Monthly Archives: October 2009

How Did Black Cats Become a Halloween Icon?


By Julia Williams

Halloween is here, and everywhere you look today you’ll probably see jack-o’lanterns, ghosts, witches and black cats. These are common symbols associated with this jubilant holiday, but that wasn’t always the case. Although many of our present day Halloween customs trace their origins back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, the connection to black cats is relatively recent.

Samhain was a sacred celebration that marked the end of summer. It did not involve witches or sorcery, but the Celts did believe it was a time when the barrier between the living and the dead was temporarily lifted. To keep troublemaking spirits from bothering them, the Celts wore “ghostly” costumes which made them appear dead. They also gave offerings of food to nourish ancestral ghosts thought to be journeying to the afterlife on this date.

When pagan rituals were converted to Christian holidays, Samhain became All Saints Day, All Souls Day, All Hallow’s Eve and finally, Halloween. Christians went door to door with a hollow turnip “lantern” made to symbolize the souls in purgatory, and households offered them “soul cakes” in exchange for prayers for the dead.

So how did black cats come to be associated with Halloween? Many theories abound. One says that the Celtic Druids eventually came to be viewed as witches by the Church. It was believed that witches could shapeshift, and that they would usually disguise themselves as cats. Black cats were thought to be witches familiars (i.e., beings that aided witches in performing witchcraft). Some thought black cats were reincarnated witches as well.

It stands to reason then, that when the Halloween celebration evolved to include the iconic “wicked witch,” the black cat was also included. Thus, the association of the ancient Celts with witchcraft created two of our most common contemporary Halloween symbols. In fact, black cats and witches remain popular Halloween costumes year after year.

Another theory suggests that black cats may have become associated with Halloween as a result of folklore and superstitions about them being evil and causing bad luck. Even now, many still give credence to these legends. In the United States and many European countries, there are people who actually believe that seeing a black cat signifies the coming of bad luck. With two black cats in my household, I am more like the Irish and the British, who generally consider it a sign of good luck if a black cat crosses their path.

I do find it hard to believe that otherwise intelligent human beings could believe something so absurd as “all black cats are evil.” But then, I’ve never been one to buy into any superstition. I think it’s rather sad for black cats, though, who are forced to bear the burden of this unfortunate association.

It is true that black cats are the least likely to be adopted from animal shelters and other animal rescue organizations. You can visit any shelter, any day of the year, to see for yourself. It’s also true that many shelters refuse to adopt out their black cats in the weeks leading up to Halloween. They fear that the black cats could be used for satanic rituals, or that someone might want to have a black cat in their home as a “living decoration” and then surrender it after the Halloween holiday. As preposterous as that might sound to you or me, anything is possible nowadays, so I don’t blame the shelters for taking precautions.

People with black cats are also cautioned to keep them indoors around Halloween for those same reasons. As long as the black cat continues to be associated with the ghosts, goblins, witches and other spooky figures of Halloween, it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution. But if you need proof that black cats are not unlucky, just take it from me. My two black cats are ten and six years old, and I’ve had nothing but good luck, love and happiness since they joined my household.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

EmailGoogle GmailBlogger PostTwitterFacebookGoogle+Share

Alternative Therapies for Dogs


By Ruthie Bently

There are many kinds of alternative therapies nowadays, not only for us but for pets as well. Just like us, our dogs can benefit from them. Alternative therapies can have an unseen benefit, especially if the medication your dog is on does not work, or makes them ill from its side effects. If your dog does not respond to a medication, they may get relief from an alternative therapy, as they don’t tend to produce the side effects that a chemical medication can.

Acupuncture is an ancient alterative therapy that has been practiced as far back as 7000 years ago in India. One of the earliest documented cases of its use in veterinary medicine was about 3000 years ago in India, to treat elephants. The man usually credited with the use of acupuncture in veterinary medicine is Shun Yang from China in 480 BC. Where traditional Western medicine considers one specific issue of a body, acupuncture considers the whole organism in the diagnosis of a health issue.

Acupuncture uses small gauge needles applied to various parts on the body to create a physiological response in the treatment of many diseases and conditions, and has been proven successful in pain relief. It has also been used to treat conditions that affect the entire body. The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society is the professional group for veterinary acupuncturists in the United States.

While each dog is different, acupuncture has been found to help with cases of chronic respiratory conditions, arthritis, neurological disorders, gynecological issues, male and female reproductive problems, skin issues, immune system issues, cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal issues, musculoskeletal issues and thoracolumbar and cervical disc issues.

Acupuncture has been show to enhance the efficiency of antibiotics when used for canine otitis, which is an inflammation of the ear. Acupuncture has also been suggested as a surgery alternative, if the surgery may have possible complications for your dog. Before deciding on treatment of any kind, you should always get a professional diagnosis and consider all of your options, as in some cases acupuncture may not give the results you desire.

Aromatherapy is as old as 18,000 BC, based on cave paintings discovered in France that show the burning of aromatic plants for medicinal use. It’s believed that aromatherapy got its start in ancient Egypt, though the Chinese were using it around the same time. The term “aromatherapy” was coined by a French chemist, who while working in a laboratory, burned his hand and immediately immersed it in lavender oil. He was surprised at how quickly his burn healed and began doing research into the healing powers of essential oils.

Aromatherapy treatments are done with scents or fragrances made from herbs and flowers. These natural compounds can be made from roots, leaves, fruits, seeds, plant resins and the wood of certain plants. Aromatherapy can be used for an ongoing cure or as a preventative measure. Though humans have been using aromatherapy for healing for centuries, it is a fairly recent practice for animals. Aromatherapy is used by homeopathic veterinarians to help dogs that may be stressed, fearful, anxious or depressed. For example, if you have a dog that gets fretful going in the car, you could use an essence made to calm them down. You should consult a homeopathic veterinarian before beginning any course of aromatherapy for your dog.

Animal chiropractic is a specialization for veterinarians and chiropractors to provide manipulations to the spine, joints and manual therapy for animals; it’s primarily used for neuromusculoskeletal conditions in dogs and horses. It is controversial, and the AVMA does not recognize it. From a legal aspect, only licensed veterinarians are allowed to practice on animals in the United States. However, there are some doctors who hold degrees in both veterinary science and chiropractic, as well as some practitioners that are neither, which causes a legal issue.

Findings show both benefits and increased risk of problems in animals that have been adjusted. Dr. Sharon Willoughby, DVM, DC formed the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) in 1989 with a group of chiropractors and veterinarians to further the profession of animal chiropractic. In theory, animal chiropractic can benefit animals with symptoms related to neck, leg, back and tail pain. Some symptoms include: disc problems, arthritis, injuries from slipping or falling, weight loss due to pain and uneven muscle development. The jury is still out on this one and probably will be for some time.

Reiki is a hands-on energy balancing technique believed to have originated in Tibet. It resurfaced in Japan in the early 1900s before coming to the West. Reiki translated means “universal life energy,” which is our life force. When a dog’s life force is flowing correctly, they are healthy and happy; when it is blocked or lacking a dog will get sick or their body won’t function properly. Practicing Reiki is like giving your dog a shot of the life force that surrounds us in the universe, by tapping into it. This in turn can bring balance back to your dog.

After being trained in Reiki through a series of attunements, a master is able to channel healing energy to the dog’s body. Depending on the master, a dog can be treated either directly or from a distance. To send energy remotely the master needs a picture of the dog and the dog’s permission to send the Reiki to them. Some of the benefits a pet can have from a Reiki treatment are relaxation and decreased stress, improved mood, and reduced or removal of pain. Reiki can improve a dog’s medical condition, help accelerate healing and can help other therapies work better for your dog.

This article is intended as a general guide to alternative therapies for dogs. Please consult with your vet if you have any health concerns or questions about caring for your dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Chocolate Toxicity in Pets: Symptoms & Precautions


By Linda Cole

Halloween is once again at our doorstep. Trick or treaters will begin tapping on doors to collect the goodies we have to offer. Among the caramel apples, popcorn balls and tasty treats of this spooky holiday will be chocolate candy bars, brownies or other special goodies made with chocolate. We devour tons of chocolate each year, but just a small amount can be deadly for our dogs and cats. Why is chocolate so toxic to pets?

Pets do have a sweet tooth. That’s why outside pets are attracted to spilled antifreeze on someone’s driveway and can become poisoned from licking even a small amount. Pets think they should be able to eat everything we eat. It’s hard to ignore their begging, bright eyes asking for (or demanding) a bite of whatever we are eating. When it comes to chocolate, even one bite can leave them begging for more.

Once pets, especially dogs, have tasted chocolate, they will develop a craving for it. The best thing to do is just not give your pet chocolate, period. Not only is chocolate toxic for pets, it can be fatal if they eat too much, and chocolate poisoning is more common than you may think. The ASPCA Poison Control Center and vets across the country see a spike in calls from worried pet owners during holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

It’s important for children to understand that sharing their Halloween chocolate treats with their dog or cat can make the pet extremely sick. A little chocolate won’t hurt most dogs or cats; however, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Avoid any risk to your pet by not giving them any chocolate to begin with.

The amount of chocolate considered to be too much depends on the health, age, weight and size of your pet. The smaller the animal, the smaller amount of chocolate it takes to poison them. An older pet who is out of shape or has underlying illnesses could be affected by a very small amount of chocolate. It also depends on the type of chocolate; darker chocolate is more deadly. Dogs are more likely to be affected because they seem to be able to search and find chocolate better than cats, but cats can also be poisoned.

Theobromine is a natural stimulate found in the cocoa bean. This is what’s poisonous to pets. It affects the central nervous system and heart muscles, and it also increases urination. Caffeine is also present in chocolate although not in high concentrations like Theobromine.

Chocolate toxicity in pets is a serious health issue. If you suspect your pet may have eaten too much chocolate, call your vet immediately. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in pets will begin within 12 hours or less and include:

* Being excited, nervous, shaking, hyperactive

* Diarrhea or vomiting

* Drinking a lot of water or increased urination, which is caused by too much Theobromine in their system.

* Muscle spasms or seizures

Most of us have a variety of chocolate in the house for baking purposes or eating. Dry cocoa powder tops the list of chocolate that is most dangerous for our pets, followed by Bakers chocolate (unsweetened), cocoa bean mulch, semisweet chocolate chips, sweet dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. When evaluating chocolate toxicity in pets, it’s important to know what type of chocolate was ingested, and how much.

If your Siberian Husky or Lab eats a small chocolate candy bar, they will probably not be affected as long as they are healthy to begin with. A cat or Chihuahua grabbing a chocolate chip that fell on the floor should be fine, but when it comes to chocolate and pets, it best to just say no.

After the kids return home with their bags of Halloween goodies and everything is spread out on the table so you can survey their haul, please remember to make sure Halloween is safe for all members of your family. Chocolate is great in our tummies, but pets are better off with a healthy, chocolate-free snack made just for them.

My cats beg just as much as my dogs do, and it’s hard to deny any of them a small bite of whatever I may be eating. For me, the choice is easy when it comes to chocolate. It’s just not worth the risk. Besides, by not sharing, it leaves more for me!

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Tips for Teaching Your Puppy His Name


By Julia Williams

When people adopt a puppy, one of the first things they usually do is name him. But once you’ve decided what to call your furry new friend, it’s just as important to begin immediately teaching your puppy his name. Why is it so essential? Because once your puppy learns to respond positively and immediately to his own name, teaching him other basic commands (such as sit, stay or lie down) will be much easier. When your puppy knows his name, you will be able to get him to focus his full attention on you instead of his surroundings. Thus, teaching your puppy his name is a fundamental base for any future training.

Your first objective is to teach your puppy that when you say his name, he must immediately stop whatever he’s doing, turn his head and look directly at you. With consistent training and patience, your puppy will eventually understand that the sound he hears is his own name. Later, you can teach your puppy that the sound of his name will be followed by a command.

Step One: Take your puppy to a quiet place with no distractions, armed with some dog treats (CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ are perfect treats for puppies) and a few toys that your puppy enjoys playing with.

Step Two: Put your puppy on a long lead, which will help you to keep him from wandering off if something attracts his attention elsewhere.

Step Three: Using a happy tone of voice, say your puppy’s name.

Step Four: If your puppy looks in your direction when you say his name, immediately reward him with a treat and praise, such as “good doggie.” Puppies are usually very attracted to the sound of your voice, and will naturally look towards you when you speak. By giving him a treat and praising him, you reinforce the desired behavior. Only say your puppy’s name once; if he doesn’t respond, you can gently tug his lead or touch his leg so he turns to look at you.

Step Five: Hold a treat up near your face so that your puppy has to look directly at you when you call his name. Doing this will ensure that you have his full attention.

Step Six: Swap a toy for the food treat, and use a few minutes of playtime as the reward for looking at you. Experiment with different treats, toys, and tones of voice to learn which ones are the best motivators for your puppy.

Step Seven: Repeat steps one through six several times during each training session until your puppy consistently looks at you when you say his name.

The next step in training your puppy to respond to his name is to introduce distractions. The goal is to teach your puppy that no matter where you are and no matter what else is happening around him, he needs to give you his full attention when you say his name. Try training him with other family members in the room, outside in your garden, at the local park or at someone else’s home.

Training your puppy in different environments or with distractions will likely be much more challenging at first (both for you and your puppy), but it is a great way to reinforce what your puppy is learning. Remember, your puppy wants to please you, so help him do that by remaining patient and taking this stage slow.

When teaching your puppy his name, it’s important that this sound only be associated with good things. In other words, try not to use your puppy’s name when you are scolding him. Otherwise, he will form a negative association with his name and may become confused or refuse to respond to you when you call his name.

Key points to remember:

* Keep your training sessions short (five or ten minutes at a time, several times each day), and keep them fun.

* Train your puppy before a meal so he’ll be more motivated to get the food treat. Just remember to account for the extra food in his daily rations, so as not to overfeed him.

* If more than one person will be teaching your puppy his name, make sure everyone understands what to do and uses the same technique.

* Be sure to give lots of praise along with the treat or toy reward, and always end each training session on a positive note.

If you follow these simple tips, your puppy will learn his name in no time at all!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Communicating With Your Dog


By Ruthie Bently

One of my personal mantras is “There is no such thing as a dumb animal; they just don’t vocalize in a language we understand.” That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with your dog, you just have to know how to go about it. I read The Loved Dog by dog trainer Tamar Geller, and she mentions that you should “teach your dog English,” which made sense to me.

Then I ran across an article by someone who feels that while you can teach your dog English, you should not ask them to do too much thinking. In my opinion, this sounds to me like the writer expects you to “dumb things down” for your dog. They mention that because a “pushy owner” thrusts the act of sitting upon their dog, this is why the dog understands the “sit” command. While this may be an effective method of teaching a puppy, it reminds me of that comic strip where the owner is talking to a dog named Ginger. You as the reader of the strip, see the words that the owner is speaking to Ginger. I don’t remember them exactly, but the conversation would look something like this: “Ginger, go sit over there.” Then you see what Ginger hears in a little balloon over her head: “Ginger, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

So how do you go about teaching a dog English, when it is not their first language? You do use word association with the action you would like your dog to perform. But you can use it even when your dog is already doing what you want them to do, which helps your dog learn English faster. For example, if your dog is already sitting down, repeat the word “sit” several times; if they are lying down, you repeat the word “down” several times. Ms. Geller goes on to say that you can use this example with any word you would like to teach your dog.

Though Skye has not been with me since she was a puppy, her personal English vocabulary keeps getting longer. She knows the commands sit, down, stand, stay, and heel. She understands what a “bicky” (biscuit) is, what “kennel up” (going in her crate) means, and she loves “bye bye car,” which means we are going for a ride in my truck.

I did use repetition in the beginning, but after Skye learns a chosen word, I do not keep repeating it. After all, she already knows what I am asking her to do or what I may be offering her, so I do not need to keep repeating it. However, there are times when Skye (like many dogs) will decide to be stubborn, and then I go back to repeating the word as many times as it takes to get her to comply. I am happy to say, those times are few and far between.

For Skye’s benefit, I am trying to learn as much “dog” as I can, which is based on her body language. This helps me understand my four-legged friend better, and our relationship becomes that much sweeter for the understanding.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Winter Care for Pets


By Linda Cole

October is quickly coming to a close, and for those in the northern part of the country, chilly winds are stripping red, orange and yellow leaves from trees and leaving only memories of a warm summer sun. The first freeze withers garden plants, flowers and grass. Winter will be here all too soon, and it’s time to start thinking about winterizing the house, the car and your pets. Winter care for pets can help them endure the coldest days ahead and help keep them safe.

Cold and snow can be rough on pets who spend most of their time inside. Dogs need to go outside, and it’s easy to forget they aren’t used to being in the cold for extended periods of time. They may have fur coats, but what nature gave them isn’t always suitable against freezing temperatures. I had a dog who would get so cold, his teeth chattered. If you see your dog shivering, he is cold. Hypothermia and frost bite are real possibilities for a pet who has been outside too long, and they are affected by a wind chill and cold.

Include coats or sweaters on a winter care list for dogs. Don’t be afraid to put coats on your dogs when they go outside. Unlike some people, dogs don’t have a macho ego that prevents them from being practical. My dogs want their coats on because they have learned they are warmer with them on. You can find a good selection of coats online at most retail pet sites.

It’s been my experience that more than one coat is needed. I dress my dogs in layers when they go outside in winter, because that’s the best way to help them stay warm. I have sweatshirts that go on first, then homemade quilted fleece jackets and finally, a waterproof, windproof dog blanket that goes on top for the really cold windy days.

Dogs lose heat through their paw pads and ears. When it’s really cold, quality dog booties will help them stay warm and ward off frostbite. However, it’s hard to find ear muffs or hats for dogs. I’m not a seamstress, but have learned how to make quilted fleece coats with hoods that help keep their ears warmer.

If you live in an area where the temperatures fall below zero with wind chills that can make it feel even colder, your dog will appreciate booties and coats once they get used to them. A combination of extreme cold and snow can quickly freeze unprotected feet. If you see your dog or cat not moving, or picking up one leg and then another, you should get them inside immediately. This is a sign that their feet are too cold.

Dogs and cats who spend most of their time inside should always be supervised when they are outside. Winter care for pets requires our watchful eye whenever they are outside. Coats and booties help, but our pets can’t tell us when they are cold. We need to pay attention to them and watch for signs like shivering, standing in one spot and not moving, or limping. A good rule to go by is if you are cold, your pet probably is too, and it’s time to go inside. Prevent frostbite or hypothermia before it happens.

Older or sick pets are affected by cold weather more than healthy ones. Pets who suffer from arthritis will usually feel more stiffness and move slower during winter months. It’s important to make sure they have soft, warm bedding they can lay on, away from drafts. Walks with an older dog should be kept short. Make sure they don’t slip on ice or snow which could put unnecessary stress on already stiff joints, and could injure them more.

Snow, ice, rock salt spread on sidewalks and chemical deicers used on city streets can collect in and on the pads of cats and dogs. Clean their paws once they are inside, because licking the rock salt and chemical ice melt from their paws can make them sick, as well as cause painful chapping and cracking pads.

Cats prefer warmth over cold. Make sure their bed is in a warm room away from drafts, fireplaces and electric space heaters. Unnecessary fires can be avoided by making sure your cat is not allowed near fireplaces or allowed to lay on or next to space heaters. Be careful using candles – a cat’s curiosity can end with an overturned candle that is still lit.

Winter care for pets is important. Don’t let cold temperatures stop you from going outside with your dog or cat and enjoying the beauty and fun of a new snowfall. With appropriate cold weather precautions, the fresh air and romps in the snow are good for our pets and us.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Find CANIDAE Retailers Near You!

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.