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.~~

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