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.~~

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Archaeology has placed the earliest known domestication of dogs approximately at 30,000 BC, and with certainty at 7,000 BC.  Evidence suggests that dogs were first domesticated in southern East Asia.
Due to the difficulty in assessing the structural differences in bones, the identification of a domestic dog based on cultural evidence is of special value. Perhaps the earliest clear evidence for this domestication is the first dog found buried together with human from 12,000 years ago in Palestine and a burial site in Germany called Bonn-Oberkassel with joint human and dog interments dating to 14,000 years ago.
In 2008, re-examination of material excavated from Goyet Cave in Belgium in the late 19th century resulted in the identification of a 31,700 year old dog, a large and powerful animal which ate reindeer, musk oxen and horses. This dog was part of the Aurignacian culture that had produced the art in Chauvet Cave.
In 2010, the remains of a 33,000 year old dog were found in the Altai Mountains of southern Siberia. DNA analysis published in 2013 affirmed that it was more closely related to modern dogs than to wolves.  In 2011, the skeleton of a 26,000 to 27,000 year old dog was found in the Czech Republic. It had been interred with a mammoth bone in its mouth—perhaps to assist its journey in the afterlife.
Domestication of the wolf over time has produced a number of physical or morphological changes. These include: a reduction in overall size; changes in coat colouration and markings; a shorter jaw initially with crowding of the teeth and, later, with the shrinking in size of the teeth; a reduction in brain size and thus in cranial capacity (particularly those areas relating to alertness and sensory processing, necessary in the wild); and the development of a pronounced “stop”, or vertical drop in front of the forehead (brachycephaly). Certain wolf-like behaviors, such as the regurgitation of partially digested food for the young, have also disappeared.


How many of you are sitting there comfortably, looking at your "best friend" (the 4-legged one), wondering just which parts of your pooch bear the most resemblance to a wolf?  There's no doubt that man's best friend has taken on a lot of different appearances and traits...however, genetic and archaeological evidence do provide a direct pathway from Canis familiaris (your "best friend") back to Canis lupus (the wolf).


How Dogs Evolved Into 'Our Best Friends'

Dogs have aided humans for thousands of years. Man's best friend has provided protection, companionship and hunting assistance since the days of the earliest human settlements.
But how and when dogs evolved from wolves is a matter of debate. Naturalist Mark Derr says there are two main schools of thought: Some researchers believe that humans domesticated wolves who were scrounging around their villages for trash. Others think that humans were taking care of wolves from the time they were puppies — until enough puppies were tamed and they somehow then evolved into dogs.
"Neither explanation seems satisfactory," writes Derr in How the Dog Became the Dog — From Wolves to Our Best Friends. "That is why there's no consensus."
In his book, Derr explores how the relationship between humans and wolves developed, and how that relationship then influenced the physical evolution of wolves into dogs. He tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that he believes humans and wolves developed a close relationship after recognizing themselves in each other while hunting on the trail of big game.
"[That's when] they started traveling together, and they've been at it ever since," he says. "The dog is a creation of wolves and humans — of two equal beings that came together at a certain point in history and have been together ever since."
Derr says our ancestors likely followed behind wolves as they hunted for game on the trail. Wolves, in turn, learned to wait for scraps from bipedal hunters — who were far more accurate with their rudimentary weapons than the wolves were with their teeth.
The wolf could say, 'These people are far more profligate hunters than we are. When they go out, they always leave a surplus. It's easier for us to take the scraps that they have than to hunt,'" says Derr. "Hunting is a highly energetic activity. And they could learn from each other, just by observing each other."
As humans and wolves began to work and live together, physical features on the wolf began to change: Its skeletal frame grew smaller, and its jaw shortened. Wolves that socialized well with humans began to travel with them, and then were able to pass on their genes.
"You had populations of dog-wolves that became isolated, and in doing so, they began to inbreed," says Derr. "And when you inbreed, you get genetic peculiarities that arise, and then those peculiarities become part of the population. If they work or become popular or have some function of beauty or utility, then they were kept by the humans — and that population then spreads those through other populations through breeding."
Fossils of wolves and dogs have been found in early hunting camps. In China, researchers have found evidence that some hunters were raising millet to feed to their hunting companions.
"This kept the dogs alive during times of thin meat," says Derr. "When they weren't getting as much meat as they wanted, they would feed [the dogs] millet. That would indicate that the early dog was being used as a hunter, but also that it was highly valued."
On puppies
"There's something about them that makes us friends with them. There are people who dislike dogs for sure. But dogs also have an uncanny ability ... to walk in a room and pick out the one or two who seem to dislike dogs the most and make friends with them. It's happened to me with some of my dogs on numerous occasions. I think there's a deep — some people call it love, I call it a 'deep empathy' between these two species that resonates with each other in a way that makes them comprehensible to each other, even though they don't speak the same language."
On small dogs
"There are some people who suggest that the small dog, because of its size, was a curiosity, an easier dog to have as a companion. In much of American history and even today, you'll find people who have two dogs: a large dog, who is in the yard, and a small dog, whose job is to kill rats and make a noise if somebody comes near, be a companion or playmate for the children, or a guardian."
On the cultural evolution of dogs
"This is one of the reasons why people like to speak of the dog as a separate species than the wolf, even though they're so closely related. The dog lives with us in a way that wolves don't. It is created by us in different ways."
On breeding
"I'll say it bluntly, and it has to be said: Some of these breeds are incapable of giving birth without C-section. ... I think that it certainly is wrong to produce animals that aren't healthy. It's bad for the animal and bad for the people who take them into their homes and find out that this dog they love is going to die at a very young age because of an inheritable disease. ... We really should ask ourselves whether it is fair to the animal to do that. I am of the opinion that it's not."
Dog: man's best friend for over 33,000 years
He's been man's best friend for generations
An ancient dog skull found in Siberia and dating back 33,000 years presents some of the oldest known evidence of dog domestication.
When combined with a similar find in Belgium, the two skulls indicate that the domestication of dogs by humans occurred repeatedly throughout early human history at different geographic locations -- rather than at a single domestication event, as previously believed.
"Both the Belgian find and the Siberian find are domesticated species based on morphological characteristics," said Greg Hodgins, a researcher at the University of Arizona's Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Laboratory and co-author of a study reporting the find.
"Essentially, wolves have long thin snouts and their teeth are not crowded, and domestication results in this shortening of the snout and widening of the jaws and crowding of the teeth."
The Altai Mountain skull is extraordinarily well preserved, Hodgins said, enabling scientists to make multiple measurements of the skull, teeth and mandibles that might not be possible on less well-preserved remains. "The argument that it is domesticated is pretty solid," he said. "What's interesting is that it doesn't appear to be an ancestor of modern dogs."
At 33,000 years old, neither the Belgian nor the Siberian domesticated lineages appear to have survived earth's last ice age. Still, they show, just how far back our special relationship with our canine companions goes, Hodgins said.
"The interesting thing is that typically we think of domestication as being cows, sheep and goats, things that produce food through meat or secondary agricultural products such as milk, cheese and wool and things like that," he said.
"Those are different relationships than humans may have with dogs. The dogs are not necessarily providing products or meat. They are probably providing protection, companionship and perhaps helping on the hunt."
"And it's really interesting that this appears to have happened first out of all human relationships with animals."
To come to the finding, a team led by Anna Druzhkova of the Russian Academy of Sciences sequenced mitochondrial DNA taken from one of the skull’s teeth. This type of genetic material comes from an organelle inside each cell called the mitochondria, which has a distinct type of DNA that’s separate from the cell’s normal chromosomes. For each individual, mitochondrial DNA is inherited directly from one’s mother without any modifications and thus remains relatively constant over generations, except for the gradual effect of mutations. Similarities found in such DNA collected from various animals helps scientists understand the evolutionary relationships between species.
The research team compared their sample of mitochondrial DNA from the ancient skull with samples from 70 different modern breeds of dog, along with 30 different wolf and 4 different coyote DNA samples. Their analysis found that the fossil’s DNA didn’t match any of the other samples perfectly, but most closely resembled the modern dog breeds, sharing the most similarities with Tibetan Mastiffs, Newfoundlands and Siberian Huskies in particular.
Scientists know that dogs evolved as a result of the domestication of wolves, but the specific time and location of this domestication is still poorly understood—and this discovery further complicates that picture. Most experts agree that dogs predate the invention of agriculture (which happened roughly 10,000 years ago), but some say that domestication may have occurred as long as 100,000 years ago.
This finding—and the previous radiocarbon dating of the skull which established its age—set that event to at least 33,000 years ago. However, dogs may have been domesticated from wolves multiple times, and this breed of Siberian dog may have actually gone extinct, rather than serving as an ancestor for modern dogs. Archaeological evidence indicates that, with the onset of the last glacial maximum (around 26,000 years ago), humans in this area of Siberia may have stopped domesticating dogs, maybe due to food scarcity. In that case, an independent domestication elsewhere may have led to the dogs of today.
On the other hand, domestication in the vicinity of the Altai Mountains, as evidenced by this finding, may have led to the geographic spread of dogs elsewhere in Asia and Europe, even if they died out in Siberia. Previously, many have suggested that the first domestication occurred in the Middle East or East Asia, but this skull could force scientists to rethink their theories. The research team behind the analysis notes that finding more ancient dog remains will help us in putting together the puzzle.

Why Dogs are More Like Humans Than Wolves
Brian Hare began studying dog intelligence as an undergraduate at Emory University in the 1990s, after realizing that Oreo, his Labrador retriever, had a remarkable ability. Unlike other animals, even chimpanzees, Oreo could interpret human gestures, following a person’s gaze or a pointing finger. From early experiments with the family dogs in his parents’ Atlanta garage, Hare went on to found the Canine Cognition Center at Duke University. Now, in The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs are Smarter than You Think, Hare and coauthor Vanessa Woods detail recent research about man’s brilliant best friend. Not only do dogs possess social intelligence far beyond that of their wolf ancestors, Hare says, but in many ways they’re more like us than our own primate relatives. Hare is also the lead scientist behind, a new website that offers pet owners the opportunity to participate in a massive citizen science project—and uncover the genius in their own precious pooches.
What is the secret to dogs’ intelligence?
The genius of dogs is that they use probably the most powerful tool on Earth to solve problems—humans. At one point in wolf evolution, a group of wolves decided to take advantage of humans, and they have been really successful because of it. It’s probably not a surprise to people that dogs are socially tuned-in to us. But I think what’s new is the understanding that this skill is absolutely remarkable in the animal world. When you talk about survival of the fittest, most people think nature is “red in tooth and claw.” But dogs domesticated themselves through a natural process, where the less aggressive, most friendly, tolerant individuals actually did much better.
How has the scientific understanding of dogs changed?
We’ve learned more in the past 10 years than in the previous 100 years. When identifying intelligence in animals, what people are most interested in is where animals make inferences. These are situations in which they can’t actually perceive a solution, so they have to infer it spontaneously. If you are going to find that kind of intelligence, you’re not going to find it in a dog, or so it was thought. Scientists had theorized that dogs, through domestication, have become dumbed-down, because they just sit around and take scraps from us. What do they need to be smart about? The guess was animals like a bonobo or a dolphin or other charismatic megafauna were where to look. But it turns out in many ways dogs are more like us than even great apes.
How are they like us?
Dogs are the only species that have demonstrated that they can learn words in a manner similar to a little kid. It’s not that other species that we think of as being highly intelligent, like bonobos and dolphins, can’t become sophisticated at communicating using symbols, but there’s some nice evidence that dogs are using an inferential strategy, which takes advantage of what’s called the principle of exclusion. They know that a number of objects are named or labeled with a sound, and when a new one is introduced that they do not have a label for, and they hear a new sound that they’ve never heard before, they infer that the new sound must apply to this new object. That has only been observed in human children before. That was a big shocker, and it’s been replicated. It even gets crazier than that—several border collies are using what’s called the principal of iconicity. You can show them a two-dimensional picture, and they will then go fetch the object in the picture. That’s something people thought only kids could do, and that it would only be in a linguistic species that that would be possible.
That’s amazing, but it’s a small sample size—isn’t it possible these dogs were outliers?
We don’t know. I don’t think it’s chance that the dogs that have demonstrated this are border collies. But that is not to say that border collies are somehow the most intelligent breed. All dogs are probably able to make the type of inferences that the border collies are making. The question is, can they use that exclusionary principle when learning words? It’s entirely possible that all of our dogs have this hidden talent that we just don’t know how to take advantage of.
What are some other new findings about dog intelligence?
There’s a lot of research into how dogs solve problems. For instance, in a new experiment, a dog demonstrated opening a sliding door, using one of two techniques. It turns out other dogs will copy the first dog and use that same technique the very first time they open the door. That is not something that most people would have expected. [A hundred years ago, British psychologist] C. Lloyd Morgan was one of the first people to write about animal intelligence from an experimental perspective. One of the great anecdotes he tells is about how his dog Tony struggled to open a gate, and through trial and error, he slowly learned a solution. It looked like Tony the terrier was a genius, but because Morgan had watched the problem-solving develop, he knew that Tony didn’t understand anything, that it was all chance trial and error. Morgan then concluded that when you see animals doing intelligent things, you must consider that there’s a very low-level mechanism that allowed them to solve the problem. But the new finding is, if he had only shown Tony how to open the gate, Tony could have learned almost immediately how to do it. You make the problem social and dogs do fantastically.
You also cite studies that show dogs can be deceptive. How does that demonstrate genius?
Those studies show that dogs are using information about what humans can see or hear to make decisions about how to behave around us. In one study, dogs spontaneously avoid retrieving food from a box with noisemakers when they have been told not to eat it, [instead choosing to steal food from a box that a human has demonstrated does not make noise]. This suggests they might be aware of what we can and cannot hear. Similarly, a number of studies have shown that dogs avoid misbehaving if you are watching them, but are more likely to act up if you have your back turned, or even your eyes closed!
So there is such thing as a bad dog. But can this new science of dog cognition help us train them better?
No pun intended, I don’t really have a dog in the fight about how to train dogs, but it’s an important question. People love dogs, and they want to help their dogs have a rich life, and they can do that by helping their dogs obey some simple principles. But how do you get a dog to do that? One of the big schools of thought is you have to really be an alpha dog. You have to make sure the dog doesn’t think he can boss you around. That premise is probably based on some faulty rationale, that dogs evolved from wolves, and wolves have a very strict hierarchy. That’s a reasonable hypothesis, except that there’s one major problem: dogs are not wolves. Looking at feral dogs, what people have found is that they don’t have a strict hierarchy. It’s not that you follow the dominant individual. With feral dogs, the leader is the individual that has the most friendships in the group. It’s not about dominance.
There’s another school of training, which says that the more you practice the better they’ll be at sitting, staying, listening to you, obeying, etc. But there are studies that show that dogs that are trained less intensely actually learn faster and retain the information they learn longer. If you force animals to perform over and over, it actually makes a response less flexible.
Here’s a question that could get us in trouble. Are dogs smarter than cats?
It’s a very difficult question to answer in any meaningful way. I could ask you, which is a better tool, a hammer or a screwdriver? They’re designed to do different things. Compare the origins of these animals in the wild, their progenitors, the wolf and the wild African cat. You have one that is an endurance runner, a pack animal that relies on cooperation. You have another that is a relatively asocial, stalking hunter that relies on stealth to be successful. These are completely different social systems and ways of life, and evolution shaped those minds to be really different because they do completely different things in terms of how they make a living.
Fair enough. In addition to dog and cat partisans, I’m guessing that many pet owners will have another response to your book: “There’s no way my dog is a genius. He drinks out of the toilet and chases his own tail.” Would these people be wrong?
Everybody loves to talk about how amazing humans are as a species in terms of innovation and technology. We’ve invented the Internet and the iPad, and we have an International Space Station. Yes, as a species we’ve done that, but I can assure you that if somebody said to me today, “You have to invent the next iPad,” you might as well just shoot me. There’s also tremendous individual variation in dogs. In the case of the dog that chases his own tail, that may be a dog that the person thinks is a little bit on the dumb side, but there are some domains of intelligence that people aren’t really thinking about. Just because one individual dog isn’t particularly good at using gestures, for example, it doesn’t mean that they’re not absolutely remarkable in their memory, or that they can’t use your visual perspective to deceive you. One of the things we’re trying to do in the book is change the conversation about what is intelligence. A lot of people may find out, the dog that just chases his tail, there’s actually a lot more there than they expected.
Adapted from:

OK, now, be could anyone even think that either one of these cuties could have descended from a pack of wolves???

 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.~~

Sunday, April 14, 2013



“For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.” ― Kahlil Gibran


Death and dying have always been topics for endless conversation, mostly centered on their meaning.  Almost as often, we talk about and search for the causes.  Death by natural causes is usually a difficult concept for some to grasp, with all the disease, accidents, and violence that can lead to a death.  It's really no different for the death of a pet. 

“Everyone’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how they lived and how they died that distinguish one from another.” ― Ernest Hemingway

How Many Pets Die of Natural Causes?

The “Irreverent Veterinarian”
I have to admit – this is a peculiar question. The editors of asked me to put some thoughts down about..."How Many Pets Die of Natural Causes?"
At first I thought – sure – no problem, this is an easy topic to write about.
Then I really thought about it. The more I thought about it – the more I realized that I was not certain of the answer. And...I wasn't sure of the definition of "natural causes". So I looked it up.
It appears that I'm not alone in being uncertain of the definition of "natural causes" as there is quite a lot written about the topic and not all of it is in agreement.
According to, "In medicine, death by natural causes is a loosely-defined term used by coroners describing death when the cause of death was a naturally occurring disease process, or is not apparent given medical history or circumstances."
Based on this – if they cannot determine the cause of death they call it natural causes. Hummm....
This is what I believe "a pet dies of natural causes" means. Death by natural causes is the death of a pet that has lived a full life and dies of causes associated with a natural occurring disease. The majority (but not all) of deaths by natural causes occur in old age. However, a pet can have a genetic or congenital problems that also causes a "natural" death.
What is Not a Natural Cause
So...a pet killed by a gunshot is not a natural cause. A pet killed by being hit by a car is not a natural cause. Nor is a pet that dies from bite wounds.
What is a Natural Cause
A pet that dies of cancer is a natural cause. A 15-year-old cat that dies of kidney failure is a natural cause. A 10-year-old Great Dane that dies of heart disease – dies of natural cause.
The Confusion
How about a 2-year-old cat that acquires a preventable infectious disease and dies before its time? Is that natural? I'm not sure. Now I'm confused again. By definition – it is a natural cause. Even though the cat has not lived a full life, it is an infection –that is a natural disease that occurs.
How about euthanasia? That is not a natural cause of death. However it is often used to minimize the suffering time to a pet that is already dying of natural causes. In other cases – healthy dogs are put to sleep and euthanasia is speeding up a totally unnatural cause.
Is a young dog hit by a car a natural death? He didn't get to live a full life.
My Final Thoughts – How Many Pets Die of Natural Causes?
It appears that I'm doing everything except answering the question – "How Many Pets Die of Natural Causes"? First – I've been spending all my time trying to figure out WHAT natural causes mean.
I needed to figure out what "Natural Causes" are to come close to even giving you the answer.
Another factor that affects this answer is how the pet is cared for. Pets that are well cared for, vaccinated, fed a good diet will more likely die of natural causes over a pet that is allowed to run free and exposed to many unnatural dangers.
This care (or lack of) also affects a pet's life span. For example, outdoor only cats may have a life expectancy of less than 7 months. Indoor-outdoor cats have an average lifespan of approximately 3 to 7 years. Indoor only cats live longer, closer to 14 years.
A good owner that provides good pet care that includes nutrition, shelter and medical care help to prevent many unnatural causes of death. Many unnatural causes of death causing dogs and cats to die at a young age has to do with exposure to unnatural dangers such as toxins, gunshot wounds, being hit by a car, etc.
One consideration is what percentage of pets are "owned" or cared for in the United States? Based on the numbers of pets at the shelter and the percentage of owned pets, I would estimate that out of all pets – approximately less than 30% are given the opportunity to die from natural causes (the rest are euthanized in shelters or die traumatic deaths in the outdoors). Even pets that are owned by decent owners who might not be able or willing to treat treatable problems and elect euthanasia, will die an unnatural death. An example of this would be a dog with a fractured leg that the owners are unwilling to treat and euthanize. There are also many pets given up to shelters for behavioral problems such as aggression or inappropriate urination and are then unnatural death.
Adapted from:[T]&

While we're on the subject of death and dying, whether from natural or unnatural causes, it would be nice to have a better understanding of just what is going on.  For a lot of people, Woody Allen probably expresses their feelings best:  "I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens."

5 Things No One Ever Told You about Dying

     I have never met anyone who works closely with the dying who fears death and yet the general public has an intense fear. This fear is brought about by the unknowing - not knowing what it is like to die or see someone die and not knowing what happens after death. We generally do not know how we ourselves will die and many of us feel uncertain about what (and even if anything) happens after death. Our perceptions and beliefs about dying come largely from external sources whether that be the overly dramatic, sensationalized and inaccurate portrayals of death in the media or religious teaching. Very few of us witness natural death up close and even fewer still witness enough of death and dying to see patterns. 
     At New England Pet Hospice, we believe that knowledge is power.  Knowing what comes next helps us prepare and not be as fearful in the moment.  My goal in sharing these concepts with you is to let you know that what you may be seeing is a normal, natural part of dying. It is not a crisis. It is not a sign that your animal is suffering or that you are doing anything wrong. If we are lucky enough to have a long life and die naturally, it will all happen to us also. 
     PLEASE NOTE: here we are talking only about natural, non-traumatic death.  We are not talking about animals who have suffered an accident, injury or curable illness.  Keep in mind that although these concepts are common, but not necessarily universal.  If you are disturbed by how your animal is acting or what he or she is doing, please talk to your veterinarian.  Individual animals may vary and may require additional or other care to keep them comfortable.
     For this post we are assuming that physical pain is well controlled by appropriate pain medications.  Pain should never be left uncontrolled.  As a hospice, we are committed to effective, consistent pain relief and control.
     1.  Natural death is often a slow, rarely dramatic process. Bodies shut down slowly, system by system. Bodies waste away. Minds appear to come and go. This process may take days, weeks or even months. It may seem interminable and it is quite normal to wish it would be over while at the same time wishing your time together would never end. Try not to feel guilty or disturbed by these conflicting feelings.
     2. As you go through the dying process, your world contracts. First perhaps to your immediate neighborhood, then to your home, then a room and finally a bed. We are all bedridden at some point in our final days. So are our animals. The fact that your elderly cat does not or cannot leave her bed is not a sign of a problem; it is a normal part of the dying process. In the final stages of death, our world contracts even more, to what is inside us. Our bodies themselves are more than we need. We recede to a quiet place inside to finish our business with this world. The fact that your dog no longer lifts his head and wags his tail when you enter the room is as normal as a 90 year old woman who in her final time spends much of it sleeping. It does not mean nothing important is happening; it means the work is internal.
     3.  We all lose control of our bladder and bowels at the end of life. We enter the world as infants without that control and we die that way as elders. The same is true for animals. They come into this world relieving themselves when the need occurs and exit it the same way. Just as we would not leave an infant or grandfather to sit in excrement, we must not do so with our animals. There are many outstanding products and methods for managing incontinence in our dying and elderly companions.
     4.  The dying do not need to eat.  A body at the end if life has no need for fuel. The digestive system is often one of the early systems to slow down. Appetite decreases, food loses appeal, and we fill up quickly. At the very end of life, we all stop eating and drinking also. Although hard for us to see, this is perfectly normal. As nurturers, we want to feed the ones we love; it is a natural instinct. Whether the patient is human or animal, we will often go to great lengths to get the dying to eat - preparing special foods, coaxing, begging, and even force feeding. Although loving, these attempts are often detrimental to our loved ones. When the digestive system slows or stops functioning, eating only causes gastrointestinal distress, which can be painful and disruptive. When your terminally ill loved one stops wanting to eat, let them stop. They will not starve to death, they will not have hunger, and they will not suffer. 
     5.  All bodies waste away at the end of life. Long before we stop eating, our GI tract stops absorbing food well.  The dying may perplex us by eating large amounts and yet still losing weight. This is because they are not absorbing the food. It simply goes right through them. If they want to eat and take pleasure in it, there is no harm, but do not be disturbed if they seem to waste away anyway. It can be quite disturbing to see a being at the end of life. They may look like no more than a skeleton covered in skin. With humans, if we ever see a person at this stage, they are usually covered with blankets or clothing and we are unlikely to appreciate the severity of their body condition. With an animal, the condition is right before your eyes every day. Others may even think you are mistreating, neglecting or abusing your animal. It is a good idea to get a letter from your veterinarian stating that the animal is in hospice/end of life care and is not being abused, but rather cared for lovingly and appropriately just in case anyone questions you. Know that even though your care is excellent, this process is common, normal and not distressing for the dying.
Adapted from:

There's not much else to say at this point...except for this thought from Will Rogers: 

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

Any comments or questions should be sent to Helpful Buckeye at: or submitted at the "Comments" 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.~~