Monthly Archives: April 2010

Why Do Dogs Chase Cats?

By Ruthie Bently

Asking why dogs chase cats is like asking the age old question “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Basically, like many things dogs do, chasing cats is instinctual and they’re hard-wired to do it. However, you’ll find anomalies in every purebred and mixed breed dog; some will chase cats, some won’t. If you have a hunting, working or terrier breed or mix, there’s a good chance they will chase cats, because they have a stronger drive to do so. Most terriers and even some hounds were used as ratters not that many years ago. Dachshunds were used for hunting badgers and were sent into holes after the badgers to route them out.

The instinct that our domestic dogs inherited from their wolf ancestors is their prey drive. This drive was necessary in the wild so a wolf pack could survive. A mother wolf hunts to feed her pups, and the pack hunts for survival of the fittest pups in the pack, as they are the future of the pack’s longevity. The prey drive causes a lone wolf to hunt anything smaller than itself.

A dog’s prey drive is motivated by movement; it can also be motivated by smell. Racing Greyhounds are trained to chase a mechanical rabbit. Lure coursers chase a scented bait across a field. Herding dogs chase the flocks they protect, nipping at their heels to get them to move. This is all controlled at their base level by the prey drive instinct. If a dog grows up with cats, while they may chase when playing with their feline roommate, they are not as apt to actively chase cats all the time. They may also defend their joint territory against strange cats that intrude in your yard.

If you want your dog and cat to get along, the first step is introducing them. Admittedly it is easier if one or both of them are young, because they are less apt to have preconceptions of what the other species is capable of. If you’re bringing a new puppy home, a good way to introduce them is to crate your puppy and bring the cat into the room the crate is in. If your cat isn’t disturbed by the appearance of your dog, sit on the floor in front of the crate with the cat in your arms and introduce them.

If the cat is unwilling, scared or too wiggly, you can put them in their carrier and set the carrier door facing the crate door, several feet apart. You still want to be nearby watching the interaction and have treats and praise on hand for both your dog and cat. If your dog barks or the cat growls, admonish them but do not punish them; they are just reacting to a new situation. If they behave well, praise them and offer treats to both. By using this method, your dog and cat can get used to the sight of each other without being able to reach each other.

The next step is to let them interact in a room under your supervision. Make sure the room you choose has an escape route for your cat. Make sure your cat’s toenails are trimmed before the encounter, a friendly swat on the nose is one thing, but sharp claws may make your dog re-think the idea of being friends. Put a collar and leash on your dog and put them on a sit/stay in the room.

Have another family member bring the cat in and put them on the floor near the dog. If your dog is calm, praise them and offer them a treat for their good behavior. If your dog rushes the cat or tugs on the leash, tell them “no” and put them back on their sit/stay. Repeat both stages of training several times a day and for the first several months if needed. If your cat is an indoor/outdoor cat, provide sanctuaries both inside and out where they can be away from the dog, because even friends need a break at times. Make sure to feed your cat away from the dog’s reach. A dog eating their food may irritate the cat and make his acceptance of the dog harder.

You can train an adult dog that has not grown up with cats to respect them as another member of your melded pack. I know, because I’ve done it. By having patience, understanding why your dog chases cats, and using the same method of training consistently, you too can have your own peaceable kingdom at home.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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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.

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Great Dog Books for Kids to Read

By Linda Cole

I grew up with a dog by my side and a book constantly in my hand. I loved reading about nature and animals, especially dogs. Some of the books I read as a child were classics then and are still popular today. If your child loves dogs, reading books about dogs is a great way to encourage them to read. There’s an excellent assortment of great dog books for kids to read.

Big Red, written by Jim Kjelgaard and published in 1945. Big Red is set in the Canadian wilderness. Seventeen year old Danny Pickett and his father are mountain trappers living in a small shack. Danny does odd jobs for their landlord, Mr. Haggin, who owns a champion Irish Setter show dog named Red. Danny falls in love with Red the moment he sees him and eventually convinces Mr. Haggin to let him train Red and teach him about life in the wilderness. Danny’s father has a run-in with a mean bear called Old Majesty who’s been killing Mr. Haggin’s steers. Danny and Red take on the dangerous task of tracking Old Majesty to stop the bear once and for all. This is a story about poverty, the privilege of wealth, trust, loyalty, determination, courage and love. One of my all time favorites, it’s a great dog book for kids that’s filled with adventure, action and the great outdoors.

Where the Red Fern Grows, written by Wilson Rawls in 1961. The story is set in the Ozarks where 12 year old Billy Coleman wants one thing more than anything else. His desire for a pair of Redbone Coonhound puppies is so strong he’s willing to do whatever it takes to earn enough money to buy them. After picking berries to sell and doing other odd jobs for neighbors, he finally saves enough money to buy his puppies and Billy wastes no time teaching them the art of coon hunting. This book is a tear jerker, but it’s an excellent story about the loyalty and courage of dogs.

The Incredible Journey, written by Sheila Burnford in 1961. Thinking they have been left behind by their family, a Labrador Retriever, Bull Terrier and a Siamese cat set off to find them. Traveling through the rugged Canadian wilderness, the three friends cover 300 miles. With danger around every corner, they are chased by wild animals, survive rushing rivers and hunger as they search for their lost family. This is another great book for kids that stresses the loyalty, courage and determination of two dogs and a cat surviving alone in the wilderness against overwhelming odds.

Barry: The Bravest Saint Bernard, written by Lynn Hall in 1973. This book is based on a true story about Barry, a Saint Bernard who lived from 1800 to 1814 at a monastery in the Swiss Alps. Barry’s job was to patrol the mountain pass used by travelers to cross the rugged mountains between Switzerland and Italy. Because of Barry’s bravery, he was able to rescue at least 40 people during his lifetime, making him the most famous St. Bernard of all time. To this day, one pup from every litter born at the monastery is named Barry to honor his courage and dedication. It’s a touching book that’s even more heartwarming because it is a true story.

Because of Winn-Dixie, written by Kate DiCamillo in 2000. Ten year old Opal and her father are new to town. While Opal is in the Winn-Dixie supermarket, she sees a dirty, ragged looking stray dog and adopts him even though everyone tells her to leave him alone. Winn-Dixie and Opal spend their days getting to know the residents of the small town. Winn-Dixie has a nose for trouble, but through it all, Opal and her dog become fast friends with the town’s more colorful residents. Along the way, she begins to understand some life lessons and learns how to let go of what needs to be left in the past. Opal also begins to develop a closer bond with her father.

Marley and Me, written by journalist John Grogan, is an autobiographical book about his life with a Yellow Labrador Retriever that chews on everything he can get his teeth on. Grogan chronicles life with Marley as he grows into an energetic adult. As Grogan’s family grows along with Marley, his exploits will make you laugh. This is an excellent book for kids that is funny and very entertaining, but does have a serious side to it.

These are some of my favorite dog books I’ve read over the years, and there’s many more just waiting for kids to discover. I still love a good book about animals and nature. The library is full of great dog books for kids to read, and it’s never too late to introduce a child to the joy of reading.

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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.

Getting to Know Your Pet Could Save Its Life

By Julia Williams

In my last article, I talked about the different ways you can help the veterinarian treat your pet. When a vet is trying to determine what ails a sick pet, I really don’t think there is such a thing as having “too much information.” And since our pets can’t tell us – or the vet – how they feel, it’s up to us to be their voice and to ensure that they get the treatment they need to be healthy and happy. A big part of that is keeping detailed records of their health and past treatments along with their dietary issues and environment history. But there is another very important component to helping your vet treat your four-legged friend: you need to know your pet well. Better perhaps, than you even know yourself.

When you know your pet well, you will be more apt to notice right away when something is amiss. And the sooner you can get them in to see their vet, the better. While not every health problem a pet can face is serious, a delay in treatment for some conditions could be life threatening. Getting to know your pet well is not that hard, but it does take time and a conscious effort. It involves spending enough time with your pet that you have a good idea of what is “normal” for them, and what isn’t. It means being observant about everything. When you know your pet well, you know what their typical appetite is; you know how their skin and coat look, how their eyes, nose and mouth look, and whether they have any digestive issues or problems with their bones and joints.

Responsible pet owners know how important regular vet checkups are. However, it’s also a good idea to perform your own brief physical exam on your pet at home on a regular basis. Look at the eyes to see if they’re bright, clear and free of any discharge. Examine their mouth to make sure the gums are a healthy pale pink and teeth aren’t yellowed or covered with tartar, and that there’s no foul odor. The ears should be free of wax buildup, and the nose should feel damp and velvety with no crusting on the surface.

You should pet and massage your dog or cat regularly too, not just because it feels good to them and helps you bond, but because you will notice any lumps or bumps that might be present. Feeling along the abdomen for any masses or swellings associated with the mammary glands can help detect tumors. Taking your pet’s temperature at home, although not particularly pleasant for either of you, can provide valuable health information. The stress of being in a veterinary exam room can sometimes cause a borderline elevated temperature that’s difficult for the vet to interpret. If your pet has a fever in the comfort of their own home, this tells the vet that it’s not likely due to nervousness.

Knowing your pet well also means being able to tell when there are behavioral changes. This is often not as easy as noticing physical differences in your pet, because the changes may be subtle and difficult to interpret. Behavioral changes might not necessarily indicate that your pet is ill; they may just be acting differently for reasons known only to them. For example, if a pet suddenly stops sleeping in a favorite spot that he’s loved for years, it’s possible they just want a change of scenery. In the summer, my cats sometimes sleep under the bed rather than on it. I wondered why they were “hiding” under there, until I realized it was cooler, and probably more comfortable. Some behavioral changes are more serious, however, and may indicate an underlying medical problem. These include lethargy, aggression, growling, restlessness, refusing to eat, and going potty in inappropriate places.

If you know your pet well, you will notice right away when something changes. Being aware of any differences in behavior or appearance is an important part of responsible pet ownership, and may even save their life. When in doubt about any changes in your pet, behavioral or otherwise, it’s always wise to consult your vet.

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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.

Cat Breed Profile: Maine Coon

By Suzanne Alicie

The breed of feline known as the Maine Coon is a domestic cat with a very distinctive appearance. This is one of the oldest natural breeds of cat in the United States, and is not only native to the state of Maine but is also the official cat of the state.

The Maine Coon cat is one of the largest domestic cat breeds, with males weighing between 15 and 25 pounds and females between 10 and 15 pounds. The solid muscular build is important for supporting the weight of this cat, and the broad chest with rectangular body shape balances out the long tail and the weight that this cat can gain.

The 2006 Guinness World Record holder for “longest cat” is a Maine Coon known as Leo. He was the only kitten of two fairly large Maine Coons, and the benefit of having all of his mother’s milk may have been the reason he was able to grow to 35 pounds and 48 inches in length!

The origin of the Maine Coon cat is steeped in folk tales and theories with no factual proof. There are rumors that the Maine Coon evolved from the Turkish Angora cats that Marie Antoinette sent to the United States mating with Norwegian Forest cats. Another tale involves sea captain Charles Coon and his long haired ship cats. Rumor says that when Captain Coon laid anchor in New England his ship cats would visit and mate with the feral cats in the area. When long haired kittens started being born, the locals referred to them as Coon’s cats.

While not a traditional long haired cat, the Maine Coon is considered a long haired or medium haired cat. The length of the hair is short on the head and shoulders and longer on the stomach and flanks. Some Maine Coons have a long lion’s ruff around the neck. The light undercoat helps keep grooming to a minimum by being self maintaining. The most common color of a Maine Coon is brown tabby, but the breed can have any color that other cats have, as well as many different eye colors.

Maine is known for harsh winter conditions, and these cats have adapted to their native environment. Dense water-resistant fur, a long bushy tail and large paws provide these cats with many different options to deal with the cold weather. The long hair on the underside provides extra protection while walking or sitting in wet snow and ice. The tail can curl around the face and shoulders for warmth, and the ling tufts of hair between the toes and the ears also help keep the cat warm.

The Main Coon cat is a hardy breed that has evolved to survive and thrive in the harsh Maine climate. They are generally healthy cats whose most sever threat is HCM (feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy). This is the most common heart disease found in cats and is an inherited trait in Maine Coons.

These large dignified cats are not known for being “lap cats,” but they are relaxed and amiable. This makes them a good choice for families with children, other animals and even dogs. The Maine Coon is an extremely intelligent cat that is easy to train. They are a playful breed and actively affectionate. As with most cats they are independent, and their love is shown less through cuddling and more through play and interaction.

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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.

Understanding Canine Arthritis

By Ruthie Bently

As our canine companions get older they are susceptible to many of the same conditions of aging that affect humans; arthritis is one of these conditions. A dog’s skeletal system is comprised of not only their bones, but also the tendons and ligaments that give overall stability to the skeleton. Though they are not bones, an injury to tendons and ligaments can affect the onset of arthritis in our dogs too. Symptoms of arthritis are lagging behind during walks, limping, the inability to rise easily after resting, resistance to being touched, changes in their personality, a hesitancy to climb stairs, play, jump or even simply walking.

Arthritis is caused by an inflammation in the joints. It is usually divided into two categories: inflammatory joint disease and osteoarthritis, which is known as degenerative arthritis. Each one of these is divided into sub-categories. Inflammatory arthritis can affect multiple joints at the same time and is caused by an underlying disease that affects the dog’s immune system or an infection (infectious joint disease). Some symptoms can include stiffness, anorexia and fever. Infectious joint disease has several causes, which include a fungal infection, a tick borne disease like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease or a bacterium. Arthritis that affects the immune system can be brought on a hereditary weakness. There are several types including idiopathic arthritis and systemic lupus which cause infections in the joints but are not degenerative. Rheumatoid arthritis which is a deformative arthritis is the third kind, but is rare in dogs.

Osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis) is caused when the cartilage that protects bone joints is destroyed. This can happen when undue stress is put on normally healthy joints. Some examples of undue stress are injuries received during an accident or fall; or the tearing or hyperextension of ligaments during strenuous exercise which can include constantly jumping over an obstacle. It is also caused by stress put on abnormal joints because of issues like hip dysplasia, which is due to the hip bones not being properly formed. Osteoarthritis also has subcategories; primary and secondary disease. Primary osteoarthritis is one that there is no evident cause for, while secondary has a specific cause. Some of the causes of the secondary disease are ruptured knee ligaments, injury, patella luxation, and OCD (osteochondritis dissecans) as well as hip dysplasia. My vet mentioned that Skye may suffer from arthritis as she ages because of the damage to the ligaments in her left leg.

While arthritis is primarily a condition of our dogs aging, it can also be suffered by a younger dog. A larger breed dog with rapid growth spurts should be watched, especially if the breed is one that is genetically disposed to dysplasia or OCD. Responsible pet owners who carefully monitor their dog’s diet can keep their weight in line and help prevent this from happening. Owners with dogs that have arthritis may not notice anything wrong for quite some time. Cartilage doesn’t have nerves and joint damage may not be apparent until there is a severe joint problem and the fluid that lubricates the joints is critically depleted.

If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, there are several treatment options to consider. If a dog is overweight, this will put added stress on their joints, and your vet may suggest a weight reduction to alleviate this. If caught in time, surgery can sometimes stop or prevent osteoarthritis. While anecdotal, there is evidence that acupuncture can help a dog with arthritis. Laser therapy has also been used with good results. Consider getting an orthopedic dog bed or heated mat for them to lie on. Some veterinarians will suggest a nutraceutical in an attempt to rebuild the lost fluids around the joints. Your veterinarian may suggest an over the counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (nsaid) for pain or a prescription drug for more severe arthritis.

As arthritis can be due to several causes, there are different treatments for each one. So what’s a responsible pet owner to do? Pay close attention to your dog’s moods and body language. If your normally happy dog is being crotchety, seems to take longer to get up after a nap or doesn’t want to participate in their regular routine, and you suspect your dog may have arthritis, a trip to the vet is in order.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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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.

Why It’s Important to Teach Your Dog to Come

By Linda Cole

Getting your dog to come when he’s called can be frustrating, especially when he’s playing. Your words can seem like they are going in one ear and out the other. There are times, however, when you do need your dog to come when he’s called. It could save his life. Teach your dog to come each time he’s called, and make sure he knows you expect him to respond every time.

Even well trained dogs can become so preoccupied with a smell or playing that a command to “come” may be ignored. Dogs may not hear you calling if they are engaged in a game of tag with another dog or in hot pursuit of a rabbit flushed from a hiding place. Dogs will be dogs, and chasing and running are two of their favorite things to do.

It can be difficult and time consuming to teach your dog to come, but it’s worth the effort to make sure this basic command is something your dog understands well and is eager to respond to. If your dog doesn’t come when called, he should never be let off his leash.

Be consistent when teaching your dog or puppy to come when called. If he’s off leash, that means you trust him not to run away. However, most dogs can’t resist a good chase if they see a rabbit or cat. If he’s excited, coming when called may not be what he wants to do, but the dog who fully understands what come means should break off his pursuit when he’s called. He knows it’s a mandatory command and not one to respond to when he feels like it.

Dogs are great at manipulating us and, like kids, don’t always want to spend an afternoon learning what we are trying to teach – especially if it’s a command that takes them away from their play time. When you’re ready to teach your dog to come, keep it simple, consistent and fun. This command is so important, it’s well worth the time and frustration some owners experience when their dog doesn’t want to cooperate. If your dog is playing and having fun, he may feel he’s being punished when he has to stop playing. But a dog who doesn’t come when called could put his owner and himself at risk in the event of an emergency. You have to make it so fun for him to come if you want him to respond every time.

Dogs can sense our anxiety and excitement during emergencies which can upset them. Those of us who have to deal with the prospect of tornadoes and sudden spring storms that could require quickly moving to a safe shelter, need to make sure our dogs come when they are called. Playing a game of you chasing your dog while a siren is sounding a warning is not good. Dogs have no concept of the danger at hand. Teach your dog to come for your piece of mind and safety.

An emergency includes stopping your dog before he runs in front of a car if his ball bounces into the street. He needs to understand you aren’t punishing him by calling him back. Come means to stop now and return to you every time you call him no matter what he’s doing. So make it fun from the start by giving your dog lots of praise when he follows your command. Make it a game he will love to play, and never punish him for not coming. You want only positive reinforcement associated with him coming to you.

My dogs are good about coming when they are called, but sometimes a squirrel racing up a tree in the backyard is too tempting to leave. Dogs are like us and if their attention is elsewhere, we need to be patient. You do need to get their attention, however, so they can follow your command. My dogs do understand the difference between calling them to come inside verses calling them if we have to move into a safer part of the house. They do understand my tone of voice.

Emergencies like fire, flash floods, out of control grass or forest fires, tornadoes, damaging winds, car accidents, etc. happen and you don’t have time to try to persuade your dog to come to you. Some dogs get spooked and their instinct is to run away. If you take the time to teach your dog to come, when he’s scared the positive reinforcement you taught him will make him feel safe. Your dog needs to come every time he’s called regardless of what he’s doing. By making “come” a positive requirement, you have taught him an important lesson he will remember his entire life.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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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.