8 Pit Bull Myths

You Will Not Believe What Your Pet Eats

X-Rays Show the Unusual Things Canines and Cats Consume - from Coins to Kitchen Knives

The dog ate my homework and that was just for starters. Shocking X-rays reveal the strange things that wind up in the stomachs of our pets, reports CBS-2's Dave Carlin.

CBS 2 got the inside story. At the Dewitt Clinton Dog Run on Manhattan's West Side we met dog owners with "tails" to tell.

Carol Sumner's beagle "Snoopy," "ate half of a rubber ball once," she said. "I was just hoping it didn't get stuck there but fortunately it came out."

Patricia Smith's dog is named "Richmond."

"He ate my phone," she said.

Kevin Jenkins, whose dog is named "Arnold" said, "He eats paper towels for some reason. He's obsessed with them."

Veterinarian Amy Zalcman is an expert in figuring out the unusual things canines and cats consume. Showing us a series of 10 X-rays, we saw that dogs are often money hungry. One dog had swallowed a stack of coins.

"The penny when it gets digested can cause trouble with their red cells and the red cells get destroyed," she said.

CBS 2 HD was shown the X-ray of a Bull Terrier puppy who ate a kitchen knife and survived.

So did a cat that swallowed a needle, which was lodged at the back of the throat. The surgery to remove it took place before the needle traveled to the cat's brain.

Other X-rays revealed a tiny metal engine from a toy car, a pencil, earrings, a collection of rocks and more.

Making his CBS 2 HD debut was my own dog, "Lou." Lou likes rip the stuffing from his dog toys, which is a dangerous habit because the material he ingests could cause obstructions and they won't show up on X-rays.

That is also true of other things dogs like to eat, namely socks and underwear.

You may say "not MY pet," but remember they will never confess. The X-rays, however, never lie.

General warning signs your pet ate something potentially dangerous include diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, pale gums and collapse.

Curbing Your Dog's Car Sickness
and Other Pet Travel Tips

Pets are becoming more and more important in everyday life. Millions of dog owners in the United States consider their pet to be a part of the family, including them on family vacations. Just like other members of the family, Fido can get car sick too. Typically there are two reasons why dogs get car sick: motion sickness affecting balance or car-related anxiety caused by a fearful or traumatic experience in the car. The American Kennel Club offers tips on curbing your canine's car sickness, as well as tips for comfortable, safe travel.

Motion sickness
—If your pup is prone to motion sickness, slowly acclimate her to car travel by cuddling her upside down in your lap, picking her up in the air, or rolling her around on the ground. These motions will simulate what your dog will experience in the car.

—Try not to feed your pup too soon before your planned trip, or feed her lightly. You don't want to upset an already off-balance digestive system.

—Avoid putting the dog in the farthest backseat where there is the most motion.

—If you mainly take your pup in the car to go to the vet, she may associate the car with getting shots, which is not fun. Try sitting in the car with her for a few minutes each day, gently petting and praising her. Don't turn on the car or drive anywhere.

—After you've sat in the car for a few days with it turned off, try turning it on and sitting with your dog for a few minutes while it is running. Bring a toy and make it a happy time. Do this for a few days until she shows enthusiasm for going to the car.

—Lastly, you'll want to try driving up and down the driveway once and then exit the car. After a few days of no sickness, try increasing the distance, say driving up and down the street. If she does get sick, then simply move the process backwards until she is not sick again.
Other safe travel tips

—Be sure to secure your pooch in a crate, carrier, or harness that attaches to the seatbelt. No dog should ever ride loose in the back of a pick-up truck — that could lead to serious injury in the event of an accident.

—To avoid ear or eye injuries to your dog, or worse her falling out, do not let her hang her head outside of the window.
Additional tips can be found on the American Kennel Club Web site at www.akc.org.

Should Pets, Owners Share Bed?
If You Want My Advice ...
By Patty Khuly, Special for USA TODAY

When I gave birth to my first and only human baby, questionably well-meaning individuals offered plenty of unsolicited opinions — everything from what kind of diapers met the greenest standards to how I might best prevent my nipples from cracking. (Needless to say, the latter advice came from those whose good intentions seemed most suspect.)

But the most contentious round of suggestions had to do with the whole family bed thing. Is it best to keep baby close in bed, or will you crush the wee thing while in the throes of bad night's sleep? In the end, my need for sleep overcame my fears, and the creature finally slept soundly in my bed. And he's none the worse, unless you can attribute his prepubescent, pain-in-the-rear status to six months of bed-sharing.

So you know, the issue's a big deal in the veterinary community, too. Which is why my clients often ask me to help settle their family disputes on the subject. Want an example? Here's a typical scenario:

Dr. Mother-in-Law claims the family pets will spread diseases to the children if they sleep on their beds. Meanwhile, Dr. Google, always happy to oblige with any opinion you might prefer, claims this is an old wives' tale.

So what's the truth? Here's my version:

It's been reported that up to 79% of pet owners allow pets to share beds with their human family members. Despite the popularity of the practice, physician and veterinary groups have taken turns speaking out against human/pet bed-sharing for a variety of reasons. (But don't worry, none of them involve the dreaded sudden infant death syndrome — much less any sort of crushing or suffocation.)

In the case of some physician groups, the warnings are based on human health. Confirmed transmission of MRSA skin infections and H1N1 influenza, for example, gives fodder to the speculation that humans who share the covers with their furred family members are more likely to become ill.

While this is certainly more of a possibility with immunosuppressed humans (HIV-positive, transplant recipients or chemotherapy patients, for example), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers no explicit warnings on this issue beyond the standard warnings for these immuno-compromised groups of people.

In fact, when it comes to infectious disease transmission, physicians and veterinarians agree there is scant evidence that healthy, well-cared-for pets are detrimental to human health under these circumstances. Indeed, human family members are much more likely to transmit diseases to each other during bed-sharing than our pets are.

Though infectious disease transmission may be rare between healthy humans and pets who sleep in the same bed, veterinarians don't always agree that allowing dogs to sleep on human beds is a good thing, behaviorally speaking.

Puppies predisposed to dominance or aggression may develop these behaviors when allowed to sleep with humans, some veterinary behaviorists explain. Housebreaking may also be affected if beds take the place of crates, for example. That's why bed-sharing should always be delayed until training is complete and social maturity is achieved, they suggest.

House training and temperament issues aside, some pets are actually better off not sleeping with humans because of their own health issues. This is most important for older pets or for breeds predisposed to jumping injuries or back troubles — especially when beds are sky-high enough to tax even athletic pets.

It's also argued, however, that pets confer significant psychological and personal safety benefits when they sleep with their human family members. Some sleep studies even suggest that pets can help insomniacs sleep more deeply. Meanwhile, others question whether the tossing and turning pets sometimes do can distract humans with similarly sleepless tendencies.

I'm not sure I ever help out with these intramural disputes beyond distributing plenty of ammunition widely. In the end, it's always up to my clients to make of it what they will.

For my part, however, I can't imagine banishing my pets from the bed. I figure that even if it's not what's best for my body, at least from a security perspective, the needs of my pack are being well met with my bed-sharing ways. And that's an opinion I'll never foist upon you unless you ask me for it or otherwise seek out my advice (as when you read my columns). Promise.

Cool Cat is Named Bogie
After Hollywood's Tough Guy

Bogie is a tough guy, but a lover at heart.

Other pet owners have used famous actors' names. This is the first Bogie we've met though. What took so long for a Humphrey Bogart? We have had a Kate Hepburn, so now we've got two of the greatest stars from that Hollywood era.

Here's more on Bogie. Your responses have been a little overwhelming since my earlier post this week asking for more submissions. My e-mail account has been shut down four times by the load of photos, etc. I'll catch up, I hope. Bogart said, "Things are never so bad they can't be made worse.'' He also said, "The only thing you owe the public is a good performance." So, here's looking at you, Bogie.

Real name: Maria

Job: Procurement Analyst

Pet's name: Bogie

Why I chose this name: He was the runt of the litter but was much more assertive, affectionate and determined than his siblings. He stared me down the first time I saw him at the shelter and continued to stare at me as I checked out the other kittens. He had a real presence for a 3-month old kitten. Just reminded me a bit of Humphrey Bogart, who had the assertive tough guy image but more interesting qualities below the surface. He also knows his camera angles.

Pet's breed: Tabby. He is also a polydactyl.

Pet's age: 1 year, 2 months

Why and where I got him: Atlanta Humane Society – and he picked me!

Where we live: Atlanta

Favorite activity with my pet(s): Playing "attack." This involves me wrapping my arm up in a sweatshirt and allowing him to attack, with claws and teeth. When he's done, he starts licking the sweatshirt. He also likes to play fetch with little plastic balls.

One thing my pet does that I just don't get: When I put his toys away in his basket, he goes back to the basket and pulls them all out again. I come home from work and his toys are scattered throughout the house. Didn't think cats did that.

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Pet Talk:
Today it's Tag Talk,
Because Your Pet Needs One
By Sharon L. Peters, Special for USA TODAY

Four dogs have wandered into my life — literally — in recent months. Three of them got back to their owners (though not easily). The fourth did not.

Dog #1. Peppy little wire-haired terrier trots down the street early Saturday morning. No human in sight. I call and he gallops toward me, clearly not street-savvy, flustered about being alone. I call the number on the ID tag on his collar. Woman who answers is nice about being awakened, but declares she has no dogs, has had this cell number for years, and was called months earlier about the same dog. I lock the dog in my front yard, hoping someone will wander past looking for him. Hours later that happens. Reunion. He was loose, I'm told, because during morning potty duty, he'd found a gate left unlatched by previous-night guests.

Dogs #2 and #3. A big mixed-breed and a young poodle follow Jasper and me home. No human around. They seem to be "together," but who knows? No open gates nearby indicate where they might belong. One has an ID tag, one doesn't. I call the number. Grumpy answerer announces the mixed-breed belongs to her ex. I persuade her to give me a number where man might be reached. Turns out he and new girlfriend (the poodle owner, I learn) have moved to a house 10 blocks from mine. He arrives, stunned that his middle-aged dog, who'd never wandered before, left the yard he'd lived in for all of 13 days.

Dog #4. Gorgeous young vizsla wanders the neighborhood eluding all capture efforts. He finally lands with me. No collar, no tag. I post signs and register him as "found" with the shelter. Nobody steps forward. Two weeks later I give the rambunctious sweetheart to a lovely young family with three boys who adore him.

Obvious pattern here. Two dogs have no way to get returned, and the two dogs with ID, clearly owned by caring people who understand stuff sometimes happens, had mostly worthless information on those tags, so no easy way to get returned.

Life can get complicated. Things get placed on back burners. But I'm hoping this will serve as a reminder for everyone to double-check the contact info their pets are carrying, and race to the pet store or vet and get updated ID if necessary.

I'm especially hopeful that folks who have animals without ID tags will correct that. Even "always-with-me" dogs have opportunities to race off; even indoor-only cats sometimes escape: They dash out when visitors enter or break out of carriers on the way to the vet, or screens fall out of windows.

Turns out there's new evidence that fewer people than we might imagine are putting IDs on their pets.

The ASPCA's Emily Weiss just completed a study of hundreds of pet owners, interviewed in vets' offices and a spay/neuter clinic in Oklahoma City: 80% said tagging pets is important or extremely important. But only 33% of the animals actually had ID tags (and 9% of those had incorrect information).

Top reasons given for no ID tags:

• It's an indoor pet (which, apparently, had left indoors long enough to travel to the vet or clinic and encounter the researchers).

• Haven't gotten around to it.

Weiss wanted to find out whether owners would use ID tags if the ASPCA made it incredibly easy, providing free collar and ID on the spot. Most took the offering and, in follow-up calls weeks later, the vast majority said their pets were wearing them.

Based on what she has learned, Weiss figures "we could save a whole lot of lives" if people could be persuaded to do what they already acknowledge is important — put ID on their pets. And the ASPCA is seeking funding sources to try to make that happen. Will the people who get freebies bother to go get another tag when phone number or address changes? Who knows? But for a time, at least, the animal has a better shot of getting home.

What about microchipping? Fantastic. Research indicates that chipped animals are far more likely to get returned. But that wouldn't have helped any of the dogs that landed with me get home quickly. I don't happen to own a microchip reader.

Moreover, ID tags that anyone can see and respond to carry more than the predictable benefit. Research shows that when people see a roaming animal wearing a collar and tag, they're likely to step in and try to help. They instantly know it's someone's pet, not a feral. And they know they're not committing to keeping the animal forever, they're merely making a phone call. And when people intervene, that's less time the animal is wandering, at risk of being injured or killed by a vehicle, or attacked, or landing in a shelter where, often, it will be euthanized in 72 hours.

"Chipping is a good tool in case the animal ends up in a shelter, or there's a disaster," Weiss says. But still, "I recommend an ID tag visible to anybody. That can help get the animal home day or night, weekday or weekend."

It's simple insurance. And cheap.

Pet Medication Advice
by Travis Tobin - MyFunnyPet.com

A sick pet will sometimes require medication. Everything from antibiotics to antidepressants are available to be prescribed to pets these days. But the best meds won’t do any good unless you can get your pet to take them.

Getting your pet to take its medication is not always easy, and on this page we will give you some tips on administering meds to your pets. Also, as a bonus, we will provide you with a link to a 1800petmeds coupon code, which you can use to get free shipping and other discounts at a premier online pet medication store.

Not surprisingly, many pets are not cooperative when you try to give them medications. Perhaps the easiest way to get such pets to take their medication is by combining it with their food. If you can, use liquid medication instead of pills for this technique. So when you are talking to your vet, tell them you would prefer to have liquid medication that can be served with food.

Canned food is the easiest type of food to mix medication into. It’s best to wait until your pet is hungry before serving it the food mixed in with medication. There is a good chance your pet will be none the wiser and will finish the meal along with the medication. It’s also possible to mix medication in pill form with canned pet food. But for obvious reasons, this does not work as well as using liquid medication.

If the old trick of mixing medication into food does not work for you, you will need a dropper or syringe. To be able to place the dropper or syringe into the pet’s mouth, you will need to tilt its head. Use the dropper or syringe to then squeeze the medication slowly into the pet’s mouth.

Pet meds, while not as expensive as human medication, can still add up in cost. To save money, use a discount online pharmacy like PetCareRX.

Save up to 50% on all your pet care needs with PetCareRx.

Pet Travel Tips for a Fun, Enjoyable Trip

Does Your Pet Like to Travel?
Many dogs and cats like to travel; other animals only leave the home when they need to go to the veterinarian or if you are moving to a new home. Regardless if you are taking a holiday vacation, relocating around the world or simply taking your cat to visit the veterinarian, most likely you'll have to take a trip with your cat at some time. By ensuring your pet is healthy and that you have a proper cat travel carrier will make vacationing with your cat fun and simple.

Is Your Pet Healthy Enough to Travel?
Make sure that your pet is healthy prior to deciding to plan a trip. Should you have a pet who is older, ill or perhaps pregnant, it may not be safe to allow them to travel. If you're not sure, take your pet to the vet for a checkup prior to leaving for your trip.

You should also be certain that your cat is up to date on all her vaccinations, including rabies shots. In addition to your standard cat travel items (food, water, bed, cat carrier, etc.) you will need to supply certificates showing recent shots and vaccinations when you plan on flying.

If your pet isn't used to traveling, consider taking her on short outings prior to going on an extended trip or relocating to a new state.

Proper Identification is Crucial when Traveling With Your Pet
Getting correct identification for your cat or dog is critical when traveling. Dogs and cats may get separated from their owners when traveling by air, so it's important to have updated tags on your cat or even a microchip to ensure that your cat can be identified and returned to you if you are separated. Microchip procedures are safe, fast and becoming more common as pet hospitals, shelters and kennels are utilizing scanners to read microchips and help reunite pets and families.

Pet Supplies Help Pets Travel More Comfortably
Have additional supplies for your cat. In addition to food and your pet's most loved toys, here are some other important pet travel supplies to bring on your trip: spare leashes and collars, an old blanket or linen to put beneath your pet's carrier for easy cleanup, your pet's bed if she's got one, a food and water dish set, extra treats, pet grooming tools, extra litter and litter pans for cats, and also a medical kit for pets.

Be sure to bring extra food for your cat in the event their favorite brand is not for sale where you are traveling to. In the event that you must switch your pet's food, do it gradually over several days rather than all at once. Also, you should provide your pet fresh drinking water at every opportunity.

The Best Pet Carrier for Your Cat or Dog
Lastly, be sure you use a durable pet carrier for your pet. If you are traveling by airplane, make certain you have an airline approved cat carrier that satisfies the airline's criteria. In general pet carriers for cats should be sturdy (hard sided or durable plastic) and adequately ventilated so your pet can breathe easily. It should be large enough to let your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Make sure the door to the crate is secure so your pet doesn't get out of the pet carrier.

It's also a good idea to line the bottom of the cat carrier with a towel to help keep your pet comfortable and also to keep the carrier from leaking. And of course, make certain the carrier has both your pet's name and your name, as well as contact information so you can be reached in the event your pet gets separated from you.

8 Pit Bull Myths
By Mary L. Harwelik - PetNewsandViews.com

Editor’s Note: The American Pit Bull Terrier, a highly intelligent and quite loyal dog, has been villainized as being overly aggressive and dangerous. Mary Harwelik, founder of the Real Pit Bull, a 501(c)3 volunteer-driven nonprofit in central NJ that focuses on educating the public about this lovable breed, debunks 8 myths about this often maligned breed.

Myth 1) Pit Bulls have locking jaws. The jaws of the Pit Bull are functionally the same as the jaws of any other breed. “There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of locking mechanism unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier,” says Dr I. Lerh Brisbin of the University of Georgia.(From the American Dog Breeders Association’s booklet, Discover the American Pit Bull Terrier.)

Myth 2) Pit Bulls chew with their back teeth while gripping with their front teeth. As stated above, the Pit Bull’s jaws are, functionally speaking, the same as all other breeds.

Myth 3) Pit Bulls don’t feel pain. Pit Bulls have the same nervous system of any other breed, and they can and do feel pain. Historically, those dogs that would tolerate or ignore discomfort and pain and finish the task they were required to perform were the dogs that were bred and the sort of dogs breeders strove to produce. This is the trait of “gameness” that so many breed fanciers speak of, which may be defined as, “The desire to continue on and/or complete despite pain and discomfort.”

Myth 4) Pit Bulls have more bit pressure per square inch than any other breed. There could not be any conclusive testing done to measure something like strongest breed bite pressure per square inch. A reason for this lies in the fact that dogs bite with varying pressure depending upon the situation. A dog cannot be instructed to bite down on a measuring device as hard as possible, so a tester could have no way of knowing whether or not a particular dog being tested is actually using its jaws to capacity in any given testing phase. There are also size and strength variations among breeds. A very large Pit Bull may bite harder than a small Rottweiler, German Shepherd or other breed, while a standard sized Pit Bull may not have as much jaw power as a larger, typical sized Rottweiler. If one breed is to claim “highest bite pressure,” all breeds would have to be compared. And there are hundreds of breeds.

Myth 5) Pit Bulls attack more people than any other breed. Bite statistics are difficult to obtain accurately. Dogs that are referred to as Pit Bulls in statistical reports actually are a variety of breeds and mixes. Also many people have a difficult time identifying a true Pit Bull. Considering these facts, the actual number of attacks attributable to American Pit Bull Terriers is considerably lower than represented.

Myth 6) The brains of Pit Bulls swell and cause them to go crazy. Prior to the boom in Pit Bull popularity, the Doberman Pinscher was rumored to suffer from an affliction in which, as the dog grew, the skull became too small to accommodate the brain. This would, according to the rumor, cause the Doberman to go crazy or just snap. This rumor could never be proven, and indeed had no merit whatsoever. Now that the Doberman fad has run its course, the Pit Bull has inherited the swelling brain myth.

Myth 7) Pit Bulls turn on their guardians. Dogs, as a species, do not perform behaviors just because. There are always reasons for behavior, and when aggression becomes a problem the reasons can be such things as improper handling, lack of socialization or training, a misreading of dog behavior by the guardian, or disease. Aggression, when it presents in dogs, follows specific patterns. First come the warning signs, then more warning signs, and finally, using its teeth. When a guardian is startled by a sudden, aggressive outburst, it is because they have been unaware of problems that were brewing. This is true of all dogs, not just Pit Bulls.

Myth 8) The only thing Pit Bulls are good for is dog fighting. Unfortunately, a large amount of attention has been brought to the fact that the Pit Bull was originally created for fighting other dogs in the pit. The truth of the matter is that the Pit Bull is one of the most versatile of canines, capable of excelling at just about any task its guardian asks it to complete. This breed is routinely used for: obedience trialing, conformation showing, weight pull, agility and has even been know to participate in herding trials, search and rescue work, and a variety of other tasks including police and armed services work. But fanciers will argue that the task this bread performs best of all is that of a beloved companion.

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Four Tips for Buying a Pet Canary

So, you’re thinking about buying a pet canary huh? Well, there are a few things you should know before you make a purchase. This article will give you a few tips.


It should go without saying that you want to pick out a healthy bird. Look for one that’s quite active. If he just sits still in the cage, then you shouldn’t take him home. You should also try to ensure there are no parasites under the feathers or on the feet or beak before you take him home.


Speaking of health, you should refrain buying a pet canary that’s molting. The process of molting creates a lot of physical stress on birds. If you take him home during this time, he will experience a great amount of stress. This proves to be fatal in many cases. It can happen just a few hours after you get the canary home.


One of the next things you should think about when buying one of these birds is their gender. Most people purchase one because they want to hear them sing. Well, females don’t sing, only males do. Therefore, make sure your new bird is a male if you want to hear singing. You should also try to listen to the bird sing before you purchase him. Only purchase a female if you’re trying to breed her.


Did you know that there are different species of canaries? Well there are. You should be healthy to find the generic yellow birds at your local pet store. However, if you want a less common species, you might have to purchase one from a breeder. If buying a pet canary from a breeder, make sure you research more than one.

Hints From Heloise

Cat Scratch Reliever

Dear Heloise: Is there anything we can do about our CAT SCRATCHING OUR FURNITURE? I enjoy reading your column. -- Janie in Portland, Maine

Janie, cats do scratch! They do this to mark their territory, sharpen their claws and signal to other animals in the household just who is boss.

Don't scold the cat for scratching the couch or other wrong object (as if the cat would pay attention to you scolding it anyway!). Encourage it to scratch the correct object. Introduce your cat to a scratching post. They come in different sizes and textures, like carpet, upholstery and cardboard. Make sure the scratching post is tall, because cats like to stretch while they scratch.

Draw the cat to the post with catnip and toys. Place them where the cat likes to hang out. You may need several around your home.

Other factors to consider when you are trying to discourage scratching the furniture? Keep the cat's nails clipped.

Keep a squirt bottle of water handy. If you catch the cat scratching the couch, one quick squirt will chase it off. Try not to make this your only training method, though; you don't want the cat to be afraid of you.

Good luck! -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Janice Blease of Greenville, N.H., sent a photo of her 3-month-old Boston terrier, Miss Daisy, sleeping on a pillow. Janice says, "She is very active most of the time and is a friendly girl!"

To see Miss Daisy, visit www.Heloise.com. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I was sitting at a table with a candle less than 2 feet away. My short-haired cat jumped on the table and walked next to the candle, and the back of her tail was immediately ablaze. Without thought, I grasped her tail and ran my hand up it, putting out the flame. Neither of us was hurt, but had she noticed her flaming tail, she would have been running like a shot, probably under a piece of furniture. -- A Pet Lover, via e-mail

Yikes! This sounds like something from a cartoon! -- Heloise


Dear Readers: When raising a puppy or kitten, please check the animal's collar OFTEN. These little guys and gals grow so fast that they can quickly outgrow a collar. You should be able to comfortably slip two fingers under the collar. When your fingers no longer fit, it is time for a new neckband. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I have two large and very hairy couch potatoes -- my dogs, not my kids. We recently had the couches re-covered and wanted to break their habit. I laid down heavy-duty tinfoil across the couches when not in use. It did the trick, and no need for us to get involved in correcting! -- A Reader, via e-mail This also works to keep kitty off the furniture. -- Heloise

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Exercise Your Right to Keep Pets Happy

The secret to happiness is living with a happy pet.

Well, OK, a happy pet will not relieve all your worries, but it sure beats living with an unhappy cat or dog. Just consider what discontented pets do to occupy their time.

A bored dog might eat your couch, dig holes in your lawn and bark excessively at the slightest provocation. An anxious cat might use your wall-to-wall carpet as a vast litter box. Behaviors like these can challenge any pet owner’s state of happiness.

Whether you want to make your pet happy for the joy it gives you or to prevent unwanted behavior problems, the first step is to understand what makes your pet happy. In my line of work as a veterinary behaviorist, I often see pet owners get this wrong, such as supplying too much of one thing, like affection, and not enough of another, like exercise or mental stimulation.

Another common example of imbalance is giving unrestricted freedom without the guidelines (training) necessary to live successfully in human society as a pet. Happiness for pets, like humans, is achieved with balance. A lot of one thing does not replace the necessity of another, and each pet has individual needs based on his or her temperament.

Cats and dogs need a safe, secure environment, relationships with others and something to keep them physically and mentally engaged. Here is what your pet needs for good quality of life:

--Play and exercise: If there is one thing lacking in the lives of even our most pampered pets, it is usually physical activity. Many dogs were bred to be athletes: hunters, retrievers, sled-pullers and the like. Sure, there are many couch-potato pets that are happy to get their exercise by walking from one pet bed to another, but athletic dogs will suffer without the opportunity to expend energy. Even indoor cats and small dogs need opportunities for active play, although it should be easier to meet their needs than for a larger athletic dog.

--Mental stimulation: For many animals, physical exercise helps, but it is not enough. Our pets often spend good portions of their day alone in an environment that is largely unchanging. The playtime or outdoor exercise they get at the end of the day does nothing to occupy their mind the rest of the time. Dogs and cats in the wild are largely mentally engaged in hunting and survival. Try giving your pet the opportunity to work for their food. Hollow toys designed for hiding food can replace a meal in a bowl and provide a stimulating challenge for your pet.

--Ability to express normal species behavior: Cats need to scratch and young dogs need to chew. It is unreasonable to expect them not to have these behaviors. Providing attractive scratching posts and interesting chew toys, however, is a good way to keep nail and teeth marks off your furniture.

--Choices: Cats and dogs need to be able to decide a few things for themselves. Having a choice between which litter box to use and which tree to sniff is more important than it might seem. Variety is the spice of life.

--Rules and routine: At the same time, too many choices are not always a good thing. Cats and dogs need boundaries.

Rules and training help them to feel secure in a world of human expectations. Routines make those expectations predictable. Predictability is the antidote to anxiety.

--Social companionship: Dogs are pack animals. They instinctively live in groups in which it would be unusual to spend time alone. They benefit from the companionship of humans and other members of their own species. Cats are certainly more solitary, but still thrive in a close relationship with another cat, dog or human.

--Freedom from pain or fear: Any number of things may cause discomfort or anxiety for a pet. Teasing, maltreatment and abuse must not be tolerated.

Health issues need medical attention. Treatment should be given to any animal suffering from a painful condition.

Anxiety resulting from fears or phobias should be diagnosed and treated by a veterinary behaviorist.

Happy pets make happy pet owners. Cats and dogs are intelligent, social creatures that will suffer without a rich, safe environment. Give them what they need, and they will return the happiness in multiples.

A Few Tips for Trimming your Pet’s Nails

Pet nail care is an important part of your pet’s overall health care. Because claws continuously grow and are not always worn down as they would if they have been walking a lot, in that case it is up to you to help keep them at a comfy length. Whenever nails are too long, this influences the way a dog walks which can lead to osteo-arthritis later in life. Additionally longer nails could possibly get snagged not to mention torn, or in some cases curl back into the toe pad and can lead to an infection. Trimming nails is not that upsetting if you have the correct gear and also have taught your pet to let you hold the paw.

The nail does have a “quick” that houses the veins and nerves of the nail.The quick is easier to see in white nails. By trimming small amounts at a time and trimming with the plane of the bottom of the toe pad (horizontally rather than vertically) you can keep from cutting the nail to short as to cause it to bleed.

Here are some other tips to successfully cut your pet’s nails:

1. Begin when your pet is still a puppy or kitten by gradually holding their paws. Start by making a sport of it and examining the nails, chances are they will let you trim them once they get older.

2. Opt for a pet nail trimmer for the size and age of your pet.I sometimes use a human toe nail trimmer for young pet’s nails since it can get to the teeny tips just a little easier and they are sharper. As the kitten or puppy gets older, I will then convert nail trimmers to the scissor action kind of trimmer in lieu of the guillotine trimmer. I find that these stay sharper for a longer time and are also easier to use. The guillotine style some times catches the nails and does not make a clean cut. Your veterinarian can help you pick a proper trimmer.

3. Any time you’re trimming your dog’s nails, never do it while your pet is sitting in your lap. Have somebody assist you and put them on the counter or top of the washer or dryer. You may wrap them with a bath towel to help holding them a lot better. Cats can also be scruffed by grasping the loose skin behind their heads for better control. If your pet begins to resist, just try holding the paw until he calms. If you let go of the foot whenever your pet starts to protest, you’re just encouraging the poor behavior and will make the following nail trim episode a whole lot worse. (Go back to number 1)

4. Be prepared. Have available styptic pencils for example silver nitrate or Kwik stop powder. Be aware that the silver nitrate on the end of the sticks does indeed stain counter tops and your skin if you ever get it on you. For beginners, it is best to stick with the styptic powder.

5. If your pet has light colored nails, you are able to visualize the pink component of the quick. If your pet has darker nails, trim a little bit at any given time. I like to carefully press on the toe and extend the nail out. I then draw an imaginary line level with the bottom of the toe pad and extend it out across the nail. I then trim the nail at this imaginary line so that the nail is now level with the floor when the dog is standing. The nail of the cat is easier to see and it is best to just trim the tips off and stay away from the pink colored quick.

6. You may use an emery board to smooth the rough edges.

7. Pedi-paws or similar rotor drill sanders are useful to smooth rough ends and to trim just a small amount of nail. If the nail is very long whatsoever, then it may take you a long time to get it trimmed. You can use the drill to keep the nail shorter or for smoothing the nail after you have used the clippers. Your pet must also be trained not to be frightened by the the motor, so it is best to go slowly as you each figure out how to deal with the drill.

After some practice and a lot of patience, you may soon be trimming your pet’s nails with full confidence. If all else fails, your veterinarian or groomer are here to help.

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