We’ve been conditioned to believe that dogs are pack animals, but do domestic dogs really need canine friends? I’ll admit it – I was the type who believed the answer was a resounding yes. My firm stance on this was partly influenced by the “dogs are pack animals” theory and partly by the fact that all of my pups have thrived when there was a second dog in the house. The dogs I’ve shared my life with have all been family-oriented, and I felt like we were a big, happy pack.
My commitment to this belief was challenged by a friend who rescued a dog named Mia. The relationship between Lisa and Mia made me wonder if my long-held beliefs about having a second dog might be a combined result of 1) blindly accepting the pack animal theory and 2) attempting to assuage my guilt.
The Pack Animal Theory
Because dogs derived from wolves, and wolves live and hunt in packs, most people believe that dogs are hard wired to want canine companionship. I always thought the social structure of wolves included allegiance and reliance on one another within a pack, so it stood to reason that domestic canines would yearn for the same type of species-to-species bonding.
Researchers at Washington State University at Pullman shed more light on the subject, however. Traci Cipponeri and Paul Verrell studied the intricate relationships within wolf packs and likened their interactions to that of people who work within the same corporation. They noted that wolves not related to one another form what could be called an “uneasy alliance” because they have both shared and conflicting goals. They work cooperatively to obtain food and shelter, but they compete with one another for dominance.
A few months ago, I wrote an article about Unusual Cat Breeds. One of the breeds profiled was a hairless cat known as the Ukrainian Levkoy. While unusual, it’s not the only hairless breed in the feline family; there are several others including the Elf Cat, the Bambino, the Peterbald, the Donskoy and the Sphynx.
As unusual looking as hairless cats are, can you imagine what hairless dogs looks like? There is a dog breed called the Xoloitzcuintli, also known as the Mexican hairless that is – you guessed it – hairless. This is one of the oldest and rarest dog breeds in existence.
Many modern dog breeds are the result of crossing two breeds or some other type of manipulation by human interference. Xoloitzcuintlis, on the other hand, are considered an original breed shaped by natural selection.
The word Xoloitzcuintli is a combination of the word Xolotl, the Aztec god of fire and the deity responsible for escorting the dead to the underworld, and itzcuintli, the Aztec word for dog. You pronounce Xoloitzcuintli like this: show-low-eats-queen-tlee. The breed is also referred to as the Xolo (show-low).
These unusual looking dogs are thought of as “healing” dogs or “doctor” dogs because people with arthritis or other similar conditions find relief when they cuddle with a Xolo; apparently they give off intense body heat. I’ve even seen Xolo’s referred to as living hot water bottles. They are also said to have the magic of a healing touch, with special abilities to help people with things like rheumatism, asthma and even insomnia. Another otherworldly gift, they are said to have the power to frighten off evil spirits. Read More »
If you are cold, your pet is cold. It’s that simple. Yes, dogs have a fur coat and it’s true that many of the northern dog breeds seem to thrive in cold weather. However, if you’re sharing your life with any breed other than something like an Alaskan Malamute, an American Eskimo Dog, a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog, a Newfoundland, a Saint Bernard or similar, as a responsible pet owner it’s important to take extra precautions during the colder weather.
All dog breeds are vulnerable to hypothermia and frostbite. Never leave your pet outside in the cold without supervision. As a general rule, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible during inclement weather. Here are a few additional reminders for protecting your dog during the cold winter months.
Prepare the House
Because you and your companion animal will likely spend more time indoors, prepare your house. Make sure to section off any areas you don’t want your pet to go, especially areas that lead outside. Dogs may get lost easier in the winter because the ice and snow can mask recognizable scents and landmarks, thereby making it harder for your pet to find his way home. Be sure there are no open doors or windows that can let the cold in or your dog out.
If you use space heaters, keep them away from locations where happy, wagging tails can knock them over and potentially start a fire. Moreover, if you build a fire in the fireplace, make sure your pet cannot get too close to the flame. In general, do your best to pet-proof your home.
It’s also important to offer a warm place to which your dog can retreat. A cozy dog bed that’s in a warm area, preferably up off of the floor and away from drafty windows and doors is the best scenario.
Take Shorter Walks
Be aware that cold weather can exacerbate certain physical limitations, especially in older and arthritic dogs. It’s a good idea to take shorter walks during the winter and try to stay away from frozen, icy patches. Some dogs may need a coat or sweater when outdoors in the winter, not to make a fashion statement but for warmth. Dogs with short hair will obviously get colder faster, but many of us don’t give the same consideration to dogs with short legs. Think about it; shorter legs mean his body is closer to the cold ground so he will get chilled more quickly.
Also remember that dogs with conditions like Cushing’s disease, heart or kidney disease, diabetes, or hormonal imbalances have a hard time regulating their body temperatures so they benefit from shorter, more frequent walks during the winter.
Give a Thorough Wipe-Down
After your walk, take the time to wipe off your dog’s paws, legs and belly when you first come inside. Many cities and counties use salt, deicers, antifreeze or some other types of toxic chemicals to help melt the snow and ice. These chemicals can irritate your pet’s feet. Furthermore, you don’t want your dog to lick his paws and ingest these substances. Likewise, it’s important to inspect your pet’s paw pads to make sure he didn’t cut himself on ice shards or broken glass.
Monitor Food and Water
Your dog should maintain a healthy weight throughout the winter. If he is less active than in the warmer months, you may have to adjust the amount of food he consumes. Make sure he has the proper amount of a nutritious, high quality dog food like CANIDAE, as well as plenty of fresh water during the winter months.
Sadly, not everyone is a responsible pet owner. If you happen to see a pet left outside during frigid weather, take action. Document the address, date, time, circumstances, type of animal and anything else you think is pertinent. If possible, take photographs or a video of the situation. Then call the authorities – a local animal control agency, the police or sheriff’s office, etc. – and report the situation.
On another day, go back to the location and see if that poor animal is still out in the cold. If so, respectfully call the agency back and make a second report. Please be the voice of those who cannot speak.
There was an adorable photo circulating on social media that featured a dog sitting in a high-chair eating a meal. The image was endearing but it piqued my curiosity. Were the dog’s owners anthropomorphizing their pup? Was the customized high-chair an attempt at being cute, or did the chair serve a purpose? I had to find out.
It turns out the dog has a condition called Megaesophagus, also referred to as ME or Mega E. Dogs with this condition must eat in an upright position, almost like he’s begging, hence the high-chair image.
Megaesophagus can affect dogs, cats, and humans, and occurs when the muscles of the esophagus lose tone and becomes inflated to the point where the animal or person can’t get food to go down their throat and into their stomach. As a result, the food just sits in the esophagus tube until it is regurgitated.
Megaesophagus can be a congenital defect or acquired as an adult. Any dog breed can develop this condition, but some are more susceptible than others. Dachshunds, Shar Pei, Miniature Schnauzers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Newfoundlands and Great Danes seem to be at a higher risk.
Symptoms of Megaesophagus
Regurgitation is the primary symptom of Megaesophagus, and the easiest to detect, obviously. Another symptom that is fairly easy to notice is weight loss. If your dog suddenly begins losing weight and you don’t know why, pay close attention to his eating habits. Because the dog’s food is not making it into his stomach, the food is not digested so none of the nutrients are assimilated. As such, your pet’s weight loss is likely combined with malnourishment.
Aspiration pneumonia is a common complication of Megaesophagus, and it’s the most serious. Because your dog’s food sits in his esophagus, it can migrate into his lungs and cause pneumonia.
Care and Treatments
At this time, there are no medical cures for Megaesophagus. The answer to a long and relatively normal life and a good quality of life is lifestyle management.
The main consideration is what and how your dog will eat. You must find a nutritious and healthy dog food that works for your dog, like CANIDAE Pure Elements. Feed him small, frequent meals instead of one large daily meal.
High-chairs made for this condition are called Bailey Chairs, and they work because gravity helps pull the dog food through the dog’s esophagus and into his stomach.
Dog owners Joe and Donna Koch designed the first high-chair for Megaesophagus-inflicted dogs. They named it the Bailey Chair after their dog, who had Megaesophagus. These days, there are a wide variety of Bailey Chairs available. There is even a DIY kit available for you industrious types.
There are other options for feeding a dog with Megaesophagus. Some people pad a small wastepaper basket and turn it into a comfortable seat for their dog to eat from.
It will take some experimentation to figure out what works best for you and your dog. Whatever you settle on, it’s important to keep your dog in the upright position for at least 10 minutes after every meal so gravity has time to do its thing.
Megaesophagus Support Groups
A quick Megaesophagus search on Facebook delivered five active results. There is a general page dedicated to the condition and there are two support groups; Canine Megaesophagus Support Group (3200 members), Feline Megaesophagus and Upright Canine Brigade, Megaesophagus Awareness and Support (599 members). There is also a great website, Canine Megaesophagus Info, which offers a wealth of ME information in addition to support and awareness.
Members of these support groups share beautiful testimonials along with tips and tricks for establishing a thriving routine with a Megaesophagus dog. From what I’ve learned, a few adjustments in your lifestyle will allow your dog to have a long, happy, healthy life.
Pet memes and videos that use anthropomorphism as a comedic vehicle always strike my funny bone. In fact, I recently wrote an article on the Best Pet Memes on the Internet and every meme I cited ascribed human thoughts and attitudes to animals.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as the attribution of human characteristics or behaviors to that which is not human. As a logophile (lover of words), I was interested to learn that the origins of the word anthropomorphism are derived from the Greek word anthropos – which means human – and morphe – which means form. That makes perfect sense.
Without getting too far off the subject, here’s an interesting little fact. Since the 1600s, scholars have believed that our human tendency to anthropomorphize, while deep-rooted and innate, impedes our true understanding of the world. But if it makes us laugh, hey, isn’t that what it’s really all about?
So I thought it would be fun to ask my friends and family to anthropomorphize right along with me by answering this question: If your dog had one wish, what would it be? The answers were varied but can easily be grouped into a few categories.
We live on the coast of South Carolina. If you are familiar with this area, you may have become acquainted with pluff mud (aka plough mud), a slippery, oozy, brownish, grayish, viscous sucking mud. This slimy mud, which is abundant around our tidal flats and salt marshes, has an accompanying aroma that is like nothing I’ve ever smelled before. I’m not sure I can accurately describe the smell in words but I can tell you this, it’s nearly impossible to wash out of dog fur. The mud itself takes a firm hand and lots of elbow grease to remove, but that smell has a lingering quality that you almost have to get used to. I often say our dogs smell like a combination of popcorn and pluff mud.
Our dogs get into pluff mud a lot. One of our favorite places to let them run is deep in a small island not far from our house. Of course the island is rife with the stuff and our dogs love to romp through it. Not to digress too far off topic, but you have to be careful around pluff mud because you can sink into it and get stuck. So can dogs. Just saying.
Every time we take the pups for off-leash playtime, we know we’re going to have a long, intense grooming session afterwards. Fortunately, they are used to the routine and understand that “if you want to play, you’ve got to pay” so they stand by patiently as we soap them up and wash them down.
If you are a new dog owner or your dog has recently discovered the joys of pluff mud (or skunk chasing or stink rolling, etc.), here are three grooming mistakes to avoid.
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