Tall Tails: Pet Myths Busted (Photos)

Smiley Riley, the Dog with a Human Grin

Just like a happy youngster, birthday boy Riley wolfs down his cake and pulls a satisfied ‘doggy-smile’ for the camera

There’s a good boy: Riley grins for the camera as he celebrates his birthday.

It looks like man’s best friend – or at least a pampered poodle – has finally figured out how to make the human gesture of happiness.

Riley the dog almost pulled off the illusion while sitting at the table, wearing a hat and celebrating his first birthday with a cake. In fact, owner Maureen Ravelo, 22, from San Jose, California, said Riley’s face was so expressive that she frequently forgets he is a dog.

‘Riley always makes faces like this, and that’s the best part about him. He gives you a new facial expression every time that you forget he’s a dog,’ she said. He can also affect a ‘snobbish’ and a ‘curious’ look, she added.

Even Riley – a bichon frise/poodle mix – seems confused about his identity. ‘The most unique part about him is he thinks he’s human like us,’ Ms Ravelo said.

‘He loves to sit up on chairs while we’re eating dinner and sleeps with us in bed.

‘Sometimes, I wonder if he realises he’s really a dog...’

For Self-Control, Try a Dog Biscuit?

New research indicates that dogs and humans have some things in common in the willpower department. Psychologists found that for dogs, as for humans, “self-control is a limited resource, one that can and does get depleted.” The researchers found another similarity. Dogs given a “glucose drink” exhibited more self-control; blood-sugar levels have been linked to self-control in humans as well. Holly C. Miller, the study’s lead researcher, believes the findings have implications for human self-control: “People can control their own behavior. When they fail, it is not because they are terrible or weak; it is because they are depleted.”

Vet Advice:
How to Go Natural
on Pet Flea and Tick Treatments

Readers of this blog raised questions in the comment section of several posts last week on the Environmental Protection Agency's announcement about spot-on flea and tick treatments.

Some readers wanted to know what natural remedies exist that might be safer than the treatments outlined by the EPA to have caused deaths in small dogs. I turned to veterinarian Shawn Messonnier for some answers. Messonnier is the author of several books including The Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats.

Question: Why not use spot-on agents (Frontline, etc.) and flea collars?

Answer: They are unnecessary for most pets, contain chemicals that can last in the body for a long time, and can cause side effects.

Q: What natural alternatives are safe to use on dogs?

A: Organic shampoos/sprays/powders containing neem, citrus oil, etc.

Q: Do cats require different natural treatments than dogs?

A: No but make sure the product you are using has been tested on cats and is safe for cats.

Q: Are there any outdoor treatments that are safe/green to use in a pets yard?

A: Absolutely! The best one to use is beneficial nematodes, which are microscopic worms that eat fleas including the resistant cocoon stage of the flea life cycle which no chemical can kill.

Dr. Giroux Answers Your Questions

Once or twice a week, Dr. Giroux goes through the questions asked on the tag board and presents answers to the best of her knowledge. If you do not see your answer here, please be patient, as we go through all the messages. If you have a question for Dr. Giroux, you may also comment on any post here. Please note due to time constraints and the nature of some questions, Dr. Giroux may not answer every one.

Ana: My Cav’s white coat turns reddish between legs, paws, mouth, eyes. Bathed in Lactadem. Suggest?

The areas of discoloration on your dog’s coat are the result of saliva or tears. Sometimes a change in diet will help with this. There are grooming products such as Diamond Eye that will help the tear staining around the eye. Some pets with staining can be put on a low dose of an antibiotic to control the staining.

Heather: My 3 year old Beagle often releases an odor from her bottom, is this normal?

Dogs have glands in their rectum called anal glands. These glands can fill up with fluid that has a very foul odor. A dog will express these glands when she is very scared, or the glands become overfilled and she scoots her bottom on the floor or rug to relieve pressure. These glands should be expressed (emptied) when you bath your dog. You should ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you how to empty them.

Heather: My 5 year old dachshund mix is producing milk & has not been with a male dog. Is she okay?

The female dog is unique in the animal kingdom because she does not have a feedback system that tells her body whether she is pregnant or not. So, about 50-60 days after each heat cycle her body will prepare for puppies, and one way she does this is by producing milk. This is called a false pregnancy, and will happen after every heat cycle that she is not bred.

Cheri: I think my 11 year old Sheltie is eating dog poop, I have 2 dogs so it’s the other dog’s….HELP ME.

First, the best way to control this bad habit is to scoop the poop from your yard several times daily. This is just good hygiene. If the dog does not have access to poop, there is nothing for the dog to eat. There are also additives that can be put in the dog’s food that have no flavor, but after digestion make the stool very unpalatable. You have indicated that you have more than one dog, so you will need to put this product in all the dogs’ food to stop the habit.

Treating Pet’s Hip And Joint Pain
With Animal Chiropractic

I treat Orville, my 13-year Golden Retrieve as my baby always. I have spared no expense in his care, including the best trainer, groomer, food and supplements, and veterinary care. Animal Chiropractic

Lately, I notice signs that his hips and joints might be having some trouble. I wasn’t too concerned at first as it might just be signs of aging. I was alarmed to learn that Orville might be in pain upon looking it up online. So I asked friends who happened to have a couple of older dogs as I hated the thought of my beloved companion hurting. When they had a similar experience, they took their dogs to a veterinarian who specializes in chiropractic care for their canine, feline, and equine patients.

I scheduled an appointment with Ava Frick, DVM with her Animal Fitness Center, near St. Louis, Missouri since my friends recommended her. They were convinced that her care had made a difference in the quality of their dogs’ lives and praised her.

Orville’s introductory appointment with Dr.Frick took place one month ago and we just had his second appointment this afternoon.

Dr. Frick informed me that she performs chiropractic care for dogs due to many reasons, which includes pain that the pet might be experiencing in their back, leg, or even in their tail.

Disorders of the human nervous system, musculoskeletal system and how these systems impact our overall health are what chiropractic care focuses traditionally. Since it concentrates on the dog, cat, or horse and its nervous system, muscuskeletal system and their impact on the pet’s health, animal chiropractic care is similar.

Our first appointment involved providing Orville’s health history, similar to what you might expect the first time you visit any other doctor or veterinarian. It is important to establish a thorough, accurate history when you visit a health care provider for the first time, and a visit to the veterinarian is no exception. Dr. Frick asked queries about Orville’s current state of health as well as the reason why we made an appointment.

Similar to what I experience when I visit my own chiropractor, she had Orville lie down so that she could examine him and adjust his spine. Orville was okay all throughout the exam. In fact, he has always loved to be messed with and it seemed like he was relaxing during a massage. That is, until Dr.Frick paid attention to his hips. Dr. Frick was even more careful in that area when Orville snarled a bit during the exam.

Following the exam, Dr. Frick spoke with me about the importance of making sure Orville gets more exercise. She said that we needed to strengthen the muscles in his back legs. Even a small amount of exercise each day would prove beneficial. What caught my interest was Dr. Frick’s advice to tickle Orville’s tummy while he was standing. She said that this would help his spine since a dog will automatically hunch up when his stomach is touched.

I have been impressed with the care provided by Dr.Frick, and I am also glad that we have achieved such great results without stuffing pain pills into my dog.

Tips to Get Rid of Pet Hair

Dedicated animal lovers often love to purchase snuggly beds for their pet dogs and cats - but, as many of you will have experienced, fur gets everywhere.

Trying to keep your home clean of hair is a daunting task - but this can be exacerbated by the trail of fur which leads from your dog's bed to anywhere else in your household he likes to travel.

Worse, simply washing your pet beds doesn't always do the trick.

But, according to Elliott Mitchell, writing for the Washington Post, there is one way of keeping the hair count down.

"I toss them in the cold dryer for 20 minutes first, which knocks off the hair - it gets caught in the lint trap. By [the time] they're ready for the washer, there's hardly any hair on them," Mr Mitchell explains.

Of course, it is vital to clean your lint filter out regularly to prevent fire hazards.

And never leave your dryer unattended.

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Tall Tails: Pet Myths Busted

Dogs wag their tails because they’re happy to see you

This is not the only reason dogs wag their tails. Sometimes they do it when they’re frightened or apprehensive. Tail-wagging is a generic emotional response that should be judged in the context of the dog’s overall behaviour. If it’s also biting you, it probably isn’t that happy to see you. Photograph: Elliott Erwitt/©Elliott Erwitt / Magnum

Guinea pigs eat their young

It’s possible, but extremely uncommon. Guinea pigs are vegetarians. They do eat their own droppings, which might be enough to put you off. Photograph: Dan Burn-Forti/Guardian

Your cat hates your baby

There can’t be many people who still believe that cats deliberately suffocate babies by sucking the breath out of them, but in case you’re one of them, they don’t. That doesn’t mean a sleeping cat couldn’t accidentally suffocate a newborn baby (there are a few documented cases), so it makes sense to keep the cat out of the baby’s room for the first couple of months. Photograph: Paul Kaye/Corbis

Rabbits should eat plenty of carrots

Carrots are too high in sugar for rabbits to ingest on a regular basis, and they are better off eating the green tops. Bugs Bunny has a lot to answer for. Photograph: Dan Burn-Forti/Guardian

Dogs can only see in black and white

Actually they see in colour, but not very well. They’re red-green colour blind, though they can easily distinguish blue. Photograph: Alessandro Rizzi/Gallery Stock

Cats purr when they are happy

True, but they also purr when they’re in pain, and when they’re dying. Photograph: Gabor Geissler/Getty Images

One dog year is equivalent to seven human years

There are certain advantages to this persistent myth (it helps a lot of children learn their seven times table), but it’s obviously a bit simplistic and depends on the breed. Dogs mature much faster than humans – a two-year-old dog is roughly equivalent to a 21-year-old person – but things slow down after that; a 10-year-old dog is, in general terms, closer to 50 in human years than 70. Photograph: Kyoko Hamada/Gallery Stock

Putting a bell on your cat will stop it killing birds

Apparently a lot of cats actually get better at hunting prey after you bell them, because they have to learn to stalk without letting the bell make any noise.
Photograph: Corbis

A hamster in a wheel can run six miles in a single night

This one is true, apparently. Whether the hamster feels it has accomplished anything in the morning is another matter. Photograph: Dan Burn-Forti/Guardian

Cats have nine lives

It’s unlikely anyone ever actually believed this since it’s so easy to disprove through experimentation. It’s not universal (in Turkish and Arabic traditions cats only get six lives) but it is old; there are references to the nine lives of cats in Shakespeare. The notion probably stems from the fact that cats tend to survive things you and I wouldn’t, particularly falls from great height. Photograph: Chloe Sells/Gallery Stock

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Cats and Babies: 7 Tips for Healthy Coexistence

Cats and babies can coexist, but there are several factors that need to be considered. Cats are known to be very jealous of new babies and new pets, so you need to ensure your baby is safe and the cat is comfortable.

1. Prepare for the Baby’s Arrival
You need to establish some ground rules for the baby’s safety that the cat needs to respect; apply these rules before the arrival of the baby, so that the cat doesn’t associate the baby with the new interdictions.

2. Get a Crib for the Baby
Get a crib for your baby and make sure the cat does not make it his own or sleep in it. Cats and babies are not allowed to sleep together as the baby may suffocate.

Show the cat the crib but train him to know he is not allowed in the crib.

3. Cat Checkup
Cats may transmit a number of diseases to humans and babies are particularly susceptible to catching bacteria, worms and viruses. So you need to make sure your cat is healthy.

Schedule the vet checkup at least 2 months before the arrival of the baby, to make sure the parasites are gone. Fleas are particularly difficult to get rid of and it may take up to 6 weeks to fully eliminate them from the environment. Even if fleas cannot be transmitted to humans, the ingestion of a flea may lead to the formation of a tapeworm in the baby.

4. Gradual Introduction of the Baby
Given that cats may be very protective of their territory and owners, they can be very jealous when a baby appears. This is why the baby needs to be introduced gradually. First, keep the baby isolated and give the cat a blanket or a toy belonging to the baby. The cat will get accustomed to the baby’s scent.

When presenting the baby, one of the owners should offer a lot of affection to the cat.

Allow the cat to get close to the baby and study him; otherwise the cat will be tempted to look for the baby when you are away.

5. Spend Time with Your Cat
Cats may easily develop stress due to the arrival of a new baby. This is why you need to offer a lot of affection to your cat, to ensure that he knows you still care.

Play with your cat while the baby is asleep. Try to keep your regular daily routine and groom your cat according to your schedule prior to the arrival of the baby; instead, have someone else (i.e. your partner) perform the grooming and playing or take turns.

If your cat feels neglected, he will start spraying around the house and have a hostile behavior.

6. Toys
Offer your cat plenty of toys, scratching posts and cardboard boxes to play with, so he won’t be tempted to spend his energy on the baby.

7. Train Your Baby
As he grows, the baby must also be taught how to safely handle the cat. Show your baby that cats need to be patted with gentle moves.

Having a pet may be beneficial for the baby’s immune system and will also make your baby more sociable and caring.

Preparing prior to the baby’s arrival and continuing to offer affection to your pet will make him confident and will grow to accept the baby, so they can safely coexist.

Hints From Heloise

Tiny Tuna for Tabby

Dear Heloise: My family and I are the owners of a 20-year-old female cat named Princess. Of course, being a cat, she loves TUNA. I was wondering how safe canned tuna for humans is for cats. -- Paige H., via e-mail

According to our friends at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a tiny bit of tuna given once in a while is OK. But, if Princess were to be fed ONLY tuna, it could mean big trouble for her. Cats need vitamin E, and she also would be missing out on calcium, sodium, iron and copper, among other nutrients. So, to answer your question, I know cats LOVE tuna fish, but please only give it in moderation, if at all. And then give Princess a Heloise hug. -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Shirley Hefele of Dunbarton, N.H., sent a photo of her son's 85-pound Ridgeback, Hannah, and her 2-year-old, 25-pound, tricolor beagle, Missy, curled up comfortably on the love seat. Shirley says: "My son usually occupies the love seat, and at times, one dog or the other commandeers the second seat. The dogs share a lot of things -- even bones, treats and toys -- but vie for this seat next to my son. When my son got up, Missy saw her chance and occupied his seat." To see the doggie duo, visit www.Heloise.com. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Your recent column indicating the use of newspaper to remove an unpleasant smell from a freezer reminds me of another use for shredded newspaper. Years ago, when my indoor cat was declawed, the vet said not to use cat litter for several days lest the cat's paws get infected from the litter. It worked so well in eliminating any odor that I continued to use the newspaper. It was economical, green and very effective. -- Marilyn F., San Clemente, Calif.

A green hint indeed, but please note that newsprint may rub off on white or light-colored cats. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I have two little dogs. One is named Sunshine, and one is named Rainbow. So we have Sunny and Rainee. Keep up the good work. I always check for your hints in The Washington Post. -- Carole Gee, via e-mail


Dear Heloise: During this past winter, our pets were inside much of the time, and when our cat wanted to go outside, he didn't realize the glass sliding door was shut. He almost broke his neck. Please remind your readers to put decals down at the level of your animals so they can see whether the door is open, therefore avoiding an injury. -- Gayle Merritt, via e-mail


Dear Heloise: To keep my pets from tearing up the toilet-paper rolls, I spray the flat ends and the inside of the cardboard core with really strong cologne. My pets don't like strong smells like that. It also makes the bathroom smell good. -- Cat Lover of Texas

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Tips on How to Avoid Pet Dander

Of course, the best course of action if you are allergic to pet dander is not to have pets, but since that is not an acceptable option for many people, then at least work on the following actions:

1. Maintain a “no pet zone” in the bedroom. Your trigger avoidance efforts will go a long way if you can keep animals out of sleeping areas. If you can keep them out of the main living areas too, even better.

2. Keep pets clean and groomed. Weekly brushing and washing of pets (by a non-allergic person) is believed to keep animal dander levels down in the home.

3. Provide a litter box for cats to make waste in. Make sure the litter box is not kept in sleeping or living areas, if possible, and have a non-allergic person change the litter frequently. Same goes for cleaning the cages of pet birds and hamsters.

4. If you are allergic to feathers, don’t use feather pillows or down bedding. Even though the feathers are not coming from a live animal within your home, they can still trigger symptoms.

5. If you buy a new pet, make it a reptile or amphibian. Animals with scales or hairless skin like snakes and lizards do not usually trigger asthma symptoms.

Fish Facts:
5 Quick Tropical Fish Facts

Tropical fish are beautiful, and that’s a fact! They are ideal pets if you don’t have a lot of spare time as they don’t need walking and don’t scratch the furniture. But there are some tropical fish facts and tips you should know before buying your first aquarium.

Tropical Fish Fact One
The majority of people of start off with a very small aquarium not realizing they will soon become hooked. Before too long they are back to the pet shop buying another one the next size up.

Tip: Don’t buy the smallest aquarium you can find – you may well be wasting your time and money although the pet shop owner will love you.

Tropical Fish Fact Two
Tropical fish are categorized by their nature. Like humans, some are loners and will bite the head off anyone that comes too close, some like only their own species and don’t mix too well with others, and some are friendly, outgoing, and love spending time with anyone who comes their way.

Tip: Check if the tropical fish you are buying are non-community fish, semi-aggressive or community fish.

Tropical Fish Fact Three
There are certain types of tropical fish you should buy when introducing them to a new tank. You must be sure to buy hardy fish as the levels of ammonia and nitrate in your tank will fluctuate before evening out over time, and not all tropicals can survive these changes.

Tip: Make sure you know your stuff before buying your first fish. If the shop owner is not an expert, search reference books and Internet forums for the best types of hardy tropical starter fish.

Tropical Fish Fact Four
Some dainty, delicate and fragile looking tropical fish can grow extremely large very fast! This will mean a further trip back to the pet shop where the owner will greet you rubbing his hands in glee.

Tip: Find out exactly how large your potential purchase will grow before you purchase it.

Tropical Fish Fact Five
Aquariums need equipment such as filters, pumps and heaters. Filtration systems help to keep the fine ecological balance necessary in your aquarium for the fish to thrive. They are readily available in three different types.

Tip: Don’t purchase your filtration system before you know which fish are going into your aquarium. Choose from either a chemical, mechanical or biological filter after discussing with an expert which would be the best for your particular tank.

There is nothing more soothing after a stressful day than relaxing and losing yourself in the graceful, colorful and calming world of beautiful tropical fish, and armed with these few tropical fish facts and tips this colorful world could soon be a part of your life.

Dogs Take a Lead Role in Iraq's Terror War
By Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

An Iraqi policeman and his bomb-sniffing dog take part in a training exercise at the Baghdad Policec College on March 16. The U.S. military is helping the Iraqis train 145 dogs this year.

BAGHDAD — Iraqis aren't what you would call dog people. The streets of the capital are filled with mangy canines and dog owners are few.

But in a country where bombs and explosives are an everyday threat, Iraqis may start learning to love man's best friend.

The Iraqi police force hopes to introduce 1,000 bomb-sniffing dogs and their handlers on the streets of Iraq within five years. That's not a lot of dogs for a country of 29 million people, but in Iraq it is.

"Iraqis are not fully comfortable with dogs yet," says Brig. Gen. Mohammad Mesheb Hajea, who is in charge of the Interior Ministry's fledgling K-9 unit. "But the people are coming to love them, because they realize what they can do to keep us safe."

Twenty-five dogs and their human handlers graduated on Saturday from Baghdad Police College's newly created K-9 course. And 120 more bomb-sniffing German shepherds, Malinois and Labradors are scheduled to be incorporated into Iraq's police force by the end of this year.

As in many Muslim countries, Iraqis generally see dogs as unclean animals. Some of the religiously devout point to the teachings of the prophet Mohammed that prohibited believers from keeping the animals in their homes.

But Hajea says Iraqis now recognize that dogs' keen sense of smell makes them invaluable weapons in thwarting terrorists whose calling cards are roadside bombs and explosively rigged vehicles.

"There is no better investment to countering the threats of bombs and explosives," said Col. Randy Twitchell, chief U.S. military adviser to the Baghdad Police College. "The Iraqi security forces are recognizing how useful a role that dogs can play in securing the country."

Beefed up units

The recent embrace by Iraqi security officials has been welcomed by the U.S. military, which is paying $12,000 for each dog.

For years, U.S. military commanders have been urging the Iraqi forces to incorporate more dogs into their security program. The Iraqi security forces first formed a K-9 unit in the 1970s, but it was scarcely used.

"We were there, but we only had a few dogs and we did little more than train," said Hajea, who joined the police in 1986 after being trained as a veterinarian.

The American advice to bulk up the K-9 units was initially met with resistance. Instead of using dogs, Iraq's Interior Ministry instead invested tens of millions of dollars in the ADE-651, a British-manufactured bomb detection device that is ubiquitous at checkpoints throughout the country.

Earlier this year the British government banned the sale of the device, which looks like a staple gun with a TV antenna attached to it, after a BBC investigation found they did not work.

Iraqis say the ADE-651s are useful and have helped police catch assailants. But Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, the U.S. commander who oversees police training in Iraq, says the gadgets do not work. He has urged Iraqis to invest more money in dogs and other proven bomb-detection devices.

Despite the difference of opinions on the ADE-651, both Twitchell and Hajea say they are pleased that dogs are starting to become embraced by top Interior Ministry officials as U.S. troops begin their drawdown, scheduled for completion by the end of next year.

Plenty of volunteers

The vast majority of bomb-sniffing dogs being used at Iraq's airports are owned by foreign contractors. Over time, those contractors will be phased out and replaced by Iraqi government-owned dogs and their police handlers, Hajea said.

Twitchell said that there was some concern before starting the program that there wouldn't be enough police officers interested in training as dog handlers.

"In the end, we had some 60 volunteers for 25 spots," Twitchell said.

At one of the final exams for the dogs last week, police officers guided their dogs through a row of luggage that had been set out on the hot asphalt of a parking lot at the police college. One bag, a dusty green duffle, was stuffed with explosives.

One of the last to go through the test was a cream-colored Labrador named Buddy and his nervous handler, Yusuf Hasib Qudair.

Buddy slowly sniffed each bag until he came to the suspect sack, which he sat on — the dogs' way of indicating to handlers that they've found the suspect material.

Qudair broke into a grin and bounced a tennis ball for Buddy to chase, the reward for a job well done. Qudair said he's never owned a dog and he wouldn't consider keeping one in his home. But over the course of his training, he has bonded with Buddy.

"Buddy and I have been with each other every day for the last six weeks and we've gotten to know each other well," said Qudair, 30. "Most important, I think together we can do our part to help the security situation."

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