Coping with the Loss of a Pet

If Dogs and Cats Could Talk
American Kennel Club -

What your pet's body language is telling you

Do you ever wonder what your pet is thinking? Dogs and cats communicate in a very specific way, and body language is part of it. Paying attention to how your pet is standing, the way his ears are, and how he's looking at you, among other things, can help you understand how your dog or cat is feeling at that moment.

To help you better understand your pet's communication, American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Director and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Mary Burch, offers tips to decode your dog and cat's body language. Among them:


- Ears. When your dog is relaxed and not stressed, his ears will be in the natural position. When he becomes alert and starts watching something closely, his ears will be raised and turned toward whatever is holding his attention. If your dog's ears are pulled back so far they are plastered to the sides of his head, he is submissive or afraid.

- Eyes. Relaxed dogs have relaxed eyes - they will stay their normal size and shape. When your dog becomes stressed or scared, his eyes appear smaller and are not as wide open. If a dog gives you a direct stare, this could be a threat.

- Mouth. Dogs that are relaxed usually have their mouths closed or open just a bit. If your dog is afraid, his mouth will be closed with his lips pulled back at the corners. Aggressive dogs will often pull back their lips to show their teeth.


- Ears. If your cat's ears are pointed forward, this shows friendly interest and that the cat is attentive. Ears that are standing up and turned slightly back mean that the cat is not happy.

- Eyes. Cats' eyes can tell you what they are thinking. When their eyes are wide open and he is looking at you, it means he's listening to what you are saying - this is not to be confused with a cat that is giving you a hard stare, which means leave him alone. A happy cat may blink a lot or have eyes that look like slits.

- Whiskers. The way a cat holds its whiskers can reveal a lot. Shy cats will have their whiskers flattened out to the side of their faces. A cat that is tense, excited, or ready to attack will have whiskers that are forward and stretched out. A content, comfortable cat will have its whiskers forward, but they seem relaxed and are not fanned out.

For more information on different dog and cat breeds, visit

Cat with Nine Lives?
Dodges Car in Tenn. Crash,
Lives to Meow About It
By Barry Leibowitz -

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Cat-astrophe was narrowly avoided.

Metro Nashville police say a car ran off a city street early Monday and overturned, ending up on the front steps of a home. The driver told police he swerved to avoid hitting a cat in the road, according to WKRN-TV.

It's believed the cat belongs to the owner of the home where the car crashed, damaging the front steps of the house. Police say the driver won't be charged.

The driver is OK, the cat's fine and the insurance claim will make for interesting reading.

Now we eagerly await the cat video.

Family's Pet Pig Escapes Burning Home

LONG VIEW, N.C. -- A local family’s pet pig managed to escape their burning home on Monday morning.

The fire broke out around 4 a.m. at a home on 21st Street, near Second Avenue Northwest, in Long View. Part of the floor and the roof collapsed in the flames.

Moments after arriving at the scene, firefighters heard a noise that caught them by surprise.

“(I) heard a snort behind me and then turned around and there was a pig right behind me,” said T.J. Patton with the Long View Fire Department. “(It was) a little bit of a surprise.”

The pig, named Jimmy Dean, has grown up with the family and can open doors, including the one on the refrigerator. Those skills were put to good use Monday, when he escaped his pen in the basement and got out of the burning home.

“He kept hitting the fence and managed to work his way out of the structure,” said fire investigator Barry Sigmon.

The family is in the process of moving and was not home Sunday night. Samantha Bishop said Jimmy Dean is part of the family.

“He made it,” she said. “We've had him since he was a little piglet, so I'm happy he made it.”

Firefighters from four different departments fought the flames, getting them under control in about an hour. They haven’t yet determined the cause.

WestJet Named North America’s
Best Pet-Friendly Airline
Douglas McArthur - Globe and Mail

WestJet was named North America’s best pet-friendly airline for budget-conscious consumers in the latest annual review by The website noted that the Canadian carrier allows small dogs, cats, rabbits and birds to travel for $50 each way in the passenger cabin. Frontier Airlines won for transporting the greatest variety of pets, including dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and small household birds. Most pet-friendly over all was Pet Airways, a pet-only airline serving nine U.S. airports. It promises “first-class treatment” of animal passengers, including large breeds of canines.

Exotic Piranha Look-Alike Turns Up in Grand River

JENISON, Mich.— A Michigan couple fishing in the Grand River caught a surprise this weekend.

The Grand Rapids Press reports ( ) that Isa DeVos of Jenison stopped by the Blue Fish Aquarium shop in Jenison on Sunday with a fish that looked at first glance like a piranha. Blue Fish owner Jeff Vander Berg says the fish was a pacu.

The freshwater tropical fish is native to South America and has teeth that grind plants. It's related to the piranha and often is mistaken for one.

DeVos says her fiancé, Richard Cooper, caught the pacu in Jenison, near Grand Rapids. She says it "put up a fight."

The pacu likely was a pet that was released. Experts say the fish likely would have died by winter if it hadn't been caught.

Cat Hailed As A Hero For Giving Blood
By Jane Allen -

Donor cats and dogs needed to give blood to help other animals

Giving blood is good thing to do – even when it’s given by dogs and cats.

It is something that Shadow, a cat from McHenry, does regularly. Owner Kat Egelston, who previously worked at Save-A-Pet in Grayslake, wants to help animals in any way.

Egelston learned that the Animal Emergency & Treatment Center in Grayslake was in need of blood donations from pets. She thought of her own three cats and a dog, and decided to help.

“I thought my cat, Shadow, would be the perfect donor because she is easy-going. She also is in good health,” said Egelston.

The AETC has had a cat and dog blood-donor program since 2002. The center is always in need of additional donations, especially during the summer months.

“We run short a lot more during the summer because pets are out more, whether it’s being hit by a car or getting in a fight,” said AETC marketing director Cindy Kaempf.

“Each donation can save up to four lives,” said Amanda Calvillo, a certified veterinarian technician and manager of the blood-donor program. “There are requirements for the cat or dog that is donating. We do provide thank-yous to our donors. All the information is spelled out on our website.”

Shadow recently was hailed as an “Everyday Hero” by the Nutro Company, suppliers of cat and dog food, for her donations of blood.

“Shadow’s tale highlights an important medical need that many people are unaware of,” said spokeswoman Brianna Huy. See more at

Veterinarian John Naeser, the director of operations at the AETC, also oversees the blood-donor program in Grayslake. Most pet blood donations come from pets that are referred by other owners like Egelstrom. AETC also solicits donations through trade publications and at pet expos.

“For the first time, the Midwest Pet Expo will be held locally in September at the Lake County Fairgrounds,” said Kaempf. “It will be an opportunity for us to let people know about the program and ask for volunteers.”

AETC is open 24 hours a day and is the only pet-blood donation facility in Lake County. It also has a location in Chicago.

Dog-Only Bakery Opens in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia – Dog owners Down Under are taking pet-pampering to new levels with a canine-only bakery in Melbourne, the Herald Sun reported Monday.

Animal lovers can load up on everything from "pupperoni" pizza, doggie dough-nuts or Moroccan lamb biscuits at the newly-opened specialist Diamond Dog Food and Bakery.

Alice Needham, who owns the business with her partner Philip, said they started the store as a fun way to educate owners on nutritious pet meals.

"We'd been cooking for our dog and we'd seen a lot of obesity in dogs and things in foods that are bad for them," Needham said. "It's a fun job and, if you pay attention to a dog's diet, it can actually increase their lifespan."

The couple have set up a catering service for pet parties that sees the bakery create up to 10 customized birthday cakes a week.

"Six hundred dollars [US$661] is the most expensive party we've had," Needam said. "It was for 15 dogs, which included the cake, party food and the gift bags."

If Pavement is Too Hot for Your Feet,
It’s Too Hot for Fido’s Paws
By Dr. Patty Khuly -

Hot pavement can give dogs blistering burns on their paw pads.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

As we experience this hot summer weather, I am hopeful that everyone is aware of the repercussions of leaving their pets in hot cars. But would you please address the issue of walking dogs on the hot pavement? I see pets hopping along and don’t think their owners are aware that the pads of their paws can easily get burned on the pavement

Dogs and cats may seem like they have little sensitivity to what lies beneath their feet because their pads are great at distributing their weight. That’s why rocks and irregular surfaces are no big deal. But heat is another thing entirely.

Both dogs’ and cats’ pads are very sensitive to hot temperatures, but it’s our dogs we really need to look out for. Cats are great at staying away from uncomfortable surfaces, and they’re rarely in a position where heat avoidance isn’t doable.

Dogs, on the other hand, are willing to do almost anything we ask them to –– even walk over hot coals. And every time we put them on a leash and go for a walk on hot pavement, that’s effectively what we’re asking them to do.

It’s not only uncomfortable, but can cause burns. The dog may start to hobble or stop walking, but often the injury isn’t apparent until the next day, when paw-licking, limping and swelling develop. Discolored, often whitish, blistering burns are often visible, but like a bad sunburn, a pad burn doesn’t have to blister to hurt.

“But wouldn’t my dog let me know if his paws hurt?” That’s the question I’m most often asked by skeptical owners after I’ve diagnosed pad burns.

Here’s the thing about dogs: They rarely let us know when things really hurt. And when it comes to leash walks, few energetic dogs are willing to let their humans down.

So dog owners should keep it in mind: If it’s too hot for you to walk barefoot, it’s too hot for your dog, too!

Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami and blogs at Send questions to, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.

Pets Eat Just About Everything
Written by Charles Davis - Green Bay Press-Gazette

Pets love to eat things, and that's not necessarily a good thing. / Jim Matthews/Press-Gazette

Have you heard the one about the German shepherd that swallowed a steak knife?

"That was pretty amazing," said Dr. Mike Exarhos of Animal House Pet Clinic in Green Bay, who saw such a sight about 15 years ago while working at another clinic. "I don't know how he did that."

Surgery was required to remove the sharp blade, which surprisingly, didn't cause any internal damage, Exarhos said.

In other words, the dog lived to bark about it.

Local veterinarians say they've seen it all when it comes to the strange, small and shocking objects that man's best friend manages to swallow. It could be the arm off a Barbie doll, a G.I. Joe action figure, corn cobs or even female hygiene products.

"Those are generally bad because they expand when they get in there, which can cause an obstruction," Exarhos said.

Even harmless games of catch with a tennis ball or a sizeable rock can have an unintended outcome, he said.

"They do bring them back, they just don't give them to you," he said of the items that can bounce all the way down to the belly.

That's because dogs love rocks and stones, and many are attracted to clothing, socks and, yes, underwear, said Dr. Tracey Gilbert of Gentle Vet Animal Hospital in Green Bay.

"I prefer to call it a fetish," she joked.

So forget canned chow, some dogs have much more expensive tastes. Gilbert has operated on dogs who have scarfed down diamond rings and other jewelry.

She said it's usually items that have the owner's personal scent or a food aroma.

"We had one little dog that ate a Christmas tree ornament one time. I don't know if there was a meaning there," she said.

Many veterinarians said larger dogs, such as Labradors and golden retrievers, are more prone to eat whatever they lay their paws on. However, Gilbert said smaller dogs — such as poodles, Lhasa apsos and Shih Tzus — aren't immune, either. It's just that "large dogs tend to eat larger things," she said.

Dr. Michael Gass at the Animal Hospital of Ashwaubenon said dogs of any breed younger than 3 are likely to have an appetite for self-destruction.

Q&A: Flying with Your Pet in the Cabin
By Harriet Baskas,

On most airlines, small pets may travel in the cabin in an FAA-approved carrier. David Mcnew / Getty Images file

Jane and Ken Swanson want to know if small dogs can fly with their owners on airplanes.

The good news is that, yes, on most airlines small pets may travel in the cabin.

The bad news: There are plenty of restrictions. And, in some cases, the ticket for your tabby or toy poodle may end up costing more than your own.

“The cost runs anywhere from $50 all the way to $125. And that’s each way,” says Kim Saunders of “Pets will also need a recent health certificate, while will require a veterinary office visit that can cost from $35 to $100. You’ll also need to be sure your pet is in an approved pet carrier that can fit underneath the seat.”

Passengers taking a pet on a plane should also keep these tips in mind:

•Make your reservation well in advance. Frontier Airlines allows up to 10 ticketed pets in the cabin, but most airlines only allow one or two. “You and your pet may not be able to take the flight you want,” said Saunders. And all pets need to remain in their carrier under the seat for the duration of the flight.

•Give your pet food and water far ahead of the flight so that your pet can visit the relief area before going through security. (A few airports have relief areas post-security; but every airport has a spot for Spot outside). “Even then, it’s a good idea to put something soft and absorbent in the carrier. Just in case,” said Saunders.

•Make sure your pet is social. Your pet must stay inside the carrier at all times, but at the security checkpoint, you’ll be required to take the pet out and either walk it or carry it through the metal detector. “If there’s an alarm because of the leash or a metal collar, the pet will be checked physically, in a sort of pet pat-down, by an agent to resolve any kind of issue,” said TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez.

Some people have tried to put their pets − and sometime their babies − through X-ray machines. “That won’t harm a pet or a baby, but we prefer they don’t do that,” said Melendez.

For more information about taking your pet on a plane, check your airline’s website or the resource section of a website such as, which recently issued its 2011 list of the most pet-friendly airlines in the United States and Canada.

Do Pet Passengers Get Pat-Downs, Too?
By Joe Myxter,

Did you hear about the airline that insists its passengers have four legs?

It's not a joke. And Pet Airways' newest commercial has Jay Leno, comedian and host of "The Tonight Show," wondering whether our furry friends must also pass through security.

Most cats we know would not allow such a humiliating experience.

But, as anyone who follows the sometimes wacky world of travel news, Pet Airways is legit. The all-pet airline lifted off about two years ago.

The carrier recently announced it is expanding service into Texas (Houston, Dallas and Austin), St. Louis and Orlando, Fla. The airline currently serves Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Los Angeles, New York, Omaha, Neb. and Phoenix.

FWC Dog Sniffs Out Illegal Spiny Lobster Catches
Written by JIM WAYMER -

SEBASTIAN INLET — To "Patton," the lobster-sniffing pooch, crime stinks.

He hopped aboard a small boat Wednesday, metal badge dangling from his neck. Nose to the deck, Patton sniffed something familiar near the bow. He scratched, tail wagging, at his find -- a spiny lobster.

This one was a tail in a cooler that his handler, Florida wildlife Officer Tim Miller, uses for training.

On Wednesday, the 6-year-old German shorthaired pointer helped officers patrol Sebastian Inlet for the yearly two-day spiny lobster sport season, which continues today.

Thousands statewide dive during the special two-day "mini-season," which gives recreational lobster lovers first dibs at the delicacy before commercial harvesters begin the regular-season hunt from Aug. 6 to March 31.

To nab those who stow away too many lobsters, ones with eggs or under the legal size, officers use gut instinct, or sometimes Patton's super sniffer.

"His tail will usually speed up," Miller said of when the dog finds evidence of wildlife wrongdoings.

Patton is a poacher's worst nightmare. He also can sniff out deer, duck, turkey and alligator blood. He can track people, too, and gunpowder residue.
His nose knows all the weird hiding places poachers stash their catch -- inside cut-out dive tanks, the boat's tubing, in plastic bags atop the motor.

"The sky is the limit, as far as places to hide," Miller said.
Patton is one of sixteen K-9 units the Florida Fish and Wildlife

Conservation Commission uses statewide. The agency is also trying to train dogs to distinguish smells of different species of fish.

The dogs, donated from rescues and shelters, train at Camp Blanding and Ocala National Forest.

Patton and Miller have been a team for four years.

Fines start at $331

Since 2005, 23 violators have been caught in Brevard County with lobsters that were too small or bearing eggs, according to an FWC database. That ranked the county sixth in the state.

Monroe County, which includes the Keys, had the most violations in the past six years, 972. It was followed by Miami-Dade, with 280.

Statewide, officers wrote 1,521 spiny lobster violations since 2005.

Fines for lobster violations -- second-degree misdemeanors -- start at $331.
Officers patrol Sebastian Inlet, Port Canaveral and Space Coast beaches and enforce possession limits on and off the water.

Tough conditions

Boat after boat came in empty-handed Wednesday at the Sebastian Inlet Marina, thwarted by murky heavy currents that make lobsters tough to catch by hand.

But Matt Monaco, 35, of Sebastian got five lobsters.

"I came up on one hole and they were all sitting right there," he said.

Monaco and his friends chuckled, snapping cell phone shots as Patton scrambled around the boat. They'd read in the newspaper about how FWC might use K-9 units on the lobster hunt.

Monaco's legal catch escaped Patton's nose as they were underwater in the boat's live well, but not Monaco's friends who failed to land a lobster.

Luckily, they have a sympathetic pal.

"We'll share them," Monaco said.

Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or

Thefts of Dogs in U.S. Up 32% in ’11

Just past dawn, a gray SUV pulled into Hailey Shelton’s driveway and made off with Chloe and Dixie.

Nobody heard a bark on that June morning. Nobody found an open gate. The only explanation came from a neighbor, who witnessed the early morning dognappers from across the street.

“They just straight-up took two puppies,” said Shelton, 19, who lives in Durham, N.C.

Animal advocates are reporting a sharp rise in dog thefts — murky and hard-to-track crimes that often are not reported.

The American Kennel Club tracks thefts through a national database, and its figures show at least a 32 percent uptick so far in 2011. The group bases its numbers on media reports of stolen dogs and customers who call its Companion Animal Recovery service.

The AKC database showed 224 animals were stolen during the first seven months of this year compared with 150 during the same period last year and 255 in all of 2010. In 2009, 162 thefts were reported to the AKC, said Lisa Peterson, spokeswoman for the New York-based group.

“Some are taken out of homes, some are taken out of cars, some are taken out of pet stores,” Peterson said. “I’ve even seen some taken out of a child’s arms on a park bench.”

Peterson said the AKC’s numbers exclude lost dogs. It counts only animals that likely have been stolen — from a locked car or during a home break-in, for instance.

The motive for stealing a dog is always money — whether dogs are resold, sold to laboratories or used in fights.

Peterson said dog thieves are misguided and naive. Animals can’t be pawned. High-priced dogs require registration papers. Collecting heavy ransoms is unrealistic.

Shelton’s dogs were pit bulls. They, along with other large breeds, tend to be stolen most often.

In the case of Shelton’s dogs, the perpetrator found enough incentive to open a 6-foot-tall fence when every resident was home.

The number of stolen pets is small compared with those that are lost or abandoned.

The SPCA of Wake County maintains an entire wall of posters of lost pets, with only a few marked as stolen.

In 2010, most of the 18,297 animals that entered the county’s shelters were strays with no identification, according to Mondy Lamb, the SPCA’s marketing director.

Lost and wandering dogs that haven’t been stolen create a far greater problem, she said.

Stray cats, estimated at 50 million, are too common for anyone to steal, said Pam Miller at Safe Haven for Cats in Raleigh.

Still, some call the threat exaggerated.

The California Biomedical Research Association, for example, describes the idea as “The Pet Theft Myth.”

The myth says shadowy figures are luring animals into vans and selling them to research labs, but most dogs and cats used in research are specifically bred for that purpose, the group says.

A suspicious dognapping happened to Debbie Hawes’ son Zach in Knightdale, N.C. After posting a missing pit bull report, she said, Zach discovered second-hand through a rescue group that the dog had been found. But the person who recovered it didn’t want to return it directly to the owner, and he wanted a $125 fee.

Hawes said her son paid the fee and didn’t ask questions. It was worth it to have his friend back home.

7 Natural Home Remedies for Pet Allergies
by Dr. Greg Magnusson -

Check out these tips for ways to treat pet allergies at home with things found in your cabinets

1. Hot spots around the face can be caused by plastic food bowls. Throw out your plastic food and water bowls. Plastic tends to develop tiny cracks that can harbor bacteria, which cause reactions in sensitive dogs and cats. Pets that are sensitive to these plastic food bowl bacterial allergens often develop puppy acne or feline acne and a rash or pimples around the lips and chin and sometimes even around the eyes or ears. Replace plastic with stainless, glass or ceramic food bowls and keep them meticulously clean, including washing them in the dishwasher at least weekly.

2. Do not be tempted to use tea tree oil to treat skin conditions in pets. Tea tree oil causes nasty contact allergies in pets, up to and including neurological reactions. Never put human acne medications on your pet. Human skin is much more acidic than pet skin, and using any human skin or hair products on your pet – including shampoo – can cause contact irritation.

Natural remedies for hot spots and allergies include Epsom salts. The healing properties of Epsom Salt have been known for generations. Gentle soaking of just about any infected area of skin with Epsom Salts – including feet, feline acne, hot spots and more – once or twice daily, discourages infection, reduces swelling and promotes healing. Epsom Salts are available at any human pharmacy. To apply, use a folded cloth applied gently to the affected area. If the hot spots are under the feet, soak feet in a saturated solution, meaning add as much of the Epsom salts to a warm/hot bowl of water until no more will dissolve. Soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not let your dog drink the water.

3. Treat dry flaky skin by feeding oil. A simple way to treat dry skin and dandruff is to add a complete oil to your pet’s diet. Corn, safflower, peanut and sunflower are examples of oils that contain all the essential fatty acids. Your cat can take about half a teaspoon with each meal. Dogs can be given one to three teaspoons with each meal, depending on size. But remember that more is not better since oils are quite fattening, and some dogs can develop pancreatitis if fed too much fat.

4. Soothe itchy skin with an oatmeal soak. A mixture of oatmeal and water can be rubbed onto the dog’s skin to help relieve dryness and soothe itchiness. The oatmeal should be left on the skin for approximately ten minutes and then rinsed off with warm water. Baby food oatmeal makes a great, inexpensive soak.

5. Use little, white marshmallows as treats for food-allergic dogs. They’re low calorie and dogs love them.

6. Wipe allergens off your itchy dog. The simple act of wiping the dog or cat down with a wet towel when they come in from outside can really help decrease percutaneous absorption of allergens.

7. Treat hot spots with equal parts Listerine, baby oil and water. Put all three in a spray bottle, and massage a small amount into the skin three times daily. Clearly, caution is indicated and veterinary supervision is a must.

Magnusson is a 2000 graduate of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada. After 10 years in practice working for other vets around the city, he is excited to finally be able to offer his services one-on-one to the residents of Indianapolis. Dr. Magnusson’s approach to veterinary medicine is honest, kind and direct.

Back to School Time Can Also Affect Your Pets
By: Denise Naughton,

When it's time to go back to school, everyone starts preparing. Parents start shopping for clothes, school supplies, and lunches, and the kids switch up their routines. It's an adjustment for the entire family, including the pets.

Melissa Gable, Executive Director of Friends of Animal Care and Control says an empty and quiet home could be difficult for your pets. Follow their tips to help the furry family members easily adjust to the changes.

1. Begin by giving your companion animal some "alone time" BEFORE the kids head off to school. This means separating your kids from your pet(s) for a while each day prior to school starting. When you leave, be quiet and low-key. Making a production of your departure could add even more stress to your pooch. A simple "See you later" will suffice.

2. Leave some interactive toys for your pet; this will help keep him from being bored. Look for sturdy toys that aren't easily destroyed. There is a large selection of toys on the market that allow you to fill them with treats - giving your dog something to keep him busy and occupied while you are away.

3. If your dog seems upset and anxious when the kids leave, give your pet a blanket or t-shirt that has your kids scent on it. The familiar smell may calm Fido down and give him something to cuddle while everyone is away.

4. Separation anxiety is common in dogs - especially this time of year. Dogs can become stressed, which may lead to destructive behavior. You may want to consider confining your dog to a small laundry room or crate/kennel while you are away. If your pet has not been crate trained, don't start on the day the kids go back to school! Your dog will need time to adjust to the crate and shouldn't be left alone for more than 9 hours (for adults) or 6 hours (for puppies).

5. Ask your kids to spend some quality time with their pet when they return home from school. This could be a simple walk around the block, playing in the backyard or even having children read and share their homework with the family pet.

Cull of 30,000 Pet Dogs Ordered
After Deadly Rabies Outbreak in Chinese City
Tania Branigan in Beijing

Dogs in Jiangmen to be seized and put down to improve sanitation but experts brand plan unscientific and inhumane

Pet dogs seen in the Pengjiang, Jianghai and Xinhui districts of Jiangmen after 26 August face seizure or destruction. Photograph: Dan Chung for the Guardian

A southern Chinese city has banned pet dogs, leaving tens of thousands facing a cull unless they can find new homes.

Authorities in Jiangmen, Guangdong province, say they are concerned about rabies cases and the general state of the city. But animal lovers have reacted angrily and a disease control expert warned the tactic, which will affect 30,000 animals, is unscientific, inhumane and short-term.

Any dogs seen in the Pengjiang, Jianghai and Xinhui districts after 26 August will be seized or killed, city officials say. Guard dogs will be allowed, but only for companies with property worth at least 5m yuan (£474,000).

The Jiangmen Daily said officials aimed to "prevent and control rabies, maintain public order and sanitation, and create a sound environment for the people". The newspaper added that 42 of the city's 4 million residents had died from rabies in the past three years.

"Dogs found with diseases will be euthanised in a humanitarian manner. We will sign agreements with owners before putting down their dogs," Li Wantong, technology director at an animal disease control centre in Jiangmen, told the Global Times. "We will try to find solutions for healthy ones, as we do not have the capacity to keep a large number."

Some residents back the move, with one complaining to the newspaper: "[Dog] excrement is everywhere in the courtyard and parks, and their barking always disrupts my sleep."

But a poodle owner said: "Banning all pet dogs, taking them away and killing them is a bit too much."

Dog ownership has soared as Chinese incomes have risen over the past few decades and there is growing interest in animal rights, particularly among the middle class.

"This [ban] is not scientific, not humane, and it will not last long. In short term, maybe it could be effective, but after that, people still want to keep dogs," said Dr Tang Qing of the National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention at China's Centre for Disease Control. "People won't accept it and implementing it will be difficult – you can't break down doors to seize and kill dogs."

He added that a vaccination programme for dogs would be cheaper and more effective.

China has the world's second-highest death toll from rabies after India, with cases rising sharply in the past decade, possibly due to increasing pet ownership and rising healthcare costs.

The health ministry says 3,300 people died of the disease in 2007, although the toll fell to 2,466 in 2008 and experts believe the worst may be over.

A 2009 ministry report said only a fifth of China's 75m dogs were vaccinated against the disease. It added that 40 million people a year were bitten by animals.

Dr Kati Loeffler, veterinary adviser for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in China, said: "Decades of research internationally have shown culling is absolutely ineffective in controlling rabies – the only way to control it is through mass vaccination. The second reason that [officials] do it is because people are not taking care of their animals ... causing nuisance. That requires education."

In several cases tightened dog ownership rules have led people to abandon pets, resulting in a large stray population that potentially causes more problems.

Two years ago, Hanzhong in Shaanxi enraged animal lovers by announcing it had culled 36,000 stray and pet dogs.

The Most Troublesome House Pets
This Side of Rising Apes
by Brian Marder -

Whether you're a dog person, cat person, bird person or the less common but equally enjoyable pig person, it's hard to deny that an animal companion makes life a little bit better. The right pet can grow to become more than just a non-Homo sapien house-dweller that occasionally poops on the floor and chews on furniture; it can become a friend, a best friend, one as loyal and chipper as the best of humans.

Unfortunately, a trustworthy pet can quickly—and without warning—become a savage, destructive, mouth-foaming terror, a beast bent on annihilating anyone who crosses its master's path, and occasionally, the master himself.

The lovable monkey Caeser, from the upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is a prime(ate) example of when a loving creature can turn from good to bad, not adorable aww-look-what-such-and-such-did! bad, but bad bad.

Hollywood has a history of delivering up some of the world's most pestilential pets—here are a few of the nastiest:

Cujo from Cujo

In Stephen King-land, pets are rarely symbols of cuteness or, uh, cuddly-ness; rather, they are almost always murderous devils, as in the case of cinema's most infamous St. Bernard, Cujo, a doggone (hehe) serial killer. Remember: Have your pets spade, neutered and vaccinated for rabies!

Church from Pet Sematary

The Stephen King house-pet demonization, Exhibit B.—this time it's a cat. For some people, cat's have an evilness about them naturally, but Church from Pet's Sematary? Well, she's a different breed of disturbing, even before coming back from the dead to terrorize people.

Gremlins from Gremlins

Everybody's favorite '80s-movie creature not named E.T. is cute as a little lost duckling poking its little head out of a box. But ducklings don't spawn reptilian bloodthirsties! Or shoot guns?

Beethoven from Beethoven

Aside from being so huge, cumbersome and rambunctious that he ruins stuff (i.e., family barbecues), there is nothing that technically makes Beethoven a terrible house pet. But that doesn't stop Charles Grodin's George Newton from feeling the wrath of God every time Beethoven pulls one of his zany stunts. He would have preferred adopting Cerberus over the infamous St. Bernard.

Harry from Harry and the Hendersons

Who knew Bigfoot could be so gentle and caring and possess a million-watt smile?! Who cares?! He stinks, he ruins everything, and he runs away constantly! And imagine the shedding.

Alvin, Simon and Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks

We could deal with Alvin's smartassery and the combined jackassery of all three chipmunks—and hell, it'd be a cool icebreaker to have those pintsized buffoons hangin' around the house. But the helium voices...good God, those voices.

Dug from Up

The novelty of an anthropomorphic pooch, like Dug, would wear off quickly, because if every time it barks counts as a human-voiced conversation, it'd basically never shut up. Even if you could program it back to "dog mode," it'd be impossible to un-remember the creepiness factor of it all.

6 Tips For A Perfectly Pet-Friendly Vacation
by Richard Read -

Normally, the staff at High Gear Media write in the "royal we", but occasionally we offer suggestions from a very personal perspective. This is one of those times.

A couple of months ago, as summer arrived, I put together a checklist of things to consider before taking a vacation with your pets. Of course, millions of folks prefer to leave their furry friends in the care of a kennel or trusted friend -- and that's just fine -- but for me, bringing the pets along is the only way to go.

However, taking a road trip with cats and dogs is a far, far cry from taking them to the vet or the city park. It requires a great deal of planning and forethought. Skip the strategizing, and the stress you'll encounter down the road will turn your "vacation" into real work.

My partner and I have four dogs, ranging in size from fairly old (12 years) to fairly young (1.5 years), and from very small (10 pounds) to very large (120+). As an added bonus, the youngest also happens to be the biggest. And in some wacky joke from the universe, he's also deaf.

This year, we decided to take all four of them with us on our vacation to Cape Cod -- which wouldn't be a big deal, except that we live in New Orleans, meaning 3,300 miles round-trip, or six long days of driving. We'd traveled shorter distances with The Hounds (as we call them, Monty Burns-style), but never anything this long. How would they do? And, more importantly, how would my partner and I do?

I'm happy to report that we all survived and that I picked up a few new tips along the way:

1. Restrain your pets: If you're traveling with a cat, this is a no-brainer: as great as cats can be, they're pretty iffy when it comes to spoken commands, so keeping them in a traveling cage will make things far simpler for all parties. But where dogs are concerned, people are a bit more lax. Ideally, you should crate your dogs during travel, but if that's not an option, consider harnessing them, or at the very least, creating a barrier between the back seat and the front. A recent study indicated that 65% of dog-owners had been distracted by their pets while traveling, and we all know what distracted driving can lead to. Be safe, not sorry.

2. Keep the leashes on: There are probably a number of veterinary surveys that say this is a bad idea, but chances are those vets don't have "bolters" in their pack. We do, and on more than one occasion, the only thing that's kept him from darting out into the parking area of a rest stop has been my superhuman ability to nab his bright orange leash. I'm sure some will worry that keeping leashes on could be uncomfortable, but once the dogs settle down, they're likely to spend most of the road trip snoozing. As long as the leash isn't caught in the door or on something else that restricts their movement, they should be fine.

3. Expect to be covered in fur: Unless you're the proud owner of a poodle or similar breed that doesn't shed, you're going to have fur all over your car -- lots of it. Don't get frustrated, and of course, don't get angry with your pup. Plan ahead by wearing sensible clothing -- no wool, no cashmere, and by all means, no fleece. Take the opportunity to cover up anything special, too. Though shoving your suitcase in a garbage bag may look trashy (no pun intended), it'll keep the bellhop from whipping out the lint brush when he sees your bags.

4. Use roof racks if possible: If you're traveling in an SUV, crossover, van, or station wagon, chances are fairly good that you've got a set of roof racks up top. Chances are also pretty good that you rarely use them. Now's the time to put 'em to work. I don't suggest putting anything irreplaceable up there -- keep prescriptions and piles of dough in the vehicle, just in case. But strapping less valuable objects to the rack will (a) keep them free of pet hair, and (b) make Rover a little more comfortable.

5. Don't talk to your pets while on the road: This is a cardinal sin, and unfortunately, I break it all the time. Unless you frequently take your dog on road trips, she's going to be a little excited when she first gets in the car. Depending on her temperament, it could take from 10 to 30 minutes for her to relax and lie down. If you start speaking to her, though -- pointing out landmarks or explaining how long it's going to be until you reach the next rest area -- you're just going to wind her up again. As someone far wiser than me once said, let sleeping dogs lie.

6. Center your vacation activities around pets: It stands to reason that if you're going to all the trouble of traveling with your pets, you ought to spend some time with them -- otherwise, why didn't you just kennel them at home? Do some research on sites like to find pet-friendly activities and attractions where you're staying. And when you do leave your pets alone in the room, be sure to offer them plenty of distractions like chew toys, scratching posts, treats, and such. It'll make them feel more at ease, and they'll be less apt to annoy the other hotel guests with nonstop barking until you get back from dinner.

Are The Kids Badgering You For A Pet?
by Marly Carpenter -

Are your children badgering you for a pet? Most kids love the idea of having a small animal all their own. As you pass a pet store on vacation, or see all the brightly painted hermit crabs at the beach, you may be tempted to give in. Before you do, ask yourself the following question: Do I want a pet?

Have no illusions. No matter how passionately your children promise to feed the beast, no matter how much they insist they will ENJOY cleaning its smelly cage, you will be doing it.

Experts agree that children under 13 simply are not mature enough to take care of their own pets. Kids over 13 are too busy texting to care about some little animal that doesn’t even use apps. That being said, pet ownership can be great for kids. It teaches compassion, responsibility and other important life lessons.

If your kids' badgering (badgers make terrible pets, BTW, which is why their name can be used as a verb) has worn you down, you might be tempted by so-called “starter” pets for children: hermit crabs, fish and rodents.

FISH: Fish are okay if you don’t mind cleaning the tank -- and you will be the one cleaning it. There is no smell on earth worse than a dirty tank – imagine wet teen boys’ socks during hockey practice, mixed with low tide after an oil spill. Also, fish are lame. They are not cuddly and they die at the drop of a hat.

As a kid, all my goldfish got Ick, a disease where long streamers of fungus grew on their bodies. I administered various cures, but nothing worked, and the fish all died horribly. I was sad for about ten minutes, then went roller skating. The important life lesson I learned was “sometimes you just have to flush your problems down the toilet.” Not a great reason to have fish.

HERMIT CRABS: Don’t be tricked into getting hermit crabs. Hermit crabs have surprisingly cute faces, but they are essentially spiders with delusions of grandeur.

Hermit crabs can’t be bred in captivity, and harvesting them is causing environmental trouble in the tropics. They are nocturnal, so any daytime interaction with your kids really stresses them. When stressed, their legs fall off. And they have pinchers that really, really hurt.

Fantastically, Hermit crabs sing during mating season, but your kids will never be awake to see it. Their cages have to be warmed in winter, and they require special food and water. Worse, hermit crabs hate and fear people. Does your child want a pet that hates and fears him? No. Skip hermit crabs at the beach this summer, no matter how cute they seem.

RODENTS: It is hard to believe, but rodents are the best of the “starter” pets for kids. Some are quite entertaining and require minimal care, including food, water, bedding, toys, vitamins and minerals. If you keep their cages clean, they don’t smell all that bad.

There are several pet store rodents to choose from. Chinchillas are too expensive and not social, plus who wants a pet that could be a coat? Give rabbits a miss for the same reason, plus they hate and fear humans. And no matter how cute they seem in storybooks, mice are bad pets for kids. They climb, jump, are excellent escape artists and they bite like crazy.

Gerbils are good for slightly older kids, since they’re intelligent and awake when your kids are. Unfortunately, they enjoy biting, and look too much like rats to be cute.

Hamsters are the kings of cute, with sweet faces, expressive ears and round black eyes. If they are handled properly they are not mean, but they can bite. They are full of darling antics as they climb tunnels and make funny movements. However, they are nocturnal, and will run their wheels and chew chew chew all night, keeping you awake if not the kids. The males have particularly stinky urine.

Like all rodents, hamsters don’t “bond” with people. They don’t hate us, but they don’t enjoy human company. Don’t feel bad - they don’t like each other either. Hamsters mostly want to eat, sleep, and occasionally meet a member of the opposite sex.

PREACHY ADVICE: No matter which pet you choose, children under five should absolutely NOT have their own pets.

Don’t be taken in by “non-traditional” pets such as turtles, hedgehogs, lizards or baby chicks. The five-and-under crowd, with their developing immune systems and habit of putting their hands in their mouths, can be at risk of harmful germs that can cause severe diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps and more.

Even disease-free small pets are too delicate for little kids. Stick with a sturdy family dog or a wily cat good at escaping.

If you’ve read this far, you must still be considering getting the kids a pet. Perhaps you have happy childhood memories of pets. Perhaps you long for your child to learn the important lessons that pets can teach. Perhaps you are a masochist.

No matter what your motivation, read my column next week for a primer on the best rodent- a hamster. I’ll provide a long list of do’s and don’ts, tell you what brands and cages to avoid, and provide information on why the pet industry is out to get you.

Pet Q&A:
Your Bird's House Needs to be Perfect
Dr. Marty Becker,

Q: We bought a little parrot off Craigslist, but the cage he came with seems very small. Do you have advice on cages?

A: Nothing is as important to your parrot's health and happiness as his cage. And yes, you've guessed it: The bigger the better. Your small parrot will be far happier in a cage designed for a larger bird. If you can afford it, go even bigger, but make sure the bar spacing isn't so wide that your pet can get his head caught.

Look for smooth welds and no paint chipping. Your bird will be working as best he can to destroy his cage, so you don't want him breaking off any toxic pieces. After that, look for cages designed to make cleanup easier, such as skirting to catch falling mess and trays that make paper-changing easier.

Position the cage against a wall, far enough away from a window, so that direct sun rays don't fall on your bird and possibly overheat him, since he cannot escape. Putting the cage near (as opposed to next to) a window so your bird can see outside isn't a bad idea, though, especially if the window overlooks a changing panorama that can help keep your pet entertained.

Although the kitchen may seem like an ideal place for your bird's cage, the potential for your bird to breathe deadly fumes, such as those from overheated nonstick cookware, is too high. These fumes can kill your bird before you even realize there's a problem.

After choosing the location, set up the cage. Two or three well-chosen toys are a must to keep your bird busy. Use a variety of natural (cleaned tree branches) and store-bought perches, and be sure to position them so they aren't directly over food and water dishes.

You can help your bird conquer his anxiety by putting the new cage next to the old one for a few days, if possible, so your bird can observe it before you move him.

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Dogs and cats say "I do" to roles in weddings

• Following the lead of actress Tori Spelling and singer Carrie Underwood, humans are increasingly involving pets in their weddings – as best man, flower girl, or other member of the wedding party. According to the Wall Street Journal, reported a 28 percent increase in wedding accessories for pets from 2009 to 2010. One Los Angeles-based trainer charges $2,500 per wedding event, and prices increase if more pets or travel are involved, or if a pet is particularly ill-behaved.

"It brings in the personality of the bride and groom," says Anna Pohl, owner of Day Planners LLC, an event-planning business in Sarasota, Fla., who says about two out of the 30 weddings she plans each year involve pets.

• Within the past few years, animal films have turned their focus away from nature and toward relationships between people and animals, the Huffington Post reports. Newer films that focus on humanity's impact on animals include "Buck," the story of Buck Brannaman, the true horse whisperer; "Project Nim," about a chimpanzee raised to be like a human; and "One Lucky Elephant," about raising an elephant over many years.

• The best way to get a horse out of a burning barn is to chase it out of the fire, reports. Rebecca Gimenez, president of the Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue, says that by the time firefighters arrive at a barn fire, most animals have died of smoke inhalation. People have been timed trying to catch, halter, blindfold and lead a horse out of a burning barn and have found that it is nearly impossible to do it before the barn is engulfed in flames and the smoke is too overpowering.

Chasing a horse through an established fire lane is the best way to get it out. Sprinkler systems in the barn can help buy precious time until firefighters arrive, and can help save horses' lives.

These Collars Hurt Dogs

I was recently walking my dogs at the beach when I came across a woman with a puppy wearing a shock collar. Appalled, I asked why she was resorting to such harsh measures with this seemingly normal, sweet-tempered puppy. As it turned out, a "trainer" had told her to punish the puppy for "bad" behavior with shock because he was part pit bull. I spent the next 20 minutes trying to undo the harm caused by that so-called "trainer."

In July, a man in Wales was fined for putting a shock collar on his collie; they've banned shock collars there, and for good reason. I look forward to the day when shock collars are banned in the United States.

Shock collars are uncomfortable to begin with because of the prongs that protrude into the dog's neck. Add an electric current to that, and dogs can suffer from pain and psychological stress, which can lead to severe anxiety, displaced aggression and changes in heart and respiration rates.

Shock collars can also malfunction, inflicting burns or nonstop shocks. This is especially true of the shock collars associated with "invisible fences" because dogs are often left unattended in a yard surrounded by such a "fence" and any malfunction could go unnoticed by the dog's guardian for a long period of time. These "invisible fences" also leave dogs vulnerable to other dogs or even people with bad intentions, since there is no physical barrier to separate them. Dogs who are extra motivated to leave the yard by, say, the desire to chase a squirrel or play with another dog, might actually decide to accept the shock in order to escape the yard but then not be able to get back in afterward.

Another problem with both types of shock collars is that to the dog, the shocks are coming from out of the blue, so they could end up being associated with anything that is in the dog's immediate environment at that particular moment - be it a child, another dog, a car or a skateboarder - thus creating a psychological problem that didn't exist before the use of the shock collar.

Positive training methods, in which dogs are rewarded for what they do "right" - rather than being punished for what they do "wrong" - are gentle and much more effective, and they don't cause psychological damage. It's so easy to train puppies and most dogs with treats and praise. Simply reward the behavior that you like, and ignore or channel unwanted behavior into a different activity - that's the bottom line. There is plenty of information about humane dog training online. Practice, patience and good timing are paramount. If you don't feel that you're up to the task, then find a humane dog trainer (one who avoids the use of pain) to help you.

Dogs are just doing what comes naturally to dogs, and they don't deserve to be punished for not understanding what kind of behavior our human culture wants from them. It's our job to show them what we want in a clear and compassionate manner.


Karen Porreca is a director with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front Street, Norfolk, Va. 23510; Information about PETA's funding may be found at

If Your Dog is a Swimmer,
Take Special Care of Its Coat

Having grown up near a lake, swimming and water sports have always been an important part of my summer.

And because of that, my dogs have always been swimmers. Even Arlie, my collie mix, would jump off the shore and swim to retrieve a dummy.

Although his swim stroke was not quite as elegant as a retriever’s, he made up for it with enthusiasm and endurance.

After the fun of the swim, comes the ritual known as “the bath,” to keep my dog comfortable and his coat in good shape. I’ve used antibacterial shampoos and conditioners from my veterinarian, as well as over-the-counter products, made specifically for dogs.

Eve Adamson, author of “The Simple Guide to Grooming Your Dog” and contributor to the American Kennel Club’s AKC Family Dog magazine suggests several ways to keep your dog’s coat in good shape according to where your dog swims.

Dogs who swim in pools may suffer from dry, itchy skin and a dry dull coat because of the chlorine and chemicals in the pool water. The chemicals in the pool water may strip the skin and coat of their natural oils and may even have a slight bleaching effect on dark coats or turn lighter coats greenish.

There are three things you can do to protect the coat of your pool-swimming dog.

• First, spray your dog’s coat with conditioner before he gets into the pool. This protects his skin and coat from drying out. Finding a conditioner with a sunscreen would also help because dogs can also get skin cancer.

• After the swim, or at the end of the day, rinse his coat thoroughly, longer than you think is necessary to remove all of the chlorine and pool chemicals. After drying, if your dog has a medium or long coat, spray him again with the conditioner and swipe his coat with a comb. Comb him all the way to his skin to get all of the mats out.

• Then once a week during the pool-swimming season, comb him to detangle his coat, and bathe him with a moisturizing shampoo and conditioner to get rid of all of the residue pool chemicals. Also an omega -3 fatty acid supplement may help replenish natural oils.

If your dog is a beach swimmer, you will want to protect your dog from the itching that may come from sun, salt and sand.

So first apply a moisturizing dog sunscreen before you head to the beach. When your day on the beach is done, brush your dog thoroughly to dislodge sand. Then use the beach shower or a hose when you get home, to rinse him, again thoroughly, from head to toe. Work your fingers through his coat to loosen sand and rinse away the salt.

He may also need a bath. Use a gentle anti-itch shampoo, oatmeal or aloe shampoo that helps to soothe his irritated skin. (When Tillie, my brother’s golden retriever goes to the beach on vacation with the family, my sister-in-law Corinne rinses Tillie at the end of the day and then washes her with an oatmeal conditioning shampoo every other day. And Tillie has always been itch free.)

If your dog is a lake or river swimmer, he will probably need a bath after every dip in the water due to the possible pollutants, slime, and leeches.

After combing out tangles, wet his coat thoroughly and scrub down to his skin with shampoo. Rinse him and then restore the moisture in his coat with a good conditioner.

If your dog is a frequent swimmer, use a shampoo without detergents so his coat won’t get stripped of natural oils so you can shampoo him daily.

The AKC also recommends taking care of your dog’s ears, regardless of where your dog swims.

Swimming dogs are at risk of ear infections because water in the ear canal creates the ideal wet and dark environment for yeast and bacteria growth.

After swimming, dry your dog’s ears with a towel or cotton ball. Ask your veterinarian if a weekly or monthly application of an ear wash made for dogs would benefit your dog. If your dog is scratching his ears or shaking his head or you see redness inside the ear canal, contact your veterinarian.

Sun, water and your dog: Having fun playing with your dog in the water. What a great way to spend a summer day.

Helping a Grieving Daughter Deal with Pet Loss

Dear Karen: Our daughter recently lost her 11-year-old rescued border collie to cancer. Molly was her best friend and "baby". The news of her cancer came as a complete shock and the death three months later was devastating. Even with surgery it was not possible to save her. She died in June.

Those two did everything together including hiking and trail runs. Molly had always been very healthy and enjoyed the constant companionship. Our daughter lives on the West coast, far from family support on a daily basis.

She is dealing with loneliness and separation and concerned that wherever her "little girl" is that she's not happy. Do you have any recommendations as to what she might read to help her through her grieving?

—Concerned Dad, Camp Hill

Dear Concerned: Losing any beloved pet leaves a hole in our hearts, but when cancer or other terminal disease ends their life prematurely, the hurt can be unbearable. Your daughter is feeling a wide range of emotions, one of which may be profound guilt over the loss. She may feel responsible – thinking she may have missed something or could have done more to save her.

Numerous books are available on pet bereavement, but I will share with you the ones that have helped me through some very difficult losses over the years (all available on :

Losing Your Dog by Mickie Gustafson – an insightful paperback I would carry in my pocketbook to read whenever/wherever the sadness would hit. It helped me realize the need to express rather than internalize my feelings and lean on others for support.

Blessing the Bridge by Rita M. Reynolds – what animals teach us about death, dying, and beyond. A heartwarming look at the beauty of helping animals cross the threshold without pain or fear.

The Loss Of A Pet by Wallace Sife, Ph.D. – a comprehensive guide to understanding the grieving process and how to manage complex feelings that follow the death of a pet.

Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant – this beautifully illustrated picture book might help convince your daughter that Molly is happy -- floating on her special cloud with other dear departed pets. Someone sent me a copy when Rufus died in 2005, and I've since shared it with others who found it most comforting.

One of the better online resources for grieving owners is This site offers many inspiring writings including the Rainbow Bridge poem, book recommendations, an area to post a tribute to your lost pet, and various chat rooms for grief support, including one devoted to owners who have lost pets to cancer.

Your daughter might also check into pet loss support groups in her area that meet once or twice a month. Her veterinarian or local humane societies would be able to direct her. I attended one back in 1992 after losing two dogs in a terrible accident. Sharing their story and listening to others helped tremendously.

She was wise to not acquire a new dog so soon after losing Molly. Owners in emotional turmoil are often tempted to run out and get a replacement or "lookalike", which can lead to resentment, because what they really want is their old pet back. Hopefully she will begin her search for a new best friend when the pain eases.

One final suggestion to combat the inevitable loneliness is to vary her daily routine to include more time out socializing with people who understand how she feels — and to keep in regular touch with her caring dad via phone or email.

Dear Karen: I read your article about a kitten eating cat litter with interest. Our 2 1/2 year old female started eating cat litter back in March. This continued through April and we thought she was missing a mineral/vitamin in her diet. We took her to the vet and she tested positive for feline leukemia. The vet did research oncats eating litter and I will tell you that eating cat litter is never normal and that something is very wrong. With medication she is doing well but we don't know for how long. Please share this with your readers.

—Barb V., Lehigh Valley

Send questions/comments to or P.O. Box 306, Grantham, PA 17027. Please include hometown and phone number.

Few Replicas as First Cloned Cat Nears 10
By Bill Murphy -

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Nearly 10 years after scientists cloned the first cat, predictions of a vast commercial market for the "resurrection" of beloved pets through cloning have fallen flat.

The leading US pet cloning company halted operations in 2009 and the livestock cloning business remains relatively small with only a few hundred pigs and cows cloned every year worldwide.

But CC's doting owners still consider her a great success.

She may be slowing down a bit these days, and her grey and white figure has gotten a bit plump after giving birth to kittens three years ago, but that's part of what makes CC so extraordinary: she is completely normal.

"People expect there to be something different about her," said Duane Kraemer, a Texas A&M University researcher who was part of the team that cloned her.

"We took her to a cat show once. A guy who came by to see her said she looks like any other barn cat."

CC -- which stands for Carbon Copy -- was born in an A&M lab on December 22, 2001, from a cell taken from a calico cat named Rainbow that was inserted into another cat's embryo. The embryo was then implanted into a surrogate named Allie.

While CC has Rainbow's exact genetic construct, she lacks her orange coloring because generally only two colors -- not three -- can be transferred when cloning calicos.

"Cloning is reproduction, not resurrection," Kraemer, who is now semi-retired, told AFP in an interview at his College Station home.

That -- along with a price tag which could reach six figures -- is one of the main reasons why cloning pets hasn't worked out.

Too few pet owners sought its services, Lou Hawthorne, the head of BioArts, wrote on the company's web site two years ago when explaining why the firm was getting out of the pet cloning business.

"After studying this market for more than a decade -- and offering both cat and dog cloning services -- we now believe the market is actually extremely small," he wrote on BioArts' now-defunct website.

And while many of its dog clones turned out normal, researchers could not explain why some were plagued by physical defects.

"One clone -- which was supposed to be black and white -- was born greenish-yellow where it should have been white," he wrote.

"Others have had skeletal malformations, generally not crippling though sometimes serious and always worrisome," he added.

"These problems are all the more worrisome given that cloning is supposedly a mature technology in general."

The first successful animal clone -- Dolly the sheep -- was born in 1996 at the Roslin Institute in Scotland and was euthanized in 2003 after developing lung disease.

Researchers at Seoul National University cloned the world's first dog, Snuppy -- a combination of the university's acronym and puppy -- in 2005.

CC's history is intertwined with that of Genetic Savings and Clone, a company also headed by Hawthorne that was a forerunner of BioArts.

John Sperling, the founder of the for-profit University of Phoenix, pumped $4 million into animal cloning research at Texas A&M in the 1990s. He wanted to clone Missy, the beloved dog of his long-time beau who is also Hawthorne's mother.

Hawthorne partnered with A&M and set up the for-profit Genetic Savings and Clone as a business that charged owners tens of thousands of dollars for cloned pets.

"When CC was born and didn't look like the donor, the business side and A&M began to have a falling out," said John Woestendiek, author of Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Trying to Clone Man's Best Friend.

For Hawthorne, CC undermined his effort to market cloning as a way to get back a beloved pet. A&M researchers were uncomfortable that the company was telling people that it could provide replicas of pets.

Eventually, Sperling and Hawthorne split with A&M. Genetic Savings and Clone moved to Wisconsin, where it unsuccessfully tried to clone dogs. It later closed and Hawthorne went on to found BioArts.

Cloning livestock has had more success because of the commercial value of good livestock: breeders are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a clone of a prize-winning cow or horse. Some livestock also are easier and cheaper to clone than dogs, Woestendiek told AFP.

Austin-based Viagen: The Cloning Company is one of two primary US companies cloning livestock and several others operate in other parts of the world.

"We have produced cloned horses from sterile donors that are now reproducing effectively and offering genetic opportunities that were not possible with the donors," Aston said.

"We have produced dairy cows that have won international competitions."

Viagen estimates that about 3,000 livestock animals have been cloned since Dolly was created, company spokeswoman Lauren Aston told AFP. About 200-300 cows and 200-300 pigs are cloned annually worldwide.

Viagen charges $165,000 to clone a horse, $20,000 for a cow and $2,500 per cloned piglet. Piglet clones are usually part of a litter, and owners buy the litter.

Viagen's livestock clones, she said, have not been plagued by malformations and its researchers do not know why BioArts experienced such results when cloning dogs.

For CC, life has been good since Kraemer and his wife, Shirley, adopted her.

She has living quarters that put to shame the digs of most cats: Kraemer built a two-story, air conditioned cathouse with an enclosed porch and plenty of comfy perches in the backyard of his College Station home.

CC lives there with her boyfriend Smokey and their three offspring. While CC didn't have a biological mother, she proved a good mom who groomed her kittens and watched over them closely.

"They'd squeak, and she'd be right there," Shirley Kraemer said.

Pet Talk
By Sharon L. Peters -

The array is dizzying. Visit any pet store (or supermarket or Walmart, for that matter), and you'll find dozens and dozens of brands and varieties of dog and cat food. Lots of individuals and companies are duking it out in the lucrative feeding-our-pets arena, some with brand-new products, some with "new and improved" offerings (as opposed to the hideously nasty old version, apparently), most packaged and/or marketed with emotion-invoking verbiage, all knowing that never have so many people been so willing to devote so much money and energy to making the right choice.

Just last week I watched as a woman paying for a (perfectly acceptable, I think) midrange dog food told the cashier she regretted she didn't have the means to purchase the $50-a-bag stuff that a "company representative" was pushing in the store that day. Well, I'm no expert, but I thought her dog, a border collie-looking mix, was not only well adjusted and well exercised, but impossibly fit and shiny. I'm thinking that woman occupies the dog-owner top tier, and I hate that she's suffering guilt for not serving the doggie equivalent of prime rib.

But the pressure is intense. And to hear the paid-for "spokesperson" (often a veterinarian) or staff vet for Pet-Food Company A, B, or C tell it, you're one step from being abusive if you don't choose his/her brand. Problem is, each makes a good (if scripted) case, and there are about a hundred of them, each pitching a different food.

They all give me a headache.

But readers contact me with many questions about food. So I found someone who doesn't pitch a particular brand and has credentials that literally span continents: Denise Elliott. She's a veterinarian, is certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition (requiring extra years of specialized learning), leads nutrition counseling for Banfield vets and develops continuing education programs in nutrition. She once worked for a company that, among other things, makes pet food, but she doesn't push that or any brand, just answers the questions we all have.

Here are some I'm most often asked, and Elliott's answers:

Wet or dry?

"There's no one answer for every pet," she says. It depends on the animal's "age, lifestyle matters and convenience."

She recommends going wet "if weight is a problem," since it's easier for owners to cheat with dry food, measuring out heaping cups instead of flat-tops or tossing extra kibbles into the bowl. Can size is can size, and giving more actually requires opening another, something few people with pets on weight-management programs will do, she says.

Also, she says, cats with urinary tract issues often do better on wet food.

Pluses for dry: It is more cost-effective and convenient, and you don't have to worry if it sits uneaten for a while. (Wet food is subject to spoilage and bacteria growth in fairly quick order, particularly in the heat.) Contrary to popular belief, however, dry food doesn't necessarily reduce plaque, she says, unless it's one of the few specifically designed to do so (and even the special plaque-reducers accomplish little if your pet is a food inhaler).

Is it necessary to buy premium brands, or are some moderately priced foods from supermarkets OK?

"There are very good brands sold in supermarkets," she says. "For the majority of animals, we can find something good that will provide complete nutrition at the lower price point."

How can you tell if your pet isn't eating the right food?

There are visual things such as dry, flaky skin or a coat that isn't glossy; there also may be gastrointestinal matters, such as excessive gas or stool that isn't normal, Elliott says. All signal that the animal is "getting insufficient or the wrong food."

It's especially important, she says, that puppies get proper nutrition during their early months, when they're growing. Larger breeds, in particular, can develop growth or bone disorders if they don't get food formulated for their extra needs.

Poor nutrition, in fact, can cause a variety of issues in all ages. Your vet is a good resource, she says.

Really? What about the widely held notion that vets know practically nothing about food?

For years, vet schools presented "little information on dog and cat nutrition," Elliott acknowledges, so vets were pretty clueless (except for diligent ones who developed knowledge largely by asking questions of their clients). Today, many schools have active nutrition programs, so vets are receiving more information, she says.

What about much-maligned corn as an ingredient?

Elliott says there's a great deal of anecdotal chat about corn being problematic for many dogs, "but when we look to scientific studies, there's not one ingredient more likely to be implicated." Some dogs may be sensitive to corn, but some may react poorly to chicken or other ingredients. Moreover, "use of corn is variable, some may crack corn or extract nutrients," so some corn-containing products may be fine for a particular dog, and others may not.

Is homemade food best?

"I know the intent is good, but most recipes on the Internet aren't complete and balanced and, with time, can cause problems."

So how does the Elliott the Expert conclude that a particular food brand might be especially good? She approaches owners of fit-looking dogs with very glossy coats and asks what they're fed.

Need more? The American College of Veterinary Nutrition ( has FAQs, a list of the dozens of board-certified veterinary nutritionists and other resources.

Treats are tricky

What about the matter of treats? When I shifted to that topic with veterinarian Denise Elliott, I made a confession: I don't buy them and don't see any point in them once a dog is trained, particularly inasmuch as more than half of the nation's pets are, by all measures, too fat.

She laughed and congratulated me. She doesn't give treats to her three Labradors, either. She rewards each with the special things each finds wonderful: belly rubs, ball chasing or special toys. "Interaction time with you is what they see as the best reward," she says.

The whole treat-giving thing is often driven by "guilt," she says. Owners would do better — especially owners who have pets "that don't need the extra calories" — to establish "what the pet likes or enjoys" and provide more of that.

Hints From Heloise: Ten Favorite Pet Hints
By Heloise,

Dear Readers: From the Heloise Files, here are some of our favorite pet hints:

* A plastic milk jug makes a handy scoop for dry food.

.* Line your pet’s food area with the colorful Sunday comics. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in feeding.

* When traveling, make sure your dog has the correct information on tags and collar. List your cellphone number on the tags, too. Also when traveling, carry distilled water. It can prevent upset tummies.

* Do research before getting a bird as a pet, because many larger ones are very long-lived. Did you know that the most dangerous place to keep your bird is in the kitchen? Nonstick cookware could cause toxic fumes.

* If you have large or multiple dogs, store their dry food in a metal trash can. Lots of storage capacity, and critters can’t chew through it.

* Many dogs love raw carrots as a treat, and they are safe and good for cleaning teeth.

* A fluted tube pan with a stake in the middle makes water spillproof in the back yard.

* A spray bottle of water makes an excellent cat trainer. It is harmless but effective in keeping your cat from scratching the furniture, for example.

* Old pillows make excellent pet beds. Before throwing them out, see if Fido or Fluffy needs a new crash pad.

* If you love animals but are unable to have a pet for whatever reason, consider either volunteering at the animal shelter or working as a pet sitter.

-- Heloise


Dear Readers: Karen Gardner of Amarillo, Tex., sent a picture of her schnauzer/Shih Tzu mix, Bailey, eyeing a bone on the carpet and getting ready to pounce. He was rescued from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Karen says he has the best heart, never meets a stranger and brings a smile to so many. To see Bailey and our other Pet Pals, go to and click on “Pets.” -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I am going to school to be a veterinarian, and I have some hints for the hot-weather months:

* Fleas and ticks can multiply rapidly in hot temperatures. If you are treating your pet for them, don’t forget to treat your home and yard as well.

* Don’t be alarmed if your dog doesn’t eat as much in summer as in winter. Less activity because of the heat can result in a lower appetite.

* Short-nosed dogs, older or heavier dogs, and those with thick coats, such as German shepherds, huskies, Akita, etc., should stay indoors as much as possible.

-- Brittney in San Antonio


Dear Readers: If you have a dog or cat that travels in a wire crate, take his collar off and hook it on the crate while the animal is in transport. It will be easily accessible, and there will be no chance of it getting caught. -- Heloise

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

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