muss and fuss of actual intimacy." How do all of our readers feel about this statement? While reading each weekly issue, do you feel like you have attained "an impression of human contact" with Helpful Buckeye? If so, then our goal has been at least partially accomplished. The other important part of our goal is that each reader will take away from their weekly visit to the blog at least a few interesting ideas about dogs and cats. To read the whole column, go to:

In last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye added two new features that have been provided by Google (hopefully, you have already noticed them!).... These add-ons are called "Gadgets" by the folks at Google and will appear vertically down the left-hand side of the blog. The first of these is the "Polling" capability. Helpful Buckeye will be able to offer a question from time to time to which our readers can respond, with the vote tally being displayed in real time. All you need to do is click on your response and then click "Vote." The second gadget is "Followers, " which allows Helpful Buckeye to get a better idea of not only who is reading the blog, but also, how many readers we have. To be listed as a "Follower," simply click on "Follow This Blog," and then make the choice between Publicly and Anonymously. Publicly means you can include a picture/profile if you choose, while Anonymously means you're accounted for but retain your privacy. A special "Thank You!" goes out to Rosie, who was the very first "Follower" to sign in. Don't let Rosie be the last! Helpful Buckeye encourages all readers to make use of these gadgets since they will help all of us enjoy this inter-active experience. Thanks in advance! Google has also offered numerous other gadgets which we will be integrating into the blog over the next few weeks, hopefully with the idea of improving your overall enjoyment. As always, any comments and/or suggestions are very welcome at: or you can post a comment by clicking on "Post a Comment" at the very end of each issue.

Putting these blog issues together each week has been a lot of fun for Helpful Buckeye. As E. B. White, American writer, best known as the author of children's books Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, has said, "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day." Hopefully, a little improvement will be added to your interest in dogs and cats, even as I am enjoying making it available. Surely, now that we are coming up on seven months of writing this blog, it has not seemed like such a toil or effort at all. Helpful Buckeye understands what Thomas Carlyle, Scottish author, meant when he once said, "Writing is a dreadful labor, yet not so dreadful as Idleness;" however, the day that writing this blog becomes dreadful...will be the day it ceases to exist. That's a promise!


1) The voting results from this week's polling question do not reflect the total number of readers of this blog, which Helpful Buckeye attributes to the newness of the offering. Perhaps not many of you even saw the question on the left-hand side of the blog. Anyway, none of those voting felt that the American Kennel Club should keep their requirements for ear cropping and tail docking (5 were opposed and 1 wasn't sure.) Let's see if more of our readers will respond to our next poll....

2) The American Veterinary Medical Association has finalized their policy statement on what should go into the make-up of a Pet Health Insurance Plan. The AVMA endorses the concept of pet health insurance that provides coverage to help defray the cost of veterinary medical care. The AVMA recognizes that viable pet health insurance programs will be important to the future of the veterinary profession's ability to continue to provide high quality and up-to-date veterinary service. These programs should comply with the following guidelines.

Pet health insurance programs should:

  • Require a veterinarian/client/patient relationship in which the veterinarian monitors health maintenance of the animal.

  • Be acceptable to organized veterinary associations, individual veterinarians, insurance providers, the animal owning public, and others interested and involved in promoting the welfare and well being of animals.

  • Have clearly specified protection for the animal owner. The animal insurance provider should disclose to the consumer the coverage provided which may be of most benefit in reducing the financial burdens resulting from medical problems requiring extensive veterinary medical care, as well as the option for coverage for routine and/or wellness health care.

  • Allow animal owners the freedom to select a veterinarian of their choice, and allow for referrals.

  • Meet the rules and regulations of the insurance commission of the state in which the insurance is sold, be readily available to the public, and provide coverage using ethical standards that are approved by the insurance industry.

  • Be consistent with the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics.

  • Allow each veterinary facility to establish its own fee structure.

  • Reimburse the animal owner, in a timely manner, for fees previously paid to the veterinarian.

  • Commit to assure that animal owners are aware of how the terms and conditions of their policy will impact their coverage and reimbursement. This includes the type and amount of monetary coverage and concurrent financial obligations such as co-pay, deductible, and other risk-management charges (e.g. surcharges, exclusions) that are integral components of the insurance contract.

More about this policy statement can be found at:

3) The Humane Society Of The United States has launched a campaign for the adoption of shelter dogs as we head into the Holiday Season. The HSUS was thrilled to have Patti Page re-create her hit song from 1952 to bring it up-to-date with their theme. Enjoy:

4) The Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is also being active for the Holidays with their advice about giving a pet as a gift:

Considering a Four-Legged Gift?

A gift certificate from your local shelter is a responsible alternative to giving a pet as a gift.
With the holidays approaching quickly and gifts already getting wrapped one present that should be carefully considered before purchasing is a dog or cat for a friend, elderly parent or a child. Animals require a lot of time and financial support, so SPCA International encourages you not to make that commitment on someone’s behalf until you know they are ready and able to be a good pet parent. The estimated annual cost for owning a dog is $2,300 and $1,100 for a cat, which includes food, visits to the veterinarian – both expected and unexpected, toys, training, grooming, and other miscellaneous expenses. This does not include the cost for damaged household furniture that the dog could chew up if they get bored or the cat decides to sharpen its claws on. You can also expect to pay an additional $800 - $1,200 in the first year for puppies and kittens due to extra vet visits for vaccinations and spay or neuter. It is important to understand all these factors before purchasing an animal, either for yourself or someone else.
After considering the factors above, if you still decide to get a dog or cat for someone other than yourself, SPCA International strongly encourages you to purchase a gift certificate from your local shelter. A gift certificate allows the new pet parent to pick out their next companion animal and find one that best suits their lifestyle.
An alternative gift idea for a friend or family member who is interested in getting a pet is an annual membership for veterinarian insurance. This helps with the costs that are associated with owning an animal and can take the unexpected additional financial costs off the owner.
Shelters see an increase in animals surrendered or brought in as strays after major holidays. To help save an animal’s life this holiday, consider all factors before purchasing an animal, either for yourself or someone else and strongly consider the alternatives.

5) In addition, the SPCA has put together, with Liam Crowe, of Bark Busters USA, a list of precautions for you and your dogs for the Holiday Season:

Top 10 Dog-Friendly Tips to Help Make the Holiday Season Merry

By following a few common-sense tips, the holidays can be cheery for everyone—including the family dog. In the spirit of the coming season, we’ve compiled our Top 10 Holiday Tips to help keep dogs and their families safe and happy during the holidays.
While most of us welcome the sights, sounds, and smells of the season, holidays can also be chaotic—especially for pets. Holiday festivities can disrupt a dog’s routine and potentially present dangerous circumstances.

  • 1. Avoid Christmas tree disasters. Christmas trees are a wonderful tradition, but they can lead to problems if you have a curious canine.

  • a. Prevent the tree from tipping. Anchor it to the ceiling or wall.

  • b. Hang non-breakable ornaments near the bottom of the tree.

  • c. Tinsel can be deadly when eaten. It can twist in your dog’s intestines and cause serious problems. Just don’t put it on your tree.

  • d. Don’t let your dog drink the Christmas-tree water. It often contains chemicals to help the tree last longer; these chemical can cause severe indigestion in dogs.

  • e. Pine needles can cause health problems. If ingested, they can puncture holes in your pet's intestines. Regularly sweep up fallen pine needles to avoid a trip to the emergency animal clinic.

  • 2. Mistletoe, poinsettias and amaryllis are toxic. Be aware of these poisonous holiday plants and keep your pets away from them.

  • 3. Keep “blowing” snow in the globe. Many snow globes contain antifreeze, which is extremely toxic to dogs—so it’s best to keep snow globes and all antifreeze out of the reach of a happy, tail-wagging dog. If there is an antifreeze spill of any kind, send your dog out of the room while you clean up the liquid. Dilute the spot with water and floor cleaner to make sure your dog does not lick these harmful chemicals later.

  • 4. Holiday sweets are not dog treats. Candy, cookies, cakes, peppermints—and especially chocolate—can trigger life-threatening illnesses in dogs.

  • 5. Make no bones about it. Cooked turkey and chicken bones are not for dogs as they can easily break and cause choking, and bone shards can get stuck in your dog’s gums. Stick with “bones” specifically designed for dogs to chew. Ask your local veterinarian for suggestions.

  • 6. A relaxed dog is a good dog. Most dogs are excitable when guests arrive. Exercise your dog prior to the arrival of guests. After 30 minutes of walking or playing, most dogs will be more relaxed or ready to take a nap. As a general rule, it’s best not to allow the family dog to greet unfamiliar guests. Commotion and unusual circumstances can cause stress for dogs. Give your dog a break in a quiet room with a familiar doggie bed or blanket. Allow your canine companion to join the festivities after the initial commotion of arrival has subsided.

  • 7. Keep the liquids flowing! When pets are stressed by unfamiliar circumstances, they typically pant more, so keep fresh water readily available for them to drink.

  • 8. Beware of cold and snowy weather. While it might be convenient to put your dogs outside when guests arrive for holiday festivities, falling temperatures and snow can be dangerous to pets. In addition, never let your pet roam freely, as icy roads can make it hard for cars to stop if your dog wanders into the street.

  • 9. Do not give pets as surprise gifts! A cute and cuddly puppy might seem the perfect gift choice, but many of these holiday presents end up at animal shelters. A dog takes a real commitment of time, and adoptive owners must be ready to participate in training and managing the responsibility of their new family member. If you know someone who’s serious about adopting a dog, consider giving a leash, collar or dog training certificate from Bark Busters, along with a note saying a dog of the recipient’s choice comes with it. This will help ensure the lucky person receives the dog he or she wants to have as part of the family.

  • 10. Add your pet to your gift list. Help your dogs stay occupied and out of the holiday decorations by giving them their own gifts. The Buster Cube™ or a Kong™, for instance, are both nearly indestructible and will distract your dog for long periods of time.

Some of these suggestions echo the concerns of Matthew Margolis, from last week's issue...but a little bit of repetition might keep these things from happening, right? This is the season for all things merry—and that includes our furry friends. Following these simple tips will help make the festivities safe and happy for our canine companions, too.


1) Most of you are aware of and have probably made use of the WebMD web site. Those folks have put together a nice summary of the 6 main signs of illness you might see in your dog or cat.

Pet Health: Pay Attention to Your Pet’s Symptoms
What our sick pets can't say in words, they'll demonstrate through physical symptoms and behavior changes.
"Dogs and cats can't tell us when something hurts or doesn't feel good. But the owners that see them every day will realize when they're not just being their regular selves," says Mark Stickney, DVM, director of general surgery services at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. "Any change in your pet's behavior from what it normally does is a reason to see your veterinarian."
Pay special attention to cat health, says Julie Meadows, DVM, assistant professor for clinical medicine in community practice at the University of California-Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Cats are less likely to show owners that they're sick, and owners may be less attentive to them because they are more independent.
To help you know what to look for, WebMD asked several experts to provide six "red flags" that should prompt a call or visit to the veterinarian about your pet's health. And as always, if you are concerned about anything at all, reach out to your vet.

1. Vomiting or Diarrhea
Cats and dogs vomit on occasion, often without being seriously ill. "A puppy who's eating and playful and has been outside eating leaves and junk and vomits and then goes back about his life" doesn’t worry Meadows much, she says.
But a pet that vomits, especially several times in one day, acts lethargic, and lacks appetite needs a veterinarian's attention, according to experts.
Another serious pet symptom: blood in the vomit or throwing up digested blood that looks like coffee grounds. Gastric ulcers can cause bloody vomit, and so can swallowing a foreign object that irritates the stomach. Veterinarians tell WebMD that they have treated dogs and cats that have gulped down sharp bones, socks, underwear, mittens, towels, string, tinsel, corn cobs, fish hooks, and toy soldiers.
"I had a dog swallow a steak knife right off the table, like a sword swallow," says Sandra Sawchuk, DVM, clinical instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine.
Vomiting or diarrhea can stem from many other causes, too, including gastrointestinal illnesses or parasite infections that include hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, or giardia, Stickney says.
Blood in the stool is also a warning sign that a pet needs to see the vet.
To prevent human exposure to parasites, such as hookworms and roundworms, Meadows suggests regular de-worming of pets. That's especially important if anyone in the household has a weakened immune system, such as from HIV or AIDS, or if small children play in areas where pets defecate.

2. Lack of Appetite or Decreased Activity
These two pet symptoms are vague, but if they persist, a veterinarian should check for causes. Dogs and cats stop eating for a host of reasons, including fever, pain, or stress. "A reduced or absent appetite, especially if it lasts for more than 24 hours, is a reason to bring your animal to the veterinarian," says John Randolph, DVM, diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and professor of medicine at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Typically, cats suffer more dire consequences when they stop eating, according to Sawchuk. "A dog may be a picky little snit and doesn't eat his dinner because he's waiting for human food," she says. "With cats, you've got to be real careful because if they just even go a couple of days without eating, especially an overweight cat, they can develop fatty liver." In this potentially fatal disease, excessive accumulation of fat in the liver can cause liver failure. A cat that stops eating should see a vet promptly because fatty liver can be treated.
What about this pet symptom: the cat or dog whose energy level drops? "It's just one of those very vague things that tell us that something is not right," Sawchuk says. Many things can cause lethargy, including major problems, such as heart disease.
A pet whose lethargy can't be pinned on an obvious reason, such as from an extra-long run at the dog park, may need to visit the vet, especially if other symptoms arise, such as change in exercise tolerance, weakness, collapse or loss of consciousness.

3. Urinating More or Less Frequently
As Mitchell discovered with Monty, excessive thirst and urination might spell diabetes. But increased urination may also signal liver or kidney disease or adrenal gland disease.
With increased urination, housebroken pets might start wetting inside the house. Or a dog that usually sleeps through the night suddenly needs nocturnal bathroom trips, Meadows says. An owner might notice, too, that he or she is filling the water bowl more often.
In contrast, too little urination, or straining to urinate, often signals a urinary tract infection or bladder stones. These are urgent reasons, especially for cats, to see the vet, Meadows says. "Cats can get an accumulation of crystals in the bladder or stones in the bladder that create bladder inflammation and can cause blood in the urine." In male cats, this can plug up the urethra so that the cat can't urinate, which can become life-threatening within 24 hours.
"It's a hard thing to pick up because the only thing you might see is the cat making multiple trips to the litter box and just sitting there," Meadows says. Or cats that strain to urinate might change their habits and start urinating outside of their litter box, for example, into the sink or on bedding and furniture.
Sawchuk, who lives in Wisconsin, says that with the first snowfall, many people will report that their dogs have bloody urine. The problem may have existed for a while, but the owners didn’t notice, Sawchuk says. "And now, [the urine] is in the snow and it’s pink, so we get a lot of phone calls."

4. Coughing
"Coughing, especially if it's persistent, is one of those pet symptoms that need to be evaluated," Sawchuk says. Chronic coughing may be related to heart disease, heartworms, or lung diseases.
Or a dog may have kennel cough, an infectious tracheobronchitis that causes a harsh, hacking cough. For most dogs, kennel cough is mild -- a nuisance that goes away within two weeks, Sawchuk says. But for puppies, kennel cough can progress to fatal pneumonia.
Also, kennel cough may be more serious for dog breeds with pushed-in faces, such as boxers, bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers, Sawchuk says. Their unusual head anatomy can compromise their respiratory systems and create breathing difficulties.
If a puppy or dog with kennel cough develops more serious symptoms, such as fever, nasal discharge, loss of appetite, lethargy, or a productive cough, it may be getting pneumonia.
While any lasting cough should come to a veterinarian's attention, owners can also take protective measures by vaccinating their dogs against some of the organisms that cause kennel cough.
Owners should also tell a vet about persistent sneezing or discharge from the eyes, ears or nose. Also, "any animal that has difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, or choking -- those are all reasons to seek veterinary help," Randolph says.

5. Hair Loss or Itchy Skin
Fleas, ticks, mange mites, and ear mites are common reasons for hair loss and itching on the skin or around the ears. When cats or dogs have ear mites or yeast infections, they may scratch at itching ears and have "brown, crumbly discharge in the ears," Sawchuk says.
But hair loss or itchy skin may also result from endocrine problems, staph infections, fungal or yeast infections, and a host of other causes, Sawchuk says. "We make our diagnosis by sometimes collecting samples of hair and the superficial debris on the skin," she adds, "or sometimes doing laboratory testing to look for hormonal problems or culturing if we're worried about fungal infections and things like that."

6. Stiffness, Lameness, or Difficulty With Rising
Pets that suffer stiffness, lameness, inability to bear weight on one leg, or trouble rising from the ground may have hip or spine arthritis, disc disease, ruptured ligaments, or hip dysplasia. Tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease, can also cause arthritis.
In hip dysplasia, the hip joint develops abnormally, leading to degenerative joint disease. Big dogs, such as German shepherds, Labradors, and golden retrievers, are more likely to be affected. "The larger dogs tend to have more problems with inherited joint problems, like hip dysplasia and shoulder and elbow dysplasia that can result in them developing arthritis as they age," Sawchuk says. "A lot of little dogs also will get arthritis, but because they tend to be carried around a little more and pampered and not asked to do the same things that large dogs are, it may not be quite as evident to the owner."
Besides pain and stiffness, arthritis can result in other nasty consequences. For example, long-haired dogs that are unable to get up may urinate on themselves and end up with maggot infestations in their fur during warm weather, Meadows says.
When a dog has trouble getting up from the ground "it's one of those things that families just accept as a sign of aging," Meadows says. But "we know dogs get arthritis in their knees, hips, and lower back, and we have so many tools to manage that and keep the quality of their life and the quality of their mobility really excellent."
Treatments range from glucosamine and NSAIDs to exercise, physical therapy, and surgery.

2) OK, now for the connection to... "Hitchin' A Ride" .... Watch this short video: , then take a close look at this up close and personal photo:

Yes, this is a...FLEA! Anybody with a dog or cat has almost certainly had the joy of learning that a flea or two (or a hundred) has taken up residence on your pet. In the 27 July 2008 issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye discussed the life cycle of the flea and the conditions under which fleas will thrive. The importance of continuing the discussion about fleas at this time of the year arises from the simple fact that this is when fleas will have to "Hitch A Ride" aboard your pet indoors to escape their death from winter's cold temperatures outdoors. We're not insinuating that fleas "know" they have to do this but, the ones who do "Hitch A Ride" will be the ones to survive and pass on their flea legacy right there in the warm comfort of your pet's favorite chair or blanket! If you have been properly taking care of flea control, this scenario may not be playing out in your household as we speak. However, if you've been neglecting even one part of the control formula, then you will most likely have this to look forward to over the winter (examples of flea allergy dermatitis, the most common skin problem in dogs and cats over much of the USA):

Dog (Above)

Cat (Right)

...and, if you're real lucky, this could be your arm:

So, instead of allowing a colony of fleas to start building condos on the body of your dog and/or cat so that they can spend their winter in a "warm" climate, now is the time to be aggressive with your flea control program. There are three parts to any flea control program and all three must be done for the overall program to be successful. Think of this as three battles that must be won in order to win the war. The battles that must be fought are:

  1. On your pet--There are numerous products available for killing fleas on your pet's body or for repelling them. These include shampoos, flea collars, sprays, powders, topical applications, and medicines to be given by mouth. All of these products have different levels of potency, as well as different levels of potential toxicity for your pet.

  2. Your pet's environment (Indoors)--Many products are labeled for usage in the house, such as flea mists, flea bombs, and powders. As with all chemicals, care must be taken to assure the safety of your family and your pets. Non-chemical treatments that help win this battle include washing all of the pet's bedding and vacuuming frequently wherever the pet spends its time (this also involves your sofas/chairs, throw pillows, and down between the cushions,)...anywhere that fleas can gain a foot-hold.

  3. Your pet's environment (Outdoors)--This will usually be the source of any re-infestation of fleas. Think of it as the external flea supply depot. There are a lot of chemicals that are recommended for treating your pet's outdoor habitat, mostly in the form of sprays, granules, and powders. Again, toxicity is a major concern when using any of these products.

Now is the time to have a serious conversation with your veterinarian about your flea problem. They will listen to your description of your situation and then give you a suggested list of treatments that best fit your circumstances. You must remember that all three phases of the treatment plan have to be as effective as possible for you to have any success in the fight to control fleas. Even the best laid plans might not work perfectly at first, so it's important to be thorough and repetitive in your effort. If you get the right combination of treatments now and hit the ground running in the spring with the same treatments, you should be well ahead in the fight to control fleas. Hopefully, the only time you'll be humming this tune, "Hitchin' A Ride," will be the next time you hear the song on an oldies station!


1) Another situation that seems to happen with increasing frequency during colder or unsettled weather is a cat (or a wildlife species) climbing up onto the warm engine block of your vehicle to get out of the elements. They may even go to sleep in the relatively comfortable surroundings. Then, you get into the vehicle, turn on the ignition, and maybe hear a frightening, screeching yelp. Sometimes, the suction from the turning engine fan will pull the animal down into the blades of the fan and those results aren't ever pretty! These animals can be cut in two, have a limb severed, or, if they're lucky, only end up with scrapes and cuts (and a frightening memory). A good way to prevent this from happening is to make some noise when getting into your vehicle--bang on the hood a couple of times, talk loudly, close your door loudly, toot the horn, and wait a few seconds before turning on the ignition. That should be enough to dislodge and scare away even the most reluctant guest!

Last year, Desperado drove home from across town and pulled her vehicle into the garage. I closed the garage door and opened the hood in order to check the oil. There, sitting right on top of the engine block was an Abert's Squirrel, one of our local species, staring back at me, wide-eyed! It had obviously survived the 7-mile ride (a wild one, no doubt, knowing Desperado,)perhaps using up one of his "extra" lives. Don't count on being that lucky with one of your cats...make some noise!

2) Americans will spend $43.4 billion on pets in 2008, the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) estimates — more than double what they spent a little more than a decade ago. Fueling that growth are high-end product and service purchases, such as pet spas, daycares, and luxury gifts for dogs and cats, according to the association. Another fast-growing segment is pet health insurance. “Our pets are being treated like members of the family,” said Bob Vetere, president of APPMA. “Pet owners want to protect themselves and their pets against unexpected medical expenses.” More than 2 million pet owners currently have a pet insurance policy. By 2010, however, APPMA estimates that 5 to 7 percent of all pet owners will carry a pet insurance card. The aging baby boomer population is filling their homes with pets as kids move on and out, building their own families, a trend which is contributing to the change in the pet industry, Vetere said. “For empty-nesters, pets are filling a void in their lives, and they’re showing their appreciation to their pets,” he said. For 2007, the break-down of dollars spent per category was as follows (in $Billion):

  • Food--16.2

  • Supplies and over-the-counter medicines--9.8

  • Veterinary care--10.1

  • Live animal purchases--2.1

  • Other services--3.0 for a total of $41.2 Billion

Current projections for 2008 are:

  • Food--16.9

  • Supplies and OTC medicines--10.3

  • Veterinary care--10.9

  • Live animal purchases--2.2

  • Other services--3.2 for a total of $43.5 Billion

Whether or not the faltering economy will affect the projected numbers for 2008 remains to be seen. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the pet industry is now the seventh largest retail segment in the country. That's a lot of dollars and a big business!

3) One last segment of advice on the pros and cons of pet insurance is provided in this short video from MSN Money:


Helpful Buckeye saw a friend with one of these this past week. It is a digital photo keychain that holds up to about 50 of your favorite photos and my friend had a nice selection of his favorite photos of his dogs. It's a pretty nice deal for just under $10....


NSAID--noun; acronym for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug; non-steroidal meaning it is not a cortisone, prednisone or dexamethasone (which are the most commonly used cortico-steroids) derivative. Some of the more frequently used NSAIDs are Etogesic, Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Metacam, Zubrin, Previcox, and Novox, which are all labeled for use in dogs. However, your veterinarian may use a modified dosage of some of these for cats as well.


1) In addition to the digital photo keychain described above, there are some "Plush and Practical" pet items available at: This article is from The USA Today this past week. For a dog that goes hiking with you, you might be interested in the "Sherpa Pack" so that Fido can carry his/her own food and water! Of course, everything you spend for these products will go into the bottom line for the pet industry, as previously discussed.

2) To help you get a little further into the spirit of the holidays, enjoy this rendition of White Christmas by a bunch of cats: I know my friend Ken is dreaming of a white Christmas, as long as it's somewhere else! However, according to National Weather Service data, Flagstaff has a 53% chance of snow on the ground Christmas day and 28% chance of snowfall actually occurring. Sorry, buddy!

3) Judging from your responses, several of you must have enjoyed the video last week of the "crazy" dogs! For you, here is what seems to be a logical follow-up to it (I especially like the Chihuahua at the very beginning)...Enjoy "Release the Hounds":

4) Purely from an animal interest point of view (although there is a cat involved peripherally,) take a look at this video of the annual invasion of red crabs onto Christmas Island, NW of Australia: Then, enjoy an older rendition of the song, Christmas Island, by the Andrews Sisters:

5) Apparently, some people have run out of normal things to do with their dogs and cats. Check out these pictures:

Is one of these "paint jobs" in your future?

6) Yesterday, 6 DEC (1920)...Dave Brubeck celebrated his 88th birthday. He and Vince Guaraldi were the first two jazz pianists Helpful Buckeye really appreciated back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Listen to Dave Brubeck's classic "Take Five," one of the first jazz tunes to make it on the Billboard Hot 100 of popular music back in 1961:


The Pittsburgh Steelers were flummoxed and embarrassed today by the Dallas "Cryboys" for the first 3 quarters of the game. Then, we scored 17 points late in the 4th quarter to win 20-13! We really needed our hardhats today!!!


"They say misery loves company, but the same might be even more true of happiness. In a study published online Thursday in the British Medical Journal, scientists from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego, showed that happiness spreads readily through social networks of family members, friends and neighbors. Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3 percent more likely to be happy yourself, the study found. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8 percent, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6 percent boost." This excerpt is from an article in the LA Times, by Karen Kaplan, :,0,5056607.story Especially around the Holiday Season, we all need to take advantage of the happiness that surrounds us. Happiness begets more happiness!

If you don't partake in this sharing of happiness, you may be the person referred to in this quote (and, then, woe be unto you!): "People who hate cats, will come back as mice in their next life." - Faith Resnick

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

Sunday, November 30, 2008



Many of our readers may have expressed this very sentiment after their big Thanksgiving feast. Share with actor Peter Boyle as he utters this now famous lament in a recent ad for Alka Seltzer:

Hopefully, all of you made it home safely, if you were driving. Secondly, Helpful Buckeye expects (wishfully) that none of you overindulged in the feast, nor did any of you go beyond the boundaries set for you in last week's blog issue as to what you could feed your pets! If you haven't had to make an emergency visit to your veterinarian in the past 3 days for a gastrointestinal upset in your dog, then pat yourself on the back for either being truly judicious or very lucky. Remember all the lessons you learned from last week's blog because there will be many more of these type meals between now and New Year's Day...that's why it's called Holiday Season!

Regrets after a big meal, like the Thanksgiving feast, can include Peter Boyle's lament, our readers wishing they had pushed away from the table a little sooner, pet owners being sorry they fed the wrong thing to their dog, and this possible scene from a New Yorker cartoon:

Helpful Buckeye would like to thank all of you who have either sent in an e-mail or entered a comment at the end of a blog issue during the past 2 weeks! You have sent questions, ideas for topics, interesting videos you have seen, and some good constructive criticism...all of which will be incorporated into future issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats. Also, there have been several new readers who were referred to this blog by some of our faithful readers, and for that, Helpful Buckeye is also very thankful. The more readers we have and the more we exchange ideas, the better this blog will be! Remember, the easiest way to make a comment is to send an e-mail: or click on "Post a Comment" at the end of each blog issue and follow the simple instructions.


1) The American Veterinary Medical Association has just issued this news release about an interesting program at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, in Blacksburg, VA:

Billy the Kid just shot two deputies, has escaped from prison, and is making his getaway on horseback. How far can he expect his horse to go—and at what speed? To provide a realistic answer, a production crew from The History Channel visited the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center at the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine this fall.
They filmed a horse going through her paces on a high-speed treadmill. The film footage will be used in "Real Cowboys," a six-part television series which is slated to air in early 2009.

2) Hardly a month goes by without reading or hearing of a story about a long-lost pet being reunited with its owner because of a microchip providing the clue. The story this week comes from New Jersey:

Missing dog found after almost 5 years ----------PLEASANTVILLE, N.J. - A Pleasantville, N.J., family said their pet dachshund, which went missing nearly five years ago, has been found by a Pittsburgh animal shelter. Edna Colon, 18, said her mother, Elda Arguello, received a letter from the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania informing her that the male dachshund, named Tootsie, was found as a stray in Pittsburgh. The shelter tracked a microchip implanted in the animal back to Arguello and her family, WPVI-TV, Philadelphia, reported Monday. Colon said several members of the family planned to travel to Harrisburg, Pa., for a reunion with their long-lost pet, who was about 6 months old when he went missing from Arguello's yard nearly five years ago. "We appreciate the Animal Rescue League. If not for them and the microchip, we would never have seen Tootsie again. Because (the Animal Rescue League) understands animal lovers, they did all that they could to find us. We are so thankful to (the organization) and their work to get Tootsie back to our family," Colon said.

Helpful Buckeye will continue to include these stories as a nudging reminder of how important it is for pet owners to be able to have their lost pet be properly identified. A very simple implantation of a microchip will accomplish this....

3) From the Arizona Daily Sun, comes this story about pseudorabies, a viral disease normally associated with pigs:

Colo. hunting ranch quarantined over animal disease Saturday, November 29, 2008 GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) -- State officials have quarantined a western Colorado hunting ranch after 14 feral hogs tested positive for pseudorabies, a contagious disease that can threaten commercial swine herds, wildlife and pets. For the rest of the story, go to:

Unfortunately, dogs and cats which are exposed to this Herpes virus can develop very serious damage to the central nervous system and die suddenly. The virus does not cause illness in humans. It will be interesting to learn if this outbreak causes any further problem in that part of Colorado.

4) Medical researchers in Atlanta have found a way to be able to predict the amount of immunity provided by a vaccine without actually testing it on a group of subjects:

ATLANTA (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say they've discovered a way to predict how successful vaccines would be in triggering immune responses. In the first-ever study of this type, researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Emory Vaccine Center at Emory University said they used immunology, genomics and bioinformatics to predict a vaccine's immunity without exposing individuals to infection -- a long-standing challenge in the development of vaccines. The team, using the yellow fever vaccine as a model, wanted to determine why the vaccine -- one of the most successful vaccines ever -- was so effective so they could design equally effective new vaccines against global pandemics and emerging infections, the Atlanta university said in a news release. "A single shot of the (yellow fever) vaccine induces immunity in many people for nearly 30 years," said Bali Pulendran, lead Yerkes researcher and professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine. "Despite the great success of the yellow fever vaccine, little has been known about the immunological mechanisms that make it effective." Pulendran said the team, using several lines of study, identified distinct gene signatures that were correlated to the antibody response induced by the vaccine. To determine whether the gene could predict immune response, "we vaccinated a second group of individuals and were able to predict with up to 90 percent accuracy which of the vaccinated individuals would develop" immunity to yellow fever.

Since both human and animal vaccines are formulated and produced in much the same manner, this news also means progress in the development of vaccines for your pets.

5) The AVMA has revised its policy on ear cropping and tail docking:

Schaumburg, Ill.
— The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Executive Board voted to strengthen association policy on two practices common in certain breeds of dogs—ear cropping and tail docking.
The revised AVMA policy states: "The AVMA opposes ear cropping and tail docking of dogs when done solely for cosmetic purposes. The AVMA encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards."
"For many years the AVMA has acknowledged that ear cropping and tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes are not medically indicated nor of benefit to our canine patients," explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. "Our latest policy revision doesn't represent a change in perspective, but, rather, makes that perspective clear with a stronger statement."
The AVMA decided to adjust its policy on tail docking and ear cropping after a scheduled review of an existing policy. The review included an analysis of scientific literature and available data, an assessment of the practical experience of veterinarians, and deliberations by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee.
"Why we perform certain procedures is one of the first questions we ask. Once that question is answered, committee members look at any associated welfare concerns," explains Dr. Gail Golab, director of the AVMA Animal Welfare Division. "'Cosmetic' implies the basis for these procedures is to alter the dog's appearance. Welfare risks identified included those associated with surgical procedures, i.e., anesthetic complications, pain, blood loss and infection. In the committee's opinion, the risk-benefit analysis supports professional opposition to performing these procedures for purely cosmetic reasons."
In recommending policy revisions, the committee was careful to distinguish ear cropping and tail docking performed for cosmetic reasons from procedures performed for therapeutic or preventive purposes. "If it can be responsibly demonstrated that the purpose of performing the procedure is to protect the health and welfare of the dog, then of course the Association would support the appropriate surgery," said Dr. DeHaven.

For those readers not familiar with these surgical procedures, ear cropping refers to the surgical removal of part of the ear flap in order to make the ear stand erectly, while tail docking refers to the surgical shortening of the tail. Certain breeds of dogs have been associated with these procedures: Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, and Schnauzers.

The American Kennel Club, which maintains the standards by which pure bred dogs are judged, has provided a response to this position:

New York, NY (November 21, 2008) -- The American Kennel Club® was advised this week of the AVMA's newly amended policy on ear cropping and tail docking following its adoption by the AVMA Executive Board at the recommendation of their Committee on Animal Welfare on November 15, 2008.
Historically, the AKC has worked closely with the AVMA to ensure that the rights of individual dog owners, and breed standards, remain protected. However, the AKC was very disappointed to not have been consulted regarding this latest iteration of the policy, despite having been in frequent contact with the AVMA in recent months.
At a joint meeting this Wednesday AKC explained to the AVMA that we recognize ear cropping and tail docking, as prescribed in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character, enhancing good health, and preventing injuries. These breed characteristics are procedures performed to insure the safety of dogs that on a daily basis perform heroic roles with Homeland Security, serve in the U.S. Military and at Police Departments protecting tens of thousands of communities throughout our nation as well as competing in the field.
Mislabeling these procedures as "cosmetic" is a severe mischaracterization that connotes a lack of respect and knowledge of history and the function of purebred dogs. Breed standards are established and maintained by AKC Parent Clubs (each of the 158 AKC registered breeds is stewarded by a breed-specific Parent Club) keeping foremost in mind the welfare of the breed and the function it was bred to perform.
As a not for profit organization that has been devoted to the advancement and welfare of dogs for 125 years, the AKC believes that all dog owners bear a special responsibility to their canine companions to provide proper care and humane treatment at all times and that responsible dog owners, in consultation with their veterinarian, have the right to make decisions regarding appropriate care and treatment of their pets.
AKC's policy on the issue, which remains unchanged, states:
The American Kennel Club recognizes that ear cropping, tail docking, and dewclaw removal, as described in certain breed standards, are acceptable practices integral to defining and preserving breed character and/or enhancing good health. Appropriate veterinary care should be provided.

It is not difficult to see that there is a difference of opinion between the AVMA and the AKC about these procedures. Most veterinarians have long ago admitted their own reluctance to do these procedures, for humane reasons. Helpful Buckeye doesn't know how this difference of opinion will ultimately be played out, except to say that the court of public opinion usually gets its own way in the end. How do most of you feel about this subject? Send an e-mail with your opinion to: and we'll see where your consensus lies.


1) What do these pictures have in common?

They all have something to do with how we measure ourselves and our pets (the dog weighing scale photo is from )....which brings us to this week's main topic of Obesity and Your Pet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have estimated that a little more than 1/3 (about 35%) of the adult human population of the USA is obese. Current estimates for pets are that almost 40% of all dogs and cats in the USA are either overweight or obese.

There are a few diseases that can actually cause your pet to become overweight, the two most common being hypothyroidism (underproduction of thyroid hormone) and Cushing's Disease (overproduction of ACTH by the pituitary gland). In addition, certain breeds of dogs and cats are predisposed genetically to weight gain. However, the most common contribution to weight gain in pets is by far the overindulgence of their owners, either by over-feeding or feeding the wrong kind of food. First of all, if the owners don't have the proper discipline for their own weight considerations, they probably won't have any better regard for controlling their pet's weight. Secondly, even if owners try to do the right thing, they tend to sometimes "feel sorry" for their pets and give them too many unnecessary, calorie-filled treats. Most pet owners either don't realize or don't accept that they are solely responsible for their pet's diet, and thus, their pet's overall health. As Dr. Jennifer Brinson, veterinarian and researcher on obesity in pets at the University of Illinois, says, "Pets don't choose what or how much to eat. Owners dictate the animal's diet and how much they get. People food, table scraps, and fast-food take-out should not be options. There are dietary treats that are good for pets that will also satisfy the owner's need to indulge the pet." Helpful Buckeye used to remind his clients that dogs and cats couldn't open the refrigerator door. Since your pets cannot prepare their own food, they are at the full mercy of what you give them. Excess weight is easier to prevent than to lose. Proper adjustments to your pet's diet and amount of exercise should be made early in its life so that any problem with obesity can be avoided. Your veterinarian will advise the best diet for your pet's particular needs, whether maintaining its normal weight or attempting to lose weight. Exercise is something that requires regularity and structure, both of which most humans find difficulty in honoring in their own schedules. Pets are best exercised by playing with them. Take your dog for walks; play throw and fetch; give the cat toys it likes to chase. If your cat follows you up and down the stairs, then do the stairs repeatedly. By and large, if the owner is unwilling to exercise, then the pet won't get any exercise either.

Of course, "walking the dog" can mean different things to different people. Some people walk without "walking the dog" ...and some people pretend they've gone walking and the dog feels cheated, from The New Yorker:

Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. sponsors the web site,, which has numerous videos illustrating how both dog and cat owners can get exercise for themselves at the same time as exercising their pets: . The videos (9 for dogs and 5 for cats) are done by a personal and pet trainer and are full of great exercises for humans and their pets.

Pets which have been over-indulged either with too many treats or the wrong kind of food run the risk of making many pre-existing problems worse by becoming obese. Obesity tends to make:

  • diabetes more difficult to manage.

  • torn ligaments more common, due to the animal's disproportionate size and the fact that they don't have the muscle tone to balance and support the extra weight.

  • arthritis worse because of the extra load of weight on the arthritic joints.

  • a physical exam more difficult by masking heart and lung sounds and interfering with the palpation of abdominal organs.
The AVMA has produced a very informative podcast, entitled "The Perils of Pudgy Pets," which you can listen to at:

The main point that Helpful Buckeye wants to leave you with is that you, the pet owner, must show some restraint in how you lavish affection on your pet. Remember, love for your pet is NOT spelled..."T-R-E-A-T." Don't let yourself get caught up in the sentiment of this cartoon from The New Yorker:

Another important topic that goes hand-in-hand with obesity in pets is pet nutrition. Pet owners actually spend more money each year on pet food than they do on veterinary care. Some of this is money well spent, while some of it would be better directed if the pet owners knew a little more about their dog and/or cat's nutritional needs. Helpful Buckeye will help guide you through this mine field of correct vs. incorrect food choices for your pets in an upcoming issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

Any comments, send an e-mail to:


1) Helpful Buckeye discussed some of the things pet owners must be aware of as sources of trouble for pets around the "Holidays" in last week's issue. Also, it was pointed out by the AVMA that President-Elect Obama had made the smart decision to wait until after his inauguration to look for a new "First Dog." The Holiday trouble sources for pets are difficult enough to deal with when you have a mature pet which has been in the household for some time, let alone trying to bring a new puppy or kitten into the hoopla of the Holidays. For one person's take on why this is a no-no, read the opinion of Matthew Margolis, Dog trainer, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" : Warm and cute. Wide-eyed and innocent. Peering out of a box once tied with a big red bow. Who wouldn't want a puppy for Christmas? But that's not the question. The question is: Who's a good candidate to receive such a gift? The problem with holiday puppies has everything to do with the holidays. It's a chaotic time, and puppies need stability and routine. They require significant one-on-one attention, which is hard to give while prepping hors d'oeuvres, filling glasses and basting a turkey. And it's even harder to give en route from JFK to LAX with a connecting at O'Hare. Holiday travel simply leaves no time for puppy. But even for those staying put for the holiday season, the home itself is often turned on its head, filled with strange people coming and going, doors opening and closing, lights blinking, candles burning, cords tangled up behind that irresistible glowing tree playing host to a cornucopia of bite-sized glass ornaments. All dangerous for puppy. People who give the gift of a puppy often have their hearts in the right place. In many ways, a puppy embodies the spirit of Christmas: hopeful, playful, joyful, and full of life and love. But a puppy isn't merchandise that can be returned like a lamp. A dog of any age is a living, breathing, sensitive creature that demands and deserves the time and attention it takes to make him a welcome and permanent member of the family. The frenetic nature of most households during the time leading up to Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's in no way lends itself to the essential introductory and bonding period that forms the foundation of the human-canine relationship. Strike one. Then there's housebreaking. If the dog owner is consumed with cleaning, cooking, shopping and wrapping, the dog probably isn't steeped in the Feed-Water-Walk system that leads to successful housebreaking. Strike two. And from a motivational standpoint, if it's 28 degrees outside, it's that much more unappealing to get up and take a puppy out two or three times between sundown and sunrise. Strike three. Why don't people give puppies for the Fourth of July? The reality is that many -- far too many -- holiday puppies are returned to pet stores or abandoned in shelters come January. This being the case, the description of the best candidate to receive a puppy for Christmas looks something like: -- has very few friends -- has no travel plans -- received minimal party invitations -- loves freezing walks in the dead of night -- hates holiday decorations, doesn't open the door to carolers, and refuses to buy or bake sweets of any kind, but especially those containing chocolate. Lucky pooch. All that considered, a puppy is still a personal choice. Not everyone wants one. Not everyone can take care of one. And those who want and are able to care for one will also want to be involved in the process of finding their perfect pup. This year, instead of giving an actual puppy, why not give a puppy starter kit to someone you suspect might really love to have a dog? The kit could include a few books or videos on dog training, a soft chew toy, a blanket, a crate with good visibility, and a gift certificate for a trip to a shelter or rescue on you -- or any combination of the above! In the end, if it turns out that puppy person is actually a cat person, no harm done. Everything in the box wrapped with the big red bow is as it should be -- merchandise that can be returned.

Sounds like the perfect advice to Helpful Buckeye!

2) In addition to the stress of the Holidays and how it affects your pets, there are other stressors to be aware of when it comes to cats. Dr. C.A. "Tony" Buffington, professor of veterinary clinical sciences at The Ohio State University Veterinary Hospital, discusses how environmental stressors on indoor cats may contribute to lower urinary tract disease and other illnesses. Studies have determined that cats are highly sensitive to their surroundings, and stimuli that appear to be innocuous to a pet owner can be considered a threat by the cat. For instance, cats are not a pack species, Dr. Buffington explained, and cats in a multicat household may experience harmful stress if they are unable to exercise control over their environment, such as spending time away from other cats. "The consensus seems to be that cats appear to benefit from appropriate access to resources, control of interactions with owners, and a tolerable intensity of conflict," Dr. Buffington said. He recommended that veterinarians educate cat owners about their pet's needs and that cats be provided with adequate access to food and water, scratching objects, resting areas, and litter box. (from AVMA and American Association of Feline Practitioners)

If any of you cat owners aren't sure about your cat's needs, perhaps it's time to have that conversation with your veterinarian?

3) The AKC is conducting a survey to determine how much, if any, the present economy is affecting how pet owners are making monetary decisions about their pets. You can find this survey at: Go ahead and participate in the survey...the results might be interesting! Helpful Buckeye will publish the results when they become available. If you happen to get what looks like the final page of the survey, simply click on the "previous" button to find the questions, then go ahead and answer them.

4) In the 12 OCTOBER 2008 issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, Helpful Buckeye presented an overview of the various brands of Pet Health Insurance available to pet owners. The topic generated a lot of e-mails and comments, as evidence that pet owners are considering these policies. The American Animal Hospital Association has recently made an endorsement of one particular plan that you may not have read about: SAN ANTONIO, Texas, September 17, 2008 – PurinaCare®, the first pet health insurance under the Purina brand, today announced it has been awarded the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) Seal of Acceptance for its policies with deductibles of $500 and $1,000. The acceptance seal was established by the AAHA to help increase pet owner education and awareness regarding the need to meet their financial responsibility for the care of their pets.
The Seal of Acceptance is awarded to pet insurance policies with high levels of deductibles of at least $500 that provide owners with the coverage they may need for major veterinary expenses. PurinaCare pet health insurance offers four different deductible levels: $100, $250, $500 and $1,000. There is a 20-percent co-pay once the annual deductible has been met.
“We are pleased to have been awarded the AAHA Seal of Acceptance for our high deductible policies,” said David Goodnight, D.V.M., president and chief operating officer of PurinaCare Insurance Services, Inc. “We share the AAHA’s commitment to helping ensure pet owners have the financial resources they need to care for their pets throughout their lifetimes, including the ability to pay for lifesaving catastrophic care or unexpected emergencies.”
Pet health insurance plans must meet a number of criteria in order to be awarded the AAHA Seal of Acceptance, including allowing the policy holder to seek care from a licensed veterinarian of his choosing. In addition, marketing, sales and promotional materials must include the availability of the $500 deductible (or higher) policy option.
PurinaCare offers two plans that are designed to help dog and cat owners take advantage of the latest advances in veterinary medicine with less worry about the financial implications. Both plans provide coverage for illness, injuries and accidents, hospitalization, surgery, prescription medications, and hereditary conditions. The PurinaCare plus Preventive Care plan is designed to encourage the use of routine preventive care by also covering certain customary annual costs of routine vaccinations, flea and heartworm preventative medications, routine annual physical exams and lab tests, and certain other preventive care as outlined in the policy. A complete list of coverage is available on
A subsidiary of American International Group, Inc. (AIG) is the issuer of the insurance policies and is registering the insurance offerings in every state. For the complete list of states in which PurinaCare is currently available and to obtain a free quote, pet owners can visit

A further review of this PurinaCare insurance product is available at:

The only potential concern for Helpful Buckeye on this offering would be the recent misfortunes of AIG, the parent company.

5) Our old friend, Mark Twain, had something important to say in reference to all this reading about health matters: "Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint."


Palpation--noun; the act of feeling with the hand; the application of the fingers with light pressure to the surface of the body for the purpose of determining the condition of the parts beneath in physical diagnosis.


Pet Safety Collar--....alerts motorists and other pedestrians...Features quick flashes, intermittent flashes, or constant light...can be seen from 1 mile away! Check it out at:


Peruvian Hairless--

This is one of the breeds being mentioned as a possible candidate for being the "First Dog," due to its supposed hypoallergenic traits. Not to be confused with the Xoloitzcuintli, seen below, the Peruvian Hairless does share some traits with the unpronounceable Mexican breed. The same gene that is responsible for the hairless nature of these breeds (and, consequently, their hypoallergenicity) is also responsible for them not having any of their premolars or molars. Needless to say, there aren't very many of either of these breeds found in the USA...which results in them being very expensive! Helpful Buckeye is still wrestling with the pronounciation of the Xolo.... Why isn't it just called a Mexican Hairless, the same as the one from Peru???


1) In the spirit of Thanksgiving, this past week there was a nice editorial opinion in The USA Today about the good work that is being done by humane societies, animal shelters, and animal rescuers. For a feel-good read, go to:

2) Also, this past week, there was a heart-warming story in The USA Today about small plane pilots who donate their services to help relocate homeless pets from a shelter where they will soon be euthanized to another location where they can be safely held until adoption. They refer to themselves as Pilots N Paws and they have flown several hundreds of pets on these missions of mercy. "Doggy kisses are worth the $6 a gallon," says Westminster, Md., businesswoman and small-plane pilot Michele McGuire. She was recently part of a two-leg rely that flew a 110-pound skin-and-bones Great Dane from Arab, Ala., where a rescue group saved it from euthanasia, to a new family in Baldwin, Mass. For the whole story, go to:

3) Helpful Buckeye has received this video of the "Talking Dogs" from several readers this past week, but Charee, in Virginia, was the first to send it. For those of you who haven't seen it, these dogs are much better "talkers" than those in various other videos! Take a look and see what you think: (then click on the black and white dog to start the video)

4) As a sort of follow-up to the smart dogs, we now have the "crazy" dogs. Almost as interesting as the action is the music accompanying this video: and be careful where you are standing!!!

5) A final fun video to watch was sent to Helpful Buckeye by Sara, in Virginia, and this one involves what is called, "The Slinky Cat." It appears that this cat has perhaps swallowed a Slinky (just joking, folks!)....

At this point, a quote from Henry David Thoreau about cats would be appropriate: "A kitten is so flexible that she is almost double; the hind parts are equivalent to another kitten with which the forepart plays. She does not discover that her tail belongs to her until you tread upon it."

6) Another AVMA podcast (audio only) presents an interesting picture of some of the differences between dog and cat owners. Listen and see if you agree or disagree with some of the observations:

7) The 24th of NOV marked the anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin, in 1859. The actual complete title was On the Origin of Species, by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life and it still stands today as one of the most significant pieces of scientific literature ever written.

8) Also, on the 24th of NOV 1874, Joseph Glidden received the first meaningful patent for the production of barbed wire. It was the introduction of barbed wire that made farming the Great Plains possible. Now, what does barbed wire have to do with dogs and cats, you say? Well, absolutely nothing, except that Helpful Buckeye vividly remembers touring a small un-air-conditioned barbed wire museum in McLean, Texas on a 103 degree the pleading request of Desperado, a true barbed wire aficionada!

9) The 26th of NOV (1922) was the birthday of Charles Schulz, the creator of Peanuts. As our readers will recall, Snoopy, one of the Peanuts characters, ran for President several weeks ago. One of Schulz's famous quotes was: "Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia."

10) The 30th of NOV (1835) was the birthday of our old friend Mark Twain, who later died in 1910. Twain was a great one for observations and appropriate quotes. Here are two pictures of him and his pets, along with quotes about each one:

"Entrance into Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in."- Mark Twain, A Biography

"One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives."- Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson


The Pittsburgh Steelers went into New England and soundly beat the Patriots today. That's only the second time in 9 games that we have beaten them! Hopefully, this momentum will carry over into next week, when we play Dallas in the Steel City.


My really good friend, Ken, who is currently recuperating, has a very different sense of winter than does Helpful Buckeye. We both really like's just that I like it here and he wants it somewhere else! So, as we head into the month of December, Helpful Buckeye would like to offer Ken this poem of hope, even as winter is approaching:

"I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December

A magical thing

And sweet to remember.

'We are nearer to Spring

Than we were in September,'

I heard a bird sing

In the dark of December."

- Oliver Herford, I Heard a Bird Sing

Hang in there, good buddy!!!

I guess you could say that Ken is a pessimist about winter, while Helpful Buckeye is an optimist. None other than Sir Winston Churchill gave us his view on this difference: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~