Cats and Counter Tops

February is Pet Dental Health Month
By Signal Staff -

Did you know that February is National Pet Dental Health Month? Brad Kriser, founder of Kriser’s all-natural pet food and supplies stores, offers pet dental hygiene tips.

Brush daily: While it may seem difficult to get your pet to cooperate, slowly try to incorporate a brushing routine into your pet’s life. You can start by massaging around their teeth until you can get your finger or a pet toothbrush into their mouth.

Know the symptoms: If you can spot symptoms of gum disease in your pet, you will be able to get them treated before symptoms worsen. Watch out for brown or yellow tartar build up, inflammation and persistent bad breath.

Family Time:
Beware of Bad Dog Breath
By Anonymous - GateHouse News Service

Tip of the Week
Many pet parents believe that bad dog breath is a package deal and comes along with having a dog. While a common misconception, this is not true - bad dog breath is a symptom of poor oral hygiene. Therefore, it's important that pet owners recognize this and take steps to improve their dog's oral health.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, up to 80 percent of dogs over three have some form of tooth and gum disease. If left untreated, tooth and gum disease can cause bad breath, swollen and bleeding gums, difficulty eating, and tooth loss. Longer term it can lead to even more serious health problems like liver, heart or kidney disease since bacteria can travel from the mouth to other parts of the animal's body.

"Some dogs are predisposed to having dental problems, but a majority of the dogs that I treat have bad teeth because their owners didn't take any preventative measures. As a result, these dogs are forced to undergo expensive cleanings that must be done under anesthesia," says Dr. Elizabette Cohen, practicing veterinarian and author. "Brushing your dog's teeth shouldn't be a big chore, and certainly nothing to fear. Your dog depends on you to make the proper health choices for him, and dental care is one of them."


No-Eared Cat Looks
Too Much Like Voldemort
David Moye -

A cat in Southampton, England, is in a hairy situation because he looks too much like Harry Potter's foe, Lord Voldemort.

The cat, a 14-year-old domestic short-hair known as "Charlie," is in an animal rescue center hoping to get adopted, but, sadly, he could be there for quite a spell.

Seems Charlie lost his ears and part of his nose to skin cancer and, as a result, is the spitting image of Voldemort, the evil character played by actor Ralph Fiennes in the "Harry Potter" films.

Charlie (left), an abandoned 14-year-old cat is said to look a bit like Lord Voldemort from the "Harry Potter" film saga, portrayed by Ralph Fiennes. Rex USA / Warner Bros.

According to The Daily Mail, workers at the charity say visitors have been spooked by the white cat's resemblance to Fiennes but hope that a family of "Potter" fans will magically appear to adopt him.

The rejection adds insult to injury since Charlie was a stray before a woman adopted him, fed him and took him to the vet for surgery.

Doctors removed the cat's ears and nose, but say he is still at risk of further problems.

Now Charlie is at the animal shelter waiting for adoption alone in a cage because he apparently gave an earful to the other animals.

Despite his villainous appearance, Charlie loves cuddling and would do best in a home with no other pets, according to Marie Loveridge, the center's animal welfare assistant.

Charity workers are trying to find a new home for the British kitty, who lost his nose and ears to skin cancer.He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named? No, it's Charlie -- an unlucky cat who happens to look just like the evil Lord Voldemort from the "Harry Potter" films.

"At first glance, people may be put off by Charlie because he does look like Voldemort, the baddie from the 'Harry Potter' films," she said. "But although some people might think he's a bit quirky-looking after having his ears and nose removed, he is a lovely, playful cat who adores attention.

"We are desperately trying to rehome him with somebody that knows beauty is more than skin deep."

Although Charlie's looks can strike fear into the heart of timid "Harry Potter" fans, the fact is, earless cats are more common than you might think, according to San Diego vet Dr. Monika Kaelble.

"We see a lot of these cats that get skin cancer and have to have their ears amputated," she said. "It's usually because of sun exposure."

Kaelble says white animals with pinker skin are most prone to skin cancer and says cats are more likely than dogs to get it, "unless the dog likes to roll over and lay on the ground and expose its pinker side."

She admits the earless, noseless look takes some time to get used to but says that the cat itself is fine.

"The outer part of ears are usually cosmetic, so removing [them] doesn't affect their hearing much, unless the ear canals are affected," she said. "The nose is a little different. It can be a little snottier. But it can still live a normal life."

Dead Dog's Sperm Frozen for 21 Years
Produces Litter of Puppies

An Australian vet has used dog sperm, frozen for more than 20 years, to produce a litter of 10 Great Dane puppies, the Geelong Advertiser reported Tuesday.

Dr. David Hopkins from Bellarine Veterinary Practice in Geelong, about 50 miles southwest of Melbourne, was delighted at the outcome of the IVF procedure.

He said his client Deidre McRae had chosen to store sperm from one of her prized Great Danes, Liebendane Armstrong, in 1989.

Twenty-one years later, long after that dog's death, its sperm has led to a new generation of happy, healthy pups, which are now eight weeks old.

Hopkins said while breeding dogs using frozen sperm was not new technology, it was remarkable that semen frozen for so long could produce such a large, healthy litter.

McRae said she was "over the moon" with the results. She plans to keep some of the pups as show dogs and sell others.

Tips for Getting Your Dog on the Trail

Walking the dog, can be a great motivator to get you out on the trail.
And with spring around the corner, Orange County hills, canyons and trails offer a palette of colors, an array of scents and beautiful vistas.

Danielle Wang of Irvine with Wrinkles on Josephine Peak.COURTESY OF THE OC HIKING CLUB

If you take your dog along, keep in mind that they require conditioning just as people do; so start small and build up gradually. Some benefits for you as well as your pet can include better sleep, socialization and fitness. To get your dog in shape for hiking you need to be aware of your dogs needs.

Just as you will need to wear comfortable hiking boots, a dog needs to have the pads of their paws toughened up gradually to be comfortable on the trail. Without proper conditioning, walking on dirt, asphalt, rocky terrain and even snow can leave a dog's footpads raw and painful. Once a raw spot has developed, it can take weeks or even months to heal.

Start on short walks and gradually increase with longer ones, and be sure to trim their nails before starting your exercise routine. Another way to help keep your dog's paws conditioned, is to put on booties for half the walk and then take them off for half the walk until their paws get tough enough to go without them.

Take a look at your dog's feet before, during, and after hikes to check the condition of the pads. A solid callous is what you want. If the pads are pink or worn in any way, stop and let them heal. Be patient, it takes time to toughen the pads. Imagine how your feet would feel and look, if you had to walk 5 miles barefoot.

Hydration is also critical for dogs, so give your dog plenty of water before, during and after the hike. Larger dogs can even carry their own water supply in a well-fitted pack, but be on the lookout for straps that rub, especially on short haired breeds. If you are interested in outfitting your dog with doggy saddlebags consider sewing or buying fleece covers to keep the strap from abrading the skin. The constant friction of an unprotected nylon strap can quickly rub into a serious wound.

The cool spring weather is a perfect time to start conditioning for you and your dog, but as hot weather approaches, be aware that dogs are far more sensitive to heat than you are. Heat that is an uncomfortable inconvenience for you can spell death for your dog. In warmer weather, the best time to hike is early in the morning or later in the evening when the ground is cool.

Here are some "tail trail tips" from the OC Hiking Club:

1) Signs of heat stress: Profuse panting and salivation, weakness, staring or anxious expression, warm dry skin, rapid heartbeat. If any of these signs are apparent: find shade, place water-soaked bandana and/or towel on dog's head and abdomen. Then, seek veterinary care. From Jeannie Tarlton, Garden Grove, OC Hiking Club Hike Organizer.

2) Carry more than enough water for you and your dog. Collapsible containers are available in pet stores for convenience. Cooling bandanas for your dog can also be purchased at your local pet store. From Jeannie Tarlton, Garden Grove, OC Hiking Club hike organizer.

3) Even a warm day can be dangerous for heat stress. A lot of people think they only have to avoid walking their dogs when it is "hot." But even a warm day can be hot for a dog. From Danielle Wang, Irvine, OC Hiking Club member.

4) Let your larger dog carry his own bag with water and food. It will give him exercise and purpose. Anthony Thompson, Laguna Niguel, OC Hiking Club member.

What to take?
Items for your dog: Dog collar, ID tag with your cell number on it, a six-foot leash.

Items to carry in your backpack: Cellphone for emergencies, extra water, plastic water dish or container, doggy-poo bags, first-aid kit, dog snacks, bandanna (for emergencies and to soak in hot weather).

After hike tips: Check for and remove ticks, look for wear on the pads of paws, make sure your dog has plenty of water, and feed extra food as needed.

If you and your dog would like to get out on the trail with others, join the OC Hiking Club at; membership is free.

Suki Reed is president of the OC Hiking Club.

Ask Martha:
Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe
By Times-Dispatch Staff

Dogs and cats are curious creatures. Although that quality often makes us laugh, it can have disastrous consequences. Certain household items are dangerous — or even fatal — to animals. Be prepared with contact information for your veterinarian, the nearest animal emergency room and, in the U.S., the 24-hour ASPCA Poison Control Center (888-426-4435). Here are several common hazards.

Pets love the sweet taste of antifreeze (ethylene glycol), which they may encounter if it leaks in the garage or driveway. A teaspoon is all it takes to kill a 10-pound cat; 1 to 2 tablespoons are lethal to a 10-pound dog. If your pet ingests any, it might seem wobbly and unsteady, as well as nauseated and unusually thirsty. Get it to the vet immediately — an antidote must be given within 12 hours, but sooner is better. You can use a less toxic form of antifreeze, propylene glycol. But even this is poisonous in large quantities.

People food, that is. "Some foods cause problems ranging from gastrointestinal issues to death," said Diane Levitan, a veterinarian in Commack, N.Y. Chocolate, for example, contains a substance called theobromine, along with caffeine, which makes it toxic to dogs and cats. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity and seizures. Pets also shouldn't eat macadamia nuts, raw or undercooked meat, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, chives or rising bread dough.

Pets that dig into the trash might find objects, such as bones, corn cobs and broken glass, that can obstruct and tear the intestines. Moldy foods contain toxins that can cause muscle tremors and convulsions.

Household cleaners
Toilet-bowl cleaner has caustic chemicals that burn the mouth and esophageal lining, Levitan said. Flush the toilet multiple times after cleaning, and close the lid. Exposure to bleach and other harsh products can cause gastrointestinal distress, skin irritation and respiratory problems.

Cats in particular like nibbling on plants, but some are toxic. Ingesting even small amounts of Easter lilies, for instance, can cause kidney failure in cats. Other dangerous plants include mistletoe, oleander, English ivy and tulip and narcissus bulbs. You can apply a deterrent to the plants, such as a bitter apple spray, but it's safer to remove them from the house. For a list of safe and unsafe plants, visit

Over-the-counter and prescription medications for people top the list of pet poisons. According to the ASPCA, the most dangerous ones are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen), antidepressants, acetaminophen, methylphenidate, fluorouracil, isoniazid, pseudoephedrine (a decongestant), antidiabetics, vitamin D derivatives and baclofen.

Bar soap
Soap appeals to some pets, but the fats it contains could cause pancreatitis. Eating soap also can trigger vomiting and diarrhea. And scented versions might irritate the esophagus and mouth.

Small parts in children's playthings can pose choking hazards and cause intestinal blockage in dogs and cats. But "pet toys can also be hazardous," said Adam Goldfarb, director of the Pets at Risk program for the Humane Society of the United States. Be aware of how your pet plays — for instance, some dogs baby their stuffed animals, while others tear them apart and eat them. When you give your dog a new toy, supervise the first play sessions.

Found in candies, gum, baked goods and toothpaste, this sweetener can cause an insulin surge, lowering blood sugar enough to cause weakness, vomiting and loss of coordination. It could even lead to liver failure.

Any exposure can cause problems, but the more your pet consumes, the more severe the issues will be.

Trendy Pet Diet Sparks
Online Demand for Wild Game
By Jim Waymer, Florida Today

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Feeding Fido or Fluffy a raw, all-natural cuisine could land you in the slammer for up to six months if you're not careful where you buy the deer, duck or other meat.

The trendy pet diet, called "prey model," in which owners try to feed their pets critters similar to what they'd hunt in the wild, has resulted in a surge in illegal sales of raw wild game online, Florida wildlife investigators say.

No Floridian has gone to jail so far for trying to buy illegally obtained raw game online, but investigators in a year-old wildlife cyber crimes unit say they're seeing more people both soliciting it — a misdemeanor — and selling it — a felony.

People caught selling raw meat without a permit face up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. Those buying the illegally obtained game face up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

In 2010, its first year, Florida Fish and Wildlife's Internet Crimes Unit logged 177 arrests and 92 warnings for cases involving illegally buying or selling wildlife or raw game meat online, some of it for pets.

Pet owners go on Craigslist and eBay, asking where they can score a squirrel, pheasant, rabbit, goose, duck, chicken, just about any game to feed their cats and dogs. Some seek raw fish, meaty bones and organs such as hearts, livers and kidneys — everything a growing carnivore needs.

"It's happening nationwide," said Lt. George Wilson, head of the Internet Crimes Unit. "The philosophy behind it is feeding your pet a hormone-free, naturally grazed diet.

"We're seeing solicitations for wild ducks, anything wild."

The Internet provides a way around having to pay taxes or pay for licenses to sell wild game, investigators say.

But these Internet outlaws skirt regulations that ensure meat is sanitary and comes from game hunted in-season. They threaten to create black markets for wildlife similar to what existed for alligators 50 years ago, Wilson said.

Going raw may also have gotten a boost from the toxic melamine scare in 2007, when pet food imported from China killed thousands of cats and dogs nationwide, resulting in widespread recalls.

"Those that are unknowledgeable, we're trying to educate them," Wilson said.

Illegal sales of deer have been going on in Florida for decades. Now, some of the meat goes to the dogs, and the Internet makes an old crime high-tech.

Fish and Wildlife started its Internet Crimes Unit in late 2009, in response to an upswing in wildlife cyber crimes, said Katie Purcell, a spokeswoman with the department. "Basically, our law enforcement efforts were trying to stay up to speed with the methods violators are using," she said via e-mail.

Because it's still a relatively small market, raw wild game for pets can be tough to come by legally.

"It's the unlicensed people that would be trafficking them," said Jim Deason, owner of Sweetwater Plantation, a farm in Bristol, Fla., that sells live deer for breeding. "Any of the people that I know, they're pretty above board on things like that. If there's anybody selling game, it's probably going to be backwoodsy folks."

So how's a pet owner to get Muffy to go organic, legally. And where might one find raw wild deer meat for their pooch?

"I don't know of anybody that sells that," Deason said. "You can get it from New Zealand."

"It's a big process to get certified by the USDA," he added.

An Internet search shows some who adhere to the prey model tap ethnic markets, looking for organs, or small, independent grocery stores, seeking turkey necks and chicken backs.

Price may be one reason driving pet owners online.

"It's more expensive. It's not quite double the price, but it really depends on what you're buying," said Pete Bandre, owner of Incredible Pets in Melbourne. He doesn't sell raw game meats but does carry established brands of all-natural pet foods.

So far, all incidents in which people were buying illegally obtained raw game for their pets in Florida have only been given warnings, Wilson said. That won't last forever.

"They're very well meaning," he said of pet owners who aspire to the prey model diet.

"Our interest here is to protect our natural resources. If this is allowed to go unchecked, it could create a black market that would impact the populations of wildlife in Florida."

What to Do When Your Pets Become Parents
By Erika Enigk - GateHouse News Service

Puppies and kittens are wonderful additions to the family, but pet owners who find out their animal is expecting a litter may go into panic mode without a plan.

Barb Peterson of Duluth, Minn., breeder of soft-coated wheaten terriers and cardigan welsh corgis, offers these tips for when you find out you’ll soon have grandpuppies or grandkitties.

1. Go to the vet. When you find your dog or cat is pregnant, the best first step is to make sure she’s healthy. Check with the vet on how to best handle the pregnancy; the birth will generally take care of itself.

Once the puppies or kittens are born, take proper care of them until they can be placed in good homes. The mother will care for them for a period of time, but they will need shots, and human contact will help them as they make the transition into permanent homes. Check with your vet to find out how long you should keep the babies before placing them.

2. Talk to friends and family members. Placing an ad in the newspaper or on a community bulletin board will reach more people, but Peterson recommends using that method with caution. Shelters, rescue groups and breeders routinely ask questions about a potential owner’s family and home to ensure they’re placing an animal in good hands. Contact your local animal shelter if you need help coming up with the right questions.

Charging a fee may help weed out bad owners, Peterson said. It will help offset your costs and show that the person taking the animal home is willing and able to raise it.

3. Find a rescue group in your area. Rescue groups use foster families, so the puppies or kittens will live in a home environment rather than a cage, helping them become accustomed to people and other animals and thus giving them a better chance at becoming a good family pet in the future.

Some shelters use foster families as well and may even have families waiting to adopt a pet like the ones you’ll soon have.

“If you have beagle-like puppies, someone wanting a beagle-like dog just might be waiting on the shelter’s list,” Peterson said.

4. Spay or neuter your pet to avoid a repeat incident. There are very few good reasons not to have your animal spayed or neutered, Peterson said. And if you’ve had one “oops” incident, you may have another. As soon as your pet is old enough and healthy enough for the surgery, have it done.

If you don’t think you can afford it, do a little research to find discount programs. Many states have spay and neuter clinics that will do the surgery for a nominal fee, and some animal shelters have partnerships with local veterinarians that give pet owners discounts on services.

Gary Bogue:
Cats & Kitchen Counters:
Ways to Keep Them Off
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

a fourth-grader

with a daisy in her hair

spring musical

-- haiku by Jerry Ball, Walnut Creek

Cats vs. Counters

On Friday I wrote about how to keep cats off the kitchen counters. Today, some of you have responded with your own ideas:

Here is a trick to make cats think twice about jumping on counter tops or furniture. Carefully set mousetraps upside-down on the forbidden surface. When the cat jumps up, the trap is harmlessly sprung. It leaves an impression on the flustered feline. (Zac in Alameda) (Once you set the upside-down traps on top of the counter, lay sheets of paper over the tops of the traps. It makes a lot more noise and also makes sure nobody's toes get caught in the bouncing traps. /Gary)

I kept a spray bottle full of water handy and spritzed our kitten with it whenever he got up on the counters. He had gotten to the point where he'd jump off as soon as he saw the bottle, and eventually gave up (at least when I was home), but now he is returning to his old ways, so the bottle is out again. (Joyce, San Ramon)

My method to stop my precious Siamese from jumping on my counter, newly refinished ebony piano and suede chair, and scratching on my office chair was to cover the surface with plastic bags. I put a plastic bag over the back of the office chair and used plastic wrap to cover the area on the piano and counter where she jumped up and on the back of the suede chair where she scratched. She tried the area out once and never tried again. I don't know why it worked and I don't know where I got the idea but it worked for me. It looks pretty stupid but I only had to keep the plastic up for a short time. Worth a try. Good luck. (Paula L., cyberspace)

Dear Gary:

My mixed calico cat, Pumpkin, of 11 years has all of a sudden developed "bad breath." Is there a solution to this? Taking her to the vet is a no-no. I would be clawed to death. She is very healthy otherwise.

Pat, Antioch

Dear Pat:

Taking Pumpkin to the vet is a yes-yes!

The bad breath could be from bad teeth, or from some other medical problem, and you definitely need to have a vet check this out ASAP. It's important.

Put Pumpkin in a plastic cat carrier with a fluffy towel and let her claw the towel to death.

Dear Gary:

Your Sunday letter from Mary about her concern that a hawk may take her small dog reminds me of something that happened to us.

I've had a teacup size Chihuahua for the past eight years and I vividly recall a big ruckus in my backyard, a few years ago, when a large crow kept hovering over my dog. The dog would jump at the crow attempting to nip it.

This went on for a good 10 seconds and it was hilarious. Later realizing that we could have lost our pet, we try to be more careful.

Gene, Tracy

Dear Gene:

I'm glad nothing happened to your tiny dog!

A bird as large as a crow could have seriously injured your tiny pet by pecking it in the eye. I'm glad you're being more careful. Once again proving that tiny pets should not be allowed outside without a nearby human.

Most American Pet Owners Blame Owners,
Not Genetics, for Dangerous Dogs

The majority of American pet owners believe a well-trained dog is safe -- even if it comes from one of the "bully breeds."

Some dog breeds, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers, are considered truly dangerous by 28% of American pet owners, but in an Associated poll, 71% said any breed can be safe if the dogs are well trained.

"It's not the dog. It's the owner that's the problem," said Michael Hansen, a 59-year-old goldsmith from Port Orchard, Wash. "The dog will do whatever it can to please the owner, right down to killing another animal for you."

"If they are brought up in a loving household, they can flourish just like any other dog," agreed Nancy Lyman, 56, of Warwick, Mass.

Sixty percent of pet owners feel that all dog breeds should be allowed in residential communities, while 38% believe some breeds should be banned, according to the poll conducted by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications.

Denver and Miami-Dade County in Florida have pit bull bans that go back decades. The Army and Marine Corps have put base housing off-limits to the breed in the last few years.

Of the pet owners in the poll who support breed bans, 85% would bar pit bulls. Other breeds considered dangerous were Rottweilers, Dobermans, German shepherds and chow chows. Seven percent said any violent, vicious or fighting dog should be banned and 2% said all large dogs should be outlawed.

Asked specifically about pit bulls, 53% of those polled said they were safe for residential neighborhoods, but 43% said they were too dangerous.

Age played a major role in the pit bull questions -- 76% of those under age 30 said pit bulls were safe, compared with just 37% of seniors.

Janice Dudley, 81, of Culver City was taking out her garbage when she was charged by a pit bull whose owner had been walking him in her neighborhood for years.

"He came within a few inches of my leg. It was shocking. There was nothing I could do. The owner controlled the dog and they went on their way but it was really very frightening," she said.

She goes to great lengths to avoid the man and dog now, she said. "That was as close as I've ever come and as close as I ever want to be."

Dudley would stop short of imposing a widespread breed ban, but she believes pit bulls are too dangerous. "I think it is in their nature to be more vicious than other dogs," she said.

She blames breeders for the dangerous behavior of the animals and believes the dogs are genetically at risk. "People I know who have had them maintain they are the sweetest things in the world. I don't believe it," she said.

Older pet owners were more apt to support a breed ban than younger ones -- 56% of seniors believe some dogs should be outlawed compared with just 22% of those under age 30.

Parents who own pets were no more or less likely than non-parents to say certain breeds should be banned.

But Tiffany Everhart, 40, of Splendora, Texas, wouldn't have a pit bull. "I have a small child and I'm not going to take that chance." The paralegal also believes some dogs are too dangerous for residential areas and she would support a breed ban.

"Every dog is different and should be evaluated on its own merits," said "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan.

"If a pit bull has good energy, and if he is socialized early and brought up in a balanced and structured pack environment, then I would consider him perfectly safe for a family with children," Millan said.

Lyman, who has a 17-year-old, blind, deaf and crippled Shih Tzu, said any dog will bite if provoked -- citing Martha Stewart's recent run-in with her own dog.

Hansen blames the pit bull's bad reputation on owners and the media.

"You have a tendency to sensationalize stories or put into them right down to the blood and gore when it isn't really necessary," said Hansen, who has two dogs, 9-year-old Lab-collie brothers named Chaz and Zach.

Still, she said Michael Vick's dogfighting operation probably helped pit bulls' bad rep because it showed that "people can reintroduce these dogs back into a society that's not going to abuse them."

"The owner is responsible for what an animal does. It's totally your behavior, whether you have a good dog that minds well and is not a problem to society or you turn it into a vicious animal that will bite the mailman, the girl next door or grandma walking down the street," Hansen said.

Betsy Adevai, 50, of Grand Rapids, Mich., said muscle dogs have become status symbols for young men who walk through her inner city neighborhood.

"You don't see people walking cockapoos or fluffy puppies. I have five boys and they all have friends around here. They walk these dogs to say, 'I'm cool ... because I got this dog,' " she said.

She thinks pit bulls "look like little football players" so she wouldn't have one, but the seamstress doesn't blame the dogs.

"It's the attitude behind the people who raise them, not the dog," she said.

Tips to Limit Pet Allergy Symptoms
By Denise DeWitt -

If you are allergic to animals, including dogs, cats, rodents, birds, or horses, the best way to limit your allergy symptoms is to avoid contact with the animal. But almost half of all households in the U.S. have at least one pet, and many people consider their pets to be part of the family. If eliminating animals from your life is not an option, limiting your exposure to animal allergens can help you control your allergy symptoms.

The primary cause of pet allergies is skin dander (dry flakes of skin shed by the animal). Other pet allergens include saliva and urine. If you are determined to have a pet, choosing one without fur or feathers is the best way to avoid allergy symptoms. Some options include fish, turtles, and snakes. But remember that mold, another possible allergen, tends to grow where moisture is present. So large fish tanks and the humidity they add to a room can also contribute to allergy symptoms.

If you are determined to keep your dog, cat, or bird, here are some tips to limit your exposure to pet allergens in your home:

• Keep it clean – Pet allergens tend to be sticky. So get rid of fabrics and floor coverings that will hold on to allergens. Wash down walls, windows, and baseboards. Get rid of wall-to-wall carpets and use throw rugs that can be washed frequently.

• Limit fabrics – If possible, replace fabric upholstered furniture with leather that can easily be wiped clean. Curtains and blinds can also trap and hold pet allergens.

• No vacancy – Keep all pets out of the bedroom. Clean or replace all bedding pets may have been near, including pillows. If you can’t replace your mattress and box spring, cover them with allergen-blocking covers.

• Steam clean - If you can’t do without carpeting, chose a carpet with a low pile, keep it vacuumed, and steam clean it regularly to remove allergens.

• Dust masks – Protect yourself from dust and allergens that are stirred up during cleaning by wearing a dust mask.

Dog Show’s Rare Breeds Are Glimpse of History

As Baxter the otterhound bounded around the show ring at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on Monday, his owner, Cathy Glenn, felt sure he would win best in breed — and not just because he had won the prize three years running.

The crowd was equally certain of his chances for victory: although five dogs had been entered in the show, Baxter was the only one who showed up.

The dogs’ scarcity at Westminster is an apt metaphor for the breed itself. The otterhound — a big, goofy mess of a dog with a slobbery beard, unruly coat and happy-go-lucky grin — was once sought after in England because it kept the country’s river otter population in check. Today, an estimated 350 of the dogs are living in the United States, and fewer than 1,000 are said to exist worldwide.

The otterhound is one of several English breeds on display at Westminster that have dwindled to near obscurity despite a proud history. Much like an heirloom rose or tomato, the dogs are living artifacts of a bygone era kept alive by a group of passionate breeders.

Other examples of classic but rare breeds include the Dandie Dinmont terrier, a dog with a Kim Jong-il hairstyle whose roots date to the 1700s; the field spaniel, a once-popular hunting companion that has been overshadowed by its smaller cousin, the cocker spaniel; and the harrier, a noble hunting dog that looks like a beagle on steroids.

For many owners, the dogs’ heritage forms part of their appeal. “I think it’s very cool that you look at a painting of dogs from 200 years ago, and they look like dogs that we have today,” said Joellen Gregory, the owner of three otterhounds, including Baxter’s brother.

If these heirloom breeds have a hero, it is Stump, the 10-year-old Sussex spaniel who won Best in Show at Westminster in 2009. The Sussex spaniel was one of nine breeds originally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1884, but they are an unusual sight today, ranking 155th in annual registrations out of the kennel club’s 167 ranked breeds.

The issue has not gone unnoticed in the United Kingdom, where the Kennel Club, the British counterpart of the A.K.C., has mounted a campaign to protect 24 breeds that it has labeled “vulnerable.”

To encourage its countrymen to buy British, the Kennel Club holds annual breed showcases, called “Discover Dogs,” where the endangered breeds get special billing. The club has organized parades featuring the dogs and their handlers, who dress as historical characters with links to the breeds.

Last fall, the British clothing designer Jeremy Hackett warned in a newspaper article that his beloved Sussex spaniels — which are featured in many of his clothing advertisements — have a popularity that is “on a par with whalebone corsets and powdered eggs.”

“The whole idea is simply to re-educate the public about the benefits of some of the old British and Irish breeds,” said Caroline Kisko, a spokeswoman for the Kennel Club. “I think the main concern is that we have — as in the United States — we have a public that has become more and more accustomed to thinking that the Labrador retriever is the No. 1 possible pet, and the other breeds are just being forgotten.”

Rare-breed enthusiasts say they have devoted themselves to the dogs in part for the novelty. Nichole Dooley, a field spaniel breeder from Boston, said people often stop her on the street when she is with her dogs, which are often confused for cocker or springer spaniels. “They say, ‘I had one of those when I was little,’ ” Dooley said. “I’m like, no, you didn’t.”

But the main attraction, dog owners say, is the idiosyncrasies of each individual breed. Glenn, Baxter’s owner, said otterhounds are clowns. They tend to sleep with all four feet in the air, and Baxter is so obsessed with having his hind scratched that he introduces himself to strangers by backing into them.

Dooley said field spaniels tend to be calmer than other spaniels. “They’re a well-kept secret,” she said.

The field spaniel fell out of favor in the middle of the 20th century, losing out to the rising stars of the springer and cocker spaniels. They virtually disappeared from the United States in the 1940s and ’50s, before being revived in the 1960s after a breeder imported a handful of dogs from England. Every field spaniel in the United States today can trace its lineage to four dogs from the 1950s and ’60s, said Jane Chopson, president of the Field Spaniel Society of America.

“We joke in our breed that we don’t have a gene pool, we have a gene puddle,” Dooley said.

Extinction is a rarity in recent years, but canine history is full of cautionary tales. Many times, the dogs disappeared after they lost their jobs. In the Middle Ages, many households employed a turnspit dog, a breed developed to turn roasting meat by running inside a small cage that resembled a hamster wheel. Modern cooking technologies eliminated the need for turnspit dogs, and they faded away.

Aficionados of otterhounds and harriers say their breeds are also victims of changing times. Owners of both breeds worry that the dogs may become extinct, possibly as soon as 10 to 15 years from now.

Otter hunting was outlawed in England decades ago, and after that, demand for otterhounds dropped. “You’re talking about an ancient breed that no longer has a job,” said Betsy Conway, an otterhound owner and advocate.

Because of their small gene pool, otterhounds suffer from physical ailments, although Conway said breeders were working to address the issue. Of particular concern is late-onset epilepsy, which can surface after an otterhound has already produced offspring, as well as decreasing litter size and female dogs who have difficulty conceiving.

The harriers’ m├ętier — chasing hares — was also outlawed several years ago, leading to concerns that they will eventually disappear in England, where the dogs are kept exclusively in hunting packs. Harriers in the United States are third-to-last in the A.K.C.’s popularity list and are mostly kept as pets. Less than 100 are believed to be living in the United States.

Breeders of harriers import dogs from England every few years to infuse fresh genes into the United States stock. “If we’re cut off from that, or if there’s some reason that there’s a difficulty with that, then it’s questionable if there is enough genetic diversity for this breed to exist,” said Kevin Shupenia, a Georgia breeder who owns about 20 harriers.

Still, Conway said owning an otterhound was worth it. “The negatives to me certainly are so minor in comparison to the wonderful things about life with an otterhound,” she said.

“Why have otterhounds? Because they are a piece of history,” she said. To those who question whether the dogs have outlived their usefulness, she answers: “What difference does it make if we have polar bears or mountain gorillas? What do you need them for?”

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