Monthly Archives: July 2010

What is the Purpose of a Dog’s Dew Claw?


By Linda Cole

Dogs have a toenail located on the inside part of their front leg that’s called a dew claw. Most dog owners know where it’s located and remember to clip it at the same time the rest of the dog’s toenails are trimmed. If this nail is left untrimmed, it can cause pain and damage to the dog’s leg. Some dog breeds have dew claws on their back legs as well. What is the purpose of a dog’s dew claw, and why do some breeds have them on their back feet?

Because a dog’s dew claw is located up on his leg, when he walks through the grass in the morning before the dew has vanished, the claw skims along the top of the grass. And that’s how the dew claw got its name.

Not all dogs are born with dew claws, some only have the toenail on the front leg and other breeds have them on all four legs. Some breeds can have two dew claws on one or more legs. When a dog has a double claw on a leg, it’s called polydactyl. Some dog breeds are required to have back dew claws if they are being shown in the ring because it’s part of the standard for that breed.

Although not all dogs use their dew claw, they do have a purpose. It’s sort of like our thumb, and some dogs use it to hold onto bones, toys, balls or other things they play with or chew on. Two of my dogs can control the toenail well enough to dig food out from between their teeth. They will scratch their nose or corner of their eye with it and one uses her dew claw to scratch inside her ear like we would use a finger.

Some rare dog breeds like the Basenji (pictured above), the New Guinea Singing Dog and the Catahoula Leopard Dog are able to climb trees almost as well as a cat, and they use their dew claws to grasp the tree bark as they climb. Other dogs bred to hunt have also been known to climb trees after their quarry has been treed.

The dew claw is classified as another toe and does need to be trimmed just like the other toenails. Because of the position of the claw, left untrimmed, it can curve down so much it becomes ingrown and puts the dog at risk for infection. Most dew claws are not down far enough on the dog’s leg to make contact with the ground which gives the nail no way to be worn down naturally. It’s important to keep these claws trimmed regularly, especially back ones. Left untrimmed, the quick will also grow longer which will make it harder to keep the toenails properly trimmed. Dew claws that are too long can make it easier for the dog to catch one in the brush when he’s running around outside while working or playing. This can result in a torn toe.

Back dew claws are more common in breeds like the Great Pyrenees, Saint Bernard and Briard. It’s believed the toenail on the back legs of the Great Pyrenees and other dogs that were bred to work in snow or rough terrain aids them as they do their job by giving them better stability as they run over the rough ground or make sharp turns.

The dew claw is attached to the leg with muscle and bone, although not all dew claws have bone in them. Sometimes the toe is attached loosely to the leg and when the dog runs, the toenail can become caught and easily torn. The back dew claw may need to be removed if it’s loose or has been torn to avoid more injury to the dog’s back feet.

For most dogs, the dew claw serves no particular purpose, but it still needs to be attended to just like the other toenails. It’s easy to forget them, especially on long haired dogs where the hair covers the toe. Even though most dogs don’t use the toe, sometimes they do and it may be more useful to the dog than we realize.

Trimming your dog’s toenails regularly can help keep them at the proper length. A good time to do that is when you groom your pet. Ruthie Bently’s article on basic grooming supplies and procedures has excellent information on how to groom your dog.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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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What Qualities Does a Therapy Cat Need?


By Julia Williams

We recently introduced you to therapy dogs Stitch, Riley and Sophie, sponsored by CANIDAE. Inspired by their heartwarming story, I began to wonder if there was such a thing as therapy cats. I didn’t really think so, given that my feline friends have all been “scaredy-cats” who run and hide from the vacuum cleaner (aka, the “suck monster”), the Fedex guy, and pretty much all visitors except a chosen few. It turns out there are lots of calmer, more courageous kitties who aren’t afraid of strangers or noisy places, and these are the ones who make good therapy cats.

I’ve recently become acquainted with a delightful therapy cat named Tabitha, or Tabby for short. Tabby’s human mom, Karen, graciously gave me some information on the qualities a therapy cat needs and how to get started. I thought I’d pass them on, in case you have an outgoing feline and you’re interested in training them to be a therapy cat volunteer. I’d really like to do this myself, but I know my three kitties (bless their hearts), would make terrible therapy cats.

First though, let me tell you a little about Tabby. She just turned five and has been doing animal-assisted therapy for about a year. She’s a tabby cat of course, and lives in Vancouver, WA with Karen, her husband Scott and four other felines. Tabby loves human attention and being petted which, along with her calm demeanor and sociable nature, make her well suited to therapy cat work. Tabby likes attention so much that at home, she demands it from her humans all the time (that sounds like my cat Belle!). During her therapy cat training, Tabby even invented her own way of asking for petting – by sitting down and tapping people with one paw.

Karen trained Tabby using the evaluation criteria of The Delta Society, regarded as the top training/certification program for Animal Assisted Therapy. Tabby isn’t certified yet, but she will be very soon. In the meantime, the plucky feline is getting lots of paws-on experience as a therapy cat. How did that come about? Karen spoke with the director of an assisted living facility about Tabby and her training, and they agreed to meet her. Tabby naturally charmed everyone during her first visit – and the rest, as they say, is history!

Karen takes Tabby to the facility so she can visit with people who have severely limited mobility, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other ailments that make it hard for them to interact with people. Tabby also goes to a nursing home and an extended care facility at the request of a resident’s family. No matter who she visits, Tabby always brings them a great deal of comfort and joy.

Before she began her therapy cat training, Tabby learned to wear a harness and leash, and ride in a cat stroller. During visits, the cat needs to be controlled somehow, and a leash is the best way. Karen said it’s not essential that the cat learn to walk on the leash, but people do enjoy seeing it. In any event, a harness and leash will keep the cat safe should they be startled by something and try to run away. If you’d like to leash-train your cat, this article gives step-by-step instructions.

To get Tabby used to strange settings and new experiences, Karen takes her to dog parks, offices, and stores that allow pets inside. Therapy cats should be even-tempered, outgoing and not afraid to meet new people. They shouldn’t growl or hiss at people, cats, dogs or other animals. Said Karen, “You can train them for the specifics, but if they aren’t calm then no amount of training will be enough.” Most Home Depot stores allow pets inside, she said, and they’re a perfect place to acclimate the cat to loud sounds, beeping equipment, carts (akin to wheelchairs in a facility setting), and being petted by strangers.

Not all therapy cats work with the elderly; some work with children in schools or pediatric therapy settings, and some work one-on-one with occupational therapy professionals. It’s important to choose a setting where you and your cat are comfortable, and pay attention to what your cat is telling you. Every cat has its own time limits, noise threshold and comfort level in strange situations. Watch your cat’s body language for signs of anxiety or fear, and end the training or visit when your cat tells you it’s time. You can always train more another day, but pushing your cat beyond their tolerance level will result in them not wanting to continue.

You can read more about Tabby’s therapy visits on her blog, Furry Tales of the PDX Pride. Tabby writes about her exploits so descriptively that it feels like you’re right there with her, visiting the patients and experiencing everything she does. Being a therapy cat is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding. I tip my hat to Tabby, a therapy cat extraordinaire! I can tell she loves her “job,” and she brings joy to so many people who really need it.

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.

Home Remedies for a Pet’s Itchy Skin


By Ruthie Bently

I have long been a fan of natural remedies whenever possible, not for only myself but my companion animals as well. I have become even more aware of the chemicals in my environment since I adopted Skye, a seizure dog. There are many factors that might trigger a seizure and as a responsible pet owner, I want to be very careful with anything used in and around my home.

A pet’s itchy skin can be caused by many things: bug bites and stings, fleas, ticks, infection, poison ivy, poison oak, poor nutrition, food allergies, and allergies to elements in the home. Pets can be allergic to air fresheners, carpet and floor cleaners, even the detergent used to clean their bedding. Itchy skin can manifest itself in many ways. Your pet may be constantly rubbing up against furniture inside the house or along fences outside the house. Excessive rolling in the grass may be another indication of itchy skin. Your pet may chew their paws or lick themselves frequently trying to relieve the itch. You may even see red patches of skin.

You can create your own natural remedies for your pet’s itchy skin. I have used oatmeal, plantain and baking soda, and this year I am growing chamomile. You can also use yellow dock, green tea and calendula.

Rinses can be made with plantain, yellow dock, chamomile and green tea. To make a rinse with chamomile or green tea, steep two teabags in two cups hot water and discard the teabags. Let the liquid cool, apply it to your pet and let air dry. To make a yellow dock rinse, add one tablespoon of dried yellow dock to two cups boiling water. Let it cool, discard the herb and apply the liquid. To make a plantain rinse, add two tablespoons dried plantain (or six tablespoons fresh) to two cups boiling water. Cover and let steep for 20 minutes. When cool, strain off liquid and apply. The longer you allow plantain to remain on the skin the more beneficial it is.

You can make your own oatmeal bath for your dog at home, which can be used to wash the entire dog, itchy feet or applied to dry skin for relief. For a foot bath, add colloidal oatmeal to a bath with several inches of warm water in it. Let your dog’s feet soak for between 5 to 10 minutes. Remove your dog from the bath and dry their feet. The size of your dog will determine how much colloidal oatmeal you add to a regular bath. Skye weighs 57 pounds and I would use 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal to her bath water.

To make your own colloidal oatmeal, use regular oatmeal or quick oats. Grind the oats/oatmeal until it is a fine powder, without bits or pieces. It should have the consistency of powdered sugar. I use a coffee grinder, but a blender or food processor on the high setting works. To test the colloid attributes of your oatmeal, mix a tablespoon of oats in a glass of warm water. If the oats turn the water cloudy and it feels smooth, the consistency is correct. By grinding several cups at a time you’ll have it on hand when you need it; store extra oatmeal in an airtight container in your pantry.

If your pet isn’t itching all over, a thick paste made from either baking soda or colloidal oatmeal and water is good for treating insect stings and bites, as well as poison ivy or poison oak. Apply paste to affected area and leave on for at least 10 minutes for best results. Baking soda can also be used as a soothing bath. For a bath, I would suggest adding a cup of baking soda to the bath water.

Consult your vet if the itching doesn’t go away or gets worse, as it may indicate a more serious condition. Each pet is different and while these natural remedies may not work as quickly as a man-made product, the effects are more beneficial and may be longer lasting for your pet. No one wants to see their pet in discomfort and though they can’t verbally tell us, we know when they are. By having a few simple ingredients in your pantry, you can make your own remedy for your pet’s itchy skin if you can’t get to the vet.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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.

How to Give Your Pooch a Pedicure


By Suzanne Alicie

One of the tasks that often gets overlooked by dog owners is the doggie pedicure. Unless you have a breed that gets groomed often you may not spare a thought to grooming your dog’s feet. But this is actually very important for their health and mobility. As a responsible pet owner you will want to meet all the needs of your pet.

Most dogs who are walked regularly or allowed to play outside wear their nails down to a natural length. But if your dog doesn’t take care of this naturally it is important that you take care of it so that your dog doesn’t suffer from bent and broken claws, or claws that actually grow sideways. This is a common problem on the front paws where your dog’s weight rests. If the two front-most claws get too long when your dog walks, they will spread apart and bend instead of wearing down naturally.

Another problem many dogs experience is when the fur between the pads on their feet gets too long, they lose traction and can easily slip and fall down stairs and on hard floors. It is important that you realize as a dog owner that a doggie pedicure is not just to make the dogs feet pretty, it can help you avoid additional vet bills and save your dog from unnecessary pain.

To perform a doggie pedicure at home you will first need to make sure that you have all the supplies on hand. Over the years I have found what seems to be the ideal tools for doggie pedicures and keep them all in a drawer to use after baths. We have two large dogs that have thick hard claws and lots of hair around their pads. My pedicure supplies include:

• Dog nail clippers – heavy duty for large dogs
• Small scissors
• Styptic powder
• Antibacterial ointment
• Personal hair clipper – small such as for bikini line or eyebrows.
• Heavy duty emery board/electronic dog nail file system

I usually sit on the floor where the dog can lie down in front of me. I start with the back paws because they usually require less work. The hardest part for me is the clipping of the nails. I am always scared I will cut the nails too short and damage the quick. Sadly at times I have, but styptic powder stops the bleeding. Nails should be cut straight and fast to avoid bending and tugging on the nail. Always make sure your clippers are sharp and won’t cause your dog pain.

Once all the nails are trimmed I move to the “toe hairs.” Using a small pair of sharp scissors I trim long hairs that are around the nails and the ankles of the dog’s feet, front and back. Then I use a personal hair trimmer to get in between toes and pads to remove the hairs that could cause them to slip and slide.

The next step is smoothing the nails so that they won’t split, crack, or cause nasty scratches on me or the dog. I like electronic filing systems but my dogs don’t like the noise, so it is usually faster to use a heavy duty emery board. No matter what you use, the idea is to smooth the rough edges and leave your dog with slightly rounded claws.

Once all the trimming, clipping and shaping is done, all that is left is applying an antibacterial ointment to any places where I have cut the nail too short or caused irritation of the paws with the hair clippers. A small dab of ointment to promote healing and kill germs, and voila! Doggie pedicure finished.

Not all dogs will lie still and allow you to manipulate their feet in this manner, and each dog may require a different approach. For example, with my two dogs I have one that requires another person to pet her belly while I work on her feet and the other one who tries to gnaw on my hand while I hold the foot I am working on. Neither of them is really scared or trying to bite me, they are just letting me know they are not happy with what I am doing. Now if I pull out the electronic file and turn it on both of them will bark at it and try to bite it. Every dog is different, and you may have to make some adjustments to account for the things that will frighten or upset your dog.

If you are afraid your dog will bite you, do not attempt to give him a pedicure yourself; take him to a professional groomer. Dogs can sense your fear and nervousness and will react in kind because they don’t realize that you may be afraid of them or of hurting them. All they know is that something is frightening you and therefore they will become nervous, skittish and possibly defensive as well.

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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.

Five Popular Dog Breeds From the Movies


By Linda Cole

You know when a dog movie is a success because people rush out to get the latest popular breed from a recent movie. It’s great to add a dog to your family, but only after you’ve done the homework to make sure a popular dog breed is really the right one for you and your family. Any breed of dog can be aggressive and hard to handle if left to their own devices. Below are characteristics of five popular dog breeds from the movies. The dogs on this list are intelligent, energetic, tenacious and loyal, and would be a good choice as a family pet – with the right pack leader.

Dalmatian. Disney’s 101 Dalmatians was an adorable film filled with black spotted puppies running all over the place. This popular dog breed was bred to run along the side or under horse drawn carriages. They get along well with other pets, especially horses. They’re a strong willed and muscular dog with lots of energy. They need an owner with a firm and consistent hand to take the alpha role. A Dalmatian is intelligent and will find ways to burn up excess energy if left on their own. This dog makes a fine family pet as long as he has lots of exercise for his mind and body to keep him from becoming high strung and excitable. Supervise young children around this dog.

Chihuahua. The Legally Blonde movies made people rush out and get their own cute little pup, but even these small dogs need the right family. This dog can be possessive, yappy and not a good pet around kids if their owner lets them get away with things. The Chihuahua is a popular dog breed who will take over as pack leader if given a chance. Just like big dogs, they need exercise that provides them with enough stimulation to keep them from becoming bored. A Chihuahua needs to be treated like a Great Dane because that’s how they see themselves. When well socialized, they can be an excellent pet. Children need to be taught to be gentle with these dogs.

Siberian Huskies. Snow Dogs and Eight Below are two good movies about Huskies. A Husky is a great dog. I had two of them and wouldn’t hesitate to open my home up to another one. This popular dog breed requires regular grooming especially in the spring and fall. Huskies love to run and as working dogs, they’re happiest doing what they love. Aloof towards strangers, they are strong willed, but make a great family pet. If you’re looking for a watchdog, forget about a Husky. They rarely bark, preferring a mournful howl, and see everyone as a friend. If you have cats or small pets in the home, never leave them alone together when you’re gone. A Husky is loyal, happy, laid back and intelligent. You have to be this dog’s pack leader, otherwise he’ll try to take over and ignore your commands.

Jack Russell Terrier. The Mask and the TV show Frazier made the Jack Russell Terrier a household name. Bred to hunt fox with an eagerness to burrow underground in pursuit of prey, these terriers are as tenacious as they come. They are hardy dogs that can do well in most any climate. Like the Chihuahua, they need to be treated like big dogs with proper exercise to stimulate them, mentally and physically. They can be aggressive with other dogs and are not afraid of fighting. Jacks have a strong prey drive and you shouldn’t trust them around small pets in the home. As long as they understand who the leader is and have been well socialized, they are fine with other dogs and children. These little dogs are excellent jumpers and climbers, making them great escape artists.

Border Collie. Air Bud, Snow Dogs and Because of Winn Dixie showed the athletic ability of the Border Collie and why they’re at the top the list of most intelligent dogs. This popular dog breed can be sensitive and loves lots of praise. They were bred to be a farmer’s “right hand man” and they love working and playing. If you don’t have time to properly exercise a Border Collie, this dog won’t fit into your lifestyle. They need a firm hand, especially pups, and are eager to please their owner.

Small children should be supervised at all times around any dog. If a popular dog breed fits into your lifestyle, you can’t go wrong adopting one. As long as you understand what you’re getting into and have the stamina, commitment and patience, any of the above popular dog breeds would make an excellent pet with proper training, socializing and exercise.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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.

True Stories of Interspecies Animal Friendships


By Julia Williams

There are so many things about animals I love that it would be hard to pick just one thing I admire most. But when I see examples of unlikely animal friendships, particularly those of two natural born enemies, it really touches my heart. I’m convinced these incredible beings are much more evolved than most people think. Humans could learn a lot from these “animal odd couples” that play together, eat together, show affection for one another, and give and receive motherly attention. If dogs and elephants, ostriches and giraffes, hippos and tortoises, and birds and cats can get along so well, why can’t we?

While humans are busy warring with others we consider “different” than us, these animals are simply enjoying the companionship of another. They don’t consider race, or country, or religion. One could argue that animals don’t have the intellectual capacity to consider such things, and this is why these unlikely friendships can develop. I think this inability to reason might be what makes animals so special in my eyes.

Human beings think too much. If only we’d listen to our hearts instead of our heads, things would often go so much better. This is because the heart is never wrong. It never steers us down the path of war or conflict. It steers us toward love, kindness, affection and trust. I believe this is what interspecies animal friendships are all about. The cat listens to its heart, which tells it that a mouse can be its companion instead of its lunch.

Below are some of my favorite examples of interspecies animal friendships. These true stories of animals that form unlikely bonds are sure to touch your heart and make you go “awwww.”

The Dog and the Deer: this super cute video shows Buddy the black Lab playing in the yard with a white-tail deer who was found alone and malnourished when it was just a baby. Buddy’s owner bottle fed the baby deer and it bonded with the dog as well as their cats. In the video, Buddy and the deer chase each other around the yard and engage in hilarious mock sparring with their front legs. The deer is now free to wander and has been seen hanging out with his own kind, but frequently comes back to their house to play with the dog.

The Cat and the Deer video features an orange kitten licking a deer all over its face, then the two of them curl up together and fall asleep, but not before the deer gives the kitten an endearing lick on its nose. The Louis Armstrong song “What a Wonderful World” makes this footage even more charming.

Bea the Giraffe and Wilma the Ostrich live at Busch Gardens Theme Park in Tampa Bay, Florida. The park’s 65-acre Serengeti Plain is home to herds of giraffe, zebra, rhino, antelope and countless species of birds. Just as they do in the wild, the animals usually hang out with their own species. But zookeepers noticed an unusual friendship between a three-year-old giraffe and an ostrich, who seem to really adore one another. Photo by Matt Marriott / Associated Press

Owen and Mzee is the true story of an unlikely animal duo who found comfort and love in each other’s presence after the 2004 tsunami. Owen, an orphaned baby hippo who got separated from his pod, was rescued and taken to an animal sanctuary in Kenya, where he meets Mzee, a 130-year-old giant tortoise. The book, Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship shows photos of the pair eating, swimming, snuggling, and playing together. You can also see a delightful photo montage of Owen and Mzee here.

The Kitten and the Crow: a young stray kitten about four months old is videotaped for many months with its best friend and protector, a big black crow. The two saunter along side by side, they wrestle together in the grass, the crow feeds the kitten a worm (ewww), and takes care of it to make sure it survives.

Why do these unlikely animal friendships occur? I think this quote from the “kitten and the crow” video sums it up nicely: “If you are able to gain trust in someone or something, or each other, then anything is possible.” For some unknown reason, the crow had a motherly instinct. The young kitten was still a baby, and it trusted the crow, who was the only mother figure in its life. A bond developed between the two, and the rest is history. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it could be that simple for the rest of us?

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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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.