A healthy immune system protects us from diseases. It’s a remarkable network of tissues, cells and organs all working in harmony to protect the body from infections, viruses and other microorganisms. However, sometimes the immune system reacts to something it believes is harmful to the body, overreacting in the way it responds. An estimated 15% of people are allergic to cats, dogs and other animals, but it’s our feline friends that cause more people to sniffle and sneeze than dogs. It’s estimated one in seven children between 6 and 19 years of age are allergic to cats. The reason has nothing to do with their hair though; the instigator is a protein found in cats.
Cat allergies in people are triggered by an overreaction of a super sensitive immune system to a protein (allergen) in cats called FEL d1. Scientists have isolated seven cat allergens that contribute to an allergy, but the FEL d1 protein is the most common reason why people are allergic to felines and it’s because of the size and shape of this specific molecule. It’s found primarily in a cat’s saliva, skin and urine.
The protein is spread on a cat’s fur as she grooms herself and can be deposited on your skin when she licks you. Someone who is super sensitive to cats can develop a rash on their chest, face or neck. When reacting to a perceived threat, the immune system releases a chemical, histamine, which causes congestion, runny nose, sneezing, itching and watery eyes. Symptoms can range from mild irritation or sneezing to life threatening flare ups in asthma sufferers. An allergic reaction to cats can happen immediately or appear four to eight hours after contact with a feline.
All dogs have different rates of nail growth, and how they exercise may help determine if they actually need a trim or not. Many dogs exercise on softer surfaces like grass fields, dirt paths or even indoors. Those surfaces don’t provide a great deal of friction for nails to file down as they play. Dogs that get a lot of exercise on hard surfaces such as concrete sidewalks or rough asphalt roads may get enough filing that their nails wear down naturally, but they may still need them trimmed on occasion.
You may notice that their nails are getting too long when they jump on you or up on a favorite resting spot, or when their excessively long nails are scratching the floor. Long nails can cut skin and rip furniture. They can cause pain and injury to your dog as well.
Different breeds of dogs have different nail growth patterns. Some have higher knuckles and some are more flat to the ground. That can determine how often or when they need their nails trimmed. You will learn with your own dog what their speed and type of nail growth is and how to deal with it.
Walking and Running
When a dog’s nails are too long, it can hamper their ability to walk and run correctly. To put it in human terms, imagine your own toenails growing so long that they curl under your toes or constantly rub against the ground, or make your shoes painful to wear by jamming back against the base of your nails from pressure against the tips. It would definitely make the actual process of ambulation more difficult for you. Sure, you would adapt, but you prevent the problems to begin with by keeping your nails trimmed. You can do the same thing for your dog.
The Clever Dog Lab is a research center in Vienna, Austria that’s been around for about six years. It’s one of a handful of centers around the world studying dogs to see how they think and why they behave in certain ways. The researchers’ main goals are to learn more about canine personality, how dogs view their world, how they compare to other species when performing a variety of cognitive tests, and how they problem solve.
For years, canines were thought of as animals with limited intelligence, understanding and emotions. Fortunately, a flurry of research conducted on our four legged friends in recent years paints a much different picture. Researchers are getting into the minds and hearts of dogs, and discovering the importance of our relationship with canines.
More than 600 volunteer dogs are used for the research at the Clever Dog Lab. The dogs are a variety of ages and breeds, both mixed and purebreds. Dog owners lend their pets to the research team that is trying to answer questions concerning our canine friends. Scientists believe that learning how dogs think and why they behave in certain ways can help them learn more about our own behaviors and our brains.
We all strive to be responsible pet owners and “do the right thing” where our beloved furry friends are concerned. We are human, though, which means that despite having the best intentions, sometimes we slip up. Read on for some common blunders pet owners make, and how to avoid them.
Adopting on a Whim
Judging by the number of people I know who’ve made this mistake (myself included) I’d say that “impulse adoption” is fairly common. It’s also understandable. That adorable little puppy face in the window can be so hard to resist. That kitten being given away on the street calls to our most basic need to “save” this tiny helpless being. However, getting a pet before doing your research or making the necessary preparations can have disastrous results, with the pet being the one who bears the brunt of our hasty decision. Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment, and you need to be absolutely certain you’re picking one that is appropriate for your family, your living situation and your lifestyle.
Not Enough Exercise
Yes, it can be darn inconvenient to walk the dog in frigid winter weather, or make time to play with your cat every day. But exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle for our pets, just as it is for us. Couch potato pets run the risk of becoming overweight, which can cause numerous health issues including arthritis, diabetes, joint issues, liver problems, difficulty breathing and a decreased quality of life. Insufficient physical activity can also contribute to bad behavior. How much exercise is enough depends on your pet’s age, breed, size and health status. A basic rule of thumb is 30 minutes a day for dogs, and 15 minutes for cats. Consider that the bare bones minimum; your pet may need more exercise than that.
We train our dogs to help them fit in, to learn acceptable ways of behavior within our parameters, to make living with each other a smoother existence together, and simply because that is what a responsible pet owner does. You are teaching them new survival skills that fit in the human environment. Like a child, if a dog knows what it can or cannot do, it learns to act within those boundaries, but sometimes what they do makes us wonder who is actually doing the training!
A dog will test the boundaries they are given, which is a normal part of the learning process. It doesn’t stop once they are trained to an acceptable level either. It is an ongoing process at every stage of your dog’s life.
We start out with very clear goals in mind when we are training our dogs, but often find ourselves bending the rules in order to fit their individual personalities or specific needs. We don’t always do it consciously either. We see a cute or endearing behavior that isn’t quite what we wanted them to do – for instance, coming up on the couch to cuddle against you after you had decided that climbing up on the furniture was an absolute “no no” in your house. Pretty soon that becomes an altered acceptable behavior that your dog has basically manipulated you into allowing.
Cat vision isn’t as clear as ours. Because they are true predators, their vision is designed to pick up quick movements of prey, especially in dim light. Cats and dogs have more rod cells that can quickly refresh to pick up the slightest movement of prey walking through the grass at dusk. They have fewer cones which are responsible for our detailed and sharp color vision.
Feline vision is blurry, but their peripheral vision is much better and has more range than ours, enabling them to see a mouse out of the corner of their eye. The smallest movements capture a cat’s attention, and if it shines that’s a reason to investigate.
Cats focus on shiny objects for the same reason we do – curiosity. If you spot something shiny on the ground, your impulse is to investigate. It gets your attention because it might be something special, like a lost ring or coin. Perhaps it’s nothing more than a piece of glass or tin reflecting sunlight. It doesn’t matter what it is, we check it out because it’s shiny. Curiosity may grab a cat’s attention too, but the main reason they steal our shiny things is for attention and wanting to play. Read More »
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