Pet Question: Have You Lost Your Pigeon?

Lyme Disease: Protect Yourself, Your Property
and Your Pets
by LymeDiseaseAwareness -

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Lyme is the most prevalent vector-borne disease and one of the fastest spreading diseases throughout the United States, and the subjects of diagnosis and treatment of Lyme are politically-charged

Who is at Risk for coming into contact with ticks?

According to the CDC from 2003-2005 incidence of Lyme disease were highest in two age groups – children, especially boys aged 5 to 14 years old, and adults aged 55 to 64 years.

If you live in a rural or suburban area your risk of encountering a tick increases threefold. Exceptions abound, though. Unfortunately one does not need to be an avid outdoors sports enthusiast to meet up with ticks. Deer ticks and Lyme disease transmittal have been documented within large city limits, even in New York City’s Central Park. Air travel has even been disrupted by the discovery of ticks in the plane.

You are at a higher risk of a tick encounter if you live in a single-family house, more so if you have a yard, or woods are attached, or if you live within 100 feet of woodland. Unfortunately having dogs or cats that have access to the outdoors also puts you at a higher risk of contracting tick-borne diseases. Dogs are excellent sentinels for the presence of ticks in an area. Heavily infested dogs, if not groomed outdoors first, will bring ticks into the house, where they can dislodge. Tick collars tend to increase the number of ticks brought indoors. Sad to say, ticks brought into the house are a common source of human infestation.

So many of us have birdbaths in our yards, and like to feed the birds during the winter. However, those bird feeders also attract deer, and mice. Besides, the average bird has 2 -3 ticks on them, which can drop off at any time. Birds and bird migration are more reasons for the increasing spread of Lyme and TBD (tick borne diseases).

Of course, in a Lyme endemic area, (An endemic area is defined by the CDC as a county that has more than 2 documented cases of Lyme disease). hunting, hiking, and fishing bring you closer to nature and to the ticks. So does horseback riding, sports (Little League and Pop Warner games) - especially if the playing areas are close to or abutting fields and woods. This holds true for golf as well. Any activity in an outdoor area that is frequented by deer or mice makes one more vulnerable to a tick bite.

So what to do?
First and foremost is to PROTECT YOURSELF. Avoid open fields, roadside areas or uncut grassy areas as much as possible.

Avoid sitting directly on the ground or fallen logs; use a blanket or other ground cover. When walking near bushes or trees, avoid touching them. Walk in the center of trails. Avoid sitting on stonewalls or woodpiles; these are places deer ticks like.

Wear light-colored long pants and long sleeves and white closely knitted socks when outside. Tuck your shirt into your pants and tuck your pants into your socks. This will help prevent a tick from crawling under your clothing and getting to your skin. Wear light colored gloves. The light color makes it easier to see a tick crawling on your clothing or gloves. Wear a hat to protect your head from deer ticks when working around bushes.

Consider wearing Rynoskin protective underwear. It is made of a closely knitted but breathable stretch fabric that ticks apparently have difficulty penetrating. It is especially helpful for hunters and those outdoors when the weather is cooler. It is available in long sleeved tops, long bottoms, socks, hoods and gloves. Ticks can also be picked up when sitting on mowed areas. They are also more abundant on stone walls (due to mice activity), fallen logs, and the undersides of picnic tables. Before going back indoors remove all ticks form your clothes. Wash clothes in hot water and dry them in high heat for at least 1 hour in order to kill ticks that you have missed. LymePA

Studies from University of RI over the past few years, show that ticks are building up a resistance to DEET. It now takes a a 65% concentration to be effective - and that protection does not last all that long. Permethrin, on the other hand, kills ticks- usually within a minute, while DEET only repels them.

Spraying your clothes,and especially your shoes/sneakers with a permethrin based product (Sawyer’s Clothing Spray, Insect Shield, Permanone) is highly effective for protection. One application of these products will last about a month and through several washings. Buzz-Off™ and other lines of clothing with tick repellent already applied can be purchased as well.

Most importantly, despite any and all precautions, daily tick checks are a must!

*A. Check all body parts that bend including:

behind the knee
between fingers and toes
*B. Check other areas where ticks are commonly found including:

belly button
in and behind the ear
top of the head
entire groin area
*C. Check pressure points including: (ticks will stop when they meet resistance)

where underwear elastic touches the skin
where bands from pants and skirts touch the skin
anywhere else where clothing presses on skin
*D. Go back and visually check all other areas, there may be more than 1 tick.

*E. Run fingers gently over skin. If there is a tiny tick and it is
attached, it will feel like the last piece of scab left before a cut
completely heals.

*F. Shower after all outdoor activities are over for the day. If the tick
is still wandering it may wash off.

*G. Re-run a tick check three days later, just in case you missed
something the first time through.

IF a Tick is Found... and still attached:

Do not squeeze the body of the tick!

Do not apply Vaseline!

Do not use a hot, burnt match!

Do not use alcohol to get the tick to detach.

Do not follow the advice from forwarded e-mails about some ‘nurse’ who states that applying a soapy cloth (or other handy-dandy, no muss - no fuss method) will suffocate the tick and make it detach. (urban legend!).

Any of these actions could cause the tick to regurgitate and transmit any pathogen it is carrying! If you weren’t infected beforehand, you soon could be.

To avoid transmission of disease, use a blunt-tipped tweezer, grab the tick as closely to the skin as possible. Pull straight up(or in the direction the tick is attached).

There are several good tick removal tools available, but avoid any that "unscrew" the tick. Counter to popular belief, ticks do not screw themselves into the skin.

After removal, disinfect the site, wash your hands and mark the calendar as to the date of the bite for future reference if needed. If you see a rash(es), even if it is not at the site of the bite, you or your physician should take a picture of it, date it, and the doctor should place a copy of it in your medical records.

Many states and private labs will test the tick to see if it is infected with the Lyme spirochete. (As with other tests for Lyme disease, it isn’t 100% accurate). For testing, the tick will need to be placed in a vial with a damp piece of paper so it won’t dry out.

What to Consider if Bitten

You can contract many tick-borne diseases simultaneously from the same tick bite. Present tick testing does NOT test for other tick-borne infections.

Being bitten by an infected tick does not always mean that you will get Lyme disease.

The longer the tick is attached the greater the chance of infection.

Not everyone infected with Lyme disease will develop a rash, however if you get the Erythema Migrans rash, you do have Lyme disease. Seek immediate medical attention.

The rash or rashes may be raised, hot to touch, itchy, crusty, oozy, circular, spreading out, oval, triangular, long-thin line, disappear and return, at the site of the bite or on other parts of your body. Time for Lyme

Current tests for Lyme disease are not definitive and according to ILADS guidelines, people with the disease may test negative yet be infected.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines suggest that the diagnosis of Lyme disease be clinical, based on exposure and symptoms. According to CDC estimates, the real incidence of Lyme disease is 8-10 times the reported number.

If infected, symptoms may not appear for days, weeks, months, or years after being bitten.

Symptoms may range from subtle to severe, may come and go, and difficult to recognize because it mimics other diseases (The Great Imitator).

According to the CDC, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease can potentially enter the central nervous system within days of a tick bite, making treatment more difficult.

Protect Your Property

According to the CDC, simple landscaping practices can reduce exposure to ticks by 50-90%.

• Remove leaf litter and clear tall grasses and brush around homes
and at the edges of lawns.

• Place wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to
restrict tick migration to recreational areas.

• Mow the lawn and clear brush and leaf litter frequently.

• Keep the ground under bird feeders clean.

• Stack wood neatly and in dry areas.

• Keep playground equipment, decks and patios away from yard edges
and trees.

• Increase sunlight to property

• Move bird feeders/ birdbaths

• Get rid of mice; deter chipmunks, squirrels and deer from the

Create Tick Free Zones

Perimeter spraying with an acaricide (tick pesticide) twice a year (late May and early October) by a professional pest control applicator is the single most effective way to eliminate ticks from your yard. Make sure that they thoroughly disturb the leaf litter, and spray the undersides of the plant branches and leaves.

Since mice transmit many pathogens to ticks, ridding your property of mice or treating the ticks already on the mice can go a long way to a healthier environment.

Most studies support the notion that white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) are the main reservoir host for Lyme disease spirochetes, Babesia protozoa, and Anaplasma bacteria; in most settings, mice are the primary culprits for producing infected ticks. These mice are common and often quite abundant in rural, suburban, and semi-urban settings across much of the eastern United States.

Tick Tubes are stuffed with cotton nesting material impregnated with permethrin. If mice are present, they typically are very attracted by this nesting material. If tubes are placed in areas harboring mice, the mice will steal the treated nesting material and place it in their nests. Once mice have treated nests, they almost never are infested by ticks. With complete coverage in a yard, in time nearly all of the mice will have treated nests. In this way, targeting the ticks that feed on mice can greatly reduce the number of infected ticks in your yard. It's easy to apply Tick Tubes, [although you need to think like a mouse-where would they feel safe searching for nesting material?]. Do it yourself, or hire a professional applicator. It is best to apply Tick Tubes in late July/August (when larvae are active)and in April (before nymphs emerge).

For larger properties, the use of 4-poster feeding stations which focus on the adult ticks on deer can reduce the tick population over the span of a few years.

Protect Your Pets


Unfortunately our pets are not immune to Lyme Disease either. In fact, the American Veterinary Medical Association studies suggest that dogs are 50% more susceptible to Lyme Disease than humans.

The peak time for canine Lyme disease is late spring and fall (not midsummer, as is common in humans). The incubation period for naturally-infected dogs is unknown, but laboratory showed clinical signs developing two to five months after infection.

The clinical signs seen in dogs are variable and nonspecific. The characteristic rash seen in humans is uncommon in dogs, and those that do occur are localized and transient.

While lameness is a common symptom of canine Lyme disease, the crippling, chronic, non-antibiotic-responsive arthritis seen in humans is rare in dogs.

The most commonly reported acute clinical signs of Lyme Disease in dogs include:

* fever [103˚-105˚F degrees]
* recurring shifting leg lameness and stiff gait
* lethargy and depression
* enlarged lymph nodes
* general malaise and loss of appetite.

Several additional distinct clinical syndromes may be recognized in dogs, including:

* kidney disease
* nervous abnormalities, including behavioral changes and seizures
* heart problems, such as irregular heart rhythms and heart inflammation

After a tick bite, the bacteria disseminate by actively moving through the tissues to the central nervous system and can be found there as soon as 12 hours after infection.

Using the Snap® 4DxTest by Idexx, veterinarians are able to test dogs for Lyme, E. canis (ehrlichiosis), anaplasma and heartworm, and have the results within 10 minutes. The cost for this test is under $100. Treatment in "routine" cases is tetracycline for 30 days. Pain medication is also given. Dogs usually respond well, feeling better after just a few doses. In serious infections with fever, severe pain, kidney problems, dogs need to be hospitalized for IV antibiotics, fluids and pain medications.

There is a Lyme vaccine available for dogs, but controversy surrounding the use of it. Flea and tick baths are helpful. Topical preventatives are also available. K-9Advantix kills and repels fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. It is not a systemic and can kill ticks before they bite and attach. Frontline Plus is another product, but it can take up to 2 days to kill a tick after it starts feeding.

Avoid products containing the pesticide cyphenothrin (SentryPro XFC) as it is under investigation for adverse and potentially deadly effects.

Perhaps because of their fastidious grooming habits, cats seem less susceptible to Lyme. However, infection is not unheard of. Be on the watch for lameness, fever >103˚F, loss of appetite, fatigue, eye damage, unusual breathing, heart involvement or "zombie like trance". Many cats do not show noticeable symptoms, despite being infected.

Feline disease is treated with antibiotics such as amoxicillin, tetracycline or doxycycline.

There is currently no vaccine, nor specific lab tests for tick-borne diseases for cats. There are 2 ways to protect your cat. Keep the indoors or use specific topical preventative especially designed for cats. NOT ALL of the topicals can be safely used on cats!


Horses are susceptible to both Babesia and Lyme infections.

A recent equine journal studied horses in New England and in the Pacific Northwest and reported that 45% of horses tested in New England showed signs of Lyme exposure though they may not have been symptomatic. In the Northwest the number was in the teens.

Lyme infected horses generally do not have a fever, but may have lame or stiff joints, laminitis, depression, or refuse to eat. This bacterial infection may be a cause of moon blindness or loss of vision. There have been reports of spontaneous abortion and encephalitis in horses infected with Bb (Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme). Neurologic signs include head tilt, difficulty swallowing, or aimless wandering. Transplacental transmission occurs. Colts born to infected mares have displayed birth defects. Many horses may be infected with the spirochete, but display no symptoms.

Lyme disease rarely affects sheep, goats, chicken or deer. Consult your veterinarian about further prevention and treatment of Lyme disease in your animals.

Pensioner Threatened with Jail Over Noisy Parrot Which Speaks
in Dead Husband's Voice
By Ian Evans -

A widow is causing a flap in a retirement home over a pet parrot which speaks in her dead husband’s voice

Muriel Goodlad's chatty bird has ruffled feathers among neighbours and now a local council is threatening the pensioner with a two-year jail sentence or large fine - unless she shuts him up.

Mrs Goodlad said Tokolosh, an African Grey, was a huge comfort and gave her a daily reminder of husband Talbot who died 10 years ago.
Muriel Goodlad faces jail or a whopping fine over her chatty parrot

The 82-year-old said: 'He talks to me everyday. He says "Muriel, Muriel" just like Talbot spoke and "I love you".

'I know it sounds funny but it feels like Talbot is here with me.
'He speaks in a gruff voice like Talbot and just everyday things like "hello" and "good morning" like him. It feels like we’re together.'
However a neighbour on the retirement complex in Johannesburg, South Africa, has complained to the council about the noise from 35-year-old Tokolosh and Muriel’s other parrot Suku, who is 75.

'I’ve spoken to parrot experts and they say the African Grey is one of the quietest parrots compared to other birds like the macaw,' she said.
And Mrs Goodlad said other neighbours had been supportive.
'But now I’ve had a letter from the council’s noise pollution and health department saying I could be fined up £1,500 or two years in prison if the parrots don’t quieten down.

'The council said the parrots disturb her when she’s on the internet but they’ve never even bothered to come and speak to me.'
Muriel and Talbot, who were married for 52 years, bought Tokolosh 35 years ago and Suku, a female, around 12 years ago.

They live in separate cages because Suku didn’t appreciate her younger friend’s advances, she said.

'She would just put her head down when he was around so we had to separate them.
'Tokolosh used to speak a lot more before we had Suku – he could say 100 phrases. But when they’re put with another parrot, they start talking in parrot language instead and stop repeating your words.'

She now vows to block any moves to evict the birds.

'Over my dead body will they take them. I’ve had a lot of support over this. It would be like losing a part of Talbot.'

African Grey parrots usually live in the rainforests of west and central Africa and can reach 120 years in age.

Gary Bogue: How to Find the Owner of a Lost Pigeon
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

seeds of cottonwood

fill the air

— Brian & Nona,

Walnut Creek

Dear Gary:

Yesterday a pigeon came to its demise on the street in front of my house in Clayton.

In removing the carcass, I noticed and removed bands from each ankle. I'd like to report the band information to someone for whatever records may be in existence.

One band is dark green with no markings, the other is light green with numbers and letters and 2008 on it. The bird has been in the neighborhood for at least two years, easily recognized, being mostly white.

Can you please direct me to the appropriate place?

Paul A. Johnson, Clayton

Dear Paul:

The American Racing Pigeon Union has set up an excellent Web site to help people locate the owners of lost pigeons, be they racing pigeons or otherwise.

Go to and click on "Lost Bird." That should help you track down the owner of that poor pigeon. Thanks for caring and doing that!

Dear Gary:

I was wondering if you could give me some feedback about my Dachshund's bad behavior.

My female Doxy "Recie" (a black and tan) will not stop licking the floor or her day bed. I have noticed that she has been doing this only in the last year; however, it is possible I might not have noticed it earlier.

Recie will lick the floor day and
night it seems if I don't stop her with a stern, "No!"

Can this behavior be stopped or curbed? I have tried to use positive reinforcement with dog treats but can't get her to stop.

Patsy, cyberspace

Dear Patsy:

The first thing you should do is take Recie to visit her veterinarian.

Explain the problem and ask him/her to see if there's some sort of medical disorder behind all the obsessive licking.

If it's not a medical problem, it could be boredom or stress. If that's the case, you can try to divert the licking by giving the dog some chew toys, but you may just be creating a new obsession. Better, I think, would be to have your vet recommend a local animal behaviorist to work with you and your pet.

Let us know how it works out. We're curious!

Dear Gary:

We attended your garden talk at the Contra Costa Times on May 15 and enjoyed the information you passed along ("Gardening With Wildlife").

I asked you about how to keep squirrels from digging holes in the raised garden beds and you gave some good advice (spray vinegar on the spot, etc.).

However, yesterday, we found out who really had been digging the holes. There was a backyard lizard in about a 4-inch long hole that he/she had dug next to a squash plant. The leaves from the plant gave him/her a little umbrella and the cooler earth in the hole also helped to keep him/her cool.

Nature teaches us so much. We just have to keep our eyes and ears open.

Betsy & Ralph,


Dear Betsy & Ralph:

You definitely don't want to do anything to spoil the lizard's "sun shade." It's not hurting anything.

Besides, the lizard is keeping bugs from eating your plants by eating them.

You are so right. We can learn a lot by keeping our eyes and ears open while we're gardening. Even if it's just enjoying the sounds of singing birds.

Dear Gary:

I had a great birding experience Monday in the backyard of my Pleasanton home.

I was in my garden in the early afternoon when I saw a chickadee flying erratically. He landed right near my head. Then I noticed another one just as he grabbed onto some grape vines. I figured that a nest of chickadees must have fledged so I ran into the house and grabbed a camera.

For the next hour I stood under a big bottle brush bush and watched the young chickadees — four of them — practice flying from branch to branch in the bush as the parents came and went with tasty morsels.

The neatest part of the experience occurred when one by one the fledglings landed on the edge of a bird bath just four feet from where I was standing. They sat there for about 10 minutes as the parents brought food. The little birds would cheep and flutter their wings as the parents neared, signaling, "I'm hungry."

I felt so special to see six chickadees at one time. It was amazing. I snapped a number of photos and uploaded some to your Web page. Although I have several nest boxes set up in my yard, I don't know where this little family had been living. I was glad they picked my yard to practice flying because I have a dog and the yard is cat-free.

The next day, three of the chickadees were still sitting in the bush and getting food from the parents. I never saw more than three birds at one time that day. I did see the parent chickadee attack and drive away a little bush tit that landed on a flower near one of the chicks.

Today, I have had a glimpse of the chickadees as they get a sip of water or come to one of the feeders.

I am so glad that I happened to be in my yard at just the right time to witness this little family take wing.

Judy Matthew,


Dear Judy:

My idea of the ultimate fun day is to be out gardening in my backyard on the weekend — just as a nest full of baby birds fledges in my yard!

That happened to me one Sunday while I was harvesting some strawberries. Four house finch youngsters were suddenly rocking and rolling around my garden boxes, teetering on their tomato basket perches as they cheeped and fluttered their little wings to call Mom and Dad over to feed them.

When Mom and Dad finch flew off to catch some more insects, I eased over and popped some strawberry bits into their automatically opened beaks.

As long as something kept filling their hungry beaks, they didn't seem to care if it was coming from the Jolly Green Giant.

I love this place.

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Many Pets Are Given Away Amid Economic Downturn
By Dawn Bonker - Los Angeles Times

Sometimes people who lose their jobs or homes must make heartbreaking decisions

The story of this Juliet, an American pit bull terrier, has its share of tragedy. She was kenneled with an Orange County veterinarian because her owner was hit by catastrophic illness. When poor health and medical bills took their toll, the owner sadly released the dog for adoption. Then Juliet, saddled with the stigma that comes with pit bulls, sat in the kennel for three months, then four months, then five.

Juliet's owner faced the difficult and increasingly common dilemma: Even when you've hit a financial wall and know you no longer can afford to keep a pet, the desire to find a better home for it often comes with no guarantees. As lost jobs and home foreclosures force more Southern Californians to give up their animals, counseling experts say there are ways to make the process less painful, particularly when children are involved.

The first piece of advice: Think long term. Families who must part with a beloved pet -- whether because of finances, allergies, illness or other household upheaval -- are best off if they can scout a new home for the animal rather than relinquish it to a shelter, experts say.

Find a family member, friend or neighbor who can keep the animal for a few months while you resettle, advises the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which estimates that 1 million cats and dogs are in danger of becoming homeless because of the economic crisis.

The grief and tears will still come, but children will be spared the unsettled feeling of not knowing who's caring for the pet, says Thomas W. Roberts, a child and family development professor at San Diego State who has written about animal-human interaction in families.

"Finding the right home, being able to say goodbye, maybe have some visits," Roberts says. "I think that would be ideal."

In a region walloped by foreclosures, officials from Riverside County Department of Animal Services are begging displaced homeowners to keep their pets or find a friend who can house them temporarily. Cats often move with families, so dog owners are more likely to need help. The shelter has compiled a list of apartment buildings that welcome dogs, department spokesman John Welsh says. The lack of a yard is not a problem as long as the dog is walked, he says. Plus downsizing from a house or condo to an apartment, with dog in tow, could help the owners too.

"Giving up a pet may be the worst thing," says Alan Entin, past president of the American Psychological Assn.'s family psychology division and a researcher in human-pet relationships. "They really help reduce stress," he says. Losing a pet when life is already stressful may just make things worse.

There are times, however, when a new home is the only answer, Roberts says. He and his wife were forced to part with an adored dog -- adopted as a puppy in Roberts' bachelor days -- that became rough and snappish when their baby son grew into a mobile toddler. The couple worked through their veterinarian to find a new home for it. The loss broke their hearts but also sparked Roberts' interest in researching the link between humans and animal companions.

"We stayed in contact for a while, and that was very helpful to us," he says. "The dog just did great."

Blythe Wheaton, co-founder of the nonprofit Pet Rescue Center in Mission Viejo, says early action is also crucial, especially when many pet organizations run on part-time volunteers. "They just need to give themselves some time," she says of desperate owners, who often wait until a few days before they're forced out of a home before they seek help for the pet.

When the time does come to part with the animal, Entin urges parents to explain the situation to children as simply as possible and without anger. Don't spirit the dog away while the kids are at school. Acknowledge their sadness. Talk about the situation. And if the kids are 5 or older, be ready for questions and real grief.

"Tell them you have some tough choices, and you don't like the choices, but sometimes you've got to do it," Entin says. Be frank, perhaps even sketching out the basics of the family budget with pencil and paper.

"Let them know that you're going to get through it all together," Entin says. "Let them know this is happening all over, but that we're going to get through it together as a family."

As absurd as it sounds, some kids may think they're the next to go. They may worry, "What if I eat too much, grow too fast, need more clothes and have more demands?" he says. Parents should allay those fears, even if it feels silly to have that conversation.

Children may grieve, throw tantrums, act out and lose sleep. The best course of action is to stick it out, Entin says, and assure them that what they're feeling is natural. Parents can express emotion and admit grief too, but they should avoid extreme displays of frustration and anger that might further frighten the child.

Eventually everyone may take some comfort knowing a pet found a good new home, and the case of Juliet the pit bull is proof. Cristi Bennett, a computer software trainer from Rancho Santa Margarita, had recently lost her pit bull to bone cancer. She didn't think she was ready for another dog, but when she heard about Juliet, her heart melted.

"She's the highlight of our life. She's very funny and entertaining and playful," says Bennett, who now cares for the dog with fiancé Steve DeTata. "Most of the day she likes to sleep right by my desk. . . . She's got it good."

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Spring May Bring Out Extra Aggression in Your Cat

I treat more dogs than cats in my pet behavior practice, but every spring brings a jump in the number of cat-related phone calls having to do with behavior problems. The warm weather can sometimes awaken the wild nature of the domestic feline in same the way it brings spring flowers to bloom.

After a long, cold winter, an indoor cat is thrilled to have the chance to sit in an open window, take in the fresh air and watch the outdoor world come alive. Sometimes, however, stimulating scents and active wildlife can provoke instinctual and problematic behavior.

One such problem is called redirected aggression. This type of aggression can be caused by seeing another cat in the yard. This is incredibly frustrating for some indoor cats with a strong sense of territory and no way to get on the other side of the screened window to chase off the offending cat. This quickly leads to overwrought behavior and undeserved aggression toward any other living thing that happens to pass by at the wrong moment inside the house. The household member, human or feline, becomes the victim.

This type of aggression is so unhinged, if it were a person with road rage, he would be threatening to kill the other driver by driving him off the road at 90 mph. In other words, the level of aggression is hugely disproportionate to the context and, sadly, misdirected.

The difficulty with feline redirected aggression is that is the recovery time is very slow. It may take days or weeks for a cat to resume normal behavior, and he may attack the pet owner or another household cat repeatedly during this period.

To compound the problem, concerned cat owners often do all the wrong things in their attempt to hasten the recovery time. Excessive attentiveness or punishment will make the problem worse. Just like a scab, cats will heal more quickly from emotional trauma if you leave them alone.

When giving advice to cat owners in these situations, I often think of my mother on my wedding day. During a hectic morning at the hair salon a few hours before I was to be married, my mother's emotions went into overdrive as she got caught up in the momentous feeling of the day. Just as she was about to break out into tears, a wise and wonderful stylist pulled her into a dimly lit room and gave my mother, who doesn't drink, a toddy. Her makeup was saved, our tight schedule intact and my mother was more relaxed than I had ever seen her for the duration of the afternoon.

Although I would not recommend an alcoholic beverage for your cat, a dark, quiet room is just what an overwhelmed cat needs. Anything else runs the danger of insulting your cat's frazzled nerves even further.

Find a place where you cat recover. Provide a litter box, resting place, food and water. Check in periodically, but don't do more than sit and talk quietly for a short time. Petting can be too much for some cats. Keep the visit very brief. It can take days before you cat returns to normal, so patience is key.

Thankfully, spring fever is mild and temporary for most cats. An open window and the sound of songbirds is a welcome event for cat stuck in the house with little to stimulate the brain. So go ahead and put a small cat bed next to the window and enjoy all that the warm weather brings to you and your cat, but do watch out for road rage and wedding mania.

Your Pet is published on the second and fourth Fridays of each month. Michelle Posage, DVM, is a veterinarian who deals exclusively in pet behavior diagnosis and treatment, and accepts referrals from other veterinary hospitals throughout New England. Posage is associated with the Animal Medical Center of New England in Nashua. The Animal Medical Center also provides emergency and specialty care. Call 880-3034 or visit for more information or to make an appointment.

Age Specific Pets

Pets are great at any age, but your vet will tell you that not all pet types are appropriate for all ages, and you have to choose based on the age of the people who will be primarily responsible for the pet

For example, there's little use in getting a pet iguana for a toddler, as much as it is relatively pointless to get a goldfish for an active nine-year-old. There's also little use getting a very active dog as a companion for an elderly person, neither is it practical to get a poodle who demands loads of attention for a busy 30-something executive.

So when the pet talk comes up, not only will you have to think about things like whether your child is allergic, or whether the pet owner is able to take care of the pet's social needs, but whether they will be able to handle all the responsibilities that come with the pet you choose. Here are some guidelines.

Once they reach the kindergarten stage, up to about age eight, you should choose pets that will teach your children about responsibility and which allow them to learn. Guinea pigs, hamsters, dogs and even iguanas are good at this point, as these children usually take the need for being responsible seriously.

Pets for babies and toddlers
Your vet will tell you to first ensure that your child has no allergies before bringing a furry pet into the house. That said, pets like kittens are good for toddlers, because they're able to withstand their playful nature. Another good option is fish, as they can be very calming and soothing for kids. Fill your tank with different sizes and colours and it will mesmerise your little one.

This is the age where children feel the need to branch out, explore and learn more about animals. Iguanas again are good at this age, so are any pets considered exotic - read frogs - that they can use for science purposes. Fish may be an option here, depending on your living situation, but pets that don't socialise aren't very popular with pre-teens. A pet goat is a good idea and dogs and cats are a plus at any age.

Teenagers and young adults
At this age, the popular dog or cat is usually opted for. Note that the pet chosen at this age can't be one that demands a lot of responsibility, as this is the most active social cycle in life. Fish will bore teens, but they are usually OK for busy young adults who only have time for a quick feeding. Birds are good
too because they also don't require that you spend much time with them. When choosing, remember that owning a pet is a long-term commitment and teenagers are easily distracted.

Older people
Older people would need pets more for companionship, so animals like older dogs and adult cats are good pets. An older person won't appreciate a rambunctious kitten, or an overly active dog, nor will they appreciate the wonders of things like frogs or iguanas. They may however like a turtle as they're relatively low maintenance.

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Feline Herpes Virus Similar to Human Cold

Q: Please advise if the feline herpes virus can be treated successfully. From what I understand, it's a chronic condition and it spreads easily. In your opinion, should shelters euthanize the cats because of this problem? -- G.A., Washington Crossing, PA

A: First, let me explain what the feline herpes virus is. The one-phrase answer is that the feline herpes virus is the cat version of the common cold. Dr. Jan Scarlett, director of Maddie's Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, NY, says, "Often the condition is chronic, appearing with sneezes, snuffles and/or runny eyes, and rarely other ocular changes. Sometimes these signs progress and become serious, even leading to infection, but usually not. Once treated, the symptoms disappear for months or years before reoccurring, if the reoccur at all."

It seems stress is the most common trigger to cause an onset of feline herpes. Also, feline herpes is as infectious among cats as the common cold is in people. No wonder cats in shelters are prone. Kittens, in particular, are susceptible.

Many agents can cause upper respiratory infections in cats. Rhinotrachacheitis is caused by the feline herpes virus. There's a vaccine for feline calicivirus, also associated with oral ulcers, gingivitis and inflammation of the mouth, as well as upper respiratory signs. In some kittens, the feline calicivirus may even be fatal.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica, known as the cause of kennel cough in dogs, may affect cats, though symptoms are generally mild. Another cause of respiratory distress is mycoplasma, which may also cause ocular changes, and may lead to pneumonia. Generally, all of these disease agents - including the feline herpes virus - fall under the umbrella of upper respiratory disease.

The problem is that shelters sometimes have to make hard choices. While eliminating cats with symptoms won't totally eliminate the spread of the herpes virus in shelters, it may help some. Also, when there's no space for healthy adoptable cats, those less healthy might be euthanized to make space. An serious breakout can spread out of control, and may even shut down a shelter. Still, in a perfect world there's no reason to euthanize a cat with symptoms of feline herpes, unless the disease progresses and the pet becomes very ill. Shelters must make their own individual choices.

Scarlett agrees, adding, "While you generally may not want to adopt a cat who's actually sick from the virus, adopting one with the disease but not symptomatic is perfectly reasonable. By lowering stress with a slow introduction to your existing cats, you may never see symptoms of the feline herpes virus."

Q: Our Border Collie wants to "eat" the mailman. Once someone is in our home, Hector is just fine. Therefore, I asked the mail carrier to come in for coffee one day, but he took one look at our snarling dog and said 'no thanks.' How can we help Hector relax around delivery people? -- G.S., Baltimore, MD

A: "Here's what happens: The mail carrier approaches the house and begins to drop the letters (in the mailbox), then the dog barks," explains legendary New York City-based dog trainer Carol Lea Benjamin. "The mail carrier goes away, and the dog thinks, 'Wow, I did my job well. I scared that guy off. And if he was a good guy he wouldn't have gone away so fast." Through practice, Hector becomes even better at this. For some dogs with little else to do, 'scaring' off the mail carrier is the focus of their days.

Benjamin, author of "See Spot Sit" (Skyhorse Publishing, New York, NY; $12.95), begins her advice with the obvious: Try to keep your blinds or shades closed. Still, many dogs may bark as incessantly when they hear the familiar sound of the mail carrier.

Benjamin explains that while she understands your logic, it's not a good idea for the perceived 'bad guy' to enter the house. Your dog would pick up on the mail carrier's well-placed fear, and besides that's simply not the carrier's job.

"The good news is, you have a highly trainable Border Collie who likely lives to work," says Benjamin, who's owned Border Collies for years. Give Hector a job, and make it fun, she suggests. For example, the job may be to find some toys. And as a reward, your dog gets lots of praise for a job well done and also receives treats. Once you have the task down without a distraction, try it when mail carrier walks by. The long-term goal is for you to command Hector to find his toys whenever the mail carrier walks by. Unfortunately, there's no way to potentially control the behavior when there's no adult to supervise, except to keep Hector in a room where he can't see or hear the mail carrier.

If you're not sure how to train Hector, check out a local dog class.

"Remember, all Border Collies benefit by tons of exercise, and taking advantage of the fact that your average Border Collie is a whiz kid," Benjamin says.

Q: My 13-year-old cat, Mittens, has tumors. Last August, he had two more tumors removed. This February, he had another tumor removed, and now he was two more of them. We once had two ferrets who each had tumors we didn't catch on time. Then our female cat died of a tumor near her liver. We don't want to lose this cat. Do you have any advice about whether or not we should have Mittens' tumors new removed? -- V.M., Tulsa, OK

A: Dr. Alice Mills, a feline practitioner in Lexington, KY, points out that there are many potential explanations for tumors, particularly in older cats. "Some cats may be tumor factories, creating benign tumors over and over again. Tumors, though, may also be potentially malignant. I've had too many (tumors) fool me over the years. That's why I almost always suggest removing them, and biopsying."

Cancer in ferrets is exceedingly common, and even learning about it early might not have mattered. But in cats, it may be different. Many cancers found on the surface of the skin may be treatable and the odds of success increase with early intervention.

Q: I don't want to offend the squirrels, but I'm worried that one day my dog might catch one outside. How do I stop my dog from chasing squirrels in the back yard? -- P. S., Skokie, IL

A: You could put a sign saying, "Danger: Squirrel-Chasing Dog." However, the chance of the squirrels reading the sign are about the same as your unsupervised dog not chasing them.


Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.

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