Sunday, July 17, 2011

GROOMING HINTS FOR YOUR DOG AND CAT....

Did any of our strange "tails" last week remind you of any of your dogs and/or cats?  Helpful Buckeye received several e-mails from readers saying that one of the stories sounded a lot like something that had happened at home.  That's one of the interesting things about pets...that there is always something unexpected right around the next corner.


Due to several e-mails from readers asking about dog and cat grooming problems, Helpful Buckeye will address these questions in this week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.  Most grooming questions come from dog owners...but there have been a few also showing up from cat owners.

Why Pets Shed and How to Keep Fur from Flying

Shedding may be a big hairy deal, but it is normal. Floating fur increases the challenge of keeping just-washed apparel a Fido-free zone. Unless you're a passionate pet lover who considers pet hair to be a condiment, understanding how to tame the hairy mess will keep your pet's coat and skin healthy and simplify housecleaning.


Why Pets Shed


It's not the temperature that prompts shedding. Light exposure, either to sun or artificial light, determines the amount and timing. More hair is shed during the greatest exposure to light. Outdoor cats and dogs living in the northeastern United States shed with the seasons, with the most fur flying in late spring for the several weeks during which daylight increases. But house pets under constant exposure to artificial light shed all year long.



Hair grows in cycles beginning with a period of rapid growth in the spring, followed by slower growth, and then ending in a winter resting stage. Mature hairs loosen in the follicles over the winter. In the spring, another cycle of hair growth begins, and new hair pushes the old loose ones out, resulting in an all-over shed.



Furry Offenders


All cats and dogs shed -- even shorthair pets -- but some breeds prompt more aggravation. The so-called "non-shedding" curly coated dogs like poodles just have much longer fur-growing seasons in which hair continuously grows for years at a time. They tend not to lose huge amounts of hair all at once. Shed hairs get caught and held in curly coats so shedding isn't as obviously left on the furniture.



Shorthair pets shed just as much, but the tiny hairs don't create furry drifts. "Double coated" shedding German shepherds, chows, and Persian cats may look moth-eaten when they shed clumps of fur at a time.



Mats, Hairballs & Hotspots


Thickly furred pets develop mats when fur is trapped and tangled next to the skin. Mats are terrific flea habitat and create bruises. Dogs also can develop painful hot spots -- a moist bacterial skin infection -- from mats. Hairballs develop when the dog or cat swallows shed fur during self-grooming.



6 Tips for Controlling The Shed


You can't stop shedding, but you can reduce the aggravation to yourself and health risks to your pet.



1--Groom every day. Religious fur care prevents problems and keeps skin and coats healthy. Make sure you groom outside or in an area easy to clean, or you'll deal with a furry tornado inside the house.



2--Choose good tools. EZ-Groomer is a cheap, light weight, claw-shaped tool that works well to break up established mats and to pull off shed fur. The pricier Furminator won't work on mats, but the close-fitting teeth pull off 80 percent of loose fur. A standard comb, or curry or pin brush also works.



3--Pet away fur. For shorthaired pets that hate grooming but love petting, try rubber-nubbed grooming "gloves." Or slip the foot-end of old pantyhose over your hand and pet to pull off shed fuzz.



4--Target problem areas. Pay particular attention to mat-prone areas behind the pet's ears, beneath his tail, and in the "arm pits" and groin regions. Longhair cats also develop tummy mats.


5--Take your time. There is no rule that says you must comb or brush the entire pet at one setting. Space it out over several hours or days. Most dogs and cats have "sweet spots" they love to have scratched, so finish on the cat's cheeks or the dog's chest. End each session with a favorite treat or game so your cat or dog identifies grooming with good things.


6--Ask a pro. If you aren't able to manage grooming yourself, have it professionally done by a groomer or veterinarian. "Lion cuts" that shave wooly pets for the summer can prevent problem mats or hotspots.

From Amy Shojai, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant and adapted from: http://www.pawnation.com/2011/04/19/why-pets-shed-and-how-to-keep-fur-from-flying/


Moving on toward more questions on dog grooming:

The Lowdown on Doggie Shedding

Most dogs shed. Even the ones that the breeder or pet store call "no shed dogs" are still bound to leave some fur behind. It's a nuisance, but it is the small price we pay for our pet's love and companionship.

Still, shedding raises many questions: Why do dogs seem to shed more in winter? Does heavy shedding indicate a health problem? Is it possible to prevent or reduce shedding? We chatted with Dr. Donna Spector, a board-certified veterinary Internal Medicine specialist from VCA Animal Hospital to get the lowdown on the shed.



Do dogs shed more in the winter?


Dogs appear to shed more in the winter, however, this is most often an illusion! Most dogs shed year-round. In the winter these dogs spend more time indoors and therefore owners tend to see more hair, giving the impression that they are shedding more. Some breeds do indeed have a seasonal shedding pattern and they tend to lose their heavier winter undercoat in the spring.

Can brushing your dog reduce shedding?


Shedding is an expected part of dog ownership and the hair is going to fall out one way or another. It is best to remove it and throw it away, rather than to let the hair fall out all over your house! I recommend brushing your dog once daily. Brushing cleans the coat, removes loose hair and stimulates the oil glands of the skin to keep skin soft and supple, which is especially important during the dry winter months.



It is also important to not bathe your dog too frequently as this can be very drying to the skin. Do not bathe more than once weekly and choose a natural and fragrance-free shampoo that doesn't strip the coat of natural oils.



Does dog diet affect shedding?


It is important that your dog is eating a complete and well-balanced diet to insure no nutrient deficiencies are contributing to hair loss or dry skin. Supplemental fatty acids (commonly provided as fish oils) can often improve the quality of the skin and hair coat.



Which brushes work best?


There are three basic brush types and your veterinarian can help you choose the brush that is right for your dog. Bristle brushes can be used on all coat types, and in general, the longer the hair coat, the more widely spaced and longer the bristles should be. Wire-pin brushes (with or without rubber ends) are the best choice for dogs with medium to long hair and those dogs with curly or very thick coats. Slicker brushes have very fine wire bristles and are useful for removing tangles.



Combs can also be used and are often helpful for removing mats. Curry-type combs are great for massaging the skin and removing loose hair from short-haired dogs.



Can shedding be a sign of disease?


Medical conditions such as skin infections, cancer, mange, ringworm, and even hormonal problems can cause increased shedding. If your dog has abnormal amounts of shedding and hair loss, leading to thin hair and bald spots, be sure to see your veterinarian.

Adapted from: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/01/04/the-low-down-on-doggie-shedding/

On becoming more comfortable with the hairbrush and blowdryer:

Overcoming Grooming Fears: The Hairbrush and the Blowdryer
 
The condition of your pet's fur may be less than flattering due to their affinity for romping in mud and sifting through garbage cans, but what can you do if your mangy-looking friend is terrified of the grooming tools needed to clean up their act? The razor-toothed hairbrush and loud, scary blowdryer may send many pets bolting to the nearest hiding place, but there are ways to help your pet become accustomed to, and possibly even comfortable with, these grooming necessities.


The Hairbrush


Once you're ready to combat your pet's tangles, put them into proper grooming stance. "While you are brushing your pet, it is often best if it's in a standing position," says Jen Quick, Director of the Fur Institute, a grooming school located in Alberta, Canada. "You can keep them standing by placing one hand between their back legs and resting it on their belly."



Another crucial step in maintaining your pet's patience with grooming is to give them frequent breathers. "You may want to give your pet a little bit of a break if it is taking more than a half hour to remove all tangles from their fur," suggested Quick.



Some animals may become agitated while you're brushing their tangles out, and could wiggle or even try to snap at you. In this situation, "place your hand around the animal's muzzle to keep their mouth closed, and in a stern voice, tell them 'no,'" advised Quick. If your pet continues to bite or growl, you must regain control over the situation. "You can flip them on their back, make eye contact, and tell them 'no,'" said Quick. "Do not break eye contact until they look away first." If all else fails, you may need to muzzle your pet to avoid getting hurt.



It may seem easier to forgo brushing between visits to the groomer, but the benefits outweigh the difficulty of struggling for your furry friend's compliance. If you neglect your pet's fur, it may become matted which "can restrict blood flow and air reaching that area of the skin, and there can be serious health issues," according to Quick.



The Blowdryer


"If your pet is afraid of the blowdryer, they may need to be reintroduced," said Quick. The first step is getting your pet comfortable with being in the vicinity of the blowdryer. This can be done by leaving the blowdryer in an area where the pet spends a lot of time, and it cannot be accidentally turned on. Once the presence of the blowdryer is no longer frightening to your pet, leave it running for a while so they can become accustomed to the noise. "Make sure to have a safe place for your pet to go (like a kennel) if [the noise] scares them," said Quick.



Quick cautions that it may take several attempts, but once your pet is comfortable with the noise of the blowdryer, you can start blowing air onto them. "You always want to start at the back end of the pet and slowly work towards the front, leaving the head last."



When all else fails, treats can often save the day. Acting as a positive distraction, treats will often convince your pet that sticking around to get dried off may not be all bad. "Pets often respond in a positive manner when they are rewarded for doing a good thing," said Quick.

Adapted from: http://www.pawnation.com/2010/01/27/overcoming-grooming-fears-the-hairbrush-and-the-blowdryer/

Keeping dogs and cats clean can involve choosing tips from different sources and finding out which ones work best for your situation:

Keep Dogs and Cats Clean


Washing a dog or watching someone else wash a dog: moment of Zen. (Depending on the dog, of course.) Washing a cat: not so much. Here are some tips from groomers and veterinarians on the best way to get the job done.


How often should dogs be bathed?



"I kind of go with 'Wash them when they're dirty,' " says Margaret Silvius, a veterinarian at Lakewood Animal Health Center in Lee's Summit, Mo. Wash some dogs too frequently and their skin will dry out.


Every four to six weeks is typical, says Amanda Stoufer with Quivira Road Animal Clinic in Lenexa, Kan., but it depends on the dog. She bathes her own dogs every week in the summertime to remove allergens and pollen.


What if your pooch is antibath?


Make it a positive experience, Stoufer says: lots of rewards (treats) and praise. Make sure a bath doesn't seem like punishment.


What kind of shampoo should you use?


Don't use human shampoo. Dogs "have completely different skin than we do," says Jessica Quinn, 20, who works at Brookside Barkery & Bath in Kansas City, Mo.


What about cats?


"I've never given my cat a bath, and we've had her five years," Silvius says. "Most cats are really good self-groomers." But you do need to comb or brush your cat.


Stoufer says long-haired cats may require baths. And any cat that gets into something — motor oil, for instance — needs a bath.


Stoufer has noticed that cats seem to be calmer at the clinic than they would be at home; they're out of their element. "Most cats just kind of sit there and let us do what we do," Stoufer says. "Everybody assumes that cats hate water, but most of them don't seem that traumatized by it."


Still, for cats, a treat afterward may not help. Their attitude seems to be, "You humiliated me! I want some space from you," Stoufer says.


How about "pocket pets" such as guinea pigs, hamsters and mice?


They self-groom, too, for the most part. "I would just spot-clean them if they happen to get messy," Stoufer says.


Can pets be blow-dried?


Yes, but use the coolest setting. Dogs and cats can easily overheat. Stoufer's office uses no-heat fans that hook onto cages.


Quinn's tip: Be sure to dry the dog completely; it helps prevent matting.


Do you really need to brush your dog or cat's teeth?


"That's definitely the ideal thing," Silvius says. Brush their teeth every day if you can (with pet toothpaste, available in flavors such as poultry). Dental treats and water additives can help. Tartar buildup and periodontal disease can affect pets. The good news: Brushing is enough. You don't have to train your pet to rinse and spit.

Adapted from: http://www.tampabay.com/features/pets/keep-dogs-and-cats-clean/1168747

For some good information on a specific and unpleasant clean-up problem, check out this from the Humane Society of the United States:

De-Skunking Your Dog

Skunks are everywhere—in the country and in the city. If your dog gets sprayed, there are ways you can rid him of the scent without using your entire ketchup (or tomato juice) supply to do it.



Over-the-counter products such as Nature's Miracle Skunk Odor Remover, which is available at most specialty pet retailers, are a quick fix, but if you don't have that on hand, try the following:


Step 1: Keep Fido outside


While you prepare the de-skunking solution, keep your dog outside after he's sprayed so he doesn't carry the smell into your house. Check his eyes; if they're irritated or red, immediately flush them with cool water.


Step 2: Mix the Ingredients


Mix together:


1 quart of 3-percent hydrogen peroxide (available at your local pharmacy)

1/4 cup baking soda

1 teaspoon liquid dishwashing soap


Wearing rubber gloves, wash your dog with this solution immediately after he's been sprayed. DO NOT get the solution in the dog's eyes. (If you don't have peroxide, baking soda, and liquid soap on hand, use vinegar diluted with water.)


Caution: Do NOT save this mixture or make it ahead of time, as the mixture could explode if left in a bottle.


Step 3: Clean and rinse


Rub the mixture through his fur, but don't leave it on him too long (peroxide can bleach his fur). Rinse him thoroughly.


Step 4: Shampoo


Next, wash your dog with pet shampoo and rinse thoroughly. By now, he should be de-skunked and smelling sweet. Thoroughly towel-dry your dog, and be sure to place him in a warm, sunny room for the next couple of hours so that he doesn't get chilled. He should also have a large dry towel on which to lie down. If you dog has long fur, you may need to use a hair dryer to dry his fur.


Owner cleanup


If your dog rubbed some of the stink onto you, you can rid your clothes of the smell by using regular laundry detergent mixed with a half-cup of baking soda.

Adapted from: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/de-skunking_dog.html

One more source for information on shedding solutions:

Spring and summer can be a hairy time for pet owners. Shedding hair is one of the biggest annoyances of dog and cat owners. So how can you rid your home and your clothing of unwanted hair?



Regardless of age or breed, all dogs and cats (except for hairless pets like a Sphinx feline or an American Hairless Terrier) lose their winter coats and begin to shed when warmer weather arrives. While you can't stop your pet from shedding, you can create an effective strategy to deal with the loose hair.


If you are tired of tackling pet hair, use these fur fighting tips and pet product recommendations to alleviate shedding throughout your home:


1. Read shampoo labels before bathing.


Not all pet shampoos are the same; and like food, you need to read the labels. Use an Olive shampoo like Nikki's Green Rosemarino Olive Oil Dog Shampoo, which is rich in Vitamin E and other antioxidants to moisturize dry and brittle hairs, returning your pet's coat to its natural strength, luster and beauty. $16.00.


2. Keep your pet bed fur-free.


Schedule the cleaning of your pet's bed in conjunction with monthly grooming appointments or in-home grooming sessions. To remove pet hair, use a static cling preventative product to loosen pet hair and a vacuum pet bed. New odor free, antimicrobial and stain resistant pet beds like Jax and Bones Crypton® fabric beds make it much easier to remove dead hair and dander. $169.00.


3. Clean surfaces thoroughly.


Vacuum carpets, furniture and car upholstery, using pet vacuums with HEPA filters and motorized brushes for allergen removal and for pet hair pick-up. If necessary, cover furniture and car seats. For those hard-to-reach places and when you need a quick sweep, try the Scotch™ Fur Fighter ™ Pet Hair Sweeper, specially designed to make cleaning up pet hair easy, especially in tricky places like between appliances and kitchen cabinets. $9.99 for the Pet Hair Sweeper and $4.99 for the refills.


4. Supplement your pet's diet.


You are what you eat and your pet's appearance reflects what he eats too! Feed your pet a high quality diet and supplement his diet with Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids to keep his coat healthy and shiny. Try PetSmart GNC Ultra Mega Skin and Coat Essentials for Cats, with Omega- 3, 6 & 9 fatty acids. $5.99


5. Develop a grooming routine.


Depending on the coat type, brushing regularly with a slicker, pin or bristle brush can keep your home clean from shedding pet hair, dander and dirt. Also, utilize helpful tools such as shedding blades and grooming gloves. Also, groom pets outside or in a utility room to contain flyaway fur. FURminator has deshedding products starting as low as $35.00.


6. Shut the closet door.


Keep dogs and cats out of clothing closets. Prior to leaving home, do not pet or allow your pet to rub against you. Carry a lint brush to make sure your clothes are fur-free -- and to prevent aggravating the pet allergies of co-workers, friends or acquaintances.


7. Schedule seasonal medical check-ups.


An allergic reaction, mange or another health problem may cause hair loss. If your pet is losing an excessive amount of hair, take your dog or cat to your veterinarian for a check-up.

Adapted from: http://www.zootoo.com/petnews/springtime-shedding-solutions-1794

A new product from Dyson might help you with your grooming tasks, as Susan Segrest explains:

Dyson, the maker of upscale vacuums -- and commercials featuring the posh voice of its British founder -- has had a series of powerful animal-and-pet-hair-focused vacuums for years. But now the company is trying to keep that hair from hitting the floor in the first place.


For Medium- and Long-Haired Dogs


The $69 attachment (that works with many but not all Dyson vacuums) is a grooming brush for medium- and long-haired adult dogs. You can see how it works in the video below, but basically it is a brush/suck combo. The brush gathers the hair and then you press a button for the vacuum suction to take it away.



I tried it out on my very thick-coated pug and I have to say, I love it.



Normally a pug wouldn't be a good candidate for the groom tool because of its short hair, but my dog Milo has, what one vet described as, "the face of a pug, the coat of an Akita." And, no matter what I do, he leaves tumbleweeds of dog hair throughout my home. Every day. So I was eager to give this a go. He's also completely deaf, so the noise of the vacuum doesn't faze him.


Two Dogs Put It to the Test


With dog, grooming tool and vacuum at the ready, I quickly get the hang of it. With one hand on the dog's collar and one hand on the grooming tool, I start doing even strokes. The push-and-release action brings the bristles out to brush the dog and then allow them to retract so the suction can pull the hair away. I repeat, going over the thicker parts of the coat and am thrilled to see the hair filling up the clear vacuum canister.



Because the suction on the Dyson vacuum is so powerful, I wasn't sure how the attachment would keep from pulling too hard on the dog's hair and skin, but the company explains that the "suction is split to prevent the tool sticking to the animal, yet capture flyaway hair and dead skin." And it works. No tragic squeals from the pug from the hair getting yanked. Also, the removal of allergens and pet dander is a big draw. I was able to sit on the sofa and do the grooming without being surrounded by dog hair or feel like I was being dusted by allergens. Some hair hit the floor, but I did have the vacuum handy.



I also had my friend Steve test drive the groom tool on his golden retriever to see how well it worked for them and if his dog freaked out over the noise of the vacuum. He practiced using the tool without the vacuum first. And then he ran the vacuum nearer to the dog than normal and then put the two together. He said that the dog didn't love being so near the vacuum, so it wasn't the most relaxing grooming in the world, but it definitely sucked up a lot of hair. He thinks that with time they would both relax into it.



Would It Work for You?


If you have a dog with longer hair and already own or plan on buying a Dyson vacuum, it just might be the right tool to add to your fur-busting arsenal -- if your pooch can stand the noise of the vacuum, that is.

Adapted from: http://www.pawnation.com/2011/03/10/pet-product-review-dyson-groom-tool/

Susan Segrest also has some suggestions for several other products:

April showers bring flowers -- eventually -- but at the moment all it is bringing is a lot of muddy paw prints into my apartment. To tackle this problem I've put several items to the test to keep a dirty dog, from leaving a trail of ick throughout my home. Here are my favorites:


1. Soggy Doggy Doormat


I am LOVING this large super absorbent doormat. After wiping off my rain-soaked dog's dirty paws with a wet paper towel, I lead him over to the super soft Soggy Doggy Doormat to soak up some of the water. According to the manufacturer, the mat is made from millions of textured, ultrafine strands woven together so there is more surface area to allow it to soak up seven times its weight. It also dries faster than the typical doormat and can be thrown in the washing machine for a cleaning. $39.95 online and at stores nationwide.



2. Microdry Memory Foam Luxury Pet Mat


I found this sleek super-absorbent slip-resistant pet mat when I was looking to upgrade the mat for my bathroom floor. Made by the Microdry company -- which manufactures a range of super-absorbent household products -- the pet mat features quick-wicking fabric along with a half of a inch of memory foam to amp up the softness and comfort for the pooch. I keep the pet mat in my bedroom so if the dog is still damp, he can hang out there drying off without getting his bed wet. I also put down Microdry's longer runner in my hallway when it is a particularly wet week and it keeps messes to a minimum. $19.99 - small, $29.99 - large, at Bed, Bath and Beyond.


3. Swiffer WetJet


For quickly cleaning up muddy paws in the kitchen, I pull out my Swiffer WetJet and give the floor a fast once over. The WetJet has a dual-nozzle sprayer, special cleaning solution and a pad which locks in the dirt as your mop. There is also a special scrubby strip for breaking up dried hardened dirt. (So much faster than dragging out the mop and bucket.) From $23.35 at Amazon.com and stores nationwide.



4. Dogs Unleashed Microfiber Pocket Pet Towel


Another great strategy for dealing with wet, muddy pets, is having several towels designated only for the dogs. This mini microfiber towel with pockets is clearly labeled so you won't get it mixed in with the rest of your wash. Just slide your hands into the end pockets and you can quickly wipe the dog down and clean off dirty paws. $9.99 at Petco

Adapted from: http://www.pawnation.com/2011/04/12/spring-cleaning-battling-muddy-paws/ and there are some clickable web sites for each of these products.

Should you find that your pooch has gotten into some cockleburs, Kathy Salzberg has this advice:


Q: My neighbor just brought home a dog from the shelter. She took a long walk with her new dog and came home to find cockleburs throughout the dog's coat. What should she do?



A: Once you discover cockleburs on your dog, you need to remove them as soon as possible. The longer they stay in the coat, the deeper they will dig in, making it more difficult to get rid of them. The best way to remove them depends on how many your furry friend has picked up. If there are just a few, you can usually remove them with a coarse brush or a stainless steel comb. If some are already stuck in, you can try splitting them with scissors to make brushing them out easier. Do this very carefully; always point the scissor’s tips away from the dog’s body to avoid injury.


Detangling spray or coat conditioner will make it easier to remove the cockleburs. You’ll be able to work them out without tugging too much on your dog’s coat. In a pinch, a little vegetable oil will also do the trick.


You’ll need to bathe your pet after using any of these products. Any good pH-balanced pet shampoo will do, but if the coat is extremely oily, you might want to use de-greasing shampoo or Dawn dish detergent followed by a soothing crème rinse or conditioner. After the bath, brush and comb the coat to make sure you haven’t missed any cockleburs. Check your dog thoroughly, including the pads of his feet. These tiny tanglers can find a home in any crevice, including armpits, ears and even the genital area.


When dogs loaded with cockleburs come to the grooming shop, we normally clip them down and start the coat over again. Even if it were possible to remove them with a dematting tool, it would be extremely time-consuming and painful for the pet. In fact, if your four-footed friend loves to romp in the woods and fields, keeping his coat in a short trim will help you to easily detect the burrs. When you are enjoying the great outdoors, avoid any areas that contain cockleburs. If they are growing on your property, remove them – wearing gloves, of course. Their prickly dry seedpods are usually visible on plant stems, protruding above other wild vegetation.


Another serious botanical hazard for dogs that romp outdoors is the foxtail, a hard seed-bearing structure on some kinds of wild grasses that contains sharp points at one end with microscopic barbs that allows it to embed like a fish hook. Like cockleburs, these become stuck in the hair, especially the paws and ears, and sometimes even in nostrils and eyes. If they work their way into the skin, they can cause serious infection. These grasses are common in weedy areas around roads, paths and woodland trails. As annuals, they are soft and green from January through March or April, but after the seed heads dry in the spring, they become dangerous, remaining that way throughout the summer and fall. Foxtails can cause severe injury, so if you uncover any on your pet, be sure to get all of them out with your brush and comb. If they have become embedded, take your dog to a veterinarian for removal.


One interesting cocklebur factoid: Despite their nuisance quality, they are responsible for an invention that has become ubiquitous in our daily lives. In 1941, Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral noticed that his wool socks, his jacket and his dog’s fur were covered with cockleburs after a walk in the woods. Observing them under a microscope, he noticed their hundreds of hooks and how easily they attached to fibers, especially if those fibers were looped. By 1948, he had duplicated this hook and loop configuration in nylon, naming his new creation Velcro.


Adapted from: http://www.dogchannel.com/dog-information/dog-groomer-salzberg/removing-cockleburs-from-a-dogs-coat.aspx?sc_cid=4828670

After last week's issue on strange and unusual "tails", a couple of readers sent e-mails about other interesting dog and cat "tails".  First, was Jamie, from Chicago, who sent this tidbit about:

Let Fido Sniff Out Winning Pet Stocks
Last year, an octopus named Paul proved quite adept at predicting winners in the FIFA World Cup. While his stock-picking prowess never was tested, his skills do suggest an interesting idea for investors -- consulting the domesticated animal kingdom for investing ideas.



It's not as far-fetched as it might sound: Historical returns have shown that growth in pet products has proceeded at a steady pace. And more than half of households have a built-in product focus group -- a furry, fuzzy or scaly pet that is probably more than eager to test the latest and greatest pet products.


Want to throw your portfolio a bone? Follow your dog's nose and see what pet products make his tail wag in delight.



The cost of unconditional love



According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent $48.4 billion on their pets in 2010, and as of 2008 more than 62% of households owned at least one pet.


Almost $20 billion of that amount was spent on pet food, $14 billion on veterinary care, and $11 billion on supplies and over-the-counter medicine, according to the APPA. These revenue figures have nearly tripled since 1994 and are even more reason to consider investing in the pet products sector.


Cashing in on Fido and Fifi



Pets.com is long gone, but thankfully we're left with a few highly profitable places to dig for investment opportunities:


Note that all of these companies have strong double-digit growth expectations, yet none are trading at a ridiculous valuation. As gravy, PetMed Express pays a very delectable dividend -- currently yielding north of 4% -- while PetSmart also pays out 1.2%, a figure I predict could rise in the coming years given its dividend growth rate of more than 100% in the past two years.


Also, don't discount what owners are willing to do to ensure the health of their four-legged family members. A typical visit to the vet usually costs hundreds of dollars and translates into healthy margins for pet companies like MWI and VCA Antech, which supply various products to veterinary clinics.


Big retailers hopping on the gravy train



The appeal of high-margin pet products is even attracting large names that want a piece of the pie. Wal-Mart (WMT), Target (TGT), and online retailer Amazon.com (AMZN) have expanded the amount of pet food and toy products they carry in the hopes of cashing in on this high-margin gravy train.

Adapted from: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/07/12/let-fido-sniff-out-winning-pet-stocks/

And, secondly, a note from Albert, in NYC, about a cat that had survived a fall from the 20th floor:

The owners of one lucky Upper West Side cat were talking about nine lives after he survived a 20-floor fall from a high-rise building.



Forget about black cats and bad luck – this cat is one amazing animal.


“They told me that he was a miracle,” owner Barry Myers said.


“Gloucester,” better known as “G” to his owners, was the subject of plenty of fireworks on the Fourth of July after surviving a 20-story plunge from an apartment building. The cat crash-landed on the pavement with barely a scratch.


“According to the vet, when you’re 10 floors or above, you actually have an increased chance of surviving it, because you have a chance to kind of right yourself and get ready to land,” Myers said.


Myers has owned “G” since he found the cat in an abandoned building 16 years ago. Members of the family mistakenly left a window cracked when they left for a long weekend, not knowing the danger in store for their curious cat.


“In all the years we’ve been here, he’s never even looked at the window, let alone peeked his head out or anything,” Myers said. “I assume he saw something and leaned out and tried to take a swing at it.”

This is not only a miraculous example of our discussion last week, but also even more so since this cat is 16 years old!

Adapted from: http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2011/07/13/miracle-cat-survives-20-story-fall-from-upper-west-side-apartment-building/

SPORTS NEWS
Desperado and Helpful Buckeye were glad to watch the NL beat the AL in baseball's All-Star game this week.  Now, it would be nice if the LA DODGERS could maintain the momentum they had generated before the All-Star break.  It sounds like the NFL lockout might be heading for a resolution.  Helpful Buckeye suspects that most NFL fans will quickly forget their displeasure with the owners and players once the first coin toss of the season occurs.

PERSONAL STUFF 

Helpful Buckeye fell back on wise counseling from Desperado this past week by putting more miles in on my bike, planting more flowers and herbs, playing some fairly decent racquetball, getting back to sharing some good times with friends, and, of course, communing with Desperado over some great meals.  Life can be good...but, sometimes, we have to give it some help.

If certain things start falling properly into place, Desperado and Helpful Buckeye would like to start making some plans for a few short trips, much like the ones we made earlier this year.  There are still several 2-3 day trips available right here in Arizona that we'd really enjoy.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson (author and poet) said:
"Never lose an opportunity to see anything that is beautiful.  It is God’s handwriting—a wayside sacrament.  Welcome it in every fair face, every fair sky, every fair flower."

~~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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