Monday, December 6, 2010


Now that December has arrived, it's time to consider Helpful Buckeye's "Winter Travel Tips."

Top 5 Winter Travel Tips

A winter vacation can be a wonderful change of scenery for you and your dog. But like any trip, you must plan ahead and take certain precautions. Here are five simple things you can do to make winter travel with your dog as smooth as ice.

Never Leave Home Without It

Whether transported by air or by car, your dog must have well-fastened and current ID tags, as well as proof of current vaccinations. The best ID tags are those that fasten snugly and have contact information printed directly on the collar. Tuck your pet’s photo and health information into your wallet for easy identification should you become separated.  This one actually applies to travel at any time of the year.

Water, Water Everywhere

Don’t forget to pack bottled water for your dog. If you’re flying, include a frozen waterer in your pet’s crate so the liquid won’t spill during transport. It will slowly melt during the duration of the trip and help keep your dog hydrated. If traveling by car, be sure to store a portable dog dish and bottled water with your dog’s supplies. Make frequent stops to allow your pet to drink, and never leave your dog in a locked car for long periods of time in any weather!  Dehydration can also happen during the winter.

Protect Those Paws

Winter travel conditions can be tough on a dog’s feet. Keep baby wipes handy to clean the paws immediately after walking on salted roads or sidewalks. Consider purchasing rubber booties if your dog is particularly sensitive to the salt. Remember that ice can form between your dog’s pads, so be sure to do a thorough check after a day out in wintry weather.

Keep Him Cozy

Dogs are creatures of habit, so even the most seasoned traveler will feel more secure with its own dog blanket or bed during winter travel. The blanket will keep your pooch warm and cozy while traveling by car or plane.

Room At The Inn

You’ve reached your destination, so where do you stay? Motel 6, Howard Johnson, Red Roof Inns, and La Quinta Inns have long been a traveling dog’s best friend. Upscale hotels such as Starwood Resorts, Four Seasons, and the Ritz-Carlton are also accommodating to guests who travel with their pets. Inquire about Pet VIP programs that cater to furry guests with pet menus, “doggie-bags,” and special concierge services during the stay.  Remember that a lot of people travel with their pets during the winter holiday period and motel/hotel rooms will fill up quickly in many, reserve your rooms well in advance.

One last reminder from Helpful Buckeye about holiday travel:  technically, any time you cross a state line with your pet, you must be able to provide a certificate of health inspection for the pet.  Granted, most states have been lax about enforcing this requirement, but with increasing awareness of security measures, don't be surprised if these regulations become more tightly enforced.  You can get the health certificate during a visit to your veterinarian.

The poll questions last week seem to have received almost identical responses.  About 2/3 of respondents felt that Michael Vick has been doing the right things toward his rehabilitation, but that he should keep doing them.  A little more than 2/3 of our readers have NOT ever had a dog diagnosed with hypothyroidism.  And, a little less than 2/3 of you have NOT made any legal plans for the care of your pets (if you can no longer take care of them).  Remember to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.


Helpful Buckeye discussed HYPOthyroidism in last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, a thyroid disorder that is much more common in dogs than in cats.  In this week's issue, we will address the opposite end of the thyroid spectrum...that of HYPERthyroidism, in which there is too much thyroid hormone being produced.

Excessive secretion of the thyroid hormones, T4 and T3, results in signs that reflect an increased metabolic rate and produces clinical hyperthyroidism. It is most common in middle-aged to old cats but can develop rarely in dogs.

Functional thyroid adenoma (adenomatous hyperplasia--a benign enlargement) is the most common cause of feline hyperthyroidism; in ~70% of cases, both thyroid lobes are enlarged. Thyroid carcinoma (cancer), the primary cause of hyperthyroidism in dogs, is rare in cats (1-2% of hyperthyroidism cases).

Clinical Findings

The most common signs of hyperthyroidism include weight loss, increased appetite, hyperexcitability, increased drinking, increased urinations, and palpable enlargement of the thyroid gland. Gastro-intestinal signs are also common and may include vomiting, diarrhea, and increased fecal volume. Cardiovascular signs include increased heart rate, heart murmurs, difficulty breathing, enlargement of the heart, and congestive heart failure.

High serum total thyroid hormone concentration is the hallmark of hyperthyroidism and confirms the diagnosis. Although serum total T4 concentrations are high in most cats with hyperthyroidism, ~5-10% of cats have normal T4 values. Most cats with normal serum T4 values have either mild or early hyperthyroidism or hyperthyroidism with some other disease present.


Cats with hyperthyroidism can be treated by radioiodine therapy, thyroidectomy (surgical removal of the thyroid gland), or chronic administration of an antithyroid drug. Radioactive iodine provides a simple, effective, and safe treatment and is considered the treatment of choice. The radioiodine is concentrated within the thyroid tumor, where it selectively irradiates and destroys hyperfunctioning thyroid tissue.

Surgical thyroidectomy is also an effective treatment for hyperthyroidism in cats. With unilateral (one side only) thyroid tumors, hemithyroidectomy corrects the hyperthyroid state, and thyroid hormone supplementation usually is not necessary. For bilateral (both sides) thyroid tumors, complete thyroidectomy is indicated, necessitating supplementation of thyroid hormone for the life of the cat. Also, with total thyroid gland removal, the problem of losing the parathyroid glands becomes a concern. These tiny glands near the thyroid are responsible for the regulation of blood calcium and phosphorus levels, which are important in bone metabolism.


Most cat owners have never considered trying to walk their cats on a leash.  If you bring up the subject, they act like it would be an impossible task.  The Humane Society of the United States has a few suggestions for you if you are game enough to try it.

Fettered Felines--Tame your kitty to the ways of the harness, and unleash his inner beast

When Carie Lewis gets home from work, she makes a beeline for the courtyard of her Maryland apartment complex,her beloved pet in tow. As neighbors go about their business, Lewis’ walking partner plays in the grass and explores for a few glorious minutes.

Nothing so unusual about that—except the animal on the other end of the leash is a cat.

“People are fascinated by it; they don’t expect to see a cat outside of the house or on a leash,” says Lewis, The HSUS’s Internet marketing manager. “But I’m a big cat person, and I wanted to be able to walk him outside and take him places with me.”

Though Louie and his fellow felines are safest living in the great indoors, a little supervised playtime outside is a safe way to indulge a cat pining for fresh air. Cats are natural predators, and just chasing a leaf can help them feel like kings of the jungle.

And yes, you can try this at home. Though timid or aggressive cats may not enjoy the experience, a cat walk can become a special treat for more adventurous souls. Just don’t expect your little buddy to take to it overnight—there’s a reason so many believe that no one ever really "owns" a cat.

Cats Are Not Little Dogs

Leash training cats requires time and effort. Set goals: Do you want the cat to walk with you, or do you simply want to enjoy the outdoors together without fear of losing him? Be patient and expect to progress only as quickly as your kitty will allow. There’s a good chance he won’t have any idea what you’re trying to do with him at first.

“You’ll get out of the cat what you put into [him],” says Kevin Simpson, director of animal training and behavior at the Washington Humane Society in Washington,D.C. “It’s important to understand that this isn’t going to be a dog pulling on a leash. It can take lots and lots of repetition.”

And because a cat isn’t likely to adopt a doggie demeanor of bounding out the door and down the steps, he may need some gentle coaxing. The Washington Humane Society’s “MasCat,” Gregory Xavier Pibb— known more affectionately as Mr. Pibb—was a bit of a ’fraidy cat when faced with the opportunity to galavant around the neighborhood. To help him ease into it, his human friends walked him around in a carrier.

Eventually, Mr. Pibb learned to use his own four feet while wearing a harness and leash. The year-old tuxedo cat is so content now that he even relieves himself in the grass.

“Mr. Pibb went through developmental stages where he was more sensitive to the outdoors, and we had to really take our time,” Simpson says.“He’s comfortable now, but he is still not fond of the cool weather.”

When Lewis first started leash training about a year ago, Louie needed some lessons to adjust to wearing a harness on his back. With repetition and the promise of tasty rewards, initial signs of success came in just a few weeks.

“At first, he thought the harness was weighing him down, and he would only go low to the ground,” Lewis says. “But I had someone stand in front of us with treats, and Louie would walk to the treat with the harness on.When he got more comfortable, he was a lot better at it. But he didn’t even move at first.”

Leash lessons will elicit a variety of reactions. For Shirley De la Torre, training 3½-month-old Kemet was much easier than working with her two older cats.

“He just loves it,” says De la Torre, who lives in Stillwater, Minn.

Simpson advises starting training at a young age when possible, but don’t rule it out for aging kitties; personality and level of socialization can often trump the stereotypes.

Regardless of your cat’s age, proceed safely and gently with training. Select a harness that fits snugly enough to keep her from wiggling out of it—and do not attach the leash to a collar. Avoid retractable leashes, since the force of the recoil could overwhelm a cat. Never yank the leash or scold; one negative experience can turn a cat off from the process forever.

When De la Torre taught her kitten, she put the harness on him and watched as he wandered around the house while wearing it. Then she added a leash and watched him wander a little more.When Kemet appeared to be comfortable with his new accessory, De la Torre took him into her yard to explore.

Families with older cats might have to progress more slowly. Cats set in their ways get cranky if they are forced from familiar routines. But don’t give up! Even world-weary felines can be motivated. Start by laying the harness and leash next to your cat’s bed so he can get used to its sights and smells at his own pace. When he is ready to wear the harness, put it on him at dinner time and feed him immediately so the almighty kibble acts as a reward. When he is is accustomed to the harness, let him walk through the house wearing it. Keep taking small steps toward venturing outside into a quiet area.

Not Every Cat Keeps His Cool

Consult your veterinarian before taking any pet outdoors to make sure vaccinations and flea treatments are up to date. All cats, including those who never go outside, should wear a collar and I.D. tag. Consider having your pet microchipped, too.

And if your cat has never been beyond the front door, keep an eye out for signs that he is overwhelmed: lying down, standing in a defensive posture, even yowling excessively. If your pet shows any of these signs, pick him up, take him inside, and try again another time.

“Sometimes they lie down because they’re timid and want a place to hide,” Simpson says.“In situations like that, it’s time to backpedal and take some smaller steps. Maybe find a quieter place not so far from home.You have to let them wrap their brains around it all, so to speak.”

Watch for other behavior changes that may result from your cat’s journeys into expanded territory. Be careful when opening the door to the outside; once cats experience the wonders of nature, they might make a break for it whenever the opportunity presents itself. Some cats might yowl or spray more frequently.

Still, says Simpson, the benefits usually outweigh the negative effects. Besides, cats can have fun, too.

“That was kind of the idea behind a cat mascot, to show the community the possibility a cat has,” he says. “You don’t have to limit a cat or hold them to a preconceived notion.”


A good friend recently asked Helpful Buckeye what breed of dog was featured in the movie, As Good As It Gets.  OK, Jim, it was a Brussels Griffon.  From the American Kennel Club, comes this description:

The intelligent and cheerful Brussels Griffon has a terrier-like disposition and is known for his almost human expression. This affectionate breed comes in a variety of colors, including red, belge (black and reddish brown), black and tan, or black. This breed makes a good watchdog and can be taught to perform a variety of tricks. A Brussels Griffon was featured in 1997's hit, "As Good As It Gets", starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.

A Look Back

Developed in Belgium, the Brussels was developed from primarily the Affenpinscher and the Belgian street dog – a dog similar to the Fox Terrier, except heavier. Brussels Griffons were often kept in stables as rat catchers. Gradually they became regular members of most Belgian households. Old folk songs and tales of the period mention "bearded dogs" in reference to the spunky Brussels Griffon.

Right Breed for You?

The affectionate, charming and curious personality of the Brussels Griffon makes it a good companion dog. However, this breed is not typical of the "pampered pet" stereotype of Toy breeds. Their active indoor lifestyle and small size makes them ideal for apartment life, but they still need to be taken for daily walks. The breed can have either a rough or smooth coat. Each coat needs twice-weekly brushing and shaping every three months.

• Toy Group; AKC recognized in 1910.
• Ranging in size from 8 to 10 pounds; not to exceed 12 pounds.
• Companion dog, watchdog.

PRODUCTS OF THE WEEK has put together a list of their 16 favorite new pet products from 2010.  Most of these are pretty interesting and provide an option for those who ask, "Why doesn't somebody make....?"  Check out the winners at:


1) Read about the recovery of a dog in Chicago from getting its tongue shredded in an electric paper shredder:

Even though this doesn't happen very frequently, doesn't it seem that there should be some safeguards applied to these shredders?

2)  How far would you go on a "Make Over" grooming.for your dog?  Most of you have seen the e-mails showing various outlandish combinations on different breeds of dogs.  Here's one I hadn't seen yet...a Shih Tzu Getting A Makeover:

Just roll your cursor over the green arrows to see the changes in the 2 pictures.

3) Of the common myths about dogs, this one seems to come up a lot: If a dog's nose is warm, it means it is sick.

The origin: There is no identifiable origin for this myth. People just seem to think that a dog with a warm and/or dry nose is sick, and that a dog with a cold wet nose is well.

The truth: If a dog has a dry or warm nose, it merely means that he has a dry or warm nose. A dry nose or a mildly warm nose has nothing to do with the overall health of a dog.

4) If you shed a few tears while viewing last week's video of the dog that kept waiting for its dead master to come home, then you will probably need a few more tissues while watching this video of Jimmy Stewart reading a poem on the Johnny Carson show back in 1981:

Thanks to Sara, from Virginia, for sending this video to Helpful Buckeye.

There never seems to be a shortage of "must win" games in the NFL, but the Steelers/Ravens game tonight surely qualified.  Throughout the whole game, the Steelers seemed to be just 1 play away from either losing the game or winning the game.  There were only a few minutes left in the 4th quarter when Troy Polamalu stripped the Ravens quarterback of the ball and the Steelers recovered on the Baltimore 10-yard line.  A TD put the Steelers ahead by 3 points and their defense held on for the win.

The Ohio State and Pitt men's basketball teams have maintained their rankings in the Top 5....


Helpful Buckeye would like to leave you this week with these two conflicting thoughts.  One is a fairly pessimistic view of what's happening today and the other is a more optimistic approach to personal well-being:

"History teaches us that the capacity for things to get worse is limitless." --Chalmers Johnson

"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our
souls blossom." --Marcel Proust

~~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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