Monday, December 27, 2010


In addition to the beginning of the Holiday Season this past week, we also experienced the shortest day of the year.  Desperado and Helpful Buckeye have always looked forward to the Winter Solstice, not so much because we are interested in celestial phenomena, but because we love knowing the days will be getting longer.

The first holiday weekend of celebration and feasting is now behind us, with the second weekend of similar festivities and eating staring us in the face.  As many of us start to realize that we will pay for all the eating, we need to remember that all this is nothing new.  Most of the time, holidays and feasting go together. This is especially true during the end of the year holidays that most cultures seem to have adopted. For example, in 1213, King John of England was said to have ordered about three thousand capons, one thousand salted eels, four hundred hogs, one hundred pounds of almonds, and twenty-four casks of wine (and a partridge in a pear tree?) for his court's Christmas dinner. Even though King John's descendants, Henry V of England and Charles VII of France, were at war at Christmas in 1415, Henry ordered food distributed to the people of Rouen, whose city his army had under siege.  So, even though this historic combination of celebration and feasting has been around for a long time, there's no reason why we can't all practice a little moderation...right?

Interestingly, most of our respondents (75%) last week felt that Michael Vick should be able to get a dog for his daughters...when the time is right.  Only 1/3 of you have had a ''senior" pet show signs of Cognitive Disorder Syndrome.  Most of you (80%) feel that you are now better prepared to handle an attacking dog situation.  Hopefully, you won't have to find out about your preparation.  About 3/4 of you reported being "fooled" by a dog wagging its tail.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.


1) There haven't been any pet food recalls for a while but, this past week, Kroger Co. has announced a large recall of their Old Yeller, Pet Pride, and Kroger Value brands of dog and cat food.  The possible culprit in this recall was a possible contamination of the food by aflatoxin, a mold sometimes found on corn.  For a complete list of the exact products and their lot numbers, go to:

2) You probably thought cat scratch fever was just a song or no big deal. But it turns out that a simple claw mark from the family feline can send you to the hospital, or worse.  The neighbor's dog, your kid's cat, and the fleas in the front yard could all have bartonella. And veterinarian Ed Breitschwerdt says that's bad news.  Read this informative update on a potentially nasty infection:

3) Results from a recent American Kennel Club holiday survey reveal that one of the most popular reasons (15%) that Fido is most likely to end up on Santa’s naughty list is for chewing up anything and everything. One person admitted that the family dog had chewed up "six cell phones, one camera, about 15 remote controls, and five pairs of sunglasses."

Interestingly enough, though, the family dog was the least likely to get coal in his stocking (6%). Respondents stated that the most likely would be themselves (46%), followed by their spouse (31%), then their kids (16%).

When it comes to who you spend the most money on during the holidays, 38% of respondents said their dog, beating out kids (36%) and spouse (26%), and if holiday expenses had to be cut back on this year, 55% of people would spend less on their spouse than their pooch. In fact, 78% plan on buying for other family members’ dogs, 66% plan on buying for friends’ dogs, and 15% plan on buying for their dog’s friends at the dog park.

In years past, some of the more extravagant gifts owners purchased for their dog have included memory foam beds, as well as fancy collars. One person bought "a red alligator skin collar with his [the dog’s] name in crystals, and a matching red skin leash."

Additional survey findings include:

• 91% of people include their dog in the family holiday card.
• 60% have taken Fido to see Santa and get his picture taken.
• 61% percent of respondents take the time to make their pup a special holiday meal.
• 42% of people said actually getting a seat at the dinner table would be on their dog’s wish list to Santa.

Considering that most of you have been really busy with holiday preparations, celebrations, visitors, and feasting, Helpful Buckeye has decided to keep this week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats a little more on the light side.  Still educational and informative, but not requiring so much of your undivided attention....

Enjoy this potpourri of dog and cat matters of interest:

1) From Confessions of a Pet Groomer, comes this report: Ah, I love the smell of wet dog in the morning! Twenty-two years ago, at the age of 34, I decided to switch careers and become Renee, the dog and cat groomer. I founded Pet-i-Care, my own dog and cat grooming salon in Buffalo, N.Y.  It was the best decision of my life!

I look forward to meeting my doggie customers every morning. It is a fun job, a rewarding job and -- sometimes -- even a dangerous job. If my "customers" aren't happy, they don't just complain, they can bite or scratch! But I've mostly been able to successfully read my animal clients' state of mind, cater to their moods and complete their beautifying grooming to their satisfaction and mine. And, oh yes, to their owners satisfaction, too.

I attended the now defunct M & M grooming school in Tonawanda, N.Y., in 1988. I didn't approve of the way the owner/instructor treated the animals, however, so I left before my graduation and finished my training in another groomer's shop.  I think most of the public assumes groomers are somehow certified, but they are not. Actually, there is no license or any kind of certification required to be a groomer anywhere in the United States, nor anywhere else -- which is a big bone of contention in the industry. There are several grooming schools in the United States where you can receive a certificate of graduation, but it doesn't really mean anything.  For the rest of this story, go to:

2) The myth: Cats purr because they are happy

The origin: This myth, like many others, doesn’t have a precise origin. It probably comes from the fact that most cats do purr in the presence of their owners when they are being petted, which we interpret as a sign of happiness.

The truth: Most cats do purr when they are happy. However, that is not the only time they purr. Cats will sometimes purr when they are sick, stressed, injured, frightened or in pain. They also can purr when they are giving birth, and even as they are dying. Purring seems to be more an expression of some strong emotion - whether positive or negative - than it is an expression of any particular emotion, including happiness. Purring by a cat might be similar to humming or whistling by a human: it commonly is done out of happiness, but it may also be done as a result of stress, fright or discomfort.

3) From a recent presentation on National Public Radio, The Evolvability Of Dogs: A Journey From Mongrels To Poodles, enjoy this discussion of the evolution of dogs:

Domestic dogs are the most morphologically variable of the modern mammals, differing along many axes (size, color, hair quality, tail length, etc.). They also display diverse inborn behavioral traits (retrieving, shepherding, etc.). Fossil evidence of dog-human cohabitation goes back 30,000 years, and genetic evidence indicates that most modern dogs descend from a wolf/dog domestication event that took place in central Asia.

Until recent times, these domesticated dogs were interbreeding “mutts,” moving across the planet with their journeying humans and probably on occasion back-crossing with wild wolves. And then, some 200 years ago, dog breeding was initiated in England, generating the highly inbred and distinctive lines we encounter today. The mongrels that the breeders started out with 200 years ago already harbored a great deal of genetic variety such that it was possible to generate stunningly different outcomes using the 300 different selection regimes that produced the 300 different breeds. Breeding programs can only yield as much variation as is harbored in the gene pool, and the dog gene pool proved to be a gold mine.

Since mutations yield novel genes or regulatory elements that can be subject to either natural or artificial selection, organisms with higher mutation rates are said to be more evolvable than organisms with lower mutation rates. Hence dogs are regarded as being highly evolvable.

So, wolves themselves, and probably canids in general, represent a long-standing evolvable lineage. Rodents prove to be a second evolvable lineage (think mouse vs. porcupine) whereas, except for size, a cat is pretty much a cat across the board.

The just-so story of the dog therefore goes something this: 30,000 years ago, an evolvable wolf group came to harbor key mutations that facilitated, however slightly at first, the capacity to be comfortable living around humans, perhaps retrieving game or manifesting some other valued trait in exchange for a reliable food supply, at which juncture the domestication game was on. When, much later, breeders started selecting for more exotic traits like long vs. short snouts, they tapped into the copious variability that was already present in the gene pool, and the breeding game was on.

And what about dog behavior? Dog behavioral traits are starting to be analyzed with modern genetic tools, but progress will be slower than for coat color given that many genes are involved in specifying behaviors. Here’s how a recent review concludes:

In the end, what will be the most difficult to understand is our own relationship with the dog. Unwavering loyalty, compassion, and blind adoration are not traits we can map with our genomic tools, and for now we must be content with that. In the words of American author, Margery Facklam, “We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare, and love we can spare. In return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made.

The whole text is available at:

4) Dr. Mary Burch, American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Director and Animal Behaviorist, answers this question about a dog having nightmares:

My dog, Duke, sometimes seems to have terrible nightmares. He moans and jerks around violently in his sleep and it is really distressing. I've read that owners should just let their dogs rest, but I don't want Duke to be scared or upset. Should I wake him up?

When your dog is thrashing around in his sleep, twitching, moving his back legs and yelping, you can't help but wonder what he's dreaming about. Is he chasing a bunny, fighting another dog, or giving a speech to an audience full of naked poodles?

Scientists tell us that dogs dream in a similar fashion to humans. And like us, they have critical periods of deep sleep. Dreams occur during the deep sleep phase, and even though Duke may not appear to be resting peacefully, he needs uninterrupted sleep. I would suggest not waking him unless the nightmares go on for long periods of time and he seems more tired than usual.

If you wake a dog who is in deep sleep, he could startle and bite you, or he may just look at you as though he's completely confused about why you're waking him. It's not clear that dogs remember dreams when they wake up.

If there is any question in your mind about Duke having a seizure, or nightmares of an intensity that can affect his well-being, videotape one of his dream sequences and show it to your veterinarian. But assuming that you've just got an active and vocal dreamer on your hands, make sure Duke is getting a healthy diet and exercise every day. And then let your sleeping dog catch some Z's.

5) Do your cats live outside? Or come in and out of the house? If your cat does spend a lot of time exploring the great outdoors, there are some concerns and dangers you should be aware of. A sad statistic is that the average lifespan of an outdoor cat is half as long as an indoor cat's.  According to Dr. Gregory Hammer, former American Veterinary Medical Association president, the dangers posed to outdoor cats fall under three categories: infection, trauma and parasites. The threat level of each of these risks can vary depending on your location (rural, urban, suburban, etc.), but unfortunately the risks are always significantly higher for outdoor cats.

Danger: Infection

The more contact your cat has with the outside world, the more likely it is to be exposed to some sort of infectious disease. "The most common diseases to watch out for are distemper, leukemia and upper respiratory infection from contact with other cats."  Contact with other neighborhood cats is a primary source for respiratory illnesses and feline leukemia, which is contagious between cats. More like HIV than the leukemia that affects humans, feline leukemia (FeLV) is an immuno-suppressive virus that infects the white blood cells. Yet another dangerous infection outdoor cats may be exposed to is, of course, rabies.

What you can do: The mantra here from Dr. Hammer is vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate. Many of the common infections that can threaten a cat's health -- like distemper, rabies and leukemia -- are preventable with simple vaccines. If you own an outdoor cat, it's imperative to keep these vaccinations current.

Danger: Trauma

Outdoor cats have a greater risk for traumatic injuries. These include, but aren't limited to cat bites, abscesses, dog attacks, and getting hit by cars. When you take these into account (especially car accidents), it's easy to see why the average lifespan of outdoor cats is so much lower.

What you can do: Perhaps the best way to combat these injuries is to focus on treatment. Abscesses are a fairly common result of a territory dispute between two rival cats. If your cat does sustain a wound due to a fight with another animal (even another cat), it's a good idea to have the wound checked out by a vet before it has a chance to get infected.

Danger: Parasites

Obviously, a cat that lives outdoors is more likely to come in contact with fleas, ticks, lice, and other pesky insects. However, a number of common parasitic threats are less easily detected, e.g. hookworms and roundworms. To make matters worse, many of these internal parasites are transferable to humans.

What you can do: The best chance you have to avoid parasites is by using preventative measures, such as flea-and-tick medications, as well as routine inspections. Dr. Hammer recommends monthly spot checks for external and internal parasites. External parasite checks are fairly straightforward. When it comes to internal parasites, it's probably best consult with your vet to come up with a workable strategy.

"There are a number of good products available," says Dr. Hammer, "The over-the-counter products can sometimes get the job done, but the prescription products are quite a bit stronger."

Are There Benefits to Letting Your Cat Go Outdoors?

Unfortunately, there aren't many clear advantages for letting your cats roam. "The bad things far outweigh the benefits, I'm afraid," says Hammer . "I've seen too many bad things happen to outdoor cats."

If your cat loves being outside, one option is to treat your cat more like a dog and train it to walk on a leash. "I have a number of clients that take their cat out in the backyard on a leash like a dog. That's perfectly safe," says Hammer.

6) You won't believe what the dog and cat did in 2010.  While owners' heads were turned, pets ingested (among many other things) Christmas ornaments, a tent door, a frisbee, a tampon, and a bikini, according to the Veterinary Pet Insurance Company.  The list of ingested items are as varied as they are astonishing.  VPI policyholders spent almost $3 million treating cats and dogs that ingested foreign objects in 2010.

Pet owners should never underestimate their pets' ability or desire to eat anything they can find.  Dirty diapers, money, eye glasses – or anything else on the ground, is fair game to a hungry or curious pet.

What other appalling objects did pets eat in 2010? A partial list follows:
  • jellyfish, glue, estrogen patch, make-up brush
  • tube of denture adhesive, dead poisoned vole
  • magnetic purse clasps, baseball, hearing aid
  • bed sheet, fishhook, watch, 16 steel wool pads
  • barbecue brush, jumper cables, razor blades
  • uncooked rice (1 pound), wallpaper paste
  • squirrel, balloon ribbons, bird (whole)
  • deer antler (partial), extension cord, pin cushion
  • TV remote control, foot-long submarine sandwich
  • fire log, wooden toy train, rosary crucifix
7) According to a recent survey by Career Builders, dog owners are more likely to hold senior management jobs, while snake and reptile owners are most likely to make six-figure salaries.  The Career Builder survey finds dog owners are more likely to be chief executive officers, chief financial officers or senior vice presidents. Also, dog owners tend to be professors, nurses, information technology professionals, military professionals and entertainers

Cat owners are more likely to be physicians, real estate agents, science/medical lab technicians, machine operators and personal caretakers.

Those who have birds as pets are more satisfied with their jobs. The survey finds bird owners are more likely to be advertising professionals, sales representatives, construction workers and administrative professionals.

Fish owners gravitate to positions in human resources, finance, hotels and leisure, farming and fishing and transportation.

Where do you fit in with this analysis?

8) New research has demonstrated that dogs can tell the size of another dog by listening to its growls. They are able to do this so accurately they can match the growl to a photograph of a dog of the same size.

Lead researcher Péter Pongrácz of the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary had previously demonstrated that dogs have different growls for different purposes, and have a specific "this is my bone" growl. The new study tried to determine if dogs could identify the size of another dog from its growl.

To read about the rest of the study, go to:

9) Alfredo Niño has spent months looking for the right dog for his family.  He found one: a yellow Labrador from Wisconsin.  After paying more than $3,000 for the dog, which is fully trained, has documented lineage and is neutered and vaccinated, his next challenge was getting it to Phoenix.  He didn't have time to fly and collect the dog, and the breeder wouldn't bring it.

But on a recent Friday at Mesa's Falcon Field Municipal Airport, Will, an 8-month-old, 100-pound Labrador, was among five furry passengers arriving in the climate-controlled cabin of a small airplane used only to carry pets.  About 18 months ago, Pet Airways, the first pet airline launched in the U.S., took its first flight. Since then, the airline has caught the attention of pet owners across the country, a constituency willing to spend to fly their animals in style.  Falcon Field is the airline's sixth hub, with flights on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The Florida-based company is seeking to fill a niche created by pet owners who dread having their animals travel in the cargo hold of a plane.  More than 2 million pets are estimated to travel by cargo and other carriers annually. But owners are not always comfortable with the accommodations.

For more information on Pet Airways, go to:

10) Helpful Buckeye has saved the best for last.  What would a dog do if it wanted something special for Christmas and decided to take matters into its own...mouth?  Check out this video and see if you think any further action should be taken:


A dog in Germany has given birth to 17 puppies, leaving their owner thrilled but fatigued after having to feed them with a bottle for several weeks because their mother couldn't cope with the demand.  Owner Ramona Wegemann said Monday she barely slept for more than a couple of minutes without interruption during about four weeks in an "exhausting" struggle to make sure all of the purebred Rhodesian Ridgeback puppies would survive.  She said when she was "finished feeding the last puppy, the first was hungry again."  Wegemann's dog Etana gave birth to eight female and nine male puppies on Sept. 28 in Ebereschenhof, which is near Berlin.

For the rest of the story and the names of all the new puppies, read:

How many of you have heard of a Rhodesian Ridgeback?  Have you ever seen one?  What is their most striking feature?  From the AKC, here is the breed description:

A large and muscular dog, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was not only developed as hunter but also as a family protector. The breed can be light wheaten to red wheaten and is sleek and glossy in appearance. Originally bred to hunt lions the breed is also known as the African Lion Hound.

A Look Back

A native of South Africa, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was bred by the Boer farmers to fill their specific need for a serviceable hunting dog in the wilds. In 1877 Reverend Helm introduced two Ridgebacks into Rhodesia where big game hunters found them outstanding in the sport of hunting lions on horseback. They raised and bred these dogs with an appreciation for their exceptional hunting qualities, the ridge on their back becoming a unique trademark. In 1950 outstanding specimens were imported to the United States and the breed was admitted to registration by the AKC in 1955.

Right Breed for You?

Due to their short coats Ridgebacks shed very little and require only weekly brushing and occasional baths. The breed is also athletic, requiring regular exercise. Trustworthy with children, they are "people" dogs and like to be where you are, possibly curled up on the couch if permitted.
  • Hound Group; AKC recognized in 1955.
  • Ranging in size from 24 to 27 inches tall at the shoulder and 70 to 85 pounds.
  • Lion hunter; guard dog.
The Pittsburgh Steelers easily won their Thursday night game against the Carolina big deal since the Panthers really stink this year; however, this win keeps us just ahead of the Ravens for the division lead.  If we can beat the Browns next Sunday, we'll win the division and secure the 2nd seed in the AFC playoffs.  Helpful Buckeye expects that the only way the Steelers can win the AFC championship is for the Ravens, Jets, or "???" to eliminate the Patriots before we get that far in the playoffs.

The Ohio State football team was dealt a serious blow this past week when several players were found to have violated NCAA rules over the past 2 years.  These violations were deemed to be of a very serious nature and the players involved have received suspensions of varying numbers of games next season.  The response of the athletic director was embarrassing and insulting to anyone with any common sense.  In addition, the players had to know that what they had done was wrong.  The overall result is that Ohio State now has lowered itself to the level of other chronic NCAA offenders and deserves no respect for what was once a great football program.


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye finished our Christmas movie marathon this week with viewings of The Family Stone and our favorite of all Christmas movies, Love Actually.  Not only does Love Actually have a great cast and a mixture of several interwoven stories, but the sound track is really special.

Helpful Buckeye received several gifts that scratched my itches for hiking, biking, baseball, coffee, cooking, and reading...many thanks for those!  They will stoke the fires that get me through the winter.

The quote from last week, "It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory," brought some interesting comments from several readers.  They all pretty much thought it was a bunch of rubbish, in that for all of us survival IS necessary or we disappear.  With January 1st rapidly approaching, most of the resolutions we all will be making are founded on the principle that it is necessary to change if we expect any measure of survival.

The AAA has expected overall travel to rise about 3 percent this holiday season, with more than 92 million people planning to go more than 50 miles sometime between now and Jan. 2. More than 90 percent said they would be driving.  If you're a part of that 92 million, Helpful Buckeye asks that you are careful and return home safely.  We don't want to lose any of our loyal readers!

As we approach the end of 2010, Helpful Buckeye offers these two sentiments that express ideas we all can use as we move into 2011 with an attitude that "Survival is most certainly mandatory":
  • From John Greenleaf Whittier, in Maud Muller, "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!' "...and
  • From John F. Kennedy, "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
Whittier cautions us not to waste opportunities, while JFK has given us the formal version of, "Instead of talking the talk, we need to concentrate on walking the walk."

~~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.~~

Monday, December 20, 2010


While the east coast is suffering through a prolonged and cold winter storm, and the Midwest is trying to rebound after their winter storm moved east, the southwest is still enjoying temperatures above normal.  Granted, we have had some snow in Flagstaff this week...but it was measured in inches rather than in feet!  Today and for the next several days, we are expecting steady rain showers, even at our altitude.  Desperado and Helpful Buckeye don't remember this much rain in December in the 11 years we have lived here.  Comparing last winter to this one (so far), we have experienced the difference between El Nino and La Nina.  Hope all of our readers are staying comfortable wherever you are.

About 80% of our respondents have had experience with either a senior dog or cat, or both.  The other 20% probably have that to look forward to if they are careful and a little bit lucky with their current pets.  Just a little over 50% of you have required medical care and/or hospitalization for a dog bite.  And, just under 50% of you reported that you had been given a dog or cat as a Christmas present at some point in your life.  Remember to answer the poll questions this week in the column to the left.


1) The Austin, Texas, City Council has passed an ordinance that bans the retail sale of dogs and cats in stores in Austin.  The ordinance makes Austin the first city in Texas to ban the sale of all dogs and cats at retail establishments and one of only a handful of cities in the nation to close off a primary channel for the sale of dogs and cats produced in cruel puppy and kitten mills.  For the rest of the details, read:

Helpful Buckeye suspects there will be some type of legal response from the affected retail establishments before this is resolved. 

2) Helpful Buckeye was not surprised that this next news item has been gaining attention.  As part of an interview about his rehabilitation from the prison sentence he received for cruelty to dogs, Michael Vick has revealed that he would like to be able acquire a dog for his two young daughters.  As this story gains more media attention, you can imagine how vocal many people will be, both pro and con.  The CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, has gone on record with his opinion on this subject and Helpful Buckeye found his response both sensitive and sensible.  Read Mr. Pacelle's response and decide for yourself where you stand:


Judging from the e-mail responses to last week's beginning discussion on Senior Pets, a lot of our readers are very interested in this topic.  This week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats now presents the conclusion of this discussion.

Many people want to know what they can do to help keep their senior dog happy and healthy.  There are several changes you can make to your pet's routine lifestyle to maintain health for your senior dog. Here are some tips:

Increase the frequency of your dog's routine veterinary examinations. Thorough veterinary visits are a great way to detect the early onset of illness that might not be noticed at home.
Pay attention to detail. The smallest change in your senior dog could be the sign of an early onset illness. Small changes in behavior, attitude and daily routine may indicate that your pet is not feeling the best.
Tailor your schedule to your senior dog's needs. Remember your senior dog will need daily exercise and possibly more frequent bathroom trips.

Many people ask what vaccines their senior dog needs.  The complete answer to this question will have some variation depending on the overall health of your dog, the living circumstances it experiences (traveling, being in a kennel, previous exposure to certain diseases), your region of the country, and the opinion of your veterinarian.  For these reasons, a thorough discussion with your veterinarian will help you answer the question.

Another concern for many owners is what to do when their pet gets a terminal disease. For instance, cancer kills 500,000 dogs a year in the United States and affects half of all dogs older than 10 years.  But deciding whether or not to treat cancer aggressively is difficult for many pet owners because there are so many things to consider: the cost of treatment, a pet's quality of life after treatment, whether the treatment is painful and how long a dog's life can be extended.  These same considerations apply for the many other serious diseases that are associated with older dogs.  Again, don't be afraid to discuss these concerns with your veterinarian.  Every situation will be different and the proper answer might require including all these factors.

Eventually, there may be a time in a dog's life where he may indicate by his behavior that it's time to let go.
If they have reached a point where they have given up — they're basically lackluster, not enjoying life, not playing, not interacting, haven't responded to any therapies, losing interest in food and social interactions — and nothing you can do can bring them back, you have to think very seriously about what is the quality of life.

As dogs age, taking care of them becomes more difficult. Owners of aging dogs often struggle with their pets' dementia and incontinence — as well as navigating through the maze of end-of-life care decisions.  Dogs that do not weather aging so well, and who show obvious signs of mental deterioration, constitute unsuccessful agers.

The Signs

Though variable in degree and expression, the classical signs of aging, mental and physical deterioration, and possible senility disorders in elderly dogs include:

• Reduced activity
• Increased sleeping
• Reduced responsiveness to commands/apparent deafness
• Lack of interest in surroundings/events
• Confusion/disorientation
• Inability to recognize familiar people
• Increased thirst
• Excessive panting
• Difficulty eating and/or reduced interest in food
• Loss of bladder and bowel control
• Difficulty navigating the environment (e.g. stairs)

Not all dogs show all of these signs and some will show paradoxical behaviors, such as agitation and/or barking, for no particular reason.

People visiting an animal shelter intending to adopt a new dog often find themselves having to decide between a puppy and an older dog. Of the 4 million dogs taken to shelters every year, 1 million are given up because their owners say they’re simply too old.  While both adult dogs and puppies have their pros and cons, what about the senior animals? Or the animals that have disabilities or are sick? What happens to them?

Unfortunately, older or sick animals usually are passed over at shelters for younger, more energetic dogs that have a long life ahead of them. However, one group in Westchester, Ill., is trying to change that through education. The nonprofit organization has placed numerous senior animals with individuals and families of all backgrounds, and teaches the community that dogs of all ages need and deserve love, not to mention that older dogs give back just as much as their owners give them.

Older dogs can also develop canine Cognitive Disorder Syndrome (CDS) which is recognized as the dog equivalent of Alzheimer's Disease.

As with humans, there's a certain constellation of signs that are not accounted for by any physical finding or disease. To make the diagnosis, there is a helpful chart on the Pfizer animal health website ( ) where it divides the signs a dog might have. If you take the test — and then take the test a month later, and find the number of signs is increasing, that's a very good sign that your dog might be on the Alzheimer track.  The signs of CDS are progressive and eventually will completely incapacitate the dog.
Though not identical to the changes in human Alzheimer patients, pathological changes in the brains of dogs with CD are similar to those in human Alzheimer's patients and are proportionate to the severity of the clinical syndrome.  Pathological changes in the brains of affected animals are directly responsible for signs of CD but why should such changes occur in one animal and not another? Although the precise reason for individual susceptibility is not known, inheritance probably plays a role. But some interaction between genetics and the environment cannot be dismissed as also contributing.

There was no treatment for this degenerative condition until the advent of deprenyl. This drug helps turn back the aging clock and buy affected dogs more quality time. Deprenyl is not a primary treatment for the disease process but will symptomatically reverse the clinical signs of aging in most dogs with CDS by increasing brain concentrations of the neurotransmitter dopamine. One third of canine CDS patients respond extremely well to treatment with deprenyl by regaining their youthful vigor; another one third respond reasonably well; and one third do not respond at all (perhaps there is a variant of CD with different neuropathology). The bottom line is that for any dog that is slowing down to the point that problems become apparent, treatment with deprenyl is the logical choice once other organic causes for reduced mental function have been ruled out.
Many people think that it is "normal" for their elderly dogs to gradually lose energy and interest in life. They therefore tolerate the cognitive aging syndrome for longer than is necessary. These folks sometimes don't seek help or wait until bladder or bowel control is lost before trying to find out if something can be done. The latter is the main cause for concern for owners of geriatric dogs, who seem to be able to put up with almost any amount of senile change in their pets before the indignity of incontinence finally causes them to seek help.

Deprenyl is marketed with the specific label instruction for the treatment of age-related cognitive dysfunction and age-related inappropriate urination. Early treatment with the drug will buy impaired dogs extra quality time increasing their "health span."

As previously discussed, an in-depth conversation with your veterinarian should help you evaluate if you have reached this point with your dog.

Aging from the feline point of view....

Does your heart belong to a feline old fogy? You're not alone. Half of all pet owners have an animal aged 7 or older. Modern veterinary care means cats often live into their late teens or early twenties. But living longer increases the chance they'll develop common "old cat" conditions. Medical help is important, of course, but here are nine common issues with simple and/or inexpensive ways owners can help keep their aging cats happy and healthy:
  • About 75 percent of senior cats have arthritis. When creaky joints hurt, she can't perform cat-yoga stretches to groom herself and may become matted. Place kitty's bed under a lamp for soothing heat to loosen up creaky joints. Gentle massage works well, and over-the-counter supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine-type products also help.
  • With age, cats lose their sense of smell so that food is less appealing and they snub the bowl. Heat makes odors more pungent. Zapping food in the microwave for 10 seconds may be all that's necessary to stimulate a flagging appetite.
  • Deaf cats often become more vocal and "holler" from the next room when they can't hear you. Use vibration or visual cues to alert your deaf pet to your presence. Stomp your foot when you enter the room, for example, or flick lights on and off to avoid startling the cat.
  • Does the water bowl run dry? Does your cat urinate a lot? Diabetes could be an issue. A high-protein diet can reverse diabetes in some cats -- your vet will determine this. Meanwhile, add litter boxes on each floor and both ends of the house, so kitty has quick access to the facilities.
  • Old cats often get fat, which aggravates arthritis and can lead to obesity. Slim a tubby tabby by setting the food bowl on top of a cat tree so she must move to eat. And place a portion of her meal inside a puzzle toy so she must "hunt" the food.
  • Constipation develops when the cat's digestion doesn't "move" as well as in youth. Added fiber can promote regularity. Many cats love the flavor of canned pumpkin, a natural, high-fiber treat. Buy a large can, divide into single servings in ice cube trays and freeze -- then thaw just what you need. Once or twice a week should be enough to keep kitty regular.
  • Seventy-five percent of cats have dental problems by age 2, and the risk increases 20 percent for each year of your cat's life. Commercial dental diets can be helpful, as can chicken- or malt-flavored pet toothpaste. Offer a taste of toothpaste as a treat -- the enzyme action breaks down plaque even if kitty won't let you brush her teeth. Also, entice your cat to chew by offering thumb-size hunks of cooked steak. For toothless cats that have trouble eating dry foods, run small amounts of dry food in the blender with low-salt chicken broth for a softer alternative.
  • Blind cats adjust so well and the loss is so gradual that you may not notice a problem -- until you rearrange the furniture. So keep the décor status quo to help your cat remember a mental map of the household. Place baby gates at stairs or other danger zones to protect blind cats from a misstep. Offer fair warning with sound cues about your location to prevent startling a blind cat. Scent can help identify important landmarks for the cat. Try dabbing a bit of mint on wall corners or tying catnip toys to furniture. "Bell" the other pets so the blind cat knows they're near.
  • Senility -- yes, cats can get kitty Alzheimer's, especially those over 14 years. These felines become confused, forget where to potty, cry and may not recognize you. It's heartbreaking for pets and owners alike. The veterinary drug Deprenyl temporarily reverses signs in a percentage of cats. Try delaying the onset of senility in all cats by exercising the feline brain with play, games and puzzles.

The past few weeks, we have covered several stories related to dog bites and the damage from them.  Amelia Glynn, reporting in the San Francisco Chronicle, presents an interesting interview while trying to find out:  "How To Survive A Dog Attack?"

The number of Americans hospitalized for dog bites almost doubled over a 15-year-period, from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008, according to a recent New York Times article.

Children under 5 and adults 65 and older were most likely to be hospitalized after a bite, and residents of rural areas made four times as many emergency room visits for dog bites than those from nonrural areas. Treatment costs averaged $18,200 per person.

In light of these scary stats and of the many dog-bite stories circulating in the news, I decided to check in with veterinarian and applied animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin to get some sound advice on what to do in the event of a dog attack. I've also included comments from Mychelle Blake, from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers whom I spoke with separately.

Q. As someone who works with animals on a daily basis, have you ever been bitten?

A. As both a veterinarian focused on behavior and an avid runner, I've definitely dealt with a lot of dogs charging towards me and threatening to bite. But I have only suffered minor bites a few times over the last 20 years.

Q. Luck aside, what do you attribute this to?

A. The number one secret is to stay calm. The more you scream and move around, the more aroused you'll make the dog.

Q. Can you offer an example of the best way to react in the presence of a potentially aggressive dog?

A. Say you're running along and a dog comes sprinting out from his front yard. If you run faster you may elicit a chase reflex — the same one that's triggered when a dog sees a cat or a squirrel. Instead, face the dog and stand perfectly still. Keep your arms folded in front of you so that you don't accidentally move them around. Some dogs run out towards you because they've had a lot of practice barking at things that go by their house. They've done this so much that they may have no clue why they are barking at you. They may actually want to play, but in their hyper-excited state, if you yell or swing your arms, they will get even more excited and may grab whatever is swinging in the same way they would a squeaky toy.

Mychelle Blake advises presenting the side of your body to the dog, which is considered a "calming signal" in dog body language. "It's a way that dogs diffuse tension within a group and show that they are not a threat or interested in fighting," she says.

Q.When is it generally safe to start moving again?

A. It's important to keep in mind that most dogs that race towards you, even aggressively, don't have the intention of biting you. Rather, the charge, bark and growl are simply warning signs to get you to go away. When they realize you're not going to run, they will generally walk away on their own. You can also back away slowly in a very ho-hum, relaxed manner. Once you've built up some distance you can turn and continue on your planned route.

Q.What if you find yourself in a situation where it's impossible to stand still because you're so scared?

A. Try to remember that most dogs bite out of fear and if the person the dog has defensively charged or snapped at screams and flails, it can trigger an even stronger survival-attack response. If the dog starts jumping up on you, the very best thing you can do is not freak out. Keep your back to the dog to protect your face, and if the dog is powerful enough to take you to the ground, roll up in a ball with your knees bent and your hands clasped around the back of your neck. Stay as still as you can, avoiding eye contact and making noise. Realistically, if you remain calm, an attack is not likely to happen. If you are particularly fearful of dogs, consider carrying pepper spray after you've taken a course on how to effectively use it.

Blake adds: "If the dog continues to approach and attempts to lunge and bite you, try to put anything that you might have between you and the dog — a purse, a rolled up jacket, etc. If the dog bites and holds, as hard as this sounds, try not to jerk your body part away, as this can cause more damage."

This article can be found at: you remember all those instructions?  Could you do as instructed if confronted with a dog attack?


With all of the recent attention on dog bites and vicious dogs, it has become almost an accepted fact that any report of such an incident will most likely involve a Pit-Bull Dog.  Unfortunately for the American Staffordshire Terrier, it sometimes gets implicated under the umbrella of notoriety cast by the Pit-Bull...since they share a lot of common breed characteristics.

From the American Kennel Club comes this breed description: Courageous and strong, the American Staffordshire Terrier (Am Staff)’s athletic build and intelligence make him ideally suited to many dog sports such as obedience, agility, tracking and conformation. He is often identified by his stocky body and strong, powerful head. The breed’s short coat can be any color, and either solid colored, parti-colored or patched.

A Look Back

Until the early 19th century, the Bulldog used for bullbaiting in England was more active and longer-legged than the breed as we know it today. It is thought that the cross of this older Bulldog and a game terrier breed created the Staffordshire Terrier. Originally called the Bull-and-Terrier Dog, Half and Half or Pit Dog, it became known as the Staffordshire Bull Terrier in England. When accepted for AKC registration in 1936, the name changed to American Staffordshire Terrier to reflect the heavier American type and to distinguish them as separate breeds.

Right Breed for You?

The Am Staff is a people-oriented dog that thrives when he is made part of the family and given a job to do. Although friendly, this breed is loyal to his family and will protect them from any threat. His short coat is low-maintenance, but regular exercise and training is necessary.

  • Terrier Group; AKC recognized in 1936.
  • Ranging in size from 17 to 19 inches tall at the shoulder.
  • General purpose dog.

If you've been looking for an ideal gift for a child, from preschool through the 2nd grade, who has an interest dogs and cats, the American Veterinary Medical Association has just what you might need.  Fourteen individual stories are available in paperback and audio CD formats, which also contain a set of plush toys.  Each story includes a "real-life" pet story along with pet health and safety tips.  Take a look at these:


1)  Just to remind our readers how popular the subject of Senior Pets is for today's pet owners, Helpful Buckeye isn't the only one talking about it.  The following article was in the San Jose Mercury News just a couple days ago:

Any of those points sound familiar?

2)  Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine has put together an interesting booklet for 3rd grade children, titled, How I became A Scientist.  From the writers comes this description:

Many kids dream of futures as veterinarians helping animals, but too often those dreams are derailed by fears of failure. That's why the staff at the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine is trying to make those dreams a reality.
"We want every kid to be able to see themselves in the book. And, you'll notice we have featured a wide variety of scientists, including veterinarians. Some work with aging, some work with food safety, and they come from all over the world."

You can find this booklet, in "pdf" format at:  and print your own copy.

For more information on the compilation of the booklet, go to:
3) Another common myth about dogs is that a dog wagging its tail is a happy dog.  What do you think?
Myth:  If a dog is wagging its tail, it is happy

The origin: Most dogs do wag their tails when they are happy. As a result, people associate a wagging tail with a happy dog.

The truth: In many cases, a dog that is wagging its tail is happy, or at least is expressing excitement or pleasure. Tail-wagging certainly does express a strong state of emotion, much like a smile does in people. However, just like a human smile, a dog’s wagging tail does not necessarily reflect happiness or something positive. Dogs frequently wag their tails when they are agitated, irritated, tense, anxious, annoyed, frightened, angry or aggressive. Interestingly, researchers have found that dogs do not normally wag their tails when they are alone, even if they apparently are happy or are in a pleasant situation. Tail-wagging seems to be a behavior that is reserved for times when the dog is in the company of others.

Beware the wagging tail!

The Pittsburgh Steelers played the NY Jets Sunday in frigid temperatures in Pittsburgh and lost the game primarily due to 2 bad plays.  It was a tough game for both teams and both teams played hard enough to win (the Steelers just didn't play well enough).

OK, here's a trivia question on college sports: What is the only school to have their football team finish in the Top 6 this season and their men's basketball team is currently in the Top 6 (actually at #2)? Of course, it's the Buckeyes!


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye continued our Christmas movie marathon this week with The Holiday (quickly becoming our 2nd-most favorite Christmas movie,) Scrooged, and White Christmas.  We're saving our favorite for Christmas eve.

Since we're rapidly approaching the end of 2010 when most of us will be evaluating what we accomplished during the year, and getting ready to make our resolutions for 2011, consider this thought as you prepare your list:

"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." W. Edwards Deming, American statistician, professor, author, lecturer and consultant

Think about the implications of that statement...more on this in next week's issue.


~~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.~~

Monday, December 13, 2010


It has been uncommonly warm here in the mountain country of northern Arizona.  In fact, the National Weather Service is suggesting that Flagstaff might not have snow on the ground for Christmas day.  That would be unusual since Flagstaff is among the leading cities in the USA for the highest chance of having a white Christmas.

About 50% of respondents said they were including their pets in holiday travel plans and several wrote e-mails to Helpful Buckeye saying thanks for the winter travel tips presented last week.  Only 10% of you have ever obtained a health certificate for your pet to travel.  Helpful Buckeye is assuming that percentage will increase as states become more strict about enforcing security measures.  Only 1 cat owner reported that they had walked their cat on a leash.  Not only do old habits die hard but also it's a challenge that can be very frustrating.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Remember that it's easy to contact Helpful Buckeye with your questions, interesting ideas, and general comments.  Simply send an e-mail to: or post your comment at the "Comment" icon at the end of this issue.


1) The American Veterinary Medical Association has just published this report on animal hoarding:

Dealing with animal hoarding should be about helping the hoarders as well as the animals, according to social workers who consult on such cases.  Social workers increasingly are tending to the human issues that arise in human-animal relationships.  "Without counseling, you're going to see repeat offenders," said Jane N. Nathanson, a Boston social worker in private practice who counsels animal hoarders. "You're not addressing the needs of the person."  In some cases, Nathanson said, the animals might need immediate rescue. In other cases, she said, local authorities or humane organizations might try to gain the cooperation of the hoarder.

Nathanson counsels many animal hoarders who deny that they have a problem. She receives referrals from courts, humane organizations, and family members.  Typically, animal hoarders lack sufficient or satisfactory human relationships, Nathanson said. They think that having more animals will make them feel better. They've created a world apart, where they've derived their sense of identity, their self-esteem, and a sense of control," Nathanson said.

To read the rest of this report, go to:

2) Our readers will remember the publicity surrounding the passage of "Proposition B" in Missouri this past Election Day.  The AVMA has continued its efforts to have the law over-turned and already-existing laws be strengthened.  Here is their explanation for this seeming contradiction:

Proposition B, as it was known, passed with a "yes" vote from 51.6% of Missouri voters on Election Day this year. The new law requires commercial breeders to provide adequate food and water, necessary veterinary care, sufficient shelter and space to turn around, regular exercise and adequate rest between breedings. The law also limits the number of breeding dogs to 50.

However, the AVMA says the law may not be the best way to improve the welfare of dogs in that state.

"Unfortunately, Proposition B doesn't do much to actually provide for the care of animals, but only sets limits on the number of animals that can be kept. And there is no research to show that limit laws, like Proposition B, actually do anything to improve the welfare of the animal," said AVMA CEO Dr. Ron DeHaven.

The rest of the AVMA's position is found at:


A topic that seems to show up frequently in our e-mails is that of the aging dog and cat...what we affectionately refer to as Senior Pets.  The size of this group of dogs and cats has increased proportionately with veterinary medical advances and has resulted in a longer life span for most pet dogs and cats.

What Is A Senior Pet?

The very idea of a dog's "old age" is relatively new. It wasn't too many generations ago that dogs were still viewed largely as utilitarian workers, unfeeling and unaware creatures bred to keep a flock of sheep in line or spot prey. The notion of a dog having a comfortable, happy old age would never even have been considered.

Now, dogs are full-fledged members of the household, with a strong reciprocity of feeling between pet and owner — so much so that research has shown that having a dog in the home reduces blood pressure and, thereby, the risk for heart disease (for the dog owner).

Dog owners even report improved psychological well-being, largely attributable to reduced feelings of loneliness and isolation, as well as a reduction in stress. We know; most of us number among them.

Surely, many of those positive associations come from the relationships people develop with their pals as the years pass. There's something more serene, wiser, about an older dog, even one who still has plenty of energy. A dog you've had for more than just a handful of years can simply understand you better, accommodate your moods better.

Of course, too, there's extra closeness with a dog you've known for a long time. How could the bond not strengthen after one's four-legged friend has turned seven, ten, twelve years old? After all, the better part of a decade or more has been spent nurturing the relationship — helping the dog grow from a puppy who needed to be taught the rhythms of your home to a mature animal who can easily read your mood and provide comfort, protection, or simply good company whenever it is needed.

Perhaps you and your older dog have watched children go off to college together, grieved a loss, relocated, or dealt with a career change. Surely, you've taken walks by each other's side, watched favorite TV shows, greeted each other enthusiastically after a long day apart, and been a reassuring presence to each other at bedtime.

During checkups and other visits, veterinarians see the closeness in the way people interact with their more senior companions. There's a comfort level, a certain something that can be taken for granted, that isn't yet present between people and their younger dogs.

Bring into the mix that a pet is so innocent, so unquestionably devoted and accepting, and it's not at all surprising that even the toughest among us might blink back tears at the thought of a faithful companion getting on in years. Such emotion doesn't make us softies or weirdos; it makes us human. It's simply an indication that we're able to respond to all the depth of feeling a companion dog is able to elicit.

No wonder it has become important for people to increase not only a dog's life span but also their pet's health span, changing what it means to be geriatric. By the numbers, "geriatric" signifies the point at which 75 percent of one's anticipated lifespan has gone by. The good news is that passing that milestone no longer means "over the hill." Sophisticated advances in veterinary medical technology help dogs remain healthier for much longer even as they reach significantly older ages, thereby compressing the amount of time a dog will be infirm or uncomfortable before reaching the end of its life. Thus, just as silver-haired men and women in their seventies and eighties now go traveling and white-water rafting and lead active, fulfilling lives — something that was once largely unthinkable — twelve-, fourteen-, and sixteen-year-old dogs can now continue to enjoy their usual romps and shenanigans with the help of modern veterinary medicine.

As veterinary medicine has become more sophisticated, and careful nurturing of pets has become the rule rather than the exception, the population of geriatric small animal pets has grown steadily, mirroring the increase in the human elderly population. As an animal progresses into its twilight years, inevitable aging changes take place in all organ systems, including the brain.

Most small to medium-sized dogs are considered geriatric when they reach 10 years of age, or when 75 percent of their anticipated life span has elapsed. But this does not mean that when they have exceeded this arbitrary limit they will necessarily show signs of physical ageing or diminished mental capacity. Some dogs appear normal mentally long after this "geriatric" milestone, and some remain bright to the end of their natural life span. These lucky dogs are referred to as "successful agers," same as their human counterparts.

Basic Needs Of Older Dogs

Among the basic things owners need to know about raising older pets is that older dogs are typically more sensitive to extreme temperature changes because of changes in their metabolism.  As with older people, older pets are the victims of extremes of heat and cold because they're less able to thermoregulate.  This means you have be sure they have coat or vest to keep them warm in cold weather.  You also shouldn't leave them outside for long in the cold.  Extremely hot days can be a problem because these older pets dehydrate quicker and can become candidates for heat exhaustion faster.

Moderating the amount of exercise for older dogs is a must because heart and lung function do deteriorate with age.  This does not mean to stop the exercise, but rather to consider the frequency and length of each exercise period.

To make sure your dog's diet is appropriate, you should check with your veterinarian before introducing any new food into the pet bowl.  There are many so-called senior pet foods on the market and not all of them will be what your pet needs.  Your veterinarian will consider all the pertinent information about your pet and make an appropriate suggestion for the type of food.

Being overweight presents its own challenges to any pet, but is really difficult for an older pet to accommodate.  The diet your veterinarian recommends may also take into consideration the need for less calories.  If your pet is overweight, it can complicate another problem commonly seen in older pets...that of arthritis.  The extra weight can lead to arthritic conditions simply due to more strain on the joints, but the weight can also make an existing arthritic condition worse over time.  An observant pet owner can often notice a fair amount of relief from arthritic discomfort as a result of helping the pet lose some weight.

Gradual loss of sight and/or hearing presents many challenges for older pets and their owners.  When your dog is awake, if he can't hear you calling him, using a flashlight or laser pointer is a good way to get his attention. With a few short training sessions during which you pair the light with a food treat, your dog will soon learn to look at or come to you when he sees the light.

If your dog is asleep:

1. Be careful where you touch him, avoiding his hindquarters when waking him. In his sleepy state, he could think someone is sneaking up on him.
2. When you touch him, don't apply a lot of pressure as though you are going to gently shake him out of a sleep. Instead, very lightly touch the tips of his hair or gently blow on his face or front paw. The idea here is to present a sensation that is so light he's initially not sure if he felt something. You'll see him move a little bit but not startle. Repeat the touch and he'll wake up. Be consistent and touch him in the same place on his body (e.g. shoulder, front leg) each time you wake him. He'll soon learn when he feels your touch that it is you calling him for dinner.
3. Some dog owners report that dogs can smell in their sleep. You can hold your hand under his nose to see if the scent wakes him.
4. Finally, be aware that older dogs spend a lot of time sleeping. You may need to wake him for trips outside so bed wetting doesn't become a problem, but for exercise walks and play sessions, you could consider changing your dog walking schedule to accommodate its naps.

Part 2 of this presentation on Senior Pets will appear in next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.


1) A study recently published by the Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reveals statistics about dog bite-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Perhaps the most interesting data shows that visits requiring hospitalization increased a startling 86 percent over 16 years, from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008.

Anyone who follows the news is aware of the increasing frequency of reported dog bites.  For the rest of this story, go to:

2) With the possibility that some of you might be getting a puppy for the holidays, consider this advice for your children on how to behave around a dog:

If you're a parent, you've probably heard pleas from your kids to get a family pet. And while bringing a new animal into the family can be rewarding, fun and exciting, there can be a steep learning curve when the pet first arrives.

What To Teach Your Children

1. Be gentle and calm. Before the pet arrives, practice greeting the pet gently and calmly with your children. So many kids shriek and scream with excitement as they run up to dogs or cats, but children should be taught not to run up to any animal, either their own pet or one in public.
2. Understand that the dog or cat isn't a toy. Although they may be soft and furry like a favorite stuffed animal, it's important that your child understand that the pet needs to be treated like a real member of the family.  Consider sitting down with your child and practicing how to best pet and interact with the new addition on a stuffed animal, reminding them that the real pet will be much different than a toy. Children should always softly pet the puppy or kitten with no pulling or tugging allowed.
3. Make sure there's an adult is around when they play with the pet. This can be a tough one to enforce in a busy household.  Things can go wrong pretty quickly between an inquisitive young child and an animal.
4. Respect the pet's basic needs and moods. Your children should learn that just as with a human baby, young animals need lots of rest. Tell them to not bother a puppy or kitten when it's sleeping or resting, and if the pet walks away from play, assure them that the pet just needs a break.
5. Do pet chores. A great way to give your children a sense of responsibility is to have the entire family help with the pet. Consider holding a family meeting where each family member has a specific task for the week. Each week, mix up the duties (always make sure the child can reasonably complete the task, even if it's just for a couple times a week), so that everyone is engaged and no one's chore gets "forgotten."
6. Treat animals the way they themselves would like to be treated. Sometimes children lash out with a kick or a shove against their parents or siblings and there is the risk that kid might do the same thing to express anger against a pet. Explain that all animals want to feel safe and loved, just like humans.  Pets don't like being teased with words, toys or food, and you should teach your child to never hit, kick or strike your pet.
7. Realize the new pet will be annoying at times. Help your child understand that bringing an animal home isn't just fun, it's also a bit life-changing, almost like adding a new child to the family. Set up the expectation that this new family member will require extra attention from mommy and daddy.
8. Understand the dog or cat might play favorites. Sometimes a new puppy or kitty may seem to prefer one person in the family over another, and this can lead to hurt feelings by the other family members. Ask your little ones to be patient as the pet may take awhile to come around.
9. Help keep the pet safe. Teach your child that they need to keep their eyes open to make sure the pet stays safe from everyday household dangers like foods they shouldn't be eating or gates in the yard that don't close all the way. It is the entire family's responsibility to take care of the new pet and to give it a loving and happy home.
10. Empathize with the animal. It's not enough to pet the cat gently or keep from yelling at the dog, (although those are good habits to master), children should be taught to try and look at things through the pet's eyes, especially when it first comes home. The more they think about things from the dog or cat's perspective, the better a pet sibling they will be.

This advice will hopefully prepare your children for encounters with dogs throughout their lives.  Perhaps, this might also help minimize the chances for a dog bite.
Just 2 weeks ago, an Australian Shepherd won the American Kennel Club/Eukanuba National Championship.  Animated, adaptable and agile, the Australian Shepherd lives for his job, which still involves herding livestock and working as an all-purpose farm and ranch dog. He needs a lot of activity and a sense of purpose to be truly content. Today, due to the breed’s intelligence and versatility, “Aussies” also excel in AKC events such as agility, obedience and herding. Their coats can be black, blue merle, red merle and red with or without white markings.

A Look Back

There are many theories about the origin of the Australian Shepherd. Despite its misleading name, the breed as we know it today probably developed in the Pyrenees Mountains somewhere between Spain and France. It was called the Australian Shepherd because of its association with Basque shepherds who came to America from Australia in the 1800s. The Australian Shepherd was initially called by many names, including Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, Blue Heeler, New Mexican Shepherd, and California Shepherd.

Right Breed for You?

An energetic breed with strong herding and guarding instincts, the Aussie requires daily vigorous exercise. Although sometimes reserved with strangers, they are “people” dogs that want to always be near their families. Their thick coats require weekly brushing.

• Herding Group; AKC recognized in 1991.
• Ranging in size from 18 to 23 inches tall at the shoulder.
• Sheep herder; farm dog.


1) Whether your cat's breath is just slightly aromatic or capable of wilting flowers and peeling paint off walls, many products can help control the smell.  The folks at ZooToo have 5 suggestions for the best cat breath fresheners:

2) Some of these might be used as "gag" gifts but they do have a pet theme:


1) Here is the final part of the story about Billy Ma and his acquisition of his new service dog, Polar:

2) Since we've already discussed dog bites in this issue, it's only appropriate to carry this story.  A US Airways flight attendant and a passenger were bitten by a small dog that escaped from its carrier during an actual flight:

With all the other issues affecting the comfort of flight, this problem is not welcome, I'm sure!

3) Even though Helpful Buckeye and just about every other pet advisor are encouraging folks to NOT get someone a new pet for the holidays, there will always be someone who insists on doing so anyway.  For you, here is some important advice:

4) Shelter dogs often fall victim to the old stereotype: If it's been returned, there must be something wrong with it. Mixed breeds can have a tough time finding a home because potential owners are unsure of exactly what they're getting, but when the rescue pup has bull terrier in its bloodline, the stigma can be even worse.  Read about Lily, a Pit Bull Terrier, that not only was rescued from starvation, but went on to help Alzheimer's patients:

5) According to a recent Associated Press poll, 56% of dog owners and 48% of cat owners buy a Holiday gift for their pet.  Women are more likely than men to buy a gift for their pet...56% vs. 49%.

Where do you fit???

The Pittsburgh Steelers easily defeated the Cincinnati Bengals today, following their impressive win over the Ravens last week, and ahead of an important match with the NY Jets next Sunday.

The Pitt Panthers men's basketball team was ranked #3 this week but was soundly beaten yesterday by Tennessee.

The Ohio State football team will play Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl on January 4th.  Since the year 2000, OSU has lost our last 4 games against Southeast Conference teams.


The Christmas movie marathon of Desperado and Helpful Buckeye continued this weekend with Elf, one of Desperado's picks.  She's partial to Will Ferrell, while I like James Caan.  At any rate, it did help to inspire some Christmas "spirit"....

~~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.~~