Understanding Cat Behavior-Head Butting

 

After a long day at work you may come home to find your cat greets you with a strong head bunt on your knee, face, leg, or any available part of your body.

While it may seem like just a playful form of interaction it’s actually a significant gesture that’s reserved exclusively for members of a cat’s colony.

Head Bumping as Bonding Ritual

“When cats head bunt they’re creating a communal scent in a free-roaming universe. Cats recognize each other by scent first and foremost,” said Pam Johnson-Bennett, a cat behavior expert and author of seven books on cat behavior.

Head bunting, which most of us have been mistakenly referring to as head butting, is a way for cats to exchange scents so that everyone in their environment—their colony—smells the same. It’s similar to a jowl or cheek rub, which is also done to leave their scent on the things and people they have claimed, but it is not exactly the same.

Ingrid Johnson, a certified cat behavior consultant who has been featured on Animal Planet, says bunting is a form of bonding.

“They’re saying ‘I love you. You’re so wonderful but you’re also a little stinky. Let’s get you smelling like us,’” Johnson said.

Cats do that by activating the scent glands, which excrete pheromones on the area of their head just above the eye but below the ear. Johnson affectionately refers to these areas as “male pattern baldness spots” because a cat’s fur can get a bit sparse there as he ages.

Social Rank Determines Which Cat Head-Bumps

Bunting ranks higher than urine marking, which is usually done by a more subordinate cat to avoid conflict. Within a multiple cat household or environment, it’s the dominant cat, the one with the higher social rank in the household, that does the head bunting.

“It’s not the subordinate, shy, squirrely cats that bonk other cats. It’s the confident cat, the one who is everyone’s friend in the house.  His purpose is to spread the colony smell and groom everyone,” Johnson said.

I Just Bumped to Say ‘I Love You’

Cats who are bunting may stride toward you while purring or flop over on the floor a few times before they make contact with you.

Johnson-Bennett says there’s softness to a cat’s face when he’s in head bunting mode.

“Their whiskers and pupils are relaxed. Their ears are also relaxed. They’re not pricked up like they’re getting ready to hunt,” she said.

The process may also involve a bit of alternate head rubbing on a cat’s targeted person or animal and the leg or arm of the furniture. Although contact with the furniture or other objects likely incorporates more jowl rubbing along the glands in their lips.

“It’s like a mutual love session between a person and the furniture. We don’t always realize that cats live in a very scent laden world. Humans are visual. We forget that there are so many scent glands on them. It’s like they’re leaving little kitty text messages,” Johnson said.

But those messages say more than just “Fluffy was here”; they’re a universal expression of friendship and affection regardless of species.

Johnson-Bennett says her cat frequently head bunts her dog.

“My dog usually backs away. He looks like he’s thinking ‘I don’t get your behavior. It does nothing for me but you’re nice around me.’ He doesn’t get it but it works out for them anyway,” she said.

How to Respond to Your Cat’s Head Bump

While a dog may not know how to respond, there are some appropriate ways for pet parents to reciprocate. It can be an opportunity to build or enrich the bond between you and your cat.

“You should be thrilled that they’ve chosen you. Enjoy it and take it as a compliment that you’re worthy of their affection—that they’ve deemed you good enough,” Johnson said.

If you have a close relationship with your cat you can head bunt them back or simply offer your forehead, scratch their chin, pet them on their head or talk sweetly to them.

Cats head bunt when they’re happy, not when they feeling aggressive, fearful, or reclusive. But Johnson-Bennett cautions that you should know your cat’s likes and dislikes.

“Some cats may not be comfortable with a response. So wait until it head bunts you the next time. Then maybe you can reach out your hand to build trust.”

Johnson agrees that it’s important to build a bond before you reciprocate

“The more you foster a relationship with your cat the more she will want to head bunt you.”

If you don’t quite have that relationship with your feline, she says, you can nurture it along with soft brushing, giving treat rewards, or just communicating with her by simply kneeling down at her level, low to the ground, and encouraging her to come over to you.

Head Bumping vs Territory Marking

Johnson-Bennett says she sees a lot of pet owners confuse head bunting with territory marking.

“That sounds so cold. Head bunting is typically an affectionate behavior. People think in black-and-white terms with their cat’s behavior. We show affection with a hug, a kiss, or by holding hands. Cats have so many ways of being physically close. They touch noses, which is like a handshake. Head bunting is the next step. It’s like a hug.”

Head Bumping and Head Pressing: There’s a Difference

Cats head press when they’re feeling severe discomfort in their head. This could be caused by hypertension, brain tumor, or other neurological problems.

“They may walk up to a corner and push on both sides of the wall. Their face is wincing. Their head is throbbing. It’s like us pushing into our temples when we have a headache. They may express excessive vocal irritability. They may howl like they’re disoriented,” Johnson said.

If your cat has suddenly started pressing his head against walls or furniture, or if you notice any of these strange vocal behaviors, it’s a medical emergency situation and you should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible.

Johnson-Bennett says the best way to differentiate between these behaviors is to know your cat and be aware of any change in its behavior.

“It’s those little things that pet owners discover about their cat’s behavior that can make a real difference in the relationship. If you misunderstand subtle signs it can have a huge impact on whether you have a close bond or not. We misinterpret cat communication all the time. We think we know what they’re saying or we think their behavior is like a dog’s behavior. Head bunting is another piece of the puzzle to have a better relationship with your cat. That’s what we all want. We don’t want a cat who hides under the bed and doesn’t want to be near you,” Johnson-Bennett said.

 

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

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Canine Separation Anxiety

Dogs are social animals that form strong bonds with people, so it is not surprising that they may feel somewhat anxious when separated from their social group. Most dogs adapt well to the typical daily separation from their owners. Unfortunately, problems can arise when an overly dependent dog develops a dysfunctionally strong attachment to the owners. The dog with separation anxiety is distinguished by signs of distress when left alone and over-attachment when the owner is present.

Separation anxiety may be manifested as destruction of the owner’s property and other behaviors that may be harmful for the dog or annoying for people sharing the dog’s immediate environment.

It is important to realize that dogs with separation anxiety are not doing these things to get even with the owner for leaving, out of boredom, or due to lack of obedience training. These dogs are not being destructive out of “spite” or “anger.” They are truly distressed when left behind.

Consider instead that the dog’s dependence on the owner is so great that she becomes anxious when the owner leaves. The dog must find an outlet for this anxiety, and her methods of doing so may cause considerable damage. Also consider that, no matter how flattering a dog’s constant attention to her owners may seem, it is not fair to the dog to allow her to be so stressed by the owner’s absence that she must resort to one of these unwanted behaviors to alleviate inner tension.

How to Spot Separation Anxiety in Dogs

For some dogs, the anxiety associated with being left alone becomes evident to their owners soon after they join the household. In some cases, dogs may be genetically predisposed to anxiety but inappropriate or insufficient socialization experiences during the juvenile period is the most likely cause. For some dogs, no initiating trigger can be identified. Symptoms of separation anxiety may develop gradually over time or may appear in full-blown form the first time they are left alone.

The onset of separation anxiety sometimes occurs after the dog is exposed to an experience that disrupts its social bond. This can occur when owners board the dog for vacation or change their work schedule. It may also occur when a household member leaves or dies, or when the dog is relocated to a new house or household.

Overly indulgent owners may promote separation distress in predisposed dogs. Owners of dogs that show separation distress are often nurturing, empathetic people who indulge their dog. They allow the dog to follow them around the house and encourage the exuberant welcome the dog gives them when they return home. Somewhat less-nurturing (but by no means neglectful) owners may help instill independence in the dog thus circumventing the worst throes of the problem and permitting its gradual resolution.

Separation anxiety may be confused with other separation-related behavior problems that occur in the owner’s absence. A lack of stimulation leads some dogs to engage in excessive and destructive “exploring,” barking and other nuisance behavior. This type of problem does not necessarily indicate a dysfunctional bond with the owner.

Causes of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

It is widely held that dogs with a dysfunctional background (adopted from shelters, puppy mills, pet stores, dogs that have had multiple owners or traumatic handling early in life) are more prone to separation anxiety. Whether this is because these dogs were relinquished or abused, or whether the condition emerged after their abandonment, is not known for certain. Certainly, inadequate early socialization is a concern with puppy mill and pet store dogs, but not all dogs acquired from these facilities develop separation anxiety.

It also has been reported that mixed breed dogs appear to suffer from separation anxiety more commonly than purebred dogs. Since more mixed breed dogs are obtained from shelters than purebred dogs, this raises a question: Does exposure to a shelter environment predispose some dogs to develop separation anxiety or are more mixed breed dogs relinquished to a shelter as a result of preexisting separation related issues?

It is possible that some dogs are genetically predisposed to develop stronger than normal attachment to members of their social group. Logically, we would predict that these dogs would be more submissive in temperament. Such dogs may belong to breeds that have been genetically selected to form overly tight bonds with owners in order to perform a “job,” such as hunting or herding.

Dogs that develop separation anxiety are often young dogs. However, geriatric dogs may develop separation anxiety in response to physical discomfort accompanying old age. These dogs become less independent and more emotionally attached to the owners as a consequence of their infirmity.

Presentation of Canine Separation Anxiety

Unwanted behavioral signs of separation anxiety are only seen when the owner is absent, or when the dog is prevented from being close to the owner (at night, for instance). Under such circumstances, a needy dog is in a high state of anxiety because she wants to be with her owner and is prevented from doing so. Dogs, like people, cannot stay in a high state of anxiety for long, and must do something to relieve the tension.

To reduce the tension, dogs may engage in destructive behavior, house soiling, and distress vocalization. Other signs may include a reduced activity level, depression, loss of appetite, ritualized pacing, aggression when the owner leaves (mouthing, growling, nipping, or body blocking), excessive grooming, diarrhea, vomiting, panting and salivation. Signs of over-attachment when the owner is home include excessive following behavior, anxious behaviors associated with signals that the owner is preparing to depart, and exuberant greetings.

Excessive chewing, digging and scratching tends to occur in areas near doors and windows (“barrier frustration”). Damage in such areas is virtually diagnostic of separation anxiety. These areas represent exit routes for the dog as she attempts to reunite herself with the owner or, at least, to escape the loneliness. If the dog is confined to a crate, or her movements are restricted by a gate, destruction is usually centered around the crate door or the gate itself. The dog may seriously injure herself during these escape attempts. Attempts to free herself from barriers may result in broken nails or teeth, a bloody mouth, or more extensive injuries from tearing through glass and wood. Dogs may also destroy property that carries the owner’s scent, such as bedding, furniture, clothing, or shoes.

Barking, howling and whining are other common signs of separation anxiety. Distress vocalization and active seeking behavior occur when many social animals are separated from their companions. Such distress vocalizations represent the dog’s attempt to reunite the social unit. Excessive vocalization may occur primarily at the time of the owner’s departure or may continue throughout the duration of the owner’s absence. Owners are often unaware that their dog is distressed by the departure and it is only when neighbors complain about the excessive barking or howling that they become aware that their dog has a separation problem.

Dogs with separation anxiety may become so distressed in their owners’ absence that they urinate or defecate in the house. When this occurs only in the owner’s absence, such “inappropriate” elimination is not indicative of a loss of house training but rather is a physiological response to the extreme distress the dog is experiencing from being alone. House soiling typically occurs within 30 minutes of the owner’s departure as the dog becomes more anxious.

Treatment Separation Anxiety in Dogs

The first step in treating separation anxiety is to break the cycle of anxiety. Every time a dog with separation anxiety becomes anxious when its owner leaves, the distress she feels is reinforced until she becomes absolutely frantic every time she is left alone.

Owners should give the dog an acceptable item to chew, such as a long lasting food treat only when they go out. The goal is to have the dog associate this special treat with the owner’s departure. Treats might include hollow bones stuffed with peanut butter or soft cheese, drilled out nylon bones or hollow rubber chew toys such as Kong toys similarly enhanced (place in the freezer before giving it to the dog to make it last longer). Give the bone to the dog about 15 minutes before preparing to depart. The chew toy should be used only as a reward to offset the anxiety triggered by the owner’s departure. Hiding a variety of these delectable food treats throughout the house may occupy the dog so that the owner’s departure is less stressful.

In an effort to prevent destructive behavior, many owners confine their dog in a crate or behind a gate. For dogs that display “barrier frustration,” the use of a crate in this way is counterproductive. Many dogs will physically injure themselves while attempting to escape such confinement. Careful efforts to desensitize and countercondition the dog to crate confinement before leaving her alone may be helpful in some cases. However, some dogs rebel against any form of restraint, including restricting barriers and, for them, crate training may never be a positive experience.

“Doggie Daycare” or hiring a pet sitter often is a better alternative for dogs that initially are resistant to treatment. It can be expensive, but prices vary.

Independence training is one of the more important aspects of the program. It involves teaching your dog to “stand on her own four feet” when you are present, with the express intention that her newfound confidence will spill over into times when you are away. You need to make your dog more independent by reducing the bond between both of you to a more healthy level of involvement.

Decreasing the bond is the hardest thing for most owners to accept. Most people acquire dogs because they want a strong relationship with them. However, you have to accept that the anxiety your dog experiences in your absence is destructive. Essential components of the independence training program are as follows:

  • Your dog can be with you, but the amount of interaction time should be reduced, especially where attention-seeking behaviors are concerned. You should initiate all interactions so your dog, and it shouldn’t be permitted to, demand attention. If every time you give your dog attention when she whines, it helps to foster the dog’s dependence on you and increases its anxiety in your absence. You should ignore your dog completely when she engages in attention-seeking behavior, and avoid catering to her when she appears to feel anxious. This means no eye contact, no pushing away, and no emollient talk or body language, all of which will reward her attention-seeking mission.Attention is encouraged only when your dog is sitting or lying calmly. The goal is not to ignore your dog, but to stop reinforcing attention-seeking behaviors so your dog develops a sense of independence.
  • Minimize the extent to which your dog follows you by teaching her to remain relaxed in one spot, such as her bed. To accomplish this, it is helpful if you train her to perform a sit-stay or down-stay while gradually increasing the time that she holds the command and remains at a distance from you.
  • If your dog will not remain in a sit or down-stay on command, and insists on following, you can make use of a tether. It is best to introduce your dog to tethering gradually. Tethering is never a substitute for training; it’s simply a tool to use to reach the ultimate goal. A choke chain makes a good tie down – clip one ring to the wall and attach the other to her buckle collar. Have your dog’s bed and favorite toy available so she is comfortable and has something to do. This exercise should be enjoyable – it’s not meant to be a punishment or a time out.
  • Once your dog has learned the basic obedience commands, you can train her to hold long down-stays while you move progressively farther away. First, your dog should be trained to perform a “down-stay” on a mat or dog bed using a specific command, such as “lie down.” Your dog may have to be gently escorted to the designated spot the first few times. Initially, she should be rewarded every 10 seconds for remaining there, then every 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and so on. Once she has figured out what is wanted, you should switch to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement [reward] as this will strengthen the learned response. Each time your dog breaks her “stay,” issue a verbal correction, indicating that there will be no reward, and then escort her back to her bed. She should soon learn that if she breaks the stay, she will be put back, but will be rewarded by staying put.First, your dog can be made to “down-stay” while you are in the room but otherwise occupied. Next she can be asked to stay when you are outside of the room, but nearby. The distance and time you are away from your dog are increased progressively until your dog can remain in a down-stay for 20 to 30 minutes in your absence. Your dog should be warmly praised for compliance. Of course, she needs to accept the praise without breaking the stay.
  • Your dog should become accustomed to being separated from you when you are home for varying lengths of time and at different times of day. You can set up child gates to deny your dog access into the room in which you are doing something (i.e. reading, watching television, or cooking). Instruct your dog to lie down and stay on a dog bed outside the room. As previously mentioned, you can provide an extended-release food treat or toy to keep your dog calm and distracted. Once she is able to tolerate being separated from you by a child gate, you can graduate to shutting the door to the room so your dog cannot see you.
  • Your dog should not be allowed to sleep in bed with you as this only fosters dependence. In fact, it is best if your dog is not even allowed to sleep in your bedroom. First, you need to train your dog to sleep in her own bed on the floor in your bedroom. She may have to be taken to her bed several times before she gets the message that you really want her to sleep in her own bed. If your dog will not follow instructions, you may need to tie her to a fixture in the room with a short tether.Alternatively, you can train your dog to enjoy sleeping in a crate to prevent unwanted excursions. Do not use a crate if it causes more anxiety and distress for your dog. Once she tolerates sleeping in her own bed in your bedroom, you can move her bed outside of the bedroom and use a child gate or barrier to keep her out. Always remember to reward your dog with praise or a food treat for remaining in her bed.

Many owners erroneously feel that if separation is so stressful, then they should spend more time with their dog before leaving. Unfortunately this often exacerbates the condition. Everyone in the family should ignore your dog for 15 to 20 minutes before leaving the house and for at least 10 to 20 minutes after returning home. Alternatively, your leaving can be made a highlight of your dog’s day by making it a “happy time” and the time at which she is fed. Departures should be quick and quiet. When departures (and returns) generate less anxiety (and excitement), your dog will begin to feel less tension in your absence. Remember to reward calm behavior.

You should attempt to randomize the cues indicating that you are preparing to leave. Changing the cues may take some trial and error. Some cues mean nothing to a dog, while others trigger anxiety. Make a list of the things you normally do before leaving for the day (and anxiety occurs) and the things done before a short time out (and no anxiety occurs).Then mix up the cues. For example, if your dog is fine when you go downstairs to do the laundry, you can try taking the laundry basket with you when you leave for work. If your dog becomes anxious when you pick up your keys or put on a coat, you should practice these things when you are not really leaving. You can, for example, stand up, put on a coat or pick up your car keys during television commercials, and then sit down again. You can also open and shut doors while you are home when you do not intend to leave. Entering and exiting through various doors you leave and return can also mix up cues for your dog.

When you are actually leaving, you should try not to give any cues to this effect. Leave your coat in the car and put your keys in the ignition well before leaving. It is important to randomize all the cues indicating departure (clothing, physical and vocal signals, interactions with family members, other pets, and so on).

The planned departure technique can be very effective for some dogs. This program is recommended only under special circumstances because it requires that you never leave your dog alone during the entire retraining period, which can be weeks or months.

Timing is everything when implementing this program. If your dog shows signs of anxiety (pacing, panting, barking excessively) the instant you walk out of the door, you should stand outside the door and wait until your dog is quiet for three seconds. Then go back inside quickly and reward your dog for being calm. If you return WHEN your dog is anxious, this reinforces your dog’s tendency to display the behavior because it has the desired effect of reuniting the “pack” members. The goal is for your dog to connect being calm and relaxed with your return. Gradually work up to slightly longer departures 5 to 10 minutes as long as your dog remains quiet, and continue in this fashion. Eventually, you should be able to leave for the day without your dog becoming anxious when you depart. When performed correctly, this program can be very helpful in resolving separation anxiety.

Background measures:

Obedience training helps to instill confidence and independence in your dog. You should spend 5 to 10 minutes daily training your dog to obey one-word commands. It may be helpful to have training sessions occur in the room where your dog will be left when you are gone. All positive experiences (food, toys, sleep, training and attention) should be associated with this area of the home.

Your dog should receive 15 to 20 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise once, preferably twice, per day. It is often helpful to exercise your dog before you leave for the day. Exercise helps to dissipate anxiety and provides constructive interaction between you and your dog. It is best to allow your dog 15 to 20 minutes to calm down before you depart. Fetching a ball is good exercise, as is going for a brisk walk or run with your dog on leash. Even if your dog has a large yard to run in all day, the aerobic exercise will be beneficial since most dogs will not tire themselves if left to their own devices.

A decrease in some fear and anxiety has been seen in conditions when some dogs are switched from a high protein, high energy food to a low protein (16 to 22 percent), “all-natural” diet (with no artificial preservatives). Nature’s Recipe Lamb and Rice is a good choice. You may wish to feed your dog a low protein diet for a trial period of 2 to 4 weeks to see if it makes a difference in her behavior. If no improvement is seen, you can switch back to the original diet. Dietary changes should be made gradually, usually over 3 days, in order to avoid gastrointestinal upsets.

Medication for Dogs with Separation Anxiety

Medication is often used in conjunction with the above treatment strategies and is generally helpful. Traditionally antidepressants like clomipramine(Clomicalm®), fluoxetine (Prozac®) or amitriptyline (Elavil®) are recommended. Clomicalm® has recently been FDA approved for use in dogs to treat separation anxiety.

Other measures to help separation anxiety in dogs:

Some dogs with separation anxiety actually manage to escape from the house so we recommend that they wear identification tags on a buckle collar. You may also want to consider tattooing or microchipping your dog so she can be identified if she panics and escapes.

Audio or video recordings of your dog’s behavior when you are away can help confirm a diagnosis of separation anxiety and can be helpful to allow you to monitor her improvement.

You may have wondered about getting a pet for your dog, so she won’t be lonely when you are away. This almost never works because the excessively tight bonding is between you and your dog, not between another animal and your dog. Having company has little effect on the distress most dogs feel when you are away.

Dogs should never be punished for the physical consequences of their distress when separated from you. In fact, punishment can exacerbate any underlying anxiety and worsen the behavior problem. Dogs do not make the association between making a mess and being punished for it at a later time. They also cannot reason that if they don’t make a mess in the future, they won’t be punished.

Owners often report that the dog looks “guilty” when they return home to destruction or urine or feces on the floor. The dog is not exhibiting guilt as we know it. Your dog has learned that when you are present and a mess exists, she is in trouble. If someone who had never scolded your dog went into the house, and a mess was present, your dog would not look “guilty.” In an attempt to avoid punishment, your dog may respond with submissive postures which you misinterpret as “guilt” or “remorse.” Submissive postures are actually an effort to appease you and avoid confrontation.

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

Puppy Diet – Dog Diet

 You waited until your puppy was at least 8 weeks old before you brought her home. You have plenty of toys and treats. She never misses a veterinary appointment and has been fed the proper puppy diet. Now, the question is, when do you begin switching to adult dog food?

Growing puppies should only be fed a high quality growth-type diet. But the amount of food the puppy eats is also important. Pups should not be able to eat at will, so don’t keep his bowl filled all the time. Overeating as the puppy grows can lead to devastating skeletal and nutritional disorders, as well as obesity. Also, supplementing his diet with vitamins and minerals can cause serious illness and should only be done on the advice of your veterinarian.

For most breeds, offer food twice a day for 20 minutes. If your puppy does not eat in that 20 minutes, remove the food and wait to feed the evening meal. Your puppy will quickly learn that food is not always available and he will eat when it is offered. For toy breeds, food should be offered three times a day. This feeding schedule can continue throughout the pup’s life. If you prefer free-choice feeding, wait until the pet is at least 12 months of age. For giant breed dogs, wait until about 18 months of age.

Once you have chosen a good quality puppy food, continue feeding this diet until your dog reaches 80 to 90 percent of his anticipated adult weight. For most dogs, this occurs around 9 months of age.

Giant breed dogs pose a special problem. These breeds are prone to skeletal problems if not fed properly during their growing phase. There are now special diets for giant breed puppies. For optimal health, feed your giant breed pup this special diet until he is 12 to 18 months of age.

Once your puppy has reached the age for a diet change, gradually begin changing his diet by feeding ¼ adult food and ¾ puppy food for a few days. Then add ½ adult food and ½ puppy food. After a few more days, feed ¾ adult food and ¼ puppy food. Then, you can feed straight adult food.

If you have any concerns about changing your puppy’s diet, consult your veterinarian for advice.

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

Car Safety for Dogs

 Dogs love to go for car rides. For many dogs, their favorite words are “bye-bye”. I’ve seen dogs jump, prance, smile and bark with delight at the thought of a car ride. How many times have you seen dogs hanging out the car window? Or on the owners lap looking as happy as can be?

Yes, going for a ride in the car can be fun, but driving with dogs can also be very dangerous to both you and your dog. I recently talked to some owners that were in an accident – caused by their dog – in which they were injured, the car they hit had some severe injuries and their dog was killed. How tragic!

There are some very common dangers and causes of injuries that can be prevented – and if you understand them, it will help keep you and your dog safe.

1. Jumpers – Many dogs love to hang out windows and watch what goes by, enjoying the feel of the air in their hair. Some dogs will jump out of an open car window, even though their owners would have sworn they would never do that. One day – for some reason – something extra excites them and out they go. I’ve seen everything from mild injuries and abrasions to fractures and even death resulting from dogs jumping into traffic and immediately being hit by another car. For every dog that jumps, the owners say the same thing. “He always rides like that – and never jumped before.”

2. Air and eye injuries – Some dogs that hang their head out of an open car window can obtain injures when things that are flying in the air hit their head or eyes. When these objects hit the dog’s eyes it can cause corneal ulcers and injuries.

3.Airbags – Dogs can be severely (even fatally) injured by airbag deployment. For this reason, many dog seats and harnesses are created for use in the back seat.

4.Distraction – Dogs distract drivers. I’ve seen excited dogs on their owner’s lap moving back and forth from the passenger window to the drivers’ window. For one reason or another, they distract their drivers causing an accident. The driver looks at their dog to see what they are doing and wham!

5.Slowed reaction time – With a dog on your lap, your ability to drive and react quickly is impaired. Drivers are often unable to make a quick turn with their dog on their lap. This is a common cause of accidents.

6.Injury in crashes – Pets can be severely injured in crashes and, when they are unrestrained, they can run out of the car and suffer even more injuries. Some have even run away.

7.Foot petal problems – Some dogs (and cats) love to get down by the floor, under the seat or near the foot petals. I’ve seen several cases where this caused crashes.

Pets riding unrestrained in a vehicle may be cute and fun – until an accident happens. Less than 20% of dog owners use some sort of harness or seat belt to restrain their dog while in a car.

Seatbelts and car seats are especially made to keep dogs safe. We recommend that all dogs be restrained in the back seat during car rides. All pets should have a microchip as well in case they get free during a car ride. Windows should be kept at a lowered point so the dog can get air but can not get their head completely out the window – thus preventing eye injuries and any risk of jumping.
Keep your dog safe.

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

Overweight Cat

Ever wonder what to do about your overweight cat? Overweight  cats outnumber cats of normal weight and are being seen more and more commonly by veterinarians for various disorders. In fact, obesity in cats can predispose the cat to diabetes, hepatic lipidosis and arthritis.

However, putting a cat overweight diet or weight loss plan needs to be approached very carefully. Here we will try and assist you with your overweight cats so that your kitty won’t have to be encumbered by obesity.

A 2011 study by APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention) found that over 50 percent of cats were either obese or overweight. So what is happening that predisposes our domestic felines to a life of sedentary obesity?

The answer is multifactorial but to simplify, just remember this: any individual mammal (dog, cat, horse, human, etc.) will gain body weight if it consumes more calories than it burns as fuel for energy. That’s pretty simple, but true.

In nature, food acquisition has never been a sure thing for any creature — not for canines, felines or humans. So food acquisition has always been accompanied by physical exertion to capture (or cultivate) and consume the food.

It is only in recent times that the unnatural situation of food excess, readily acquired and consumed with little accompanying physical exertion, has become a way of life. We humans have figured how not to have to do all that work of capturing and cultivating to build up stores of food.

Through agricultural expertise we have learned how to grow food and raise livestock and to have those food sources readily available and in abundance … just in case we get hungry! We learned how to refrigerate, dry, preserve and store foods in large quantities that assured us we would not have to endure long and unsuccessful hunting forays nor suffer through famines.

We have also created the very same food acquisition assurances for our domestic dogs and cats. They, as we, no longer have to hunt to survive. Indeed, we no longer even have to live outdoors.

It’s interesting that our pets have mirrored our own tendency to have trouble with weight control. The major difference, though, is that we humans have complete control over what our pets eat and how much they eat. Unless your cat is sneaking into the fridge and making ham and cheese sandwiches late at night when no one is around, the only way they get to eat is when YOU place the food in front of them.

Every veterinarian has repeatedly heard a serious-minded cat (or dog) owner state “I know you think she’s overweight, Doctor, but it isn’t from the food! She hardly eats a thing.”

Well, is the pet overweight from high calorie air? Maybe it’s the water … or from laying on that couch all the time. That’s it! The couch is making the kitty fat, not the food.

Seriously, far too many pet owners truly believe that food intake has nothing at all to do with their pet’s weight and no amount of counseling will convince them otherwise. If that describes your position, read no further because the rest of this article is all about how to feed the proper food and in the correct quantity so that the cat will lose weight safely or maintain an optimum weight. There will be nothing in this article about the effect of high calorie air, water or comfortable furniture on the cat’s weight problem.

Any cat that is overweight should have a physical exam performed, exact weight measured and blood and urine tests run. It is vital that normal thyroid hormone levels are present and that the cat has no physical or metabolic dysfunction.

If the cat is physically normal — other than the abnormal body weight from fat deposition — then a gradual and careful weight loss program can be instituted.

First, let’s look at what the causes of obesity are and what we can do to correct OUR mistakes …

FREE CHOICE FEEDING

The main reason for feline obesity (as well as obesity in other mammals) is the consumption of too much food. Deny it all you want but it is a fact.

What we do…
Many cats are fed “free choice,” which means there is food available all the time and the cat eats whenever it wants. (Pretty unnatural for a true carnivore that evolved as a hunting machine!) Free choice feeding has probably been the biggest single factor contributing to feline obesity.

What we should do…
Feed two to four small portions daily and control the amounts fed so that over a period of time the cat does not gain weight. Many pet owners must downsize what theythink is a “normal” portion. A meal for a 175-pound human might weigh 16 to 24 ounces. A seven-pound cat weighs 1/25 of the 175-pound human.

So a cat’s meal should proportionally be about 1/25 of a human meal. That comes out to between 0.6 and 1.0 ounce of food per meal for a seven-pound cat… about the same weight as a mouse. Cat owners must stop thinking in terms of “cups of food” and start thinking in terms of ounces of food.

CARBOHYDRATES

Cats, unlike most mammals, have no carbohydrate-digesting enzyme called Amylase in their saliva. Humans and dogs do and actually begin the digestion of carbohydrate in the mouth. In the intestine, amylase secreted from the pancreas breaks down large carbohydrate molecules into absorbable smaller units of glucose. Cats have measurably less amylase activity than humans or dogs. Nature did not intend the kitty to be a carbohydrate consumer.

What we do…
We purchase convenient, attractively packaged and preserved dry foods mainly because we can pour it in the bowl and forget it. Dry pet food must have higher levels of flour and sugar than canned foods so that the kibble will stay uniform and not fall apart. Spoiling doesn’t readily occur because of the preservatives so the kitty can eat whenever it wants and we don’t have to prepare cat meals very often. Unfortunately, especially with dry diets, because of the metabolic biochemistry that converts the high carbohydrate content in almost all of today’s commercial cat foods into stored fat, the cat is really at risk for weight gain.

What we should do…
Feed a diet consistent with the nature of a true carnivore… a meat based diet. An ideal feline diet will have a high protein level in the 35 to 45 percent range on a dry matter basis (meaning the percent in the diet when the water has been removed) and moderate fat content with a low percentage of carbohydrate (grains).

A multitude of research reports have proven that diets high in protein and fat are most beneficial for carnivores. Cats cannot handle large carbohydrate loads efficiently. After a meal rich in carbohydrate the feline’s blood level of glucose tends to stay higher than normal for long periods of time. They become persistently hyperglycemic and this long term stimulus on the beta cells in the pancreas — the cells that produce insulin — renders those cells less sensitive to the blood glucose. As a result less insulin is secreted to bring down the blood sugar level. Nutritionists call this “down regulating’ of the beta cells; the insensitivity of the insulin secreting beta cells leads to what is termed “insulin resistance”. This scenario is a prelude to diabetes.

PROTEIN

We all know how cats crave mice and birds as a food source. A natural source of nutrition for carnivores, mice and birds are a perfect diet for a cat. Did you know that a mouse or a bird is composed of only 3 to 8 percent carbohydrate? And most of that is actually from what the prey was eating and is in the prey’s digestive tract. The rest is water, a few minerals, and mostly protein and fat.

What we do…
Many of us purchase dry cat foods, some with food coloring to make it look like meat and with flour and sugars and preservatives. We buy these dry foods partly because they state that it is COMPLETE and BALANCED for cats and because it is convenient for us to pour a few days’ worth of food into a bowl for the kitty to eat whenever it wants. Unfortunately, most dry cat food brands are relatively low in protein… especially the less expensive brands that state a grain such as corn as the first (major) ingredient.

Another associated problem is the myth that we often feed our cats (and dogs) too much protein. This indefensible myth… that protein causes kidney problems… is totally unfounded and has caused more dogs and cats to suffer from poor diets than just about any other cause. Go here to see reasons why this myth is just that… a myth with no scientific affirmation.)

What we should do…
We must feed cats a diet with high percentages of protein and fat and low percentages of carbohydrate (grains) if we expect them to maintain optimum body weights and a proper state of nutrition. Protein is THE key nutrient in a carnivore diet. On a dry weight basis… where the percent of ingredients is determined without any water in the ration… a feline’s diet should contain 35 to 45 percent protein, 40 percent fat, and possibly just a small percentage of carbohydrate. (Remember… a true carnivore needs NO carbohydrate in the diet.) Some nutritionists suggest 25 percent carbohydrate, 50 percent protein, 25 percent fat.

CAT TREATS

We seem to think we need to reward our cats with food — and that’s why cat treats are so popular. Nearly every cat caretaker has relented, too, when our cat has begun to vocalize, roam restlessly and seem to “need something”. This is normal interactive behavior for a cat and has no relationship to the cat being hungry! But we perceive the kitty to be hungry so we give it a treat as a snack. And most cat treats are specially flavored to be irresistible to cats, otherwise they wouldn’t sell well and there’d be no profit for the manufacturer.

Give your cat a treat for vocalizing and you have rewarded it for vocalizing, and you have just taught the cat to vocalize even more. If you MUST give cat treats to your cat, read below how to do it logically and nutritionally.

What we do…
As sensitive and caring humans, we always want to reward our kitty by providing extra special treats. Most treats for cats have high levels of carbohydrate (flower and sugars) and lots of flavor enhancers to entice the cat to eat even when it is not hungry.

Cats that annoy us with vocalizing and pretending that they are starving to death sometimes are rewarded for that annoying vocalizing by being given a treat to “keep ‘em quiet”. When we provide the treat we reinforce the vocalizing, effectively rewarding the cat for making all that racket, and essentially training the cat to make even more noise

What we should do…
Stop feeding treats to the overweight cat. IF you think your cat NEEDS a treat, cut up little bits of cooked chicken or fish and feed as a natural protein treat… not a treat made from grains, food coloring, propylene glycol, and flavor enhancers. And NEVER feed a treat as a means of stopping a cat from vocalizing because it has the exact opposite effect and actually reinforces the cat’s vocalizing/begging behavior.

LABEL RECOMMENDATIONS

All pet foods come with Recommended Feeding instructions. The problem is that these recommendations are NOT absolute requirements even though most pet caretakers think they have to feed their pet the recommended amounts. Most house cats (and dogs), if fed at the amounts stated in the label recommendations, will eventually become overweight.

Pay attention to your pet’s body weight (size) and just by simple observation decide if it is overweight. If so, don’t feed so much.

What we do…
Feeding the “Recommended” daily portions indicated on pet food labels will nearly always result in feeding more calories than the animal needs for an average day’s energy requirements. The carbohydrate excess, unneeded as fuel for metabolism or physical activity, gets converted to fat and stored in the cat’s fat reserves.

The odds are very high that if you feed the size and numbers of meals suggested on the pet food label’s feeding recommendations, the cat will end up overweight.

What we should do…
Adjust the amount fed to the cat’s body character and physical activity. If the cat looks and feels overweight, it is! You are feeding too much for that cat’s daily needs for energy for exercise or physical activity; and regardless of what the pet food label’s suggested amounts to feed are, you must feed less than that if the cat is to have a normal (healthy) body weight.

EXERCISE

What we do…
We fill the bowls with food and water, clean the litter box, and say “See you later, Kitty, I’m off to work.” OK… let’s say that you can’t help it. You simply are not going to change the food amounts, kinds and portions you have always been feeding your overweight cat. If you are to be successful in promoting weight loss in your cat you will have to increase its’ energy (calorie) burning activities.

This is much easier to do with a dog by taking it for a walk or run, throwing a ball, swimming, etc. Good luck going for a run with your cat! Most cats spend most of their time sleeping on the couch, are left alone for long periods of time and really have nothing happening in the home that would trigger a carnivorous hunter’s interest levels. There is nothing to chase, nothing to hide from, and nothing to stalk and run down. There is nothing else to do but to take cat naps!

What we should do…
To assist in improving the kitty’s physical activity, you can add some interactive play toys to the cat’s environment. Consider adopting a friendly and playful cat from the local shelter so the solitary cat has “someone” to interact and play with. Many people believe two cats are more fun to have and more entertaining and no more trouble than a single cat. You can also buy toys that simulate an escaping prey and that really interest the cat in play behaviors. Cats can be exercised but you may need some imaginative toys and ideas to get the job done.

WHAT TO FEED A CAT

Cats, unlike us humans, obtain food satisfaction less from carbohydrate than they do from protein intake. Give them a high protein mouse and they are as happy as can be. One mouse would make a good meal for an average sized cat. A typical mouse is made of 20 percent protein and 9 percent fat and lots of moisture.

And now that you know that the cat is a true carnivore, that its metabolic pathways have been set by natural evolutionary processes to efficiently utilize meat protein as a major component of the diet, you understand why a carbohydrate rich diet simply does not make sense for felines. Cats are not plant-based grazers; they are hunters of other animals and to reach an optimum state of health they must comply with what nature programmed them to be. There are no vegetarian diets for cats.

No matter what your own personal preference is regarding the ingestion of meat, by nature’s own rules the cat requires meat in its diet. One small aspect of this need for meat is the cat’s requirement for ingesting preformed Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin)… preformed in another non-feline mammal.

As the cat’s caretaker, you have complete control over what your cat eats, how much it eats and how often it eats. Do not worry about the teeth and gums “not having some abrasion to clean off the tartar.” Other good dry food products will demonstrate protein levels above 30 percent and fat levels above 18 percent in the Guaranteed Analysis table on the pet food label. Usually these diets are the “Growth” or “Puppy” or “Kitten” diets… and these formulations can be fed for life in a healthy individual that does not require a therapeutic diet.

If you still fear the erroneous myth about “too much protein” being “bad” for dogs and cats or that protein “causes” kidney damage, you really need some facts. There are numerous documented reports that will allay your fears and will update you on correct research. The myth about protein causing kidney trouble was extrapolated from research done on rodents many decades ago; the myth developed a life of its own in spite of being refuted by proper research on dogs and cats.

WEIGHT LOSS DIETS

Getting an obese cat to lose weight needs to be done gradually… no crash diets allowed! Cats have a unique metabolic response to fasting and whenever a feline’s food intake is rapidly and markedly depressed, a serious and potentially fatal disorder can occur called Hepatic Lipidosis.

One of the reasons for the success of a high protein diet for feline weight reduction is the importance of an amino acid called Carnitine. Carnitine is present in good quantities in muscle tissues, but found in miniscule amounts in vegetable matter. This amino acid plays an essential role in the uptake of stored fat reserves and conversion of fat by the liver back to into glucose. The ability to mobilize fat tissue to be used as glucose for energy (and for subsequent weight loss to be accomplished) requires carnitine in the process. Supplementing a cat’s diet with L-Carnitine in amounts approximating 250 to 500 mg per cat per day will aid in mobilizing fat into glucose and will improve the health of a cat that is on a weight loss program.

HOW TO PUT A CAT ON A DIET

First, your veterinarian needs to do a thorough physical exam, blood chemistry profile including Thyroid hormone evaluation, and record an accurate weight for the cat. Then you should gradually… over a period of three to four weeks… start putting your cat on the suggested feline weight-loss diet by adding greater and greater proportions of the suggested food. Mix the new diet with the old, slowly decreasing the percentage of the old diet and increasing the percentage of the new one.

Pay close attention to how much the cat is eating every day. When the cat acclimates to the improved, high protein diet (fed in small amounts frequently during the day), reweigh the cat at four-week intervals. If there is no weight loss at all, or even some weight gain, the amount of food you are allowing is simply too much.

You may be thinking in human-sized portions, not feline. Remember the mouse. Every three to four weeks reweigh your cat on the same scale each time so that accurate weight measurements are done. A fifteen-pound cat should not lose more than half a pound in four weeks. (Remember the Hepatic Lipidosis problem!)

Always be observant and report to your veterinarian any time a cat stops eating for two or more days. (That’s one of the subtle problems with the “free choice” method of feeding. We often do not notice that the cat’s food dish is still full until the cat is well into a fasting mode. When cats are sick the first clinical sign is often a loss of appetite; so a non-interactive, free choice feeding protocol provides less information to us than an interactive portion controlled feeding method.) Any cat that hasn’t eaten in three days is in trouble! Seven days of fasting actually impacts the cat’s immune system.

Once you have established a feeding plan that induces gradual weight loss over a period of months the cat will reach a point where weight maintenance occurs. At this optimal weight the cat should not “look fat” nor “look skinny”. You’d be surprised how much more active and alert the cat will be at an optimum weight. You have successfully avoided the probability of diabetes, arthritis and hepatic Lipidosis. Your cat will probably live a few extra years and have a much better quality of life … and that will make you happy, too!

To get a cat to lose weight, do the following after consulting with your veterinarian:

1. Have a thorough physical exam, lab tests, and accurate weigh recorded. Be sure to rule out hypothyroidism or other metabolic disorders.
2. Feed less food than you have been
3. Feed foods high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrate
4. Feed small portions at intervals (2x to 4x per day) rather than continuous free access/ free choice
5. Increase the cat’s activity/exercise by enriching the cat’s environment.
6. Reweigh the cat at three to four week intervals to assess your weight loss diet’s progress
7. Reconsider the total daily amount fed if weight gain or no weight loss is noted
8. Once the cat is at an idea weight, adjust the total amount fed so that the cat’s body weight remains stable.

NOTE: ABOUT RAISING KITTENS

Veterinary nutritionists suggest that we expose very young cats to a variety of food types and textures. Cats are staunch creatures of habit and if a kitten is raised on a dry food kibble diet only, the odds are high that it will reject any non-kibble diet later in life. (It might not even know what to do with a captured mouse!) Food preference can be set on canned food, too.

As kittens are developing, be sure to provide a wide variety of food types, textures, and tastes so that later in life, if weight loss diets are required, you will be able to select a type and texture that will be in the cat’s best interest.

Remember…high quality, meat-based food, control the amount fed, provide more exercise, and be persistent. Help your pet live a longer, leaner and more enjoyable life.

 

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

8 Signs of Cats in Pain

 

Pain it isn’t always obvious to others when you’re experiencing it. Unless it’s a broken leg twisted at a 90-degree angle or a big bruise on your arm, pain is a condition with no obvious external manifestations. Sure, some people are good at going around making sure everyone knows they’ve stubbed a toe or pulled a groin muscle, but other people are more like cats—you’d never know anything was wrong.

Cats are renowned for their ability to mask pain and discomfort. This is a great advantage when out in the wild around a predator, but it’s a big problem in a home when pet owners are unaware that their pet has a problem.

Cat in Pain: What We Know

Veterinarians have come a long way in understanding pain in pets. With that understanding comes the knowledge that we are very likely undertreating pets for pain they are commonly experiencing. Arthritis, dental disease, urinary tract disease, bone disease, and cancer are just a few of the common feline medical conditions that are known to be painful. Pain management specialists have a mantra they often repeat: “Assume pain.” If you diagnose a painful medical condition, pain management should be part of the treatment, every time.

Cats may not speak, but they do communicate their pain in their own ways. Although they can’t come up to us and say, “I’m hurting,” cats do exhibit behavioral changes that can indicate they are experiencing pain. The American Animal Hospital Association has pain management guidelines that can help owners and veterinarians manage feline pain.

Recognize the Signs of Cats in Pain

Here are some of the most common behavioral signs that might be a symptom of a cat in pain:

CHANGE IN ACTIVITY LEVEL

A change in activity level can indicate discomfort. Cats might become less active and sleep more hours than they used to. Stiff, arthritic cats may be reluctant to change positions, or no longer jump onto high surfaces. Conversely, cats may become more active: restless, repetitively getting up and down, and seeming to have difficulty getting comfortable.

SELF MUTILATION

While many people associate biting and licking with allergies, pets in pain often repetitively lick and bite at painful areas. They may do it so often that they cause secondary trauma to their body in the form of skin infections and hair loss.

VOCALIZING

Most of us know that a hissing or growling cat is an unhappy cat, but did you know meows and purrs can accompany pain as well? Some cats purr when they are frightened or hurting, and it does not always indicate contentment. This is particularly true for cats with an easygoing or gentle personality.

CHANGE IN DAILY ROUTINE

A cat whose appetite suddenly drops may be feeling too much pain to eat, or may be experiencing nausea from a disease process. Cats who have an abrupt onset of soiling in the house after years of using the litterbox may be too painful to get in and out of a box with high sides, or too sore to get to where the box is located. A lap cat who suddenly can’t stand being held may be experiencing pain when they are touched or pet. Any of these changes in their usual personality and preferences may be medical in origin.

POSTURE

Cats do a version of the “little old person shuffle” when they are stiff; they walk very gingerly and avoid the usual athletic leaps we are accustomed to seeing. Cats with abdominal pain may have a hunched back, tucking in their abdomen in a protective posture. You may also notice a cat being protective of a certain area of their body, not wanting to be touched or scratched; they may also limp or hesitate to put weight on a sore limb.

FACIAL EXPRESSIONS

Granted, facial expression can be difficult to gauge in a cat, but certain giveaways can indicate pain or discomfort. A vacant stare at nothing in particular, or a “glazed” expression is common. Cats in distress can also have dilated pupils—part of the stress response in the body. Unlike in dogs, cats do not normally pant. If you notice a panting cat, particularly when she is at rest, you should get her evaluated as soon as possible.

AGGRESSION

Some cats are naturally surly for their entire lives. It can be hard to tell if they are escalating their level of aggression. However, a normally friendly cat who is suddenly hissing, swatting, and biting may be a cat in pain. Out-of-character meanness is a cat’s way of asking to be left alone.

POOR COAT CONDITION

Cats are expert groomers, spending up to five hours a day on maintaining their silky coats. However, pain from arthritis can make it difficult to contort themselves into their normal grooming positions, and pain in general can make a cat too uncomfortable or worn out to maintain their normal routine. A cat who stops grooming and starts to look unkempt may be in pain and needs to be evaluated.

Controlling Pain in Cats

Historically, we have had very limited options for pain control in cats, but fortunately this is changing. Owners must never treat their cat with pain medications meant for people, as they metabolize medication differently and can die from something as benign to humans as Tylenol. If you think your cat might be in pain, get her evaluated by your vet to discuss the best treatment options.

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

Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs and Obesity in Dogs

According to statistics collected in 2014 by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, it is estimated that more than 50% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Simply put, animals gain weight when they consume more calories than their body requires. Feeding extra dog food, treats, table scraps, human foods, rawhides, and anything else that contains calories can contribute to excess weight gain. A dog is considered overweight when he or she is more than 10% over ideal body weight, and a dog is considered obese when he or she is more than 20% above ideal body weight.

While many overweight and obese dogs are apparently otherwise healthy, others have other noticeable and potentially severe health conditions in addition to being overweight. Overweight dogs frequently have additional health conditions such as arthritis, respiratory problems, or lower urinary tract disease. These conditions may be a result of the excess body weight, or may occur in conjunction with obesity. Considering the management of overweight dogs is largely based on nutritional modification, the presence of other health conditions can complicate diet selection and nutritional management of these dogs.

What is Lower Urinary Tract Disease?

Lower urinary tract disease is a general term, describing diseases of the bladder and urethra. In dogs, the most common manifestations of lower urinary tract disease are urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections and urinary stones or crystals.The most frequent signs of lower urinary tract disease include:

• Blood in the urine;
• Straining to urinate;
• Urinating small amounts more frequently.

Veterinarians can identify urinary stones and crystals using diagnostic tests such as x-rays or urinalysis.

Urinary stones and crystals are composed of different minerals that bind together in the urine. Typically, crystals form first and then bind together, forming a stone. Urinary stones and crystals can form as spontaneously or as a result of a urinary tract infection. If there is a stone present, management can be nutritional, medical, or surgical, and management depends on the stone type. The most common types of urinary stones in dogs are calcium oxalate and struvite. In cases of struvite urinary stones, nutritional modification combined with antibiotic therapy as needed for concurrent urinary tract infection may be all that is required to treat the stone. Struvite stones can dissolve using a veterinary therapeutic diet designed for struvite dissolution. In cases of emergency urinary obstruction or non-struvite stones such as calcium oxalate, surgery may be required to remove the stone. However, regardless of the chosen method to remove the stone, nutritional modification is often required after surgical removal of or dissolving a stone in order to prevent future formation of urinary stones, as recurrence is common.

If a veterinarian identifies multiple conditions in a dog such as obesity and urinary stones, management can be more complicated than if one of the conditions occurred alone. Nutrition is an important part of management of both conditions – for allowing animals to lose weight safely, to dissolve struvite stones if present, and to help reduce recurrence of all stone types including struvite and calcium oxalate.

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

Basic Dog Obedience: Dog Obedience Training

How Can I Get My Distracted Dog to Pay Attention to Me?

Dog pulling leash

My Golden Retriever is so distracted on walks — she looks at anything and everything except for me. I can’t get her to listen to anything I say! The only thing saving us from disaster is her front clip harness — if it weren’t for that, I would have no control of her at all. What can I do to get and keep her attention?

It’s understandably frustrating to feel like the only thing connecting you and your dog during walks is the leash between you. But don’t give up! It’s possible to refocus your dog’s attention on walks. The key is to create a strong foundation of communication with your pup; this can help increase her focus on you both at home and on outings.

Communication Makes All the Difference

Good communication starts with consistency. Your first step is to teach your dog what behaviors earn her rewards and what behaviors will be ignored. You want to focus specifically on teaching calm, focused behaviors. For example, when your dog greets people, reward her for keeping all four paws on the ground instead of jumping up on your visitor. Consistently reinforce the behaviors you want to see more of and ignore those you want to put a stop to.

A reward can be anything your dog values or desires. Examples include tasty treats, favorite toys, petting, praise or extra play time. Use rewards throughout the day to reinforce existing good behaviors — for example, reward her with praise or petting when she waits patiently at the door when visitors arrive. Rewards can also be used to increase her tendency to respond to requests you make of her, such as rewarding with a toy or treat when she sits on command.

If your dog doesn’t do an asked-for behavior or if her behavior is undesirable, remove your attention and wait for more acceptable behavior to naturally occur, such as a quiet rather than a barking mouth, or prompt another behavior she understands, like sit or touch. Immediately reward the acceptable behavior. Most dogs quickly learn which behaviors earn them something fun and which don’t.

You may also need to help your dog get in the right frame of mind for a walk. Golden Retrievers are bred to hunt and retrieve hidden items, and this may be what your dog is trying to do on her walks. In order to make it easier for her to focus on you, it is important that you find productive ways for her to channel her excess energy before you head out to stroll the neighborhood.

Games like “find it,” structured tug and fetch can help to fulfill your dog’s desire to work and move. Playing one of these games prior to a walk can help alleviate some of your dog’s excess tension and energy and make her more likely to listen to your commands when you’re on your walk.

Help Your Dog Manage Distractions

Once your dog is willingly and consistently following commands, gradually add distractions when you ask your dog to do a specific behavior, like sit or make eye contact. Ideally, this training should be done in low-distraction areas like your yard or driveway, an alley or parking lot or on the sidewalk in front of your home. Then try these commands on walks during less populated times, such as early morning, later evening or midday.

Once your dog can pay attention to your commands with some distractions around her, you can gradually expand her walks to include parts of your neighborhood or times of the day with more distractions.

To increase your success, start slow and keep expectations low to begin with. Reward short duration, low-effort behaviors. For instance, even though your dog may be able to stay or make eye contact for 10 seconds (or more) at home, only a second or two should be necessary to earn a reward on beginning walks.

As your dog gains confidence, these reward-worthy moments can be gradually expanded. Making requests too difficult or the reward not significant enough can cause your dog to associate following your commands with a loss of freedom and fun.

Ultimately, success largely rests on ensuring that your dog’s attention is properly and consistently rewarded. A walk is a big chain of events that allows you to reinforce and build desired behavior using things your dog appreciates. Rewards for your dog don’t just have to be tangible treats or toys — forward movement, greeting people, sniffing desired areas and walking on a loose leash can all be useful rewards for good behavior.

You may also benefit from switching from a front clip harness to a head halter. Head halters can offer additional control over harder-to-manage dogs and may help you get a better handle on your dog during walks.

 

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

Urinary Tract Infections in Dogs and Obesity in Dogs

 

 

Obesity and Urinary Tract Disease in Dogs

According to statistics collected in 2014 by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, it is estimated that more than 50% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Simply put, animals gain weight when they consume more calories than their body requires. Feeding extra dog food, treats, table scraps, human foods, rawhides, and anything else that contains calories can contribute to excess weight gain. A dog is considered overweight when he or she is more than 10% over ideal body weight, and a dog is considered obese when he or she is more than 20% above ideal body weight.

While many overweight and obese dogs are apparently otherwise healthy, others have other noticeable and potentially severe health conditions in addition to being overweight. Overweight dogs frequently have additional health conditions such as arthritis, respiratory problems, or lower urinary tract disease. These conditions may be a result of the excess body weight, or may occur in conjunction with obesity. Considering the management of overweight dogs is largely based on nutritional modification, the presence of other health conditions can complicate diet selection and nutritional management of these dogs.

What is Lower Urinary Tract Disease?

Lower urinary tract disease is a general term, describing diseases of the bladder and urethra. In dogs, the most common manifestations of lower urinary tract disease are urinary incontinence, urinary tract infections and urinary stones or crystals.The most frequent signs of lower urinary tract disease include:

• Blood in the urine;
• Straining to urinate;
• Urinating small amounts more frequently.

Veterinarians can identify urinary stones and crystals using diagnostic tests such as x-rays or urinalysis.

Urinary stones and crystals are composed of different minerals that bind together in the urine. Typically, crystals form first and then bind together, forming a stone. Urinary stones and crystals can form as spontaneously or as a result of a urinary tract infection. If there is a stone present, management can be nutritional, medical, or surgical, and management depends on the stone type. The most common types of urinary stones in dogs are calcium oxalate and struvite. In cases of struvite urinary stones, nutritional modification combined with antibiotic therapy as needed for concurrent urinary tract infection may be all that is required to treat the stone. Struvite stones can dissolve using a veterinary therapeutic diet designed for struvite dissolution. In cases of emergency urinary obstruction or non-struvite stones such as calcium oxalate, surgery may be required to remove the stone. However, regardless of the chosen method to remove the stone, nutritional modification is often required after surgical removal of or dissolving a stone in order to prevent future formation of urinary stones, as recurrence is common.

If a veterinarian identifies multiple conditions in a dog such as obesity and urinary stones, management can be more complicated than if one of the conditions occurred alone. Nutrition is an important part of management of both conditions – for allowing animals to lose weight safely, to dissolve struvite stones if present, and to help reduce recurrence of all stone types including struvite and calcium oxalate.

 

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

Dog Eating Poop: Everything You Wanted to Know About Dog Poop

It’s not glamorous, but as responsible pet parents we do it every day – we pick up our pets’ poop! Do you ever wonder what our dogs think about our obsession with cleaning up their poop? Well, maybe you do and maybe you don’t, but here we will discuss all things dog poop.

Why is it important to be careful when cleaning up dog poop?

There is a long list of diseases that can transfer from dogs to human via the fecal-oral route. For this reason, you should take care when handling dog poop. These diseases that can transmit from animals to humans called zoonotic diseases. Humans can get zoonotic diseases from contaminated dog poop including salmonella, campylobacter, giardia,roundworms, and hookworms.

Zoonotic diseases are always a bigger concern among susceptible groups of people such as people with immune system disorders, people going through chemotherapy, pregnant women, and organ transplant recipients.

what you need to know about dog poop

Salmonella

Salmonella sp is bacteria belonging to the genus Salmonella. The infection with this disease is also known as salmonellosis. Dogs can carry the bacteria with or without becoming ill. Unfortunately, many dogs do carry salmonella they often obtain from other dogs or even their food. Many commercial kibble diets, and especially raw diets, have tested positive for salmonellosis. If your dog eats these foods it may carry the bacteria. The issue concerns so many that the FDA developed a video on safe food handling. A lick on the face or improper handling of contaminated feces potentially leads to infection in humans.

Campylobacter

Campylobacter sp is a similar threat and a common foodborne bacteria for humans. It is found in uncooked (raw) meats and is in virtually all poultry. This is why you must cook poultry thoroughly. Many veterinarians do not support the long-term feeding of raw diets to pets. Instead, many recommend lightly cooked diets like those made by JustFoodForDogs.

For both of these bacteria, the key is prevention. If you feed wholesome, lightly cooked, clean diets that are not contaminated with these bacteria in the first place, they will help prevent fecal contamination with these bacteria. This is important because your dog can carry the bacteria and pass it off in the feces or through a lick on the face.

Giardia

Giardia sp is a protozoan infection that can also cause moderate to severe GI disease in humans. Giardia exists in the environment in many different strains. Most people develop an immunity to various forms of Giardia over their lifetime, but once again the immunosuppressed or susceptible may be at risk. Transmission is almost exclusively via the fecal-oral route. For this reason, it is sufficient to use reliable plastic bags that are free of any defects or holes. Wash your hands thoroughly after disposing of the bag with feces in it. For those who are susceptible, the use of latex gloves may provide an additional layer of protection.

Intestinal Parasites

Roundworms and Hookworms are intestinal parasites that are most prevalent in younger dogs and have been shown to establish infections in humans, especially children. One form of the disease can cause blindness, which may lead to increased awareness, yet the prevalence of this form of the disease is very rare. One year in the UK, only 52 children were diagnosed with OLM (ocular larval migrans), the form of the disease that causes blindness. Yet the headline read “One Child per Week may be Blinded by Puppies.”

The best method to avoid parasitic infection in humans is proper prevention. Puppies should be dewormed multiple times during puppyhood and adult dogs should receive routine dewormings every 6-12 months.

Step-by-step instructions for safely cleaning up dog poop when:

bernese pup

It happens outdoors

In order to clean up dog poop outdoors, it is best to have your dog poop on grass or sand in the first place. Also, the consistency of the feces matters greatly. Soft poop is more difficult to pick up than firm stool. If your dog has consistently soft stools, a veterinarian should evaluate him, as this could be caused by some of the conditions discussed above.

If on sand or grass, use a thick plastic bag to cover the feces and entrap it, then turn the bag inside out immediately, trapping the feces in the bag. Tie the open end of the bag together and discard into a wastebasket as soon as possible. Some bags have additional features that provide more protection such as double layers on the end in contact with the feces, and drawstrings. Be certain the bag is new and does not have any hole or punctures. If your dog goes on sand or grass, the threat of zoonosis from any feces left behind diminishes. Most bacteria will not survive long in these conditions, although there are always exceptions.

It happens on cement

If your dog goes on cement or a hard surface, you may find it necessary to wash down the surface with water after you pick up the poop as described above. Adding dilute bleach to the water is an additional precaution that will most definitely kill any bacteria or protozoa. If this is an area outside, use a bucket of dilute bleach water and splash it over the stain. To remove any remaining fecal material, scrub the area with a metal brush.

If the person doing the cleaning is immunosuppressed or is susceptible in any way, he/she should not be cleaning up the feces. If there is no other choice, the use of latex gloves may help as an additional precaution.

It happens indoors

If the dog goes indoors then you will pick up the feces in the same fashion as described above but you must also thoroughly clean the surface. Lysol is a great disinfectant that kills virtually all zoonotic diseases and is safe to use on most indoor surfaces. You can disinfect carpet with Lysol as well, but stains may require additional cleaning or steam cleaning for complete removal of the stain.

Make sure to wear dishwashing gloves, then fill a bucket with cold, soapy water and use a laundry stain cleaner like Oxi Clean or similar product. Dip a scrub brush in the soapy water and scrub out the stain until it is no longer visible. Use paper towels or dry towels to dab over the area to absorb as much of the moisture as possible.

Finally, in order to remove any odor of feces, you can use Simple Green Odor Eliminator, which is an excellent odor neutralizer. Keep in mind, this is not necessarily a disinfectant, thus you should follow the steps above first: Lysol, soap and water, scrub, then odor eliminator.

When the actual fecal matter is on your pet

The best thing to do if your dog becomes soiled is to give him a bath with warm water and dog shampoo. If you do not have a dog shampoo, a mild human shampoo like Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo will work. Soap and warm water kill most bacteria.

Wearing gloves is another additional precaution that can help protect susceptible individuals if they must be the ones giving the bath.

What’s the final scoop on poop?

Healthy, clean dogs make healthy, formed stools, which are safer and easier to clean up. The best way to reduce any risk of cleaning up your dog’s poop is to feed a high-quality diet that is not contaminated in the first place, keep your dog in good health and monitor his fecal consistency. Many veterinarians now believe that the heavily processed, commercial diets that were once popular actually may cause GI upset due the large amounts of preservatives and chemicals that they contain. Lightly cooked, wholesome diets with no preservatives are ideal. Many people choose to make healthy meals for their dogs at home. The Do It Yourself (DIY) kits provided by JustFoodForDogs is one example.

Prevention is the best strategy when it comes to zoonotic potential, and if your dog is eating the right food and producing healthy poops, then your own health will benefit.

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