Canine Body Language: Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails?

An old joke about wagging tails goes like this: A young boy is afraid to pet a dog. An adult says, “He’s friendly – look, he’s even wagging his tail.” The boy responds, “Yeah, but he’s barking and growling – I don’t know which end to believe!”
This poor excuse for a joke contains a lot of truth, because a wagging tail does not necessarily mean a dog is friendly. So, if a wagging tail does not always indicate friendliness, what does it mean?
A dog’s tail position and motion is incorporated as a component of a complex system of body language that domestic dogs use, along with “verbal” cues such as barking, growling or whining, in order to communicate. A wagging tail indicates excitement or agitation. But whether the dog means it as an invitation to play, or to warn another dog or person to stay back, depends on other body language.
A slowly wagging tail that curves down and back up into a “U” usually indicates a relaxed, playful dog. If his ears are erect and pointing forward, and he is in the classic “play bow” position, he’s inviting you to play.
A tail that is held higher, whether wagging or not, indicates dominance and/or increased interest in something. If the end of the tail arches over the back, and is twitching, you may be faced with an aggressive dog.
Tail position and movement is simply used as a social indicator for other living things. Dogs generally don’t wag their tails when they are alone. For example, if you pour your dog a bowl of food, he may wag his tail excitedly at the prospect of eating. But if he finds the bowl already filled – without anyone being around – he will usually not wag his tail. He may still be happy to eat, but there’s no one around with whom to communicate his happiness.

There Could Be Parasites in Water

 I know why dogs love the water. Growing up, I took every opportunity to enjoy a swim in irrigation ditches, holding ponds, Folsom Lake, and even the Sacramento and American Rivers of California. Our evolutionary roots in water draw us to it and it just feels right. But my folks and I were oblivious to the dangers that are possible from water. There are parasites in water.
It took a long time for our parents to appreciate that polio in our classmates was due to playing in stagnant stands of water. The same is still true for our dogs; many owners are oblivious to the dangers in open water.
In my last post I, described some hazards possible to dogs frolicking in water. My list is actually longer so I will continue.

Bacteria and Protozoa

Giardia, leptospirosis, and cryptosporidium mentioned in the last post are not the only bacterial and protozoal threat from standing water. Coccidia, a protozoa (single-celled animals), and Campylobacter, a bacteria, are common in small stands and puddles of water. Like the others, they also cause distress to the gastrointestinal tract, typically in the form of persistent diarrhea. Fortunately, both can be diagnosed from the examination of a stool sample and can be cured with antibiotic treatment.
If your dog swims, yearly or twice yearly stool examinations are an excellent idea for detecting water-borne parasites. This protection is not only for your dog, but for you and your family, as well.
Giardia, leptospirosis, cryptosporidium, and Campylobacter are all zoonotic diseases. This means they can be passed from pets to people. All are evacuated from the rectum of infected pets.
Remember, a dog’s tongue is its toilet paper. These protozoa and bacteria can be passed to you by your dog’s licks, especially to your mouth.

“Swamp Cancer”

Pythiosis is a disease caused by a fungus-like creature (think athlete’s foot or ringworm). Pythium is primarily found in the swamp waters of the U.S. Gulf States, but it has also been found in standing waters in the Midwest and eastern states. An outbreak in northern California has also been reported.
Pythiosis earns the name “swamp cancer” because it causes lumps and masses on the bodies of horses. These same skin lesions can also occur in dogs.
The fungus invades the body through exiting wounds and stimulates an immune response that resulta in ulcerated lumps. For dogs that drink swamp water, these lesions occur primarily in the esophagus, stomach, and intestines, causing refusal to eat, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal straining.
Unfortunately, surgical removal of the lumps and masses, on the skin or internally, is the recommended treatment. Often, surgical treatment is too late for a successful outcome, and medical treatment with anti-fungal drugs and chemotherapy drugs are mostly unsuccessful.

Salmon Poisoning

Every spring and lasting to early fall, salmon return from the sea to mate, or spawn, in the fresh water rivers and streams where they were born. I know you have all seen images of bears catching and eating the salmon as they return to their home waters in the Pacific Northwest. Exhausted by their migration up stream, these fish are easy prey in shallow waters.
Dogs, like bears, relish the idea of wading into the shallow waters, catching the salmon, and eating them. But there is a risk. Salmon can be carriers of a bacterium called Neorickettsia, which hides in a parasitic fluke (a tapeworm-like creature called Nanophyetus) in the salmon’s body.
Dogs infected by Neorickettsia experience fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and enlarged lymph nodes. Nanophetus is easily identified in the stool, which is a very strong presumption that dogs with symptoms are positive for salmon poisoning. Hospital treatment and antibiotic therapy are usually curative for salmon poisoning.

Water Intoxication

Dogs enjoying fresh water often drink too much of it. This dilutes the sodium in their blood, leading to “hyponatremia.” The lack of salt in the blood encourages the flow of water into the body cells, including brain cells. The extra water in the cells causes swelling.
As explained by Dr. Karen Becker, this inflow of water into the brain and other cells causes “staggering/loss of coordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, light gum color, and excessive salivation. In severe cases, there can also be difficulty breathing, collapse, loss of consciousness, seizures, coma, and death.”
Prevent water intoxication by taking breaks from water activity every 15 minutes with “land” sports and activity.
As I have said before, I love water sport for dogs and its positive impact on body fitness. Owners just need to be sensitive and aware of the dangers that lurk in waters.             by Dr. Ken Tudor

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Dogs are not known for being fussy eaters. Put it in your dog’s path and he’ll gobble it up, whether it be table scraps, garbage … or grass.
Dogs are primarily carnivores (meat-eaters). Although they like to eat meat, they can also survive on a well-balanced vegetarian diet: Cats, on the other hand, may die without animal protein. Like all living creatures, dogs need a combination of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and water in a balanced diet that provides enough calories to meet their daily needs.
We’re not sure why your pup likes grass, although there have been many theories offered. Primarily, dogs are descended from wild canids (wolves and foxes), which ate the entire “kill” when they hunted for food. Since they consumed many herbivores (plant-eating animals), they wound up eating a lot of plants and even berries found in the stomach and intestines of their prey. Interestingly, carnivores tend to go for the stomach and its contents first, so it’s likely that dogs may eat grass because they like it and it was once part of their normal diet.
Then there is the great mystery: Do dogs eat grass to make themselves vomit? Or do they vomit because they eat the grass? Most veterinarians believe that dogs eat grass simply because they like it, and vomiting just naturally follows. When dogs eat grass, the grass acts as an irritant and causes vomiting. However, they may not be smart enough to use grass as a medicine when they have an upset stomach. That said, one of us has seem a dog with burrs stuck in his throat pounce on a Ficus plant and voraciously start scoffing great scads of leaves until he threw up, presumably in an attempt to dislodge the foreign material.
Some veterinarians believe that dogs eat grass because their prepared diets are lacking in greens and so they eat grass. And as some support of this contention, dogs sometimes seek out a particular variety of grass to nibble.
No matter what the reason, your dog’s “grass” habit is normal behavior and you need not be concerned about it. A note of caution, however: Take care that your pet does not eat grass that has been treated with fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides. This could cause stomach upset or even worse problems for your dog.

   Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and            Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

Heat Exhaustion in Dogs: Be a Cool Pet Parent, Keep Him Cool

Working up a good sweat in the hot summer months may be good for you, but it can lead to heat stroke in your dog and kill him in a matter of minutes. Heat stroke is a dangerous condition that takes the lives of many animals every year. Your dog’s normal body temperature is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. If it rises to 105 or 106 degrees, the dog is at risk for developing heat exhaustion. If the body temperature rises to 107 degrees, your dog has entered the dangerous zone of heat stroke. With heat stroke, irreversible damage and death can occur.  Heat exhaustion in dogs is serious.
Here are some cold summer facts: The temperature in a parked car can reach 160 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with partially opened windows. And any dog exercising on a hot, humid day, even with plenty of water, can become overheated. Overheating often leads to heat stroke. As a pet owner, you should know the dangers of overheating and what to do to prevent it. You should also know the signs of heat stroke and what to do if your dog exhibits those signs.
When humans overheat we are able to sweat in order to cool down. However, your dog cannot sweat as easily; he must rely on panting to cool down. Dogs breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, directing the air over the mucous membranes of the tongue, throat and trachea to facilitate cooling by evaporation of fluid. Your dog also dissipates heat by dilation of the blood vessels in the surface of the skin in the face, ears and feet. When these mechanisms are overwhelmed, hyperthermia and heat stroke usually develop.
Dogs who have a thick coat, heart and lung problems or a short muzzle are at greater risk for heat stroke. Others at risk include
  • Puppies up to 6 months of age
  • Large dogs over 7 years of age and small dogs over 14 years
  • Overweight dogs
  • Dogs who are overexerted
  • Ill dogs or those on medication
  • Brachycephalic dogs (short, wide heads) like pugs, English bulldogs and Boston terriers
  • Dogs with cardiovascular disease and/or poor circulation
    What To Watch For
    If your dog is overheating, he will appear sluggish and unresponsive. He may appear disorientated. The gums, tongue and conjunctiva of the eyes may be bright red and he will probably be panting hard. He may even start vomiting. Eventually he will collapse, seizure and may go into a coma.
    If your dog exhibits any of these signs, treat it as an emergency and call your veterinarian immediately. On the way to your veterinary hospital, you can cool your pet with wet towels, spray with cool water from a hose or by providing ice chips for your dog to chew (providing he is conscious).
    Veterinary Care
    Heat related illness is typically diagnosed based on physical exam findings and a recent history that could result in overheating. Your veterinarian may perform various blood tests to assess the extent of vital organ dysfunction caused by overheating.
    Intensity of treatment depends upon the cause and severity of the heat illness.
  • Mildly increased temperature (less than 105°F) may only require rest, a fan to increase air circulation, fresh water to drink and careful observation.
  • Markedly increased temperature (greater than 106°F) must be treated more aggressively. Cooling can be promoted externally by immersion in cool water or internally by administering a cool water enema.
  • Underlying aggravating conditions, such as upper airway obstructive diseases, heart disease, lung disease and dehydration may be treated with appropriate medications, supplemental oxygen or fluid therapy.
    Home Care
    Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency. Check your dog’s temperature rectally if you suspect heat stroke. If it is over 105 degrees F, remove your dog from the heat source immediately and call your veterinarian.
    Meanwhile, place a cool, wet towel over your dog or place him in a cool bath. Do not use ice because it may cause skin injury. Spraying with water from a garden hose also works well.

Dog Training Tips on How To Give Dogs Treats

  • A few years ago I unintentionally insulted my father, Dr. Marty Becker, by giving him some unsolicited advice about how he could better give treats to our family’s combined six dogs. My dad would grasp the treats between his fingers and hold them out over the dogs’ noses. Each time he did this, I was reminded of sharks in a feeding frenzy as the dogs swirled around his legs and made crazed Jaws-style leaps and snaps at his hands to secure their snacks.From the bewildered and slightly annoyed look on Dad’s face, I could tell my suggestion wasn’t well received. He clearly thought I was nitpicking something that seemed insignificant. After all, he’d given thousands of treats in his nearly 30 years as a veterinarian and lifelong pet lover. He knew what he was doing!Or he thought he did.A couple of days later, Dad burst into the house shaking his hand vigorously. One finger was bleeding slightly — an excited dog had leapt up for a treat and accidentally nipped Dad’s hand. Fortunately, the wound was minor and once we had it all bandaged up, he asked me to show him how I give treats, because if there was a better way, he wanted to learn it.  Here are some dog training tips.
  • Offer Treats the Right Way

    My father wasn’t alone in his misguided treating ways: Teaching people how to offer a dog a treat more safely is a common part of my coaching. Fortunately, there are some common variables that can easily be tweaked when it comes to treating your pooch. The changes are simple but the results can be dramatic.
    The first mistake people make when treating a dog is to hold the treat too high. This causes the dog to stand on his hind legs or jump to get the treat. In this way, jumping up is reinforced, making it a harder habit to break in other situations as well, such as greeting new people.
    Your fingers are also at risk when you hold treats too high above your dog’s head. When he has to jump up to get his snack, his vision and control over his teeth may be more limited, especially when he is excited about the treat itself — and you may very well find yourself, like my dad, with an unintentionally nipped finger.
    So what’s the solution? Simple: The treat should be brought closer to the dog’s face, not waved in the air above him. Hold it just under his mouth or at chest level, where he can easily take it from you without jumping or snapping.
    If your dog tends to snatch treats from your fingers, deliver them on a flat, open palm, as if feeding a horse. For especially grabby dogs, keep the treat inside a closed fist, lower it to chest level and then open up the hand and let your dog take the treat from your palm. This will help your dog stay calm and keep your fingers that much safer.

Don’t Reward Bad Behavior

Once you’ve got the hang of how to give your dog a treat, be aware of when and why you are treating him. Whatever he is doing just before or while he’s being treated is being reinforced, so treating at the wrong time can reinforce the wrong behavior.
Your dog may paw at your leg or arm, jump up, whine or bark in order to get your attention. You may assume that offering him a treat will distract or placate him and he will stop. But in the long run, that’s not what happens. Instead, your dog learns that this behavior earns him a reward and he becomes more motivated to continue with the jumping, pawing and barking. A four-legged terror can be created when your dog figures out that naughty behavior equals a treat smorgasbord.
Dogs establish habits through cause and effect learning, and for this reason, it’s imperative to pay attention to when and why your dog is being rewarded. My father was rewarding his dogs when they were vocal and overly aroused. This reinforced their excitable behavior around food. When he started rewarding them only when they were calm, the entire situation changed and the dogs’ behavior changed.

When? And How Much?

Once you figure out how to treat and what behaviors not to reward, it’s time to think about when to offer your dog a treat and how much to give him.
Your dog will learn to associate the behavior that precedes the treat with getting a reward, so it’s important to think about when you offer that treat. The way you time your dog’s treats can unintentionally create some unusual habits for your pooch. If you are consistently rewarding a behavior, make sure it’s one that you don’t mind having your dog repeat over and over again — because chances are, he will.
I worked with a family whose Heeler would occasionally bring a pine cone in from the yard and chew on it. Her owners would offer her a treat in exchange for the pine cone. Over time, she learned that pine cones could be traded for treats, and she would spend her day dutifully retrieving them from the yard and bringing them to her owners, who would immediately offer her a treat — and a one-dog yard cleaning service was born. Her owners knew that chewing on pine cones can be dangerous for dogs and they didn’t mean for this to become a habit. In order to put a stop to the behavior, they had to change the timing of the reward and teach their dog that her efforts to pick up the yard would no longer be rewarded.
Timing is important when you are treating your dog, but so is the size of the treats. Rewarding behavior with frequent small treats is more likely to be effective than offering your dog a single large treat. Frequent treating reinforces desired behavior, while smaller, low-calorie treats help your dog manage his waistline. A dog can only be given so much food before he reaches his calorie allotment, and too many treats can put your dog at risk for obesity and stomach upset. In addition, at some point your dog will become full and lose interest in being rewarded in this way — which can make it harder to get him to behave in the way you desire. Breaking up a large treat into several pieces that are blueberry-sized or smaller allows for greater opportunity to reward behavior in a productive and waist-friendly manner.
There are plenty of variables to think about when treating your dog. The next time you offer your pooch a treat, pay attention to your own behavior and your dog’s response to it, and consider how you might change your tactics to get a better response from your canine.
  • BY MIKKEL BECKER
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

 

5 Best Treatments For Your Pet’s Allergies

Now that you are aware of the clinical signs of allergies in pets, here are my top recommendations for alleviating your canine or feline companion’s symptoms.
 Take your pet to the vet — Since there are so many conditions that can appear clinically similar to allergies, having your veterinarian examine your pet is an important first step. Diagnostics, including skin impression smear and scraping, blood testing, and others may be needed to determine the nature of the condition and the most appropriate treatments.
 Bathing and topical treatments — Cleaning your pet’s skin surface and hair coat using a pet-appropriate shampoo helps remove environmental allergens, bacteria, oil, and other irritating substances. Full-body bathing or localized cleansing can be performed on a twice daily or daily basis depending on your pet’s needs. My general recommendation for pets suffering from environmental allergies is to be bathed on an every seven day or more frequent basis if needed. Besides shampooing, a leave-on-conditioner or veterinary-prescribed topical treatment can help to manage your pet’s general or localized skin irritation and infection.
 Eye rinses — Applying a few drops of eye irrigating solution, just like that which you would use in your own eyes and can purchase from a human pharmacy, is one of the simplest means of removing allergens from your pet’s eyes. Doing so every morning, afternoon, and evening for 24 to 48 hours can help lend perspective on whether your pet’s problem is simply mild environmental inflammation or merits evaluation by your veterinarian. Eyedrops or eye ointment containing an antibiotic, steroid, or other drugs may be called for.
 Ear cleaning — Allergens, broken hairs, microorganisms (bacteria, yeast, mites, etc.), and other substances can all get stuck in your pet’s ear canals. Gently irrigating (flushing) the ear canals with a pet-appropriate ear cleaning solution removes these offensive materials and modifies the pH and microenvironment of the ear canal to deter microorganism growth. Additionally, plucking the hair from the ear canal and inner flap prevents accumulation of environmental allergens that can irritate the ear canal and promote the growth of microorganisms. If your pet is a swimmer, sprinkler-diver, or is frequently bathed, then irritating the ears post-watery activity can help ensure that moisture doesn’t linger in the canals.
 Dietary modification and nutraceuticals — Skin allergies can correlate with our environment and with food components (protein, carbohydrates, fat, etc.). Therefore, it is vital that owners consider changing their allergy-prone pet’s diet as part of a food elimination trial. Novel proteins and carbohydrates (those your pet has not previously consumed) should be chosen and vigilance must be employed to prevent your cat or dog from consuming other food sources (non-approved human foods and pet treats, etc.) that could negatively impact the trial by causing an allergic flare up. Truly, it’s so important to not cheat on your pet’s food elimination trial. Additionally, I suggest diets that are human-grade and whole-food, as feed-grade ingredients in kibble or canned pet foods can potentially contain undesirable contaminants that could sicken your pet on a short- or long-term basis, or further contribute to allergies. Nutraceuticals like fish oil derived Omega-3 fatty acids have a natural anti-inflammatory effect and promote healthy lipid layers in the skin to permit the body’s defenses toward microorganisms and allergens.
 As there are so many connections between allergens and the variety of clinical signs our pets may exhibit, it’s important that owners recognize the signs and work with their veterinarians to help ensure that minimal discomfort is experienced and the most rapid resolution is achieved.
 Does your pet suffer from seasonal or non-seasonal allergies? If so, what kind and how do you manage the multi-faceted issues?        Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

Skin Inflammation Due to Allergies (Atopy) in Dogs

 Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy) in Dogs

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies. In fact, this is the second most common allergic skin disease in dogs. These allergic reactions can be brought on by normally harmless substances like grass, mold spores, house dust mites, and other environmental allergens.
Dogs normally show signs of the disease between 3 months and 6 years of age, though atopic dermatitis can be so mild the first year that it does not become clinically apparent before the third year.
Despite the fact dogs are more prone to atopic dermatitis than cats, it does occur in felines. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.
Symptoms and Types
Often symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis progressively worsen with time, though they become more apparent during certain seasons. The most commonly affected areas in dogs include the:
  • Ears
  • Wrists
  • Ankles
  • Muzzle
  • Underarms
  • Groin
  • Around the eyes
  • In between the toes
The signs associated with atopic dermatitis, meanwhile, consist of itching, scratching, rubbing, and licking, especially around the face, paws, and underarms.
Causes
Early onset is often associated with a family history of skin allergies. This may lead the dog to become more susceptible to allergens such as:
  • Animal danders
  • Airborne pollens (grasses, weeds, trees, etc.)
  • Mold spores (indoor and outdoor)
  • House dust mite
Diagnosis
Your veterinarian will want a complete medical history to determine the underlying cause of the skin allergies, including a physical examination of the dog.
Serologic allergy testing may be performed, but it does not always have reliable results. The quality of this kind of testing often depends on the laboratory which analyzes the results. Intradermal testing, whereby small amounts of test allergens are injected in the skin and wheal (a red bump) response is measured, may also used to identify the cause of your pet’s allergic reaction.
Treatment
The treatment will depend on what is causing your pet’s allergic reaction. If the reaction is due to atopy, for example, hyposensitization therapy can be performed. Your veterinarian will give your pet injections of the allergens to which it is sensitive. This decreases itchiness in 60 to 80 percent of dogs, but may approximately take six months to a year to see an improvement.
Medicines such as corticosteroids and antihistamines can also be given to control or reduce itching. Cyclosporine is effective in controlling itching associated with long-term skin allergies, while sprays can be used over large body surfaces to control itching with minimal side effects.
Living and Management
Unfortunately, atopic dermatitis only rarely goes into remission or spontaneously resolves. However, bathing your dog in cool water with anti-itch shampoos may help your alleviate its symptoms.
Once treatment has begun, your veterinarian must see the dog every 2 to 8 weeks to ascertain the effectiveness of the treatment and to check for drug interactions. Then, as your pet’s itching becomes well controlled, it will need to be brought into the veterinarian’s office every 3 to 12 months for checkups.
If your veterinarian should find the trigger for your pet’s allergies, he or she will advise you as to how to best avoid those type of allergens.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

Flea Allergy Dermatitis in Dogs

Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common allergy in dogs and is caused by flea bites, specifically the saliva of the flea. It is a very itchy disease and predisposes to the development of secondary skin infections.
Oddly enough, most animals with flea allergy have very few fleas – because they are so itchy, they groom themselves excessively, eliminating any evidence of fleas. However, a couple of flea bites every two weeks are sufficient to make a flea allergic dog itchy all the time. Any animal can become allergic to fleas, although some dogs are more attractive to fleas than others.
Fleas are bloodsucking insects with a life span of 6 to 12 months. This life span is influenced by environmental conditions and can vary from two to three weeks up to a year. Optimal conditions include humidity of 75 to 85 percent and temperature of 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity is more important than the temperature. The adult flea spends most of its life on the host, while the immature stages (eggs) are found in the environment.
What to Watch For
  • Severe itching
  • Chewing and biting of the tail, rump, back legs and occasionally front legs
  • Oozing lesions (lick granuloma) from chewing
  • Hot spots on the hips or face, which is severe skin damage from scratching
  • dogs with flea allergies typically have hair loss and itchiness around the area of the rump (tail base).
  • Adult fleas spent all their life on the host. In this picture several Ctenocephalides felis (the most common flea of dogs) are present on the animal.             By: Dr. Rosanna Marsalla

Why is a Dog Lifespan and Cat Lifespan So Much Shorter Than Ours?

 Why is a dog lifespan and cat lifespan so much shorter than ours?
When you’re a vet, it’s not uncommon for an owner with a sick or dying pet to look at you, usually with tears in their eyes, and tell you they wished their dog or cat could live as long as they did. Why is it that the lifespans of dogs and cats are so much shorter than those of humans? Why can’t they stay with us longer?
To answer this, consider that everything about a dog or cat’s life, from their growth to their ability to learn, is accelerated.
Tooth development is a great example of this. Puppies and kittens are born with no teeth, begin to acquire their baby teeth in as little as 3 weeks, and have all their baby teeth by 45 days. Puppies and kittens generally have all of their adult teeth by the time they are 6 months old. Compare that to the development of humans, in which it can take 4 to 7 months for the immature (baby) teeth to start coming in.
Another way that growth is accelerated is in reproduction. Dogs and cats can be reproductively active as young as 6 months. When a dog or cat gets pregnant, they deliver their young in 60 to 65 days, often producing a litter ranging from a few to over a dozen offspring.
All of this expedited growth means that the bodies of dogs and cats do an immense amount of work that can hasten the aging process. Consider, too, that the processes involved in day-to-day life also require a lot of resources. Humans have a normal body temperature of approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit (F), but dogs and cats maintain normal body temperatures in the 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F range. Those extra few degrees mean your dog or cat’s body is working extra hard every day, even when they are fully grown. In addition, the metabolism of dogs and cats is much higher than that of humans, who burn calories at about half the rate of the most common animal companions.
With all this acceleration, the senior years start early. For cats, it may be as early as age 8; for dogs, the senior age frequently starts at 4 or 5 years for large or giant breed dogs or 8 or more years for small breed dogs. The lifespan of some large breed dogs can be as little as 7 years, such as the case with Great Danes.
This still doesn’t totally answer the question of why the lifespans of dogs and cats are so much shorter, though, so we spent hours of research and called a number of professors and professionals. As it turns out, when all was said and done we learned that no one really knows why this happens.
Scientists suggest that a combination of genetics, inbreeding, metabolism, and evolution are all components of why a dog or cat’s life span is so much shorter than a human’s.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Professor Herman Pontzer of Hunter College, New York, helped to give us some insight. Pontzer and his associates worked with 17 primate species to determine how the body used energy and to characterize their overall metabolic rates. The results of their study showed that the lower metabolic rate of primates, and thus humans, was associated with a prolonged lifespan (compared to those of dogs and cats).
Current research does not have a definitive answer to the question of why dogs and cats don’t live as long as humans. However, it has enabled us to enrich the lives of our pets so they can enjoy every moment to the fullest. We may never be able to give our animal companions the same length of life that we have, but we are better equipped than ever to make every minute special for them.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

 

 

Pancreatitis in Dogs, Pancreatitis in Cats: Learn the Symptoms

Kristin K. knew something was wrong early one recent Monday when her 11-year-old adopted tabby, Sonny, skipped breakfast and lay on the floor.
“He’s the self-appointed sheriff in our household, always policing the other two cats,” Kristin says. “And he’s normally very active in the morning and runs to his food bowl. So I had a bad feeling.”
Kristin immediately took Sonny to the ASPCA Animal Hospital, where he was examined by veterinarian Dr. Mary St. Martin.
“His symptoms were subtle, but he had a tense abdomen and a fever,” recalls Dr. St. Martin, who diagnosed Sonny with acute pancreatitis based on his blood work and an ultrasound that revealed changes in and around his pancreas.
Pancreatitis is commonly treated by veterinarians at the ASPCA, with supportive care such as intravenous fluids, pain medication and anti-nausea medications to control vomiting.
After three nights and four days of treatment at the Hospital, Sonny went home, where Kristin reports “the self-appointed sheriff is back at work.”
As it does in humans, the pancreas, a V-shaped organ located near the stomach and the small intestine, produces insulin, which helps metabolize sugar in the body and is necessary for the digestion of nutrients by producing enzymes which promote the digestion and absorption of fats.
While it’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause, pancreatitis in cats and dogs can be triggered by certain infections or diseases, metabolic disorders, medications and abdominal surgery or trauma. In cats, pancreatitis is often associated with inflammatory liver or intestinal disease, also known as triaditis. In dogs, acute pancreatitis can be caused by dietary indiscretions. Obese and overweight pets, and those fed diets high in fat, are also at risk.
Sonny had never before suffered from pancreatitis but displayed the classic symptoms, including dehydration and decreased appetite. Dogs more commonly develop vomiting and abdominal pain. Both dogs and cats can also develop jaundice associated with pancreatitis.
There are also possible associations between pancreatitis (especially chronic pancreatitis) and diabetes. Sonny’s blood sugar was high and he is being monitored for the possible development of diabetes, which could require treatment with insulin injections.
“It isn’t easy to prevent pancreatitis, but diet changes and keeping pets at ideal body weight may help,” says Dr. St. Martin.

 

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
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