Sunday, May 5, 2013


Today is not only Cinco de Mayo but also the 5th birthday of Questions On Dogs and Cats.   First of all, I'll say the obvious..."I can't believe that 5 years has gone by this quickly!"  As Helpful Buckeye, I've met you each week during that time with as much helpful information on your dogs and cats as I could put together.  Secondly, through the medium of Internet blogging, I've had the opportunity of " meeting" many of you "electronically" with your e-mail questions and comments.  My readers have sent e-mails from every state and several countries other than the USA...I've been very fortunate to share this weekly time with so many avid, pet-loving "e-friends."  As one of my favorite movie characters, Harvey Holroyd, says, "It's been a slice...." 

In the grand scheme of things, it therefore only seems fitting that this would be an appropriate time to bring my blogging career to an end.  Yes, that's what the letters, EOB, stand for that you've been seeing at the beginning of the last ten issues...End Of Blog.

Just to satisfy your curiosity, the top ten countries represented in the demographic list of readers are: USA, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, Israel, India, Russia, France, and the Philippines.  Our most popular issue was "visited" 11,800 times.   

I've met you right here on these pages every week for the last five years, bringing you 261 issues of Questions On Dogs and Cats.  Every Monday morning, when you picked up your first cup of coffee, we've shared a lot of thoughts about dogs and cats and had fun doing it.  So, next Monday morning, think of Helpful Buckeye and the wonderful five years we had together.  Thanks for being there....

Many of you will remember that I ran this cartoon about looking for "blogging" shoes right after our initial issue.  I really had no idea how long this would go on or how involved I would become in the pet affairs of so many people.  It has been truly gratifying to think of all the pet owners I've had contact with.  I believe I've worn out 5 pairs of blogging shoes and am putting this issue together wearing an old pair of Jimmy Buffett "Margaritaville" sandals...somewhere, there's a palm tree and chaise lounge with my name on it.

I've titled this issue The Final Potpourri for a reason.  Whether you prefer the words hodgepodge, mishmash, melange, salmagundi, or potpourri, this blog has been just that for our duration.  I believed that I would be of most help to pet owners by covering as many pet topics as possible.  And, judging from your e-mails, most of you have been very comfortable with that.  Among the most rewarding e-mail messages I received were those in which someone said they would have liked to visit me when I was still practicing or that they would have liked to spend a day with me at my veterinary hospital.  Thank you for all of your e-mails and comments...they have been much appreciated!

In the words of Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive—to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” 

And now, for one last swing through the wonderful world of dogs and cats, let's look at some interesting stuff:

Finding Truth on the Web

Dr. Joanne Intile

The Internet can be a dangerous place for owners of pets with cancer. The sheer amount of virtual information available immediately at one’s fingertips is astonishing; bordering on overwhelming.
As an example, a quick search of the phrase “canine cancer” in a popular search engine returns over 3,240,000 hits. "Canine lymphoma" yields over 1,050,000 hits, while "feline lymphoma" reveals a mere 565,000 hits. How can an owner sift through all those pages and discern the "good from the bad" when it comes to learning more about their pet’s diagnosis?
When a diagnosis of cancer is made, owners are often placed in the difficult position of having to make decisions regarding diagnostic tests and treatments for their pet, frequently with limited information. This can lead to a feeling of helplessness and depression, or even defensiveness at times. I think it’s natural to turn to the Internet as a source of information, self-comfort, and self-education.
What I’m not so sure of is when exactly did entering phrases or words into a search engine begin qualifying as "research?" Having endured many years of rigorous academic training, when I think of actively researching a topic, it conjures up images of pouring over textbooks and critically reviewing clinical studies. To me, it means learning objective facts and studying information for accuracy of content, not clicking on random websites and reading unsubstantiated opinions backed typically by emotion rather than truth.
It is not unusual for owners to come to their first appointment armed with notes, printouts, suggestions, and/or questions they have garnered from searching their pets’ diagnoses on the Internet. My visceral reaction is typically one of tempered insult. I’m the one who endured many years of education and training and have several years of experience working as a clinical medical oncologist, yet I often joke in some cases that the (in)famous "Dr. Google," who never went to vet school, once again has managed to usurp my recommendations. It’s challenging for me to remember that the intentions behind my clients’ questions or suggestions are typically pure. Owners simply lack the medical knowledge to review the Internet information accurately, but they really only want the best care and best treatment options for their pets.
I’ve discussed before how I understand that a diagnosis of cancer can be emotionally provoking for owners, and a common frustration many will express is their complete lack of control over the situation. Owners cannot alter progression of the disease once it occurs, they are simply told, "Here are the facts and here are the recommendations."
An example would be an owner focusing on nutrition and diet after a diagnosis is obtained. What food their pet ingests is one of the few things pet owners can control in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. It is also one of the most Internet-searched topics owners will discuss with me during an appointment. Unfortunately, the lack of evidence-based information supporting nutrition as playing a role in the outcome for animals with cancer makes it difficult to make solid recommendations.
This isn’t to say I can't relate to the need to try to learn as much as possible about a diagnosis, and I’m aware of how daunting terminology related to science and health and medicine can be for individuals not trained specifically within those subjects. The vocabulary is unfamiliar, anxiety provoking, and even uncomfortable for some. Equally as challenging on my end is determining how to present complicated diagnoses and treatment options in terms the average non-medically inclined individual can understand. Despite my best efforts, even with the most medically educated clientele, I know the emotional aspects surrounding a diagnosis can create barriers to truly understanding the technicalities.
Following initial consults, I provide owners with an in-depth written summary of all the points discussed during the appointment. I believe this is something unique to the veterinary profession. Think about the last time your human MD counterpart provided you with a written summary of any aspect of your visit. Even with the information literally in hand, it’s not uncommon for owners to specifically ask for websites they could use to better understand all the topics I’ve discussed. I’m not sure I will ever understand the need to turn to non-validated sources of information when it comes to learning about health and disease, but I do understand my obligation to being able to point people in the right direction.
Therefore, I generally recommend websites directly affiliated with veterinary schools, professional veterinary organizations, and websites run by respected and prominent veterinarians and advocate such pages as resources for owners seeking additional information. I also have no problem discussing the pros of seeing another medical oncologist for a second opinion when appropriate.
I think one of the main reasons I enjoy being able to write weekly articles for petMD is because I feel it is my small way of contributing factual information about veterinary oncology on the Internet. Though I’m still frequently challenged by owners about something they read on a website or through an online forum, I try to maintain patience when these topics come up.
I take comfort in knowing there are good resources for pet owners, and that I play an active role in keeping truthful information available to a large-scale audience, one week at a time.
Adapted from:

There is no doubt that the Internet has provided a lot of good and interesting information for those seeking it.  But, going beyond that, we've all been told that you can't believe everything you read online...and for good reason.  Anybody can post whatever they wish is the reader's duty to sift out what is good from what isn't.

The Science of Dogs, A Helpful Chart
If you've ever wondered what's going on inside a dog's head, look no further than this chart that helps explain what dogs fear, what they understand and why they have to smell absolutely everything that ever existed.

If you memorize these charts, you'll go a long way toward
understanding some of your dog's actions!!!

Scientists prove you really can tell what your dog
 is feeling by looking at its face

Any dog owner will claim they can tell exactly what their pet is thinking just by looking at it. Now scientists have discovered that they may well be right.  A study has shown that people are able to precisely identify a range of emotions in dogs from changes in their facial expressions.
The research showed that volunteers could correctly spot when a dog was happy, sad, angry, surprised or scared, when shown only a picture of the animal’s face, suggesting that humans are naturally attuned to detecting how animals are feeling.
Dr Tina Bloom, a psychologist who led the research, said: “There is no doubt that humans have the ability to recognise emotional states in other humans and accurately read other humans’ facial expressions. We have shown that humans are also able to accurately – if not perfectly – identify at least one dog’s facial expressions.
“Although humans often think of themselves as disconnected or even isolated from nature, our study suggests that there are patterns that connect, and one of these is in the form of emotional communication.”
The study, published in the journal Behavioural Processes, used photographs of a police dog named Mal, a five-year-old Belgian shepherd dog, as it experienced different emotions. To trigger a happy reaction, researchers praised Mal. The result was the dog looking straight at the camera with ears up and tongue out.
They then reprimanded the dog to produce a “sad” reaction, causing the animal to pull a mournful expression with eyes cast down.
Surprise, generated using a jack-in-the box, caused the dog to wrinkle the top of its head into something akin to a frown. Medicine that Mal did not like was produced to stimulate disgust – flattened ears – and nail trimmers, which Mal also disliked, were brandished to create fear, causing the ears to prick up and the whites of the eyes to show.
For anger, a researcher pretended to be a criminal. Mal’s teeth were bared in the beginnings of a snarl.
The resulting photographs were shown to 50 volunteers, who were split into two groups according to their experience of dogs.
By far the easiest emotion they recognised was happiness, with 88 per cent of the volunteers correctly identifying it. Anger was identified by 70 per cent of participants.
About 45 per cent of volunteers spotted when Mal was frightened, while 37 per cent could identify the relatively subtle emotion of sadness.
The canine expressions that were hardest for humans to identify were surprise and disgust, with only 20 per cent of the volunteers recognising surprise and just 13 per cent recognising disgust.
The study by Dr Bloom and Prof Harris Friedman, both from Walden University, in Minneapolis, found that people with minimal experience of dogs were better at identifying canine disgust and anger, perhaps because dog owners convinced themselves that their dog was not aggressive and so the associated facial expression was just playing.
The researchers believe the ability of inexperienced volunteers to sometimes be better judges of emotions may be because reading dogs’ faces comes naturally, rather than being a learned skill.
Dr Bloom said she hoped further research might determine whether this apparent natural empathy with canines was something we shared with all mammals, or could be explained by humans and dogs evolving side-by-side for the past 100,000 years.
As a dog lover — who was “very confident” in her ability to read the faces of her two Dobermans and two Rhodesian ridgebacks — she admitted such unproven theories were emotionally appealing.
She added: “If I adopted a cat, or a snake or a turtle, I don’t think it would be as emotionally attached to me and watching my face as much as a dog would. There is something different and special about a dog — I’m not sure what it is, but it’s there.”
Beverley Cuddy, the editor of Dogs Today, said dog lovers would feel vindicated by the research. “I am not at all surprised that science has finally accepted what we knew all along — dog and owner communicate perfectly well without words.”
Adapted from:

Is Your Cat a Lion at Heart?
Have you ever wondered why your pet cat rubs up against your legs, kneads your thighs with its forepaws or sleeps on top of a wardrobe? These, and many other behaviours, can be attributed to the tiger lurking within your pet tigger.

A recent report conducted by feline experts Whiskas has established close links between domestic cat behaviour and behaviours exhibited by their wild big cat cousins.
The report also revealed some startling statistics about the way cat owners relate to their pets.
Over a thousand owners were involved in a survey that investigated regularly observed behaviours around the home and garden and also asked how owners responded to their pets. Some of the results were startling! Over 95% of cat owners considered their pet as part of the family. And a surprising one in 10 admitted to preferring having a cuddle with their cat than with their partner!
Many cat owners maintain that stroking their pet reduces feelings of stress and this has been born out by empirical study that correlates a reduction in blood pressure among people who regularly look after and show affection to their pets.
One of the most tangible illustrations of owners recognising the similarities between domestic cats and their wild counterparts is when it comes to naming them, with Tigger and Tiger being among the favourites!
As someone who has spent a great deal of the past 30 years watching and filming the big cats of the world, chiefly in Kenya and India, I was asked to analyze some of the most regularly witnessed domestic cat behaviour to see if there were indeed any patterns which echoed that of their big cat cousins.
A common observation was that of cats rubbing against their owners' legs with their temples, cheeks and flanks, especially as meals were being prepared. The cat is in fact scent marking, using special glands in their face and sides, and in so doing they are reinforcing a 'family' scent. Very similar behaviour can be seen in lions, particularly when subordinate females or youngsters greet more dominant animals in the pride. As the subordinate lion approaches it lowers its head slightly, often raises its tail and then pushes its head into and along that of the more dominant colleague. The importance of establishing a clan or family scent for these sociable cats is key to the avoidance and diffusion of aggression. And woe betide any intruder that does not bear the familiar smell! When your domestic cat scent marks you it is showing its confidence and comfort in being close to you and at the same time recognising your dominance in the relationship. In short, it's a cat compliment.
Many owners observed their pet cat choosing to rest on a high point like the top of a cupboard, and some said that their cat preferred to eat from a bowl that was raised above ground level. This again is echoed by one of their big cat cousins, the African leopard, which in parts of its range regularly climbs trees to rest and may haul meals up into the branches too. This is a defence strategy, avoiding contact and conflict with other predators, especially hyenas and lions. When your pet cat seeks a high point it is responding to an ancestral urge to get out of the way of trouble that may lurk on the ground.
Padding, or kneading with the forepaws is another behaviour often witnessed in pet cats, especially when they are lying comfortably on their owners' laps. This action stems from infantile behaviour, when nursing kittens rhythmically knead their mothers' mammary glands to stimulate milk flow. Over thousands of years of domestication we have encouraged cats to maintain much of their kitten-like relationship, with ourselves playing the role of surrogate parents, and it is this that leads to the perpetuation of this paddingbehaviour. The same can be said of play behaviour, with many pet cats remaining very playful with their owners well into adulthood, a pattern of behaviour that generally wanes soon after adolescence in wild cat populations.
So much of the charm of living with a cat can be attributed to the close connection many have with the wild side of their character, whilst continuing to surprise and amuse us with their sense of fun, trust and independent character.
Adapted from:

Designer Mix Breeds: Most Common Breed

Breed mixes are becoming more and more popular and even getting designer names such as "Blends" as opposed to "Mixed Breeds". Most of the blends are smaller breed dogs and most are mixed with a poodle. Most of these are relatively low shedding pets and may be good choices for families with allergies. But which ones are the most popular? It is very difficult to find the numbers since they are not all part of a national registry but here is our list of the most common ones...
Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel-Poodle mix). The cockapoo originated in the United States in the 1960's. The Cockapoo is a cross between an American Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle. Cockapoos are active, can be good watchdogs and good with kids. Depending on the parents, the features and size can resemble each aspects of each breed. Their size can vary with the mix but generally range from 6 to 20 pounds and their life expectancy is 13 to 15 years. For more information, visit for the Cockapoo Club of America.
Schnoodle (Schnauzer-Poodle mix). Schnoodles are mixes between a Schnauzer and a Poodle. They are generally intelligent dogs, active, playful and get on well with children. They are relatively low shedders. There are three sizes of poodle (toy, miniature and standard) and three sizes of schnauzer (miniature, standard and giant) and their traits are directly reflected by the combination that is bred. Their size can vary from 6 pounds and up and their life expectancy is 13 to 15 years.
Yorkipoos (Yorkshire terrier-Poodle mix). Yorkipoos are a cross between Yorkshire Terriers and Poodles. They are generally affectionate, loyal and active little dogs. Yorkipoos are relatively low shedders. Depending on the parents, their weight can vary from 4.5 to 16 pounds and their life expectancy is 13 to 16 years.
Pomapoo (Pomeranian-Poodle mix). Pom-a-poos are a mix between a Pomeranian and a Poodle. They are generally intelligent dogs get on well with children. They are relatively low shedders. There size varies with the size of the parents but can vary from 4 to 15 pounds and their life expectancy is 13 to 16 years.
Labradoodle (Labrador retriever-Standard poodle mix). Labradoodles are a cross between a Labrador retriever and a standard poodle mix. They are generally sociable, intelligent and readily trainable. The hair coats can be either fleece-like or curly and comes in a variety of colors including: Black, Silver, Cream, Apricot Cream, Chalk, Gold, Red, Apricot, Chocolate, and Café. Labradoodles weight will vary from 40 to 80 pounds and their life expectancy is about 11 to 13 years.
Peekapoos (Pekinese-Poodle mix). Peek-a-poos (also referred to as Peke-a-poos, Peekapoos, and Pekepoos) are crosses between a Pekingese and a Poodle. Peekapoos are generally friendly dogs that are playful and can be good with children. This cross generally weighs between 8 to 16 pounds, depending on the size of the parents. Their life expectancy is approximately 13 to 15 years.
Maltapoo (Maltese-Poodle mix). Malt-a-poo, also known as the Malti-poo, is a cross between a Maltese and a poodle. They are generally sociable and intelligent. They are relatively low shedders. Malt-a-poos will weigh between 4 and 15 pounds and their life expectancy is about 13 to 15 years.
Chipoo (Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix). A Chi-poo is a mix between a Chihuahua and a Pomeranian. Their hair coat can be straight or wavy. They are relatively low shedders. Chi-poos are generally smart, personable and can be good with kids. Their weight will vary from 2 to 15 pounds and their life expectancy is about 13 to 17 years.
Shihpoo (Shih-Tzu-Poodle). A Shih-poo is a cross between a Shih-tzu and a poodle. They are generally gentle, affectionate and loyal. Their hair coats can be curly or straight and they are relatively low shedders. They generally weigh between 6 to 19 pounds and their life expectancy is about 13 to 17 years.
Goldendoodles (Golden retriever-Poodle mix). Goldendoodles are a cross between a Golden Retrievers and a Standard Poodle. Their weight will range from 45 to 80 pounds. They are generally low shedding pets. They are generally active, intelligent, highly trainable, loyal and good with kids. Their life expectancy is about 11 to 13 years.
For those of you who might soon be getting a new puppy...and those who might often wonder why their dog doesn't answer when they call its name, here is some great advice!
You Named Me Brutus? Really?
What’s in a (Dog) Name?: Alexandra Horowitz, a dog cognition expert, interviews dog owners about the names of their pets.
For our family, choosing a name was neither simple nor swift. After all, it had taken my daughters a decade of whining and deliberating over breeds that wouldn’t aggravate the allergy-stricken (me), just to get to the point of agreeing to get a Havanese.
And because I am the family research queen, I found a way to make the process even more complicated. A little research elicited a lot of information.
I found lists of the most common dog names. A Web site with thousands of names, sorted into categories like “cool,” “cute” and “unusual.” And countless dos and don’ts from self-anointed dog-naming experts.
It was an art. A science. Serendipity. Intuition.
There were phonetics rules. And rules that ignored phonetics, instead placing a premium on achieving family harmony. And, of course, there was a simmering debate: Whose needs should the name serve, yours or the dog’s?
One of the most consistent pieces of advice I found was to stick to names of one or two syllables, which quickly catch a puppy’s attention.
People seem to drift in that direction anyway. At a recent puppy training class, I met Gracie, Nigel, Sasha and a schnauzer mix whose name was the perfect marriage of 21st-century preoccupations and ür-dogginess: Browser.
JoAnn Vela, the owner of Canine Cuties Dog Grooming, in Chicago Ridge, Ill., has four dogs: Moose, Bleu, Tyson and Coach. Moose, she explained, because their English mastiff was such a galumphing klutz. Bleu, because her daughter thought the dog looked so sad. Tyson, because her husband wanted the German shepherd to have a tough name. And Coach, because when her daughter gazed longingly at the Shetland sheepdog in a pet shop window, the dog gazed back longingly at her Coach purse.
The four-syllable Gentleman Jack, of Cedar Grove, N.J., defies this rule. When Lauren Meyer, a stay-at-home mother who owns a Labradoodle, first saw a picture of him, she wanted to call him Jack, because she thought he looked like a frisky rogue. But her son insisted on a name with a little more class. At the time, he was a student at the University of Virginia, whose guiding spirit is the gentleman-scholar Thomas Jefferson. Also, the dog is whiskey-colored, and Gentleman Jack, it should be noted, is a brand of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
On occasion, the name expands to six syllables. “When he’s bad,” Mrs. Meyer said, “we call him Gentleman Jack Meyer.”
Another piece of advice: To help the puppy distinguish its name from ambient noise, choose something with a sibilant consonant or blend (an “s,” “sh” or “zh”) or, better still, a crisp, commanding consonant (a “k” or hard “c”).
Laura Waddell, a dog trainer and animal behaviorist in New Jersey, works with a bred-in-captivity wolf named Tacoma, and she named her own golden retriever-spitz mix Loki. “They can distinguish frequency ranges that we cannot, particularly dogs with pricked ears, which work almost like parabolic microphones,” she said. “The hard consonant is a relatively sharp sound that the dog can respond to quickly. I think sibilant sounds are more muddled for them.”
Mrs. Vela recalled grooming a beagle named Tank. Some customers apparently don’t look under the hood, so to speak. After the session, she informed the dog’s owners that Tank was a Tinker (as in Tinkerbelle). Acceptance was hard.
“The husband and wife still each call the dog by a different name,” Mrs. Vela said.
But at least they abide by the rule.
SOME EXPERTS ALSO ADVISE picking a name that ends in a long vowel or a short “a.”
“Simba?” I asked my daughters. “Lobo? I know, let’s call the puppy Orca!”
“Jovi,” they snickered, after Jon Bon.
Martin Deeley, a Florida trainer and executive director of the International Association of Canine Professionals, said he prefers names that end in a long “e,” like Benny or Dolly. “I think it gives a nickname a loving touch,” he said. “Sweet becomes Sweetie.”
He also recommended making sure the name could not be confused with a command. That eliminated names like Kit, which sounds too much like “sit,” and Beau, which sounds like “no” (the Obamas obviously ignored this rule in naming their dog Bo).
Another caution: Try to avoid the most popular names. Consider the canine traffic jam that could ensue at the dog park when a pack of owners starts calling their Maxes and Busters.
But don’t go in for anything trendy or overly witty. Pick something enduring, that you and the dog can live with, one hopes, for a decade or more. Mr. Deeley, who has been working with dogs and their owners for nearly 40 years, laments the fact that this generation of parents tends to allow the children to name the dog. Thus the perpetuation of names inspired by Saturday-morning cartoon characters. Or a certain yellow Labrador of his acquaintance, whose family allowed their 6-year-old to saddle with the moniker Freckles.
As Alexandra Horowitz, who teaches animal behavior and psychology at Barnard College, said: “There’s a dog in my neighborhood named Harbinger. It’s clever, but they weren’t planning practically.”
Still, Dr. Horowitz, who wrote “On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes,” a new book that examines city streets from the perspective of both dog and human, is a rule-breaker herself.
“I like names that I’m willing to say repeatedly,” she said, “because you find yourself often conversing with your dog.” Her dogs have had names like Pumpernickel, Finnegan and Upton.
AND FINALLY, the admonition that will set off the most howls: Avoid human names.
The Monks of New Skete, a monastic community in upstate New York, breed German shepherds and are renowned for their dog training books. In a 2012 newsletter, Brother Christopher Savage explained their objection to human names. “Sometimes, without realizing it, owners who give their dogs human names are more likely to fall into the trap of anthropomorphizing their pets,” he wrote. “In our experience, that is a formula that invites big problems.”
“What about Sheldon?” asked my 14-year-old, ignoring the monks’ advice. “He’s my favorite character on ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ ”
“No!” my husband and I barked.
This may be the most difficult rule to follow. As Mrs. Vela said: “Especially older people and people without kids. They are upfront: ‘These are my children.’ I groom a lot of Bobbies, Stellas and Joeys.”
Dr. Horowitz takes issue with the monks’ rule as well. “Human names are fine,” she said. “I don’t think a dog cares if it’s named for us. It’s more that we’re finding a way to give the dog an identity, to draw a place for it in our lives.”
Mr. Deeley agreed: “I think the name is overplayed in training. I want dogs to concentrate on the command instead.”
“What does a name mean to a dog?” he continued. “ ‘Hey, look at me?’ ‘Follow me?’ ‘I love you?’ ‘You’re in trouble?’ Or ‘I’m lonely and I missed you?’ Dogs read body language and how you smell to them. It’s about your voice and your energy, not whatever you call him. You can make contact with a deaf animal.”
Mary Cody can attest to that. Ms. Cody, the founder of Aunt Mary’s Doghouse, a volunteer rescue and adoption program in Hope, N.J., named her deaf Australian shepherd Dumia, the Hebrew word for silent, and the dog follows her everywhere.
She has named hundreds of dogs, and said she tries to make sure each name speaks to the particular dog. “I’ll try a name and sometimes it’s a dud,” Ms. Cody said. “When I call ‘Nick!’ he’s like, ‘Yeah, what?’ ” she said, referring to an Akita mix. “But when I call him Louie the Lip, he comes running.”
BY NOW we were armed with almost too much information. So we decided to focus on the puppy himself.
The Havanese originally flourished in Havana, and it is often described as a big dog in the body of a little one. When we finally met ours, he was not quite four pounds, but friendly, playful, curious, indefatigable. He had a comically endearing personality.
Such a funny little guy, we thought. And that’s how his name came to us. O.K., so it’s a human name — that of a comedian, a Marx brother.
It’s also a Spanish word that, used affectionately, can mean “little guy.” It satisfied my compulsive research requirements, with a hard, crisp sound and a final long vowel.
And when we call him — “Chico!” — he cocks his head quizzically and then races over. Sometimes we don’t even have to use his name.
Modern, Four-Story Home For Cats
We love when designers get to thinking about how to create hip accommodations for kitties. In the past, we’ve featured covered litter boxes inspired by mid-century modernism and feral cat shelters inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright (yes, seriously). Today, we bring you Catissa, a wooden, four-story house meant to be affixed to a wall. Conceived by Mojorno, a Russian design studio, Catissa gives cats a bird’s eye view of the house while also providing “a safe place” for them to take a nap. “Dogs and children can’t get them,” the designer says. Plus, the smooth surface makes for easy cleaning.
Pretty snazzy, huh?

On a more serious note, this final topic is something you should consider as you strive for taking better care of your dogs and cats.
Do You Trust Your Vet?
The Irreverent Vet Speaks Out
What should you do if you don't trust your vet or feel you are being taken advantage of?
It's a fair question. I was talking to my friends at PetPlace about this, and they asked me to write an article on the subject.
First, let me introduce myself for those of you that don't know me. I'm the Irreverent Veterinarian. I speak my mind and give you my honest opinion. I won't sweet-talk you or sugarcoat the truth. I tell it like it is – to you, the drug companies, the pet product manufacturers, professional breeders and pet owners. Some might say that I'm truthful to a fault. Some of the pet owners and breeders who read my columns get really angry. It is hard hearing the truth.
So, this is what happened. Recently, my friend told me this story about his car:
The other day I took my car to the shop for an oil change. I like cars but I don't know enough about them to do my own repairs and oil changes. Anyway, the mechanic told me that I needed a fuel additive – that is an additional $12.95. They said my air filter should be changed – that cost $29.99. They wanted to upgrade my oil from the regular to the synthetic (an additional $49.99). And they said it would be a good idea to change the transmission fluid. So a simple $29.99 oil change was now going to cost me nearly $200!
Since my friend didn't know enough about cars to know whether or not he REALLY needed these things, how does he know if they were really telling him the truth (or if they were just trying to get more money out of him)? The reason I'm telling you this story is because it made my friend feel vulnerable. I've been in similar situations, so I understand how he felt. He didn't know whether he needed these things or not so the situation made him uneasy. If they were simply taking advantage of him, how would he know?
My friend's wife said that she feels the say way when she takes her dog to the vet. She said, "I want to do the right thing, but I don't know if my dog really needs all these things or not ... and it could cost hundreds of dollars."
Wow – that is something I had not really thought much about. But she makes a good point.
I always try to do the best for my patients and recommend what is truly needed. I try to treat every dog as if it were my own – and recommend what I would do for my own pet.
In addition, I generally give my clients options. Not everyone can afford the best or ideal treatment plan. I generally give options for the ideal diagnostic and therapeutic approach and another option that is not quite ideal but reasonable (and less expensive).
What if you feel you cannot trust your vet to do the right thing?
My advice is that you ultimately you do need to trust your veterinarian. Consider why you are feeling uneasy. Is it because your veterinarian is telling you something that is difficult to hear (something they recommend but you can not afford)? Or, is it because your vet does not listen to you?
My Final Thoughts on Trusting Your Veterinarian
It is hard to compare a veterinary service to an oil change but you need to trust your mechanic. If you don't trust him – you need to get a different mechanic.
You also need to trust your veterinarian. I think the best thing you can do is to keep an open dialogue of communication. If you have a question – ask. If you don't get an answer you are comfortable with – consider getting a different veterinarian.
You should be able to have open communication with your vet – that is part of the trust. If you don't feel you have that, find a different vet that you can personally connect with – someone who makes you fee comfortable.
Wow, I really can't believe that this brings me to the end of the 261st issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats!  Where has the time gone?
Remember that, even though the blog is ending, you will still be able to access this web site and look for pet information in the "Labels" list on the left side of the page.  Also, I'll still periodically check my gmail account in case you'd like to send an e-mail comment or ask any pet-related questions...feel free to do so.  Send them to:  .
None of these 261 issues would have been as enjoyable and easy to read if Desperado hadn't contributed her many talents.  As usual, she has vastly improved a situation simply by being a part of it.  There are so many things I couldn't have done without her over the last 44 years and I am especially very thankful for her contributions to this blog. 
I'd like to give my heartfelt thanks to all of you who have been with me on this ride...and especially those who have been with me from the beginning--it wouldn't have been nearly as much fun without you!
As our favorite cowboy singer, Michael Martin Murphey, says at the end of each concert, "...and so, another day in the American West has come to an end," does this blog.  Desperado and Helpful Buckeye thank you all for your participation and we wish you well as we watch the western sun settle toward the horizon....
With the help of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, we offer this final farewell to all of you...Happy Trails To You...go ahead and sing along (we do so quite frequently)...listen here:

 ~~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.~~

Sunday, April 28, 2013



OK, now, pay attention!  If you've been reading this blog for long enough, you know that Helpful Buckeye has stressed repeatedly that a pet owner needs to be familiar with the habits and appearance of their dog or cat.  That is one of the most reliable ways to be able to tell when something just isn't right with the pet.  Awareness of the normal state of events is the first step in the process of catching a disease or illness in its early stages.  Catching an illness early in its development not only gives your pet a better chance of an earlier recovery but also has the potential of saving you some money...and both of those are big pluses.

For the love of your pets: Evaluating your pets'
By Dr. John Beck
My own dog was diagnosed with a heart condition about six months ago. We have some trouble every now and then, but for the most part, his condition is controlled with the medications my veterinarian prescribed. Is there any way for us to know if his "spell" is worth taking him into the vet on emergency or if it is something I can wait on?
Heart conditions are a tricky science. It is usually a blend of medications given a couple of times a day to help maintain your pet's quality of life. Regular visits to your veterinarian are necessary to evaluate how your pet is doing on all the medicines and make sure all of his needs are being met.
The fastest way to evaluate your pet's current state is to try and take his vital statistics - just like a human hospital would get your weight, temperature, blood pressure, etc. upon arrival. You can do the same for your pet.
Mucous membranes are something we always look at when first seeing a patient. Mucous membranes usually refer to the color and wetness of the gum line. A healthy gum line is usually a pretty bright pink and slick to the touch due to the saliva. If a dog is having trouble breathing or making oxygen exchange, the gums can appear purple in color. If the dog is dehydrated, they can feel tacky or sticky to the touch.
Another vital statistic that is regularly checked on a dog/cat is capillary refill time. This is how long it takes for the capillaries (small blood vessels) in the gum line to fill back up with blood after being emptied. To check this, you need to apply mild pressure to the gum line until it turns white, then let go. Count, in seconds, how long it takes for the gum to return to a normal color. If the return time is one to two seconds this is considered normal. Anything over three seconds is considered abnormal.
You can check your pet's pulse by finding the femoral artery that runs inside the pets back leg. The groin section is usually the easiest place to find it. Count how many times you can feel the pulse in 15 seconds then multiply by four. This will give you the number of heart beats per minute. For dogs that are less than 30 pounds, an average heart rate or pulse is 100-160 beats per minute. For a dog over 30 pounds, an average heart rate or pulse is 60-100 beats per minute. The smaller the dog, the faster the heart rate; and the larger the dog, the slower the heart rate. Puppies and cats typically have a pretty quick heart rate regardless of size. They tend to run in the 100-130 beat per minute range.
To check your pet's temperature, you will have to use a rectal thermometer. Adding some lubricating jelly will help with the discomfort. The average dog or cat temperature is 101.5 Fahrenheit. If the patient is very excited, the temperature might be a degree higher. If the patient is very old or calm, the temperature might be a degree lower.

These vital statistics can be taken to help reassure yourself of your pet's condition. If you need more help or have any other questions, please feel free to contact me or your local veterinarian.
Adapted from:

Is this Normal? - When to take your pet to the
Adapted from:

10 Signs Your Pet Needs To See The Vet
Most pet guardians recognize the obvious signs of a pet in distress and would seek veterinary care for all the obvious signs of illness or injury such as bleeding or an animal who can not stand. But what about the more subtle signs that your pet needs help? Every species has its one code, its own tell-tale signs of trouble, and in the animal kingdom, communication can be cryptic to the human eye. One golden rule is to watch for any behavioral shifts which may have an alarming underlying cause..
1.      Restlessness: Maggie, the 10-year-old calico cat, was always a quiet girl. She preferred to spend most of the day sleeping in a wicker basket. So when Maggie began exploring the house more, particularly at night, her family was thrilled to see her becoming more active. Maggie would pace through the house, checking every room and sometimes let out a single meow. Turns out, Maggie was suffering from a brain tumor that was giving her severe headaches. The pacing was her response to the pain. What looked like a wonderful new sense of exploration, was actually the manifestation of severe illness. Restlessness can be a firm indicator of pain or anxiety.
2.      Unusual Ways of Getting Your Attention: What do you make of a bunny who normally wanders the living room floor but is suddenly ascending onto the couch? Perhaps he has his ears cocked in different directions instead of the usual symmetrical arrangement. Bunny may be trying to get your attention. A common cause of pain in rabbits comes from their mouths as teeth tend to grow spurs causing painful lacerations and infection, especially in the rear corners of the mouth that can only be viewed with special veterinary instruments. In dogs and cats, frequent barking or meowing that is uncharacteristic for your pet, could be a sign of distress. Any time your pet is persistently turning to you for attention and you are unable to satisfy this pleading with food, water or a walk outdoors, you could be looking at a pet who is in need of care.  In iguanas, face rubbing is a problem and can lead to injury from abrasive metal cages. Environmental changes, health issues or a small cage can provoke the behavior.
3.      Changes in Body Presentation and Posture: A pet bird who sits with his feathers ruffled out for a long period of time may be suffering respiratory illness See a complete list of bird health warning signs here In rabbits, a hunched and hunkered down posture can indicate stasis, a painful and potentially deadly slow-down of the gastrointestinal tract which is common to rabbits and requires immediate veterinary intervention. And in dogs and cats, you'll want to pay attention if your pet is suddenly sleeping in an unusual position, limping or hesitating to sit down.
4.      Hesitation to Jump or Climb: A dog who begins to hesitate before jumping into the car or onto the bed may be experiencing arthritis, hip dysplasia or even early signs of neurological disease.
5.      Going into Hiding/ Becoming Quiet: If your normally social pet begins seeking more quiet time or begins sleeping a lot more, this can be a red flag indicating some form of pain or infection. This is a big one and you'll want to begin paying careful attention to see if you can uncover any other changes so that you can report these to the vet as well. In fact, one cat who recently swallowed a long piece of string that was constricting his intestines was simply noted to be sitting quietly and not bouncing around as he usually does. This change had only begun that morning, but his eyes seemed to say, something is wrong, and fortunately his very astute guardian rushed him to the vet where an x-ray revealed the foreign body and emergency surgery saved his life. 
6.      Pee & Poo Indicators: Your animal's bathroom habits are an excellent barometer of health which is why its critically important for pet guardians to observe their pets' elimination behaviors. Frequent urination can indicate a variety of sneaky and serious health issues ranging from diabetes to urinary tract infection to kidney failure. In fact, in male cats blockage of the urinary tract can suddenly occur and your cat will be unable to urinate despite desperate attempts. If your litter box is out of sight, you will not notice these red flags. You must see how often your cat is visiting the box. Daily cleaning of the box to look for appropriate quantity of urine is essential, but in multi-cat households, it's harder to spot illness in a single cat through cleaning alone. Changes in bowel movements can indicate anything from simple parasitic infection to intestinal disease to gastrointestinal hemorrhaging. Black poo, poo with red blood or diarrhea that persists are all reasons to see the vet.
7.      Bad Breath: Geriatric pets are not the only ones who can suffer from dental diseases. Even in kittens as young as four months old, severe dental disease can be present as a result of common viruses and severe pain, even exposed nerves, can evolve quickly. If your pet has foul breath, don't play games with over-the-counter breath freshening tools. First, see your vet to find out if your pet has abscesses, broken teeth, gingival (gum) complications or other oral health conditions that could be causing pain and opening the window to additional disease of major organs including the heart.
8.      "False" Hairballs or Coughing: You'd be surprised at how asthma in cats looks and sounds like a cat trying to cough up a fur ball. Many cat guardians miss the early signs of asthma because it appears so similar to the old 'hair ball' routine. Viral infections, heart diseases, asthma and worms are but a few of the reasons your pet may be coughing, wheezing or sneezing and it's simply impossible for pet owners to make these determinations on their own.
9.      Itching: Sometimes food allergies, environmental allergies or external parasites cause itching.  Particularly if you pet is itching at his ears and wincing, painful ear mites or yeast overgrowth may be present.
10.  Not Your Average Vomit: Pets do vomit occasionally but sometimes vomit is an indicator of an emergency ranging from poisoning, an ingested foreign object or serious illness. And, in fact, retching unproductively can also indicate a severe condition in dogs in which their stomach is twisted.
21 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore in
 Your Dog
By: Dr. Debra Primovic
There are serious symptoms that should never be ignored in your dog. A symptom is defined as "any problem that can indicate an underlying disease" and may be your first clue to the presence of a life-threatening problem in your dog. Here is a list of 21 symptoms that should never be ignored if you see them from your dog!
1. Pacing and Restlessness. In dogs, pacing and restlessness can be indicate pain, discomfort or distress. Restlessness can be associated with a condition called "bloat" in which the stomach. Bloat and most commonly occurs in large breed or deep-chested dogs. Pacing and restless can be an indicator of a serious problem.
2. Unproductive Retching. Dogs that attempt to vomit and are unable to bring anything up is a common sign of "bloat". You should call your veterinarian immediately.
3. Collapse or Fainting. Acute collapse is a sudden loss of strength causing your dog to fall and be unable to rise. Some dogs that suddenly collapse will actually lose consciousness. This is called fainting or syncope. Some dogs recover very quickly and look essentially normal just seconds to minutes after collapsing, whereas others stay in the collapsed state until helped. All the reasons for collapse or fainting are serious and should not be ignored. See your veterinarian immediately.
4. Not Eating or Loss of Appetite. Anorexia is a term used to describe the situation where an animal loses his appetite and does not want to eat or is unable to eat. There are many causes of a "loss of appetite" and is often the first indication of illness. Regardless of cause, loss of appetite can have a serious impact on an animal's health if it lasts 24 hours or more. Young animals less than 6 months of age are particularly prone to the problems brought on by loss of appetite.
5. Losing Weight. Weight loss is a physical condition that results from a negative caloric balance. This usually occurs when the body uses and/or excretes essential nutrients faster than it can consume them. Essentially more calories are being burned than are being taken in. Weight loss is considered clinically important when it exceeds 10 percent of the normal body weight and is not associated with fluid loss. There are several causes for this, some of which can be very serious.

6. Breathing Problems. Respiratory distress, often called dyspnea, is labored, difficult breathing or shortness of breath. This can occur at any time during the breathing process, during inspiration (breathing in) or expiration (breathing out). When your dog has trouble breathing, he may not be able to get enough oxygen to his tissues. Additionally, if he has heart failure, he may not be able to pump sufficient blood to his muscles and other tissues. Dyspnea is often associated with accumulation of fluid (edema) in the lungs or the chest cavity (pleural effusion). This fluid can lead to shortness of breath and coughing. This is a very serious symptom and should be evaluated immediately.
7. Red Eye. A "red eye" is a non-specific sign of inflammation or infection. It may be seen with several different diseases including those involving different parts of the eye including the external eyelids, third eyelid, conjunctiva, cornea, and sclera (white portion of the eye). It may also occur with inflammation of the structures inside the eye, with glaucoma (high pressure within the eye) or with certain diseases of the orbit (eye socket). Either one or both eyes can become red, depending upon the cause of the problem. Some of the possible causes can be serious and ultimately cause blindness.
8. Jaundice. Jaundice, also referred to as icterus, describes the yellow color taken on by the tissues throughout the body due to elevated levels of bilirubin, a substance that comes from the breakdown of red blood cells. There are several causes for jaundice and regardless of the cause, jaundice is considered abnormal and serious in the dog.
9. Trouble Urinating. "Trouble urinating" can include straining to urinate, frequent attempts at urination, and evidence of discomfort when urinating. Discomfort may be demonstrated by crying out during urination, excessive licking at the urogenital region or turning and looking at the area. There are several underlying causes. Some of the causes if left untreated can result in death in as little as 36 hours.
10. Urinating and Drinking Excessively. These signs are often early signs of disease including kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, thyroid gland problems, uterine infection (called pyometra), as well as other causes. Dogs normally take in about 20 to 40 milliliters per pound of body weight per day, or one to two cups per day for a normal sized dog. If you determine that your pet is drinking excessively, make an appointment with your veterinarian.
11. Fever. A fever is defined as an abnormally high body temperature resulting from internal controls. It is believed that fever is a method of fighting infection. The body resets the temperature control area of the brain to increase the body temperature – probably in response to invasion of foreign matter such as bacteria or viruses. The normal temperature in dogs is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If your pet temperature is high, call your veterinarian.
12. Seizure. A seizure or convulsion is a sudden excessive firing of nerves in the brain. The severity of the seizure can vary between a far-away look or twitching in one part of the face to your dog falling on his side, barking, gnashing his teeth, urinating, defecating and paddling his limbs. A seizure can last from seconds to minutes. Seizures are symptoms of some neurological disorder – they are not in themselves a disease. They can be caused by several disorders including epilepsy, toxins or tumors.
13. Bruising and Bleeding. Abnormal bruising and bleeding arises with disorders of hemostasis (clotting). Clotting abnormalities are also called coagulopathies, because they reflect the inability of the blood to coagulate or clot. Bleeding from clotting disturbances may occur into the skin, the mucous membranes, and various internal organs, tissues, and body cavities. The impact of such bleeding on the affected individual may be mild or severe depending on the degree of blood loss.
14. Coughing. Coughing is a common protective reflex that clears secretions or foreign matter from the throat, voice box, and/or airways, and protects the lungs against aspiration. It affects the respiratory system by hindering the ability to breathe properly. Common causes include obstruction in the windpipe, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, lung tumors, kennel cough and heart failure. Some of the causes are life threatening and all pets with a cough should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
15. Bloated or Distended Abdomen. Abdominal distension is an abnormal enlargement of the abdominal cavity. This term is usually reserved for abdominal enlargement due to causes other than simple obesity. One cause of abdominal distension is abnormal fluid accumulation. Another cause of abdominal distension is enlargement of any abdominal organ including the liver, kidneys, or spleen. Distension of the stomach with air ("bloating") or fluid or distension of the uterus (womb) during pregnancy, can result in abdominal distension. Pressure from the abdomen pushing into the chest may make breathing more difficult and pressure within the abdomen may decrease the appetite. NOTE: It is important to recognize abdominal distension because it can be a symptom of potentially life-threatening diseases and should be investigated thoroughly.
16. Bloody Diarrhea. Blood in the feces can either appear as "melena" which makes the stools appear black and tarry is the presence suggests digested blood in the feces. Melena is different from fresh blood in the stool (hematochezia). Bleeding into the colon or rectum appears as fresh blood in the stool. Bloody diarrhea should be evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.
17. Bloody Urine. Hematuria is the presence of red blood cells in the urine. It may be gross (visible to the naked eye) or microscopic. There are several possible causes including bacterial infections, cancer, stones in the urinary tract.
18. Bite Wounds. Bite wounds are often the result when two animals engage in a fight or aggressive play. Bite wounds, which may only appear as a small puncture wound in the skin, can actually be quite extensive. Once the tooth penetrates the skin, severe damage can occur to the underlying tissues without major skin damage. Some wounds may appear deceptively minor but may have the potential to be life threatening, depending on the area of the body bitten. All bite wounds should receive veterinary attention.
19. Bloody Vomit. Vomiting blood can fresh blood, which is bright red or partially digested blood, which has the appearance of brown coffee grounds. There are a variety of causes of vomiting blood and the effects on the animal are also variable. Some are subtle and minor ailments, while others are severe or life threatening.
20. Lethargy or Weakness. Lethargy is a state of drowsiness, inactivity, or indifference in which there are delayed responses to external stimuli such as auditory (sound), visual (sight), or tactile (touch) stimuli. Lethargy is a nonspecific sign associated with many possible underlying systemic disorders. It may have little to no impact on the affected individual; however its presence may represent severe or life-threatening illness. Lethargy of more than a day's duration should not be ignored, and should be addressed, especially if it persists.
21. Pale Gums. Pale gums or mucous membranes can indicate blood loss or "shock". The possible causes for either blood loss or shock are life-threatening and thus should be evaluated immediately.
Adapted from:

Give pet a pat, and an exam while at it

There’s something therapeutic about petting your cat or dog.
No, really: Your petting them could save their life. Depending on the animal, it’s not uncommon for cats and dogs to develop lumps or bumps on or under their skin. During annual veterinary exams, your vet should be checking for these.
In between vet visits — some even suggest once a week — it’s good to give your pet a check-over to make sure no new bumps have emerged or that no existing bumps have grown.
The vets at and Southwest Veterinary Oncology suggest starting at the nose and working back to the tail. Check the nostrils for discharge or bumps, and feel your way over their face, ears and neck, not ignoring the skin in their wrinkles.
Open a dog’s mouth (a cat’s, too, if you can) and check for any abnormalities in the gums or tongue.
Work your way down the torso and legs, and check the anal area for bumps or discharge. Go all the way to the end of the tail, getting in between toes and at the points where joints connect.
Most pets will allow and even welcome the stroking: They’ll think you’re petting them, said Dr. Jennifer Arthur of Southwest Veterinary Oncology.
There are at least a half-dozen possibilities of what the lump is and what caused it, so if you do find one, don’t panic.
The first step is to check the same area on the other side. If it’s symmetrical, odds are it’s nothing to be worried about.
If it isn’t, call and describe it to your vet. They may suggest that you come in, or they may just ask that you monitor it during the next few weeks.
It could turn out to be an abscess, a sebaceous cyst, a skin papilloma (wart) or a variety of other non-fatal things.
If you detect swelling around the lymph nodes (under jaw, in front of shoulders, junction of back legs and front of knees on both animals), see the vet soon. This could be an indicator of cancer, which your vet can detect.
If a vet is unsure, he or she may take a needle biopsy or excise the lump and send it to a pathologist for a report.
Whatever the issue is, if you catch the lump early, treatment options are many. has very helpful how-to videos on examining pets, and they offer a visual tracker so you can monitor a bump’s appearance, growth and vet opinions.  Their web site is at:
The next time you have a rough day and need a snuggle, pet like you mean it and give your animal a quick exam.
It’s a simple, free tool for keeping your pet healthy, and they’ll relish attention from their favorite person in the whole world.
Adapted from:
Any questions or comments should be sent to Helpful Buckeye at:  or submitted at the "Comment" section at the end of this 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.~~