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 d├ęcor 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.~~

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