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.~~