Pet News - Pet Advice - Pet Photos

In Tough Economic Times, Pet Gifts Keep Going
Alice Short - Los Angeles Times

While the economy tanks and media outlets fill with stories of displaced pets amid the foreclosure crisis, another trend in the animal universe has emerged, a phenomenon that leaves L.A. Unleashed slightly bewildered and bemused. These same media outlets also are producing stories about holiday gift giving for pets, and if there's a downward trend here, we have yet to see it.

Consider this Associated Press report from suburban Chicago:

Emilie Wilson’s menagerie includes 15 ferrets, two dogs and four cats, including a hefty gray feline named Tonie Stewart who rides in style inside a pet stroller during family outings.

Wilson spent $300 on Christmas gifts for her brood last year and figures she’ll exceed that sum this year. And despite the recession-like economy, the suburban Chicago woman has no plans to scale back pet presents anytime soon.

“I couldn’t care less if there’s anything under the tree for us, as long as there’s something for Tonie,” she said.

People associated with the pet products industry "are finding themselves in a veritable oasis among much of the gloom of American business." Sure, it seems counterintuitive, but for some folks, the family pet comes first, whether the "extra" is a mere chew toy or a case of organic cat food or a $1,000 designer bed for the canine who may very well be sleeping at the foot of your bed ... for now.

The AP report suggests this is a growth industry:

Market researcher Euromonitor International, which tracks sales of pet food and accessories but excludes the cost of animals, grooming, training and other expenses, puts this year’s animal expenditures at $23.9 billion. But the group forecasts the segment’s sales are still on pace to grow more than 13 percent by 2013.

Another AP report, published earlier this month, stated that "shoppers are scrimping on holiday gifts, but not when it comes to their pets."

Among those who plan to spend less on gifts this year, only 23 percent are doing so on their pets, according to a survey released by Consumer Reports. The vast majority (84 percent) said they plan to cut back spending on themselves.

One of the L.A. Times' newest blogs, To Live and Buy in L.A., recently listed an array of products for the dog in your life (and featured the star of the Heidi Chronicles herding sheep, a gift available for purchase). Other possible gifts included light-up collars and magnetic sleeping pads.

Your cat may insist on a new litter box or the world's most glamorous scratching post.

And don't forget the "traditional" holiday sweaters and, even -- dare we say it -- reindeer costumes. We're not sure if we should encourage this behavior, but it doesn't matter. You're bound to see it soon.

-- Alice Short

Photos: At top, a lounging cat. Above, a very festive pooch. Credits: Associated Press; Mario Tama / Getty Images

Baggage-Sniffing Federal Beagle Retires in Style at LAX
Bob Ward - Los Angeles Times

After that, Shiloh the beagle high-tailed it home to Long Beach to live the high life with his handler, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Canine Enforcement Officer Donna Kercher.

For nearly eight years Shiloh's keen sense of smell uncovered fruits, vegetables and other foods possibly infested with dangerous insects that were carried illegally into the United States by international travelers. He also scored drugs for customs inspectors.

Last month he intercepted 70 pounds of khat, an east African and Middle Eastern plant that contains a stimulant called cathinone. It wasn't the first time he had zeroed in on khat being sneaked in.

His nose for naughtiness made him top dog at the Bradley International Terminal, where LAX first employed beagles as sniffer dogs in 1984. But as a government employee, Shiloh always faced a mandatory retirement age--in his case 9. On Tuesday, he padded through the terminal arrival area one last time, giving bulging bags rolling off the huge luggage carousel the sniff test.

When he found something...

suspicious, he sat down, alerting Kercher that something was amiss. Sometimes it's a false alarm. Food or fruit brought onto the plane as an in-flight snack was eaten en route, but left its scent behind. Other times, apples or bananas tucked into carry-on luggage in Addis Ababa or Bangkok went uneaten and forgotten.

But the threat to U.S. agriculture from pests such as Medflies and guava flies, or of diseases carried in meats, is significant enough that incoming food and plants must be seized and destroyed, officials say.

Over the years, Shiloh has detected more than 20,000 prohibited agriculture items, said Kercher, 40. With his friendly tail-wagging, he's managed to do it in a non-threatening way too. Kercher will continue as an agricultural enforcement officer working solo, checking bags by unzipping each of them and poking around corners and into containers with her gloved hands.

What a trained agriculture dog can do in seconds takes 15 or 20 minutes for a human officer to do fully. "I'll miss the passenger interaction, parents teaching children about working dogs. That's really been fun," she said. "I'm so attached to Shiloh. I don't know if I could get another dog like him."

During his final rounds Tuesday, Shiloh wore buttons stating "It's my last day -- 'Bye" and "I'm retiring" pinned to his uniform -- a blue vest that bore the Homeland Security emblem and the motto "Protecting American Agriculture."

Attached to his collar was a tiny gold U.S. Customs and Border Protection badge with the number 58. A new plant sniffer is joining LAX's 10-dog beagle brigade starting today. But on Tuesday, seven members of the canine corps lined up with their handlers to say goodbye to Shiloh. About 25 other agriculture officers and border protection agency Port Director Carlos Martel joined them.

Supervising inspector Diana Verity laughed as she recalled how Shiloh once alerted Kercher to a luggage cart piled with numerous bags. Kercher "asked which bags? And he put his nose on two different bags. Turns out there was fruit in both bags."

"Another time he found a sausage hidden in a concealed place in a bag. He's awesome," said Verity, herself a former canine officer.

Shiloh and other baggage beagles never get to eat what they find. Instead, they are rewarded with doggy treats from their officer-handlers. But on Tuesday a canine cake was served in Shiloh's honor at his retirement party.

Another agriculture dog handler-officer, Leticia Hale, baked it with peanut butter, carrots, flour and honey. "He's allowed to eat it. He's a civilian," joked U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspector Michael Fleming.

As the other beagles watched with tongue-dripping envy, Shiloh eyed the cake and then looked at Kercher for approval. She said yes. Shiloh didn't turn up his nose at his one last airport treat.

-- Bob Pool

Photo: Bob Chamerlin/Los Angeles Times

Favorite Animal Flicks: What's Yours?
Amelia Glynn - SF Gate

With Disney's latest animated animal extravaganza, Bolt now in theatres and a long holiday weekend on the horizon, I was inspired to pay homage to a few of my all time favorite animal-related flicks.

Here are my top picks (in alphabetical order). Please add yours to the list!

Bambi: Remember Thumper and Flower?
The Birds: What begins with lovebirds ends in pecking pandemonium.
The Black Stallion: A feel-good to the finish.
Charlotte's Web: A veritable smorgasbord!
Homeward Bound: Shadow, Sassy and Chance make the trek and are reunited with their owners. Hooray!
Jaws: The modern-day Moby Dick.
King Kong: Who can resist an overgrown ape who just wants to be loved?
Lady and the Tramp: Eating spaghetti and meatballs will never be the same...
March of the Penguins: All for an egg.
Never Cry Wolf: The ultimate man-meets-beast story.
Ratatouille: Top Chef for animal lovers.
The Secret of NIMH: Based on one of my favorite books, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
Swiss Family Robinson: Ostrich races, anyone?
Watership Down: A dark rabbit's tale.
Winged Migration: A gorgeous film shot over four years on all seven continents.
The Yearling: Jody finally finds the love he seeks in Flag the fawn.

Posted By: Amelia Glynn

Iowa City to Discuss Pet Restaint Law
By Gregg Hennigan - The Gazette

IOWA CITY — Sophia Petunia was relaxing in the front yard by her favorite tree when the animal control officer came by earlier this month.

The schnoodle, a schnauzer/poodle mix, belonging to Katy and Matt Brown of Iowa City, may have looked like she was roaming free, but as Katy Brown told the officer, they have underground electric fencing that keeps their dog from leaving their property.

It doesn't matter, she was told. City law requires animals to be tethered or kept enclosed by a physical fence.

"I was completely shocked," said Katy Brown of 3222 Shamrock Dr., adding that the system has worked flawlessly since they installed it last year.

Brown is asking that the law be changed so that a dog is deemed under restraint if an owner properly maintains what often is called invisible fencing. The City Council will discuss the topic at a work session Monday.

Misha Goodman, the city's animal services supervisor, said there's no way to guarantee a dog won't endure the electric shock that results from crossing the fence to chase an animal or a person.

Also, many owners fail to properly maintain the systems, she said, and there is nothing to stop animals or people from coming into a yard.

In the past month, the city's animal shelter has seen six cases of dogs escaping their invisible fences. The animal control officer stopped by the Brown's home after capturing two of those dogs.

The city generally enforces the code only when a violation is reported, Goodman said.

Brown said responsible pet owners should be able to rely on invisible fencing. She said she wouldn't use it if her dog didn't obey or had an aggressive personality.

Alan Kemp, executive director of the Iowa League of Cities, said he has not heard of this topic coming up before. But a review he did of a few cities ordinances show some are very specific like in Iowa City and others are less descriptive and perhaps more open to interpretation.

Goodman said many communities have contacted Iowa City about its law. She also said it's common for animal shelters to deny adoptions to people who say they will only use an invisible fence to restrain a dog.


Cute And Cuddly Is Family Fun
By: Karen Rosenberry - Game Industry Family Titles Reviewer

Happy Tails Combines Style And Substance

The folks at Viva Media have practically cornered the market on family titles involving the care and feeding of animals. Over the past couple years I have reviewed all types of games from them built around this theme from running wild animal preserves to saving Australian outback creatures to running your own animal hospital from the ground up.

All of the games in the series have been great Family titles that parents and kids could play together. And they have all been sold at extremely reasonable prices, with most of them under $20. I don’t think any have ever gotten anything other than a perfect 5 GiN Gems for their Value score, because even with the reasonable price, they were games that offered a perfect way for parents and kids to play together and didn’t skimp on any of the details. Several have been nominated by GiN’s readers for Family title Game Of the Year, and a few have even won. So this is a fine family series.

But I did worry that perhaps we have done everything we possibly could with this genre. I mean short of visiting yet another continent like Animal Shelter Asia or something, what could be new? Thankfully Happy Tails Animal Shelter shows the way with a unique take where you not only heal animals, but find them good homes too. And each animal has a rich backstory now, so there is even an RPG element in the mix.

Previous games in the series had you managing a hospital or critical care facility. Owners would bring their animals into your hospital and ask for help. This brought up a process of deductive logic where you would use both general and specific methods to diagnose and treat problems. This process was not completely easy sometimes, but was just challenging enough so that parents could play with their kids to help out, yet not so frustrating that neither could figure things out. This was one of the biggest gems for the games, since there are not too many titles suitable for parents and kids to enjoy together.

But in the end, all of the animals had homes. Whether they were going back to the farm or house where they lived or whether they were wild and being made strong enough to return to the woods or ocean, everyone had somewhere to go. With Happy Trails Animal Shelter, you need to find the animals a home, which can be just as challenging as nursing them back to health.

Each animal has a story, and many of them are quite touching. You might have a stray cat who followed their owner home and was made part of the family, only to find out that their owner was allergic to them. [Note that I live with a cat that I’m allergic to currently, so it can be done.] You job is to feed and care for the animal, and nurse them back to health if needed, and then try to find them a good home. Whoever wrote the back stories for the animals (I have seen about 30 stories so far, though there are 99 of them in the game) did a great job.

You need to play and care for the animals until they are ready to be adopted. During their time with you, it becomes apparent what type of owner would be best for them. Then when you have people come in and look for pets, you can direct them to the proper animal based on what you know about both the visitor and the animal. If you have chosen wisely, a love connection between the two develops and it becomes obvious that they will be happy together.

This added step teaches a valuable lesson in responsibility and reality. The child player can’t hold onto 100+ animals at the shelter because you still have to make the place run smoothly. Feeding too many animals will not only drain your budget but also means there won’t be space for new animals in need.

There is a large mix of animals that come into the shelter like cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, horses and even wild fawns. Obviously the needs of a horse are going to be different from a guinea pig, and both will require different owners or caretakers. But all of the animals have great backstories, and all are extremely cute and cuddly.

Like the other games in the series, Animal Shelter is not just a pretty face. Sure you get to play with the animals, but you also have a job to do. Some will arrive sick and need care. Others will be shy around people and need to be socialized. Thankfully you have access to a complete library of facts about each animal, so you can lookup to see if rabbits really do enjoy carrots, or how horses like to sleep. This not only teaches about individual animals, but also about basic research skills as well as responsibility for the care of pets. It’s perfect if your child wants a pet, but does not fully understand what that means, and the consequences of not being a good pet parent. Let them play Animal Shelter for a while and then get a real pet for them once they understand that owning a pet is wonderful, but also carries great responsibility.

In a world where educational games are dull and regular titles are too violent or simply complex for kids, the animal games from Viva are truly a horse of a different color. They are fun to play and the addition of backstories for the pets will keep your kids stuck playing like magnets. And the good thing is that they will learn valuable lessons while there. Plus, it’s perfect for parents and kids to play together.

Looks like we have another winner on our hands with Happy Tails Animal Shelter, where all creatures eventually find good homes. Hopefully this game will find its way home to your family.

Karen Rosenberry is GiN's Educational Reviewer. She has a Masters Degree in Education and enjoys using computer games to teach her students while they're being entertained. She can be reached at :

Animal Doctor
Dr. Fox - Washington Post

Treat the Immune System, Not Just the Infection

Dear Dr. Fox:

Angus is my 9-year-old Labrador retriever adopted from Lab Rescue when he was 1 1/2 years old. At that time, he was about 100 pounds and had such severe infections in both ears that black goo would fly out of them when he shook his head. It took three months of constant cleaning and medication to get it under control.

In late 2005, Angus was found to have anal furunculosis (boils). He was on high-dose antibiotics, ketoconazole and Atopica, for nearly a year before it was under control. The drugs made him sick, and he was depressed. I asked my vet whether his diet had anything to do with his getting this disease, and she said no. He has been on Atopica since his diagnosis, and it seems to keep his rear from flaring into an infection. I give him one 100-milligram tablet three times a week and wipe his rear every time he has a bowel movement to keep the area clean. He tolerates the Atopica well, but I'd rather treat him holistically, if possible.

He eats 1 1/2 cups of Iams dry dog food twice daily. He also has a few small Milk-Bone-type treats and sometimes table scraps. I also give him one Pedigree Dental Styx every day (which he really loves), and this has improved his breath and keeps his teeth clean.

Do you think diet has anything to do with this disease?


A: Your poor dog has an impaired immune system that makes him prone to infections, unable to throw them off without medication, and he is experiencing harmful side effects.

I am not surprised that your veterinarian does not think that diet and nutrition have any role to play in your dog's chronic illness or in his recovery. Too many animal doctors believe pet-food manufacturer claims that all the nutrients cats and dogs need to be healthy are in their products because they have been "scientifically formulated" and are "complete and balanced."

I urge you to transition your dog onto a fresh, whole-food diet as per the recipe on my Web site at Your veterinarian should also visit and explore a more integrative treatment approach using beneficial nutrient supplements. Fish oil is one that tops the list for many conditions.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 7-year-old Lhasa Apso that is a treasure. Last year, I began making your recipe for homemade dog food, and my dog loves it!

My vet has suggested glucosamine as a supplement to his food because one of his back legs goes out of joint periodically. Can I cook this supplement into his food, or will heat destroy its effectiveness?

We live in Florida, and I've given my dog Revolution for seven years, and he tolerates it well. Can you recommend a different prescription for heartworm and a more conservative treatment for ticks and fleas?

Fort Myers, Fla.

A: Supplements such as glucosamine, fish oil and flaxseed oil should not be cooked because heat can destroy and denature them.

For dogs with joint problems, the chondroitin glucosamine MSM supplement can work well, coupled with turmeric (one 250-milligram capsule) and half a teaspoon of cod liver oil (per 20 pounds body weight). Apply massage therapy as a routine over the afflicted joints and a general body massage. My book "The Healing Touch for Dogs" is a guide for all who wish to learn how to give a therapeutic massage to an animal.

If your dog has had no adverse reactions to Revolution, then I would stay with it. People living in such states as Florida and Texas where there is no significant winter die-off of fleas and other noxious insects are in a bind. The benefits of new-generation anti-flea and anti-tick drugs might outweigh the risks to most animals, provided the animals are not over-vaccinated and are on a good, healthful diet.

Dear Dr. Fox:

In one of your columns, you answered a question about hyperthyroidism in cats.

My 18-year-old cat was found to have this condition in 2005. I tried an oral Tapazole regimen, but she became very ill. I found out later that close to 20 percent of cats tolerate Tapazole orally.

My vet suggested a transdermal application of Tapazole (methimazole) applied to the skin part of the ear. She has been able to tolerate this, and it has lowered her thyroid for close to two years. The last blood work showed the T4 was slightly elevated, so I have increased the dose from once a day to twice.

I would suggest to your readers who have older cats with hyperthyroidism that can't tolerate oral Tapazole and are not candidates for surgery or radioactive-iodine treatment to ask their vets about transdermal application of methimazole. They'll need to find a compounding pharmacy to make the cream -- it's not that expensive.

Also, because kidney failure is usually concurrent, they might get the BUN and creatinine checked. My vet has put my cat on Epakitin, which is added to her food. Her last blood work showed BUN only slightly elevated and creatinine actually down.

St. Louis

A: Since this disease has reached almost epidemic proportions in cats today and is the most common endocrine disease afflicting the feline population, many readers will appreciate the knowledge that there is an alternative way to give the medication for this condition without causing some cats so much nausea and distress.

How to prevent this disease: Vacuum the house at least once a week to get rid of dust and carpet and upholstery particles that are probably imbued with flame-retardant chemicals that are implicated in feline thyroid disease; avoid giving cats food and water in certain kinds of plastic containers (use stainless steel or glass); and do not feed cats seafood contaminated with these and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals. All these might also contribute to this feline malady.

Dear Dr. Fox:

About five years ago, my daughter adopted a neutered 2-year-old large-breed shepherd mix named Max.

He is a sweet dog except when he is around another dog. He chases it and mounts it continuously. This is not a playful act. He snaps and snarls and forces the other dog to comply.

At a recent family gathering, he tried to force a smaller dog to comply, grabbing her at the neck and head, breaking the skin and making her cry. Then he mounted her.

My daughter has another dog, and Max mounts this one often throughout the day. My daughter thinks this is normal behavior -- Max is showing that he is the leader of the pack. I think my daughter should be the leader and stop Max from terrorizing other dogs.

His aggressive behavior is the same with every dog he meets: no running or playing, just forced mounting.

Shouldn't this behavior be stopped?

Grand Blanc, Mich.

A:Max is a bully of a dog and needs to be disciplined by being taught self-restraint and boundaries.

As you correctly assert, your daughter needs to assume the role of female leader of the pack and teach Max his manners. A behavioral counselor or good dog trainer should be called in. Max's aggressive behavior could some day get him into a serious fight that might result in great harm -- to either dog or humans trying to break it up.

Max should be encouraged to learn how to run and play with other dogs. He needs to learn how much he is missing.

Dear Dr. Fox:

I have a 12-year-old neutered half-Siamese black-and-white cat that does strange things. I have an idea why, but I want your opinion.

When I am sitting on my couch watching television, he will meow loudly, then jump on the back of the couch and start kneading with his feet around my head. Then he begins to make a thrusting motion. If I try to pet him when he does this, he meows loudly. He does this for a couple of minutes then jumps down and licks his privates. I think his affection for me is very strong. My hair excites him.

He also will pick up one of my slippers and, while meowing loudly, will bring it into the room I'm in, drop it near me, then walk away.

What are your ideas on these behaviors?

Red Bank, N.J.

A: Cats do many curious and seemingly bizarre things. They are copycats and are extremely observant of our behavior and creative in their game play.

Much of this creativity is partly their way of adapting to captivity. (Most domestic cats are still wild at heart.) Often, and regrettably, with no feline companion to interact with naturally, they will displace and redirect various instinctual behaviors toward their human companions.

What you are witnessing are elements of kittenish nursing and sexual behavior when your cat is by your head, and kitten or mate prey-giving behavior when you are in bed and given a slipper.

Such is the nature of feline affection in the distorted realm of domesticity. Some animal-derived products and scents in your hair may indeed trigger ancient longings and instinctual reactions.

Michael W. Fox, author of a newsletter and books on animal care, welfare and rights, is a veterinarian with doctoral degrees in medicine and animal behavior. More pet care information is available at Dr. Fox's Web site, Write to Dr. Fox at United Feature Syndicate, 200 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

Top 5 Tips to Keep Your Dog from Biting
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

No matter his size or breed, any dog will bite under the right circumstances, so it's up to owners to take steps to keep their dog under control. Some tips, from the American Kennel Association.

1. Research dog breeds before you bring one into your home. Some need considerable training and exercise if you're going to keep them under control. Do you have the time and commitment they'll require?

2. Don't let your dog run free. Keep your dog on a leash when in public. Keep him behind a secure fence at home. Sure, an electronic fence might keep your dog in your yard, but how will you keep people and their pets away?

3. Socialize your dog. Start socializing him from Day One so he's not uneasy with strangers. Even loving dogs may bite when they feel threatened.

4. Train your dog. He needs to respond to basic commands like "sit," "down," "stay," "heel," and "come." He needs to drop toys on command so you don't have to reach into his mouth to get a toy. Play non-aggressive games like fetch rather than with games that will teach him bad habits like tug-of-war.

5. Do not set your dog up for failure. Be cautious when introducing your dog to new situations, avoid situations where he might be teased, and remove him if there are signs he's

Top 5 Signs of a Healthy Cat
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

From the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine:

1. Clear, bright eyes with little or no tearing, and the nostrils should be clean. Runny eyes, sneezing or a nasal discharge can indicate a respiratory infection. The inside of the cat's ears should be clean and free of any discharge. A black, tarlike discharge in the ear canal usually indicates an ear-mite infestation; a puslike discharge may be visible in the ear canal if there is a bacterial or yeast infection.

2. The mouth and gums should be pink, with no evidence of ulcers or sores.

3. The cat's coat should be glossy, and there should be no bare spots, dry skin, dandruff or any evidence of external parasites.

4. The cat should not be too thin or have a protruding belly, because either condition can indicate the presence of internal parasites or some other medical disorder. If possible, make sure the cat's feces appear to be normal and well-formed.

5. Beware of a cat that frequently runs away and hides, or that appears lethargic and sleeps more than seems normal.

Click here to visit The EZ Online Shopping Network of Stores!

No comments: