How Did Black Cats Become a Halloween Icon?

By Julia Williams

Halloween is here, and everywhere you look today you’ll probably see jack-o’lanterns, ghosts, witches and black cats. These are common symbols associated with this jubilant holiday, but that wasn’t always the case. Although many of our present day Halloween customs trace their origins back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, the connection to black cats is relatively recent.

Samhain was a sacred celebration that marked the end of summer. It did not involve witches or sorcery, but the Celts did believe it was a time when the barrier between the living and the dead was temporarily lifted. To keep troublemaking spirits from bothering them, the Celts wore “ghostly” costumes which made them appear dead. They also gave offerings of food to nourish ancestral ghosts thought to be journeying to the afterlife on this date.

When pagan rituals were converted to Christian holidays, Samhain became All Saints Day, All Souls Day, All Hallow’s Eve and finally, Halloween. Christians went door to door with a hollow turnip “lantern” made to symbolize the souls in purgatory, and households offered them “soul cakes” in exchange for prayers for the dead.

So how did black cats come to be associated with Halloween? Many theories abound. One says that the Celtic Druids eventually came to be viewed as witches by the Church. It was believed that witches could shapeshift, and that they would usually disguise themselves as cats. Black cats were thought to be witches familiars (i.e., beings that aided witches in performing witchcraft). Some thought black cats were reincarnated witches as well.

It stands to reason then, that when the Halloween celebration evolved to include the iconic “wicked witch,” the black cat was also included. Thus, the association of the ancient Celts with witchcraft created two of our most common contemporary Halloween symbols. In fact, black cats and witches remain popular Halloween costumes year after year.

Another theory suggests that black cats may have become associated with Halloween as a result of folklore and superstitions about them being evil and causing bad luck. Even now, many still give credence to these legends. In the United States and many European countries, there are people who actually believe that seeing a black cat signifies the coming of bad luck. With two black cats in my household, I am more like the Irish and the British, who generally consider it a sign of good luck if a black cat crosses their path.

I do find it hard to believe that otherwise intelligent human beings could believe something so absurd as “all black cats are evil.” But then, I’ve never been one to buy into any superstition. I think it’s rather sad for black cats, though, who are forced to bear the burden of this unfortunate association.

It is true that black cats are the least likely to be adopted from animal shelters and other animal rescue organizations. You can visit any shelter, any day of the year, to see for yourself. It’s also true that many shelters refuse to adopt out their black cats in the weeks leading up to Halloween. They fear that the black cats could be used for satanic rituals, or that someone might want to have a black cat in their home as a “living decoration” and then surrender it after the Halloween holiday. As preposterous as that might sound to you or me, anything is possible nowadays, so I don’t blame the shelters for taking precautions.

People with black cats are also cautioned to keep them indoors around Halloween for those same reasons. As long as the black cat continues to be associated with the ghosts, goblins, witches and other spooky figures of Halloween, it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of caution. But if you need proof that black cats are not unlucky, just take it from me. My two black cats are ten and six years old, and I’ve had nothing but good luck, love and happiness since they joined my household.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Tips for Holiday Travel with Your Pet

The winter holiday season is a time for family and friends to gather, often traveling a great distance to be together. Many families consider pets to be part of their family and choose to take them along. Traveling with pets is not always easy, especially when the family dog or cat experiences fear of travel, or motion sickness.

Some dogs resist getting into the car, giving out shrill yelps, while cats meow plaintively, salivating and drooling even before getting into the car. Some pets happily jump into the car, but the moment the engine starts and the car begins to move, their heads hang down and they start to drool, eventually getting sick after some distance. Others look out the window, flicking their heads in different direction as things move by, and quite rapidly they begin to drool and soon get sick.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that most long-distance holiday travel, about 91 percent, is by a personal vehicle, such as by car. Below are some helpful tips from HomeoPet to help make car rides more comfortable and safe for your pet, and your family:

Seat your pet securely in the car, either with a harness, crate or barrier.Allowing your pet to roam freely in the car can be dangerous for the pet and distracting for the driver. For pets with visual cue motion sickness, putting them down on the floor of the car where they cannot see out can often be very helpful.

If your pet is not accustomed to traveling in the car, take some short trips, gradually increasing his time to get him used to longer rides.Bring a favorite toy and blanket for comfort.

Your pet should have a very light meal in the three hours before travel.An empty stomach is usually more prone to nausea. Some pets will respond better on a reasonably full stomach, but if it comes up, it could mean a lot of cleaning. Keep pets hydrated with small amounts of water.

Make frequent stops, allowing pets time to exercise and relieve themselves. Be sure your pet is wearing identification tags or has a microchip in case he does run away or gets lost.

Never leave your pet in the car unattended. They can easily overheat, even when windows are left open. Always be careful with an open window—pets may jump out at the wrong time, or get stuck in them.

Be sure your pet’s mandated vaccinations are up to date, and ask your vet for a health certificate to bring along. Pack any medications your pet might be taking, or might need in an emergency. Researching local veterinarians and emergency clinics in the area you intend to visit can save you valuable time in an emergency.

If your pet does experience motion sickness, use HomeoPet’s Travel Anxiety before you begin your trip.

Tips courtesy of

Alternative Therapies for Dogs

By Ruthie Bently

There are many kinds of alternative therapies nowadays, not only for us but for pets as well. Just like us, our dogs can benefit from them. Alternative therapies can have an unseen benefit, especially if the medication your dog is on does not work, or makes them ill from its side effects. If your dog does not respond to a medication, they may get relief from an alternative therapy, as they don’t tend to produce the side effects that a chemical medication can.

Acupuncture is an ancient alterative therapy that has been practiced as far back as 7000 years ago in India. One of the earliest documented cases of its use in veterinary medicine was about 3000 years ago in India, to treat elephants. The man usually credited with the use of acupuncture in veterinary medicine is Shun Yang from China in 480 BC. Where traditional Western medicine considers one specific issue of a body, acupuncture considers the whole organism in the diagnosis of a health issue.

Acupuncture uses small gauge needles applied to various parts on the body to create a physiological response in the treatment of many diseases and conditions, and has been proven successful in pain relief. It has also been used to treat conditions that affect the entire body. The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society is the professional group for veterinary acupuncturists in the United States.

While each dog is different, acupuncture has been found to help with cases of chronic respiratory conditions, arthritis, neurological disorders, gynecological issues, male and female reproductive problems, skin issues, immune system issues, cardiovascular issues, gastrointestinal issues, musculoskeletal issues and thoracolumbar and cervical disc issues.

Acupuncture has been show to enhance the efficiency of antibiotics when used for canine otitis, which is an inflammation of the ear. Acupuncture has also been suggested as a surgery alternative, if the surgery may have possible complications for your dog. Before deciding on treatment of any kind, you should always get a professional diagnosis and consider all of your options, as in some cases acupuncture may not give the results you desire.

Aromatherapy is as old as 18,000 BC, based on cave paintings discovered in France that show the burning of aromatic plants for medicinal use. It’s believed that aromatherapy got its start in ancient Egypt, though the Chinese were using it around the same time. The term “aromatherapy” was coined by a French chemist, who while working in a laboratory, burned his hand and immediately immersed it in lavender oil. He was surprised at how quickly his burn healed and began doing research into the healing powers of essential oils.

Aromatherapy treatments are done with scents or fragrances made from herbs and flowers. These natural compounds can be made from roots, leaves, fruits, seeds, plant resins and the wood of certain plants. Aromatherapy can be used for an ongoing cure or as a preventative measure. Though humans have been using aromatherapy for healing for centuries, it is a fairly recent practice for animals. Aromatherapy is used by homeopathic veterinarians to help dogs that may be stressed, fearful, anxious or depressed. For example, if you have a dog that gets fretful going in the car, you could use an essence made to calm them down. You should consult a homeopathic veterinarian before beginning any course of aromatherapy for your dog.

Animal chiropractic is a specialization for veterinarians and chiropractors to provide manipulations to the spine, joints and manual therapy for animals; it’s primarily used for neuromusculoskeletal conditions in dogs and horses. It is controversial, and the AVMA does not recognize it. From a legal aspect, only licensed veterinarians are allowed to practice on animals in the United States. However, there are some doctors who hold degrees in both veterinary science and chiropractic, as well as some practitioners that are neither, which causes a legal issue.

Findings show both benefits and increased risk of problems in animals that have been adjusted. Dr. Sharon Willoughby, DVM, DC formed the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) in 1989 with a group of chiropractors and veterinarians to further the profession of animal chiropractic. In theory, animal chiropractic can benefit animals with symptoms related to neck, leg, back and tail pain. Some symptoms include: disc problems, arthritis, injuries from slipping or falling, weight loss due to pain and uneven muscle development. The jury is still out on this one and probably will be for some time.

Reiki is a hands-on energy balancing technique believed to have originated in Tibet. It resurfaced in Japan in the early 1900s before coming to the West. Reiki translated means “universal life energy,” which is our life force. When a dog’s life force is flowing correctly, they are healthy and happy; when it is blocked or lacking a dog will get sick or their body won’t function properly. Practicing Reiki is like giving your dog a shot of the life force that surrounds us in the universe, by tapping into it. This in turn can bring balance back to your dog.

After being trained in Reiki through a series of attunements, a master is able to channel healing energy to the dog’s body. Depending on the master, a dog can be treated either directly or from a distance. To send energy remotely the master needs a picture of the dog and the dog’s permission to send the Reiki to them. Some of the benefits a pet can have from a Reiki treatment are relaxation and decreased stress, improved mood, and reduced or removal of pain. Reiki can improve a dog’s medical condition, help accelerate healing and can help other therapies work better for your dog.

This article is intended as a general guide to alternative therapies for dogs. Please consult with your vet if you have any health concerns or questions about caring for your dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Does your pet do costumes?

Howl-oween is almost here, and the big question is: does your pet wear a costume, or not?

** Pet costume photos from Costume Craze.

After years of struggling with my infant daughter to stop ripping off her bonnet (Can you believe I made a child wear bonnets? What was I thinking, we were in Little House on the Prairie?) I'm not endeared to the idea of forcing anything small and cute into an outfit against their will. But, if the dog is into it, then why not? Extra attention for a pooch is always a good thing.

I'm guessing that those who are into dressing up for Halloweeen are also those who enjoy dressing their pets up for Halloween. I'm not big on costumes myself, so I rarely put a costume on my dog. I don't think Kelly would go for it anyway. But I must admit, I did just see the cutest reindeer costume in Target's bargain bins for $2.50, and at that price, I figured why not give it a try? But when I got it home and held it up to 28-lb Kelly, it was too small. Oh darn.

Numerous parades and parties for your canine trick or treaters abound. This Halloween pet event in the St. Louis area benefits humane shelters.

Buzzfeed posts some amusing pictures of creative dog costumes. Some of the dogs, such as Orange Juice Dog and Eaten by an Anaconda Dog seem to be enjoying their outfits. Others, such as Milipede Dog and Pot Roast Dog, not so much.

If you want to help your pet feel comfortable while on display, ArkAnimals offers these tips to train your pet to wear a Halloween costume.

Finally, in addition to costumes, there is also "creative grooming." Woman's Day offers these photos of painted poodles and otherwise wackily-groomed pooches. As Woman's Day reports, "we don't condone it, we just report it."

Halloween Not Good for Black Cats

The New Zealand Veterinary Association is warning trick-or-treaters to spare a thought for their pets this Saturday night.

Halloween is a bad time of year for black cats, with their long-standing connections with witches, hubble-bubble and evil.

Veterinarian Pieter Verhoek warned petowners to keep black cats away from children who might play pranks.

Reports of deliberate cruelty to black cats rise especially in the weeks around Halloween in Britain, the RSPCA animal charity said on Wednesday.

Verhoek said dogs should be restrained and protected from getting over-excited by a series of visitors to the front door which could result in someone getting bitten by accident.

Treats and trick-or-treating should also exclude pets, Verhoek advised.

"Lollies and chocolate are not good for cats and dogs, and in some instances can be toxic. Especially with chocolate, which can result in animals getting seriously sick or even dying. We do suggest that such treats are kept out of the reach of our pets.

"If the kids want to dress your dog or cat in a costume - please be sensible - ensure that the animals are comfortable and not restrained by unaccustomed clothing," he said.

Chocolate Toxicity in Pets: Symptoms & Precautions

By Linda Cole

Halloween is once again at our doorstep. Trick or treaters will begin tapping on doors to collect the goodies we have to offer. Among the caramel apples, popcorn balls and tasty treats of this spooky holiday will be chocolate candy bars, brownies or other special goodies made with chocolate. We devour tons of chocolate each year, but just a small amount can be deadly for our dogs and cats. Why is chocolate so toxic to pets?

Pets do have a sweet tooth. That's why outside pets are attracted to spilled antifreeze on someone's driveway and can become poisoned from licking even a small amount. Pets think they should be able to eat everything we eat. It's hard to ignore their begging, bright eyes asking for (or demanding) a bite of whatever we are eating. When it comes to chocolate, even one bite can leave them begging for more.

Once pets, especially dogs, have tasted chocolate, they will develop a craving for it. The best thing to do is just not give your pet chocolate, period. Not only is chocolate toxic for pets, it can be fatal if they eat too much, and chocolate poisoning is more common than you may think. The ASPCA Poison Control Center and vets across the country see a spike in calls from worried pet owners during holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.

It's important for children to understand that sharing their Halloween chocolate treats with their dog or cat can make the pet extremely sick. A little chocolate won't hurt most dogs or cats; however, it's always better to be safe than sorry. Avoid any risk to your pet by not giving them any chocolate to begin with.

The amount of chocolate considered to be too much depends on the health, age, weight and size of your pet. The smaller the animal, the smaller amount of chocolate it takes to poison them. An older pet who is out of shape or has underlying illnesses could be affected by a very small amount of chocolate. It also depends on the type of chocolate; darker chocolate is more deadly. Dogs are more likely to be affected because they seem to be able to search and find chocolate better than cats, but cats can also be poisoned.

Theobromine is a natural stimulate found in the cocoa bean. This is what's poisonous to pets. It affects the central nervous system and heart muscles, and it also increases urination. Caffeine is also present in chocolate although not in high concentrations like Theobromine.

Chocolate toxicity in pets is a serious health issue. If you suspect your pet may have eaten too much chocolate, call your vet immediately. Symptoms of chocolate toxicity in pets will begin within 12 hours or less and include:

* Being excited, nervous, shaking, hyperactive

* Diarrhea or vomiting

* Drinking a lot of water or increased urination, which is caused by too much Theobromine in their system.

* Muscle spasms or seizures

Most of us have a variety of chocolate in the house for baking purposes or eating. Dry cocoa powder tops the list of chocolate that is most dangerous for our pets, followed by Bakers chocolate (unsweetened), cocoa bean mulch, semisweet chocolate chips, sweet dark chocolate, milk chocolate and white chocolate. When evaluating chocolate toxicity in pets, it's important to know what type of chocolate was ingested, and how much.

If your Siberian Husky or Lab eats a small chocolate candy bar, they will probably not be affected as long as they are healthy to begin with. A cat or Chihuahua grabbing a chocolate chip that fell on the floor should be fine, but when it comes to chocolate and pets, it best to just say no.

After the kids return home with their bags of Halloween goodies and everything is spread out on the table so you can survey their haul, please remember to make sure Halloween is safe for all members of your family. Chocolate is great in our tummies, but pets are better off with a healthy, chocolate-free snack made just for them.

My cats beg just as much as my dogs do, and it's hard to deny any of them a small bite of whatever I may be eating. For me, the choice is easy when it comes to chocolate. It's just not worth the risk. Besides, by not sharing, it leaves more for me!

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Tips for Teaching Your Puppy His Name

By Julia Williams

When people adopt a puppy, one of the first things they usually do is name him. But once you’ve decided what to call your furry new friend, it’s just as important to begin immediately teaching your puppy his name. Why is it so essential? Because once your puppy learns to respond positively and immediately to his own name, teaching him other basic commands (such as sit, stay or lie down) will be much easier. When your puppy knows his name, you will be able to get him to focus his full attention on you instead of his surroundings. Thus, teaching your puppy his name is a fundamental base for any future training.

Your first objective is to teach your puppy that when you say his name, he must immediately stop whatever he's doing, turn his head and look directly at you. With consistent training and patience, your puppy will eventually understand that the sound he hears is his own name. Later, you can teach your puppy that the sound of his name will be followed by a command.

Step One: Take your puppy to a quiet place with no distractions, armed with some dog treats (CANIDAE Snap-Bits™ are perfect treats for puppies) and a few toys that your puppy enjoys playing with.

Step Two: Put your puppy on a long lead, which will help you to keep him from wandering off if something attracts his attention elsewhere.

Step Three: Using a happy tone of voice, say your puppy’s name.

Step Four: If your puppy looks in your direction when you say his name, immediately reward him with a treat and praise, such as “good doggie.” Puppies are usually very attracted to the sound of your voice, and will naturally look towards you when you speak. By giving him a treat and praising him, you reinforce the desired behavior. Only say your puppy’s name once; if he doesn't respond, you can gently tug his lead or touch his leg so he turns to look at you.

Step Five: Hold a treat up near your face so that your puppy has to look directly at you when you call his name. Doing this will ensure that you have his full attention.

Step Six: Swap a toy for the food treat, and use a few minutes of playtime as the reward for looking at you. Experiment with different treats, toys, and tones of voice to learn which ones are the best motivators for your puppy.

Step Seven: Repeat steps one through six several times during each training session until your puppy consistently looks at you when you say his name.

The next step in training your puppy to respond to his name is to introduce distractions. The goal is to teach your puppy that no matter where you are and no matter what else is happening around him, he needs to give you his full attention when you say his name. Try training him with other family members in the room, outside in your garden, at the local park or at someone else’s home.

Training your puppy in different environments or with distractions will likely be much more challenging at first (both for you and your puppy), but it is a great way to reinforce what your puppy is learning. Remember, your puppy wants to please you, so help him do that by remaining patient and taking this stage slow.

When teaching your puppy his name, it’s important that this sound only be associated with good things. In other words, try not to use your puppy’s name when you are scolding him. Otherwise, he will form a negative association with his name and may become confused or refuse to respond to you when you call his name.

Key points to remember:

* Keep your training sessions short (five or ten minutes at a time, several times each day), and keep them fun.

* Train your puppy before a meal so he’ll be more motivated to get the food treat. Just remember to account for the extra food in his daily rations, so as not to overfeed him.

* If more than one person will be teaching your puppy his name, make sure everyone understands what to do and uses the same technique.

* Be sure to give lots of praise along with the treat or toy reward, and always end each training session on a positive note.

If you follow these simple tips, your puppy will learn his name in no time at all!

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Training Tips from a New Dog Mom- part 2

Last week we shared one dog owner's experience with training her adorable new puppy, Bailey. This week she joins us again to share some of her challenges in training this spunky terrier, and what they've both learned.

What is Bailey's most unusual training quirk? How are you handling it?

Bailey repeatedly has a quirky problem with barking at things. By things I mean if there is something new in the neighborhood or inside the house, she immediately begins to bark uncontrollably at it. The only way I have found to get her to stop barking is to take her to the object and show it to her, let her sniff it, and then the barking stops. I have talked with other terrier owners who have explained the same scenario with their dogs. I hope that as she grows into an adult dog, this will stop. I think she is still getting more aware of her environment and what is in it.

We also had a unique situation when Bailey became afraid of the dark – outside only. Her trainer guessed that Bailey must have heard or seen a raccoon or fox at night which scared her. The trainer suggested that I go outside with her at night and talk her through her fear. I felt rather silly but I took her on night walks and said, “good Bailey” or “Brave Bailey” to assure her that night time was okay. When letting her outside in the backyard now, I turn on the outside light and the seems to alleviate any of her fears or scare away any critters.

What is the next step in training for Bailey?

Bailey has learned most of the basic commands like come, off, no, sit, lay down, and eat. Bailey is beginning intermediate training classes where she will learn more fun activities, in my opinion, such as play dead, agility courses, and other tricks to entertain people. Because Bailey learns quickly, I am considering training her to be a therapy dog. She is very social – loves people and dogs. If we could share her love with others in hospitals or kids who need a reading buddy, that would be a wonderful opportunity. We will see how she progresses. Therapy dogs must be at least one year old and Bailey is currently six months. Right now I am looking forward to learning more techniques that will keep both of us on our toes.

Thank you Linda for sharing your training experiences with Bailey! They've already given me a few ideas of what I can do with Kelly. And good luck- I'm sure Bailey will make a wonderful therapy dog.

Communicating With Your Dog

By Ruthie Bently

One of my personal mantras is “There is no such thing as a dumb animal; they just don’t vocalize in a language we understand.” That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with your dog, you just have to know how to go about it. I read The Loved Dog by dog trainer Tamar Geller, and she mentions that you should “teach your dog English,” which made sense to me.

Then I ran across an article by someone who feels that while you can teach your dog English, you should not ask them to do too much thinking. In my opinion, this sounds to me like the writer expects you to “dumb things down” for your dog. They mention that because a “pushy owner” thrusts the act of sitting upon their dog, this is why the dog understands the “sit” command. While this may be an effective method of teaching a puppy, it reminds me of that comic strip where the owner is talking to a dog named Ginger. You as the reader of the strip, see the words that the owner is speaking to Ginger. I don’t remember them exactly, but the conversation would look something like this: “Ginger, go sit over there.” Then you see what Ginger hears in a little balloon over her head: “Ginger, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

So how do you go about teaching a dog English, when it is not their first language? You do use word association with the action you would like your dog to perform. But you can use it even when your dog is already doing what you want them to do, which helps your dog learn English faster. For example, if your dog is already sitting down, repeat the word “sit” several times; if they are lying down, you repeat the word “down” several times. Ms. Geller goes on to say that you can use this example with any word you would like to teach your dog.

Though Skye has not been with me since she was a puppy, her personal English vocabulary keeps getting longer. She knows the commands sit, down, stand, stay, and heel. She understands what a “bicky” (biscuit) is, what “kennel up” (going in her crate) means, and she loves “bye bye car,” which means we are going for a ride in my truck.

I did use repetition in the beginning, but after Skye learns a chosen word, I do not keep repeating it. After all, she already knows what I am asking her to do or what I may be offering her, so I do not need to keep repeating it. However, there are times when Skye (like many dogs) will decide to be stubborn, and then I go back to repeating the word as many times as it takes to get her to comply. I am happy to say, those times are few and far between.

For Skye’s benefit, I am trying to learn as much “dog” as I can, which is based on her body language. This helps me understand my four-legged friend better, and our relationship becomes that much sweeter for the understanding.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Important Update About Pet Peace of Mind

Greetings, Readers! I have some very important news to share with you today. Wednesday, November 3rd will be my last official day at Hospice of Green Country. As you can imagine, after four years as Spiritual Director, change is difficult and I have mixed feelings about leaving my co-workers and patients. There is good news, however. I will be taking a position with Banfield Charitable Trust as the Program Manager for Pet Peace of Mind! This means that I will have the opportunity to work with hospices all over the country who want to start Pet Peace of Mind to help pets and patients in their service area. For those of you who have had the chance to talk with me about the program, you already know that it's been my vision to help as many pets and patients as possible and I count it a privilege to be involved in the program as it continues to grow. I will work from home, here in Tulsa, using technology to train and support new programs. I will also travel periodically to Portland, Oregon to the BCT headquarters and probably to other places as things unfold. That means I will continue to work with Hospice of Green Country as I support the program here and the local pet/rescue organizations as well. Am I blessed or what!! This is a wonderful opportunity and I am very excited to share it with you today. Stay tuned!

The Holidays are Coming!

Winter Care for Pets

By Linda Cole

October is quickly coming to a close, and for those in the northern part of the country, chilly winds are stripping red, orange and yellow leaves from trees and leaving only memories of a warm summer sun. The first freeze withers garden plants, flowers and grass. Winter will be here all too soon, and it’s time to start thinking about winterizing the house, the car and your pets. Winter care for pets can help them endure the coldest days ahead and help keep them safe.

Cold and snow can be rough on pets who spend most of their time inside. Dogs need to go outside, and it's easy to forget they aren't used to being in the cold for extended periods of time. They may have fur coats, but what nature gave them isn't always suitable against freezing temperatures. I had a dog who would get so cold, his teeth chattered. If you see your dog shivering, he is cold. Hypothermia and frost bite are real possibilities for a pet who has been outside too long, and they are affected by a wind chill and cold.

Include coats or sweaters on a winter care list for dogs. Don't be afraid to put coats on your dogs when they go outside. Unlike some people, dogs don't have a macho ego that prevents them from being practical. My dogs want their coats on because they have learned they are warmer with them on. You can find a good selection of coats online at most retail pet sites.

It's been my experience that more than one coat is needed. I dress my dogs in layers when they go outside in winter, because that's the best way to help them stay warm. I have sweatshirts that go on first, then homemade quilted fleece jackets and finally, a waterproof, windproof dog blanket that goes on top for the really cold windy days.

Dogs lose heat through their paw pads and ears. When it's really cold, quality dog booties will help them stay warm and ward off frostbite. However, it's hard to find ear muffs or hats for dogs. I'm not a seamstress, but have learned how to make quilted fleece coats with hoods that help keep their ears warmer.

If you live in an area where the temperatures fall below zero with wind chills that can make it feel even colder, your dog will appreciate booties and coats once they get used to them. A combination of extreme cold and snow can quickly freeze unprotected feet. If you see your dog or cat not moving, or picking up one leg and then another, you should get them inside immediately. This is a sign that their feet are too cold.

Dogs and cats who spend most of their time inside should always be supervised when they are outside. Winter care for pets requires our watchful eye whenever they are outside. Coats and booties help, but our pets can't tell us when they are cold. We need to pay attention to them and watch for signs like shivering, standing in one spot and not moving, or limping. A good rule to go by is if you are cold, your pet probably is too, and it's time to go inside. Prevent frostbite or hypothermia before it happens.

Older or sick pets are affected by cold weather more than healthy ones. Pets who suffer from arthritis will usually feel more stiffness and move slower during winter months. It's important to make sure they have soft, warm bedding they can lay on, away from drafts. Walks with an older dog should be kept short. Make sure they don’t slip on ice or snow which could put unnecessary stress on already stiff joints, and could injure them more.

Snow, ice, rock salt spread on sidewalks and chemical deicers used on city streets can collect in and on the pads of cats and dogs. Clean their paws once they are inside, because licking the rock salt and chemical ice melt from their paws can make them sick, as well as cause painful chapping and cracking pads.

Cats prefer warmth over cold. Make sure their bed is in a warm room away from drafts, fireplaces and electric space heaters. Unnecessary fires can be avoided by making sure your cat is not allowed near fireplaces or allowed to lay on or next to space heaters. Be careful using candles – a cat's curiosity can end with an overturned candle that is still lit.

Winter care for pets is important. Don't let cold temperatures stop you from going outside with your dog or cat and enjoying the beauty and fun of a new snowfall. With appropriate cold weather precautions, the fresh air and romps in the snow are good for our pets and us.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

Bed Bugs Beware of Dogs

Sleep Tight; these dogs will do the rest!

Article from Chicago Tribune about canines trained to detect signs of bedbug infestation.

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Welcome to Monday Rufferences and Mews, with the latest news and information on the pets we love.
If you're looking for a dog-friendly car that is also fuel-efficient, here's good news. The Petconnection blog reports on the Environmental Protection Agency's fuel economy guide for 2010 vehicles, which includes four hybrids containing desirable features for dog owners, such as space for dog crates and other design pluses.
"The Ford hybrid triplets of the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute and Mercury Mariner all rate multiple paws in reviews on, our website that puts dog-lovers in the driver's seat when shopping for a new canine carrier."

My friend is in the middle of relocating, and wonders how to make the situation easier on her Golden Retriever. Moving can be stressful on a pet, but Pawluxury blog offers these tips on ways to ease the transition. Some suggestions are walking your dog through the neighborhood to get him acquainted with the smells, and waiting to move your dog in until your furniture and familiar possessions are in place.

I've heard this advice before, and even though my neighborhood is full of outdoor cats, never really thought about it until now: be sure there isn't a cat snuggled up under the hood of your car before you start your engine! The problem is created when cats attempt to get out of the chilly weather by squeezing under the hood of a car to get close to the engine's warmth. As reported in the New York Daily News, this white and orange tabby survived a two-mile ride under the hood of an SUV. The driver investigated after hearing strange noises, and the cat was soon freed and found to be in good shape. According to Petfinders blog, always bang on the hood before getting in your car, and then honk the horn before turning the key.

Halloween safety tips for your pets‏

Fetch! Pet Care Helps to Promote Humane Halloween

Halloween may be full of tricks and treats for humans, but the holiday does not hold the same appeal for our pet counterparts. In fact, Halloween can be a downright frightening time for pets. Paul Mann, Founder of Fetch! Pet Care, the nation’s largest provider of professional pet sitting and dog walking services, is devoted to the safety and comfort of pets. He provides the following tips to keep your pets safe this holiday season:

· Tricks are for kids. While ghouls and goblins provide entertainment, your pet does not understand the person behind that mask is their friend. Dogs and cats are creatures of habit and can easily become frightened, aggressive or agitated by the unaccustomed sights and sounds of costumed visitors. So when the trick ‘or’ treaters come knocking at your door, it’s best to keep your furry friend contained indoors in a quiet, comfortable area of your home. Also, make sure all pets are wearing collars and ID tags in case they get spooked and escape your home or yard.

· Candy is not a treat for our pets. Sweets may look appealing to pets, but candy – especially chocolate – can be downright toxic to animals. Keep your candy bowl out of reach from pets and make sure your children sift through their bags at a table where Fido can’t sneak a piece. Candy wrappers can be just as harmful. Instead, purchase a box of your pets’ favorite treats for them to munch on. If you believe your pet has ingested a harmful item, call your veterinarian or the Animal Control hotline immediately.

· Decorations should shock Trick ‘or’ Treaters – not our pets. Keep all electrical cords and decorations out of reach. One chomp on an electrical cord could have a potentially deadly outcome. Pets can also become tangled and injured by dangling cords or decorations. You can purchase plastic tubing or casing at your local hardware store to provide some level of safety. Keep lit candles and jack-o-lanterns out of reach and on stable ground. Your pet could accidentally bump the pumpkin, resulting in fire damage to the home – and potentially to your pet.

· Costumes are constraining. Yes, your pet may look adorable as a dinosaur or Cleopatra, but pets can feel constrained and uncomfortable in costumes. Many costumes also have loose accessories that could be hazardous if chewed or swallowed. If you must dress your pet, find a costume that has few accessories and is loose fitting.

· Extra care for black pets. Don't let your pet fall victim to Halloween pranks; keep them inside or under supervision during the Halloween season. This is especially important for pets with black fur, since they are a target for pranksters.

As an alternative to keeping your pets at home this Halloween, Fetch! Pet Care has the ability to provide a safe and quiet overnight boarding, day or evening care environment at one of their 5,000 pet sitter’s homes across the country. As a way to support the cause of pet safety on Halloween and throughout the year at homes and in shelters, Fetch! Pet Care will be donating a portion of their Halloween revenues to Best Friends Animal Society, a partner in pet care and safety. For more information on Best Friends, visit

What is Bloat? What are the Symptoms?

By Ruthie Bently

Quite a few of my articles are anecdotal, and this one is as well. I had never owned a dog that got bloat until a few months ago, when my AmStaff Skye had her own bout of it. Bloat is known by several names: torsion, Gastric dilation-volvulus (or GDV) and simply bloat. Deep-chested dogs are more susceptible to bloat, but any dog could theoretically get it.

Some of the factors that have been shown to contribute to bloat are: eating only one meal per day, exercising immediately after a meal, eating their food too fast, drinking lots of water right after a meal, gulping their food too quickly or eating from elevated bowls. Bloat can even be brought on by a stressful event for your dog, or if they have a temperament that is fearful. Even a dog’s age can be a factor.

What happens is that a dog’s stomach becomes distended with fluid and/or gas, and the stomach turns out of its normal position. The blood circulation to the stomach becomes impaired by the distention, and return of blood to the heart can be compromised by a compression of the larger vessels. If returning blood to the heart is compromised in this manner, further damage to several of the dog’s organs can occur, which can become a life threatening issue very quickly.

When Skye had her issue with bloat, I noticed that her abdomen began to swell like a balloon. She was trying to cough up something (like a cat with a hairball) and had no success. She also kept gulping water, as if that would help the situation. The color of her gums, tongue and ears became very pale. She was lethargic and started drooling, which she never does. She also became restless, began pacing and could not find a comfortable place. In short, I could tell she was miserable. Some of the other symptoms an owner may observe are rapid heartbeat, depression, weakness, difficulty or rapid breathing, and the dog may collapse.

What Skye had done was get into the cat litter box and help herself to some “kitty hors d'oeuvres.” I use a wheat-based cat litter and after she ate it, it began to ferment in her stomach. Of course, it happened on a Saturday night and we don’t have an emergency clinic in our town, though the vet would have met me at his office if I had asked him to. As soon as I noticed she was having a problem, I called the vet. He told me that they call it a “garbage gut,” and it can happen when a dog gets into something they are not used to eating, as it may react with the acid in their stomach.

I was very lucky because her stomach never torsioned, but I was scared to death for her. What the vet suggested was to go to the local discount store and get a gas reliever. He told me to give her one dose, and another dose in two hour increments if needed. I was so worried; I packed Skye into my truck and took her with me. After getting the anti-gas medicine, I gave her one as soon as I got out to the truck. What followed were several hours of “green fog” in our house, but I am happy to say it solved the problem, and I got a taller gate that Skye couldn’t climb over to get to the litter boxes.

Some of the breeds that can be susceptible to bloat are Saint Bernard, Standard Poodle, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd, Wolfhound, Great Dane, Doberman Pinscher, English Sheepdog, Boxer, Bull Mastiff, Mastiff, Akita, Sight hounds, and Irish Setter. You can find a more complete list of susceptible dog breeds online.

I would never suggest that you just go get a gas reliever (because I am not a veterinarian), and your situation could be more serious than mine. I would, however, suggest that if this situation happens to you, call your vet as soon as possible or get your dog to an emergency clinic. Time is of the essence if you suspect your dog has bloat. You can also help by keeping any foods for other pets, any garbage containers and litter boxes out of reach of your own dog. By being vigilant on your own, your dog may never have to suffer like my poor girl did.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

The Best Dogs for Agility Training and Trials

By Anna Lee

I am sure you’ve seen those dogs on TV, the little lightning bolts that seem to streak across the ground and fly through the air like the wind. I enjoy watching them, and it is amazing how they can move at such speeds and be so accurate! I wish the sport of Dog Agility was on TV more often because it is fascinating.

In Agility events the dogs must complete an obstacle course, which is set up in a large outdoor area. The course has many components to it. Some of the aspects of the course are: the sea saw, tunnels, dog walk, pause (not paws!) table, pause box, jumps, A-frame and weave polls. The weave polls fascinate me the most. Weave polls are a series of poles stuck in the ground, in a line maybe 1 foot apart. The dog works its way through the poles weaving in and out. That is just one small segment of the agility trials, but accuracy and speed are the keys. The course is timed, and if the dog misses an aspect or goes out of bounds, time penalties are added to the score. The dog with the shortest time wins and is proclaimed the champion!

The sport of Dog Agility requires a sure footed and speedy dog with determination and a will to compete. Not all dogs are physically able to run the course due to their size, their breed characteristics and their ability to listen to and follow commands. Three breeds that rise to the top in Agility Trials are:

The Border Collie – This dog was bred to gather and control sheep. He stares down his flock with an intense eye. The Border Collie has unlimited energy and stamina. This medium size dog weighs approximately 30-45 pounds and stands approximately 18-22 inches high at the shoulder, and can live to be 15 years old. I have several friends with Border Collies and they are amazing to watch under normal circumstances.

The Shetland Sheepdog – This dog was bred to stand guard for farmers. He kept birds and hungry sheep from the gardens. They make excellent family pets and they are superstars in dog sports. They only weight about 20 pounds, are 13-16 inches at the shoulder, and can live to be 15 year old.

The Australian Shepherd – This breed originated in the western United States, not Australia, and was bred to herd livestock. This is another great family dog that is full of energy. The Australian Shepherd is 18-23 inches at the shoulder, can weigh 40-65 pounds, and live about 15 years.

If you think you might be interested in Agility Trials and want to get a puppy and start training them, there is a lot of information online regarding this sport. You can start agility training while your puppy is still young. There are many good books and videos available as well. It is important to get proper guidance so that your dog or puppy does not get injured. The website Agility Training for Dogs (www.agilitytrainingfordogs. com) has a lot of very helpful information and is a good place to start.

There are several dog breeds involved in Agility Trials other than the three breeds mentioned above. As to what type of dogs are best suited for agility training, ask yourself: Is your dog the star of the dog park? Can your dog move like a speeding bullet? Can he jump like a jackrabbit? If the answer is yes to those questions, then maybe he should be given a chance at Agility Training and Trials.

For agility training you would not choose a Great Dane or a Mastiff; they are too big and slow moving. You also would not want to use a Dachshund or Yorkie as their legs are much too short. They are lovable dogs, but not quite right for this particular sport! It is important to have your dog checked out thoroughly by your vet first, as you do not want to put undue stress on your pet.

Read, learn, research, ask questions, watch videos, and attend Agility Trials – learn as much as you can before you get involved because it requires a great deal of time and dedication. Six to nine months of solid agility training is necessary before a dog can compete. This sport requires dedication from the dog as well as the owner. If you cannot invest the time required, it may be best for you to leave the agility training and trials to others.

As for Abby, my 11-1/2 year old Lab, we will sit on the sofa and watch the Agility Trials on TV together. The fact that she can still jump on up the sofa means she is agile enough for me!

Read more articles by Anna Lee

Training Tips from a New Pet Owner

When it comes to training dogs, maybe you've heard that it's the owner who really needs to be trained. New dog mom Linda, from upstate New York, is quick to agree. She's mom to pup Bailey, a 6 month old wheaten Cairn Terrier. Linda's learned about training her dog from research and talking to experts, and Bailey's caught on very quickly. After teaching the basics like crate training and house breaking, Linda and Bailey began puppy classes together.

How did you find a good puppy class for Bailey? What should an owner look for in a class?

I found a good puppy training class for Bailey by first talking with other dog owners then making phone calls to dog trainers. I knew what was important for Bailey and me, so I asked questions based on my goals of having a dog who listens and is obedient to my commands.

One of the first situations I discovered in contacting trainers is that many appeared to be largely money driven. How did I learn that? They didn’t care about the age of my dog or the number of animals in a class. There were also the trainers who were too busy to talk to me but happy to have me enroll without knowledge of what we would be doing in class.

A class should be age appropriate. Puppies are learning to socialize and it is much easier with other puppies in the same situation. Older dogs often have not had the opportunity to play around puppies so being with other older dogs may be challenging.

Size can be an important factor. This depends on the trainer and how much room in available for a class but I have learned that 8 to 10 dogs in a class is quite large.

I wanted a trainer that took an interest in our specific goals and needs, who would be interested in us as individuals. Fortunately by calling and meeting ahead of time, I found a trainer who is great. She asks what the class wants to work on, and is available in between classes if we have any problems or issues we need guidance on.

As Bailey grew and responded to commands like sitting or barking by the door when she needed to go outside, I grew to trust her and allowed larger areas of the house for her to explore. She earned her way into being free to run around our home as time went on. For us that meant no mistakes on the carpet. If that happened, more gates went back into place until another week went by without an accident.

Some people don’t want puppies on furniture or they prefer to keep them within certain rooms of the house. Those boundaries and guidelines need to be considered and taught in each situation.

What training styles work for Bailey? What do you notice that doesn't work well with dogs?

All breeds are very unique but each breeds looks to a leader. Consistent training is the key with all dogs. Some require much more time and patience than others. Bailey follows commands easily once I learn what to do and say according to the trainers expertise.

I have observed that some dogs struggle with simple commands such as sitting because the owner is not consistent. Different owners have discussed problems in class which shows that they either are very lenient because they have young kids at home and think it’s cute when the dog eats food off the counter and don’t stop the behavior or they work and are tired at the end of the day and simply want to play with the puppy rather than give commands.

Check in next Wednesday where Linda will share some of Bailey's challenges (like barking at shrubs!) and how she's learned to handle them. We'd love to hear your training tips and experiences too!

Breed Profile: New Guinea Singing Dog

By Ruthie Bently

I became aware of a newer “rare breed” of dog recently, when I was asked to write about the New Guinea Singing Dog for this blog. CANIDAE has actually been supporting several New Guinea Singing Dogs at the Tautphaus Zoo in Idaho Falls, Idaho for almost two years now. These dogs came to the zoo from their original owner who was unable to care for them because they were not fully domesticated.

Prior to CANIDAE sponsoring their exhibit, these handsome dogs were being fed any dog food the local grocery store donated. Now, CANIDAE team members Chris Milliken and Diane Matsuura make sure they are fed with the finest all natural nutrition available. CANIDAE is very happy to help these “threatened” dogs that have a unique voice, and this is their first opportunity to sponsor a zoo exhibit.

Although several kennel clubs recognize them, the New Guinea Singing Dog is not one I would suggest owning. According to the United Kennel Club (UKC) they should be 17 inches high (43 cm) and weigh 25 pounds (11 kg). They have a double coat, which ranges from red to brown, and some dogs have a mask. Their life expectancy is between fifteen and twenty years of age. Their group affiliation in the UKC is the Sighthounds and Pariah Dogs Group, and they are considered a rare breed. They can also be registered with the American Rare Breed Association, in the Spitz and Primitive Group, as a dog breed.

The New Guinea Singing Dog (aka NGSD) was brought to the island of New Guinea about 6,000 years ago by stone age aborigines. They had been isolated until about fifty years ago, and little is known about them. They are a primitive breed of dog, although they were tame enough to accompany prehistoric man on hunts. The NGSD predate the dingo by 2,000 years, but like the dingo it is believed they come from the subspecies of Indian wolf. Sir Edward Halistrom discovered them in 1957, and took the first pair from Papua-New Guinea to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. They were named for him (Canis hallstromi) and were reclassified in 1969 as a domestic dog breed, in the same subspecies as the dingo.

New Guinea Singing Dogs have not been studied in the wild. Because many consider them feral dogs, little is known about their social organization, behavior or history in the wild. When glimpsed in the wild, they have been seen singly or in pairs, never in a pack. Most of the NGSD in North America are descended from the original pair from the Taronga Zoo. Five others were taken to the Domestic Animal Institute in Keil, Germany from the Irian Java, and one was seen by a British climbing expedition below Mount Trikora in 1991. They have their own conservation group, and their status is “threatened.”

They are called Singing Dogs because of their voice. While they are able to howl like a wolf, they can modulate the pitch of their howls. They also trill, which has been compared to a sound made by the Asiatic Wild Dog. They do not repeatedly bark, but have a vocal range that includes whines, yelps and howls of a single note, which show a quality of synchronization. They blend their vocal tones and the howl can be spurred if the dog is excited or disturbed.

While it is said they can be loyal and affectionate dogs, they do have their detriments and I would not suggest having one as a family pet. They are still considered a wild animal by many, as they have strong roaming and predatory instincts, and will escape fenced areas. Training sessions can become difficult if prey is detected because of their drive to hunt, and they use not only their scent and sight but their hearing as well to find prey. Because of their incredible flexibility, they can get through any opening large enough to fit their head through. They explore their environment constantly and utilize all five senses.

New Guinea Singing Dogs are extremely intelligent and can become bored easily. They are a very active breed that needs lots of attention and exercise. If not properly trained they can be destructive. While they can develop a strong bond with a human they will become upset when separated. They have catlike qualities and show more independence than a more domesticated dog, so don’t expect them to come when you call. They need to be well-socialized early to tolerate humans and can be shy and aloof around strangers. They can also be dog aggressive, especially to their own sex, and there are reports of their misunderstanding another dog’s attempt to play with them.

Because New Guinea Singing Dogs live as long as they do, I would consider very carefully before owning one. Twenty years is a long time to live with a semi-domesticated dog that could become a handful very quickly.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

The Strange Behaviors of Cats

By Julia Williams

Does your cat do weird things? Rest assured, if your feline friend regularly engages in strange behavior that makes no sense to you –you’re not alone. I could fill a book with all of the peculiar things my cats have done over the years. It leads me to believe there must be some unwritten “rule of paw” that every cat knows about and agrees to adhere to, once they get adopted by a human. It probably goes something like this: “I will always engage in strange behaviors that drive my human crazy.”

Okay, maybe not. But having been around cats all of my life, it does seem like they are always doing odd things for no particular reason. Perhaps my cats have a perfectly good reason why they won’t sleep in the adorable plush cat bed I bought for them, but will curl up inches away from it on the cold, hardwood floor instead; if so, it eludes me. Perhaps they know exactly what makes a cardboard box – any cardboard box – so darn irresistible. I’ve seen my cats turn into little Cirque du Soleil-like contortionists to wedge themselves into a teeny tiny cardboard box for a nap. It doesn’t look the least bit comfortable to me, yet they snooze away.

My cats are disinterested in most of the cute cat toys I buy for them. They like to play with straws instead, and will even steal them out of my drink when I'm not looking! My idiot kitties used to hang their behinds off the side of their litter box and leave little “droppings” on the floor, but I put an end to this objectionable behavior by switching to a covered cat box. However, I have not yet found a solution to their confounding habit of forever trying to stick their furry little rumps in my face. “No Thank You” doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about that behavior.

My cats have always been very good about using the various scratching posts I’ve strategically placed around my house. Nevertheless, every so often I will catch Rocky (a.k.a., my “problem child”) in the act of sharpening his claws on the carpet – right next to one of the scratching posts!

One odd cat behavior that always makes me laugh is the overzealous and prolonged digging in the litter box. Sometimes it lasts so long, I think they must surely be trying to dig a hole to China. Another funny cat behavior is when they scratch the floor next to their food bowl. Some theorize this is because they’re unhappy with the food offering and are trying to cover it, but I’m not convinced. I’ve been feeding them FELIDAE cat food exclusively for about five years, and they seem to love it. Why would it be acceptable 99 days out of 100?

Kneading is a common behavior that almost all cats do. Kneading is a vestige of kittenhood, when they would knead the momma cat’s belly during nursing, to help the milk flow. When adult cats do it (very often on their human “mom’s” belly!) it’s typically thought to indicate that they’re happy and content.

A strange behavior my cat Annabelle does that looks similar to kneading is what I call “angry marching in place.” She will furiously march with just her back legs, usually on the bedspread or the carpet, with an odd expression on her face. I have no idea why she does this, but she looks more possessed than happy when doing it.

Does your cat follow you into the bathroom? I’m not sure why felines are so fascinated with what goes on in that room and want to be in there with you, but most cat owners I’ve talked to say this is a typical behavior at their house. I learned long ago to warn my guests to firmly shut the door when they use my bathroom. Otherwise, they could find themselves sitting on the throne with a cat staring at them, and the door flung wide open. Cats never gently nudge open a door; they push it open with all their might.

Drooling while being petted is another common cat behavior. Animal behaviorist’s say this simply means your kitty is happy and relaxed, and enjoying the attention you’re lavishing upon them. It makes sense to me. My three cats all drool excessively when I pet or brush them, but never at any other time. Once, at the end of a marathon brushing session with Annabelle, I reached down to kiss her paw and discovered that it was sopping wet! (I’m much more careful about what I kiss now).

Cats are funny creatures, to be sure. But those of us who love them, accept their strange behaviors because it’s a part of what makes them so endearing. If you’d like to share your own cat’s quirky behaviors, please feel free to leave a comment.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Dogs in School a Neccessity for Some

You may take your dog to school. For some children, those words have a profound impact.

Earlier this fall I read about Carter, a 5-year old autistic boy in Illinois who has responded well to his shaggy gray therapy dog. When the time came to enter Kindergarten, however, the dog, who had become so vital to Carter, was denied. Lawsuits soon resulted, with the parents aiming to get the dog recognized as a "service dog" and therefor allowed in school.

Nancy Freedman-Smith, a certified pet dog trainer, comments in her blog A Dog's Life,

You may have seen the news stories from around the country where Autism Assist dogs are being denied access to schools and many lawsuits are resulting. At the core of this controversy is the definition of what an Autism Assist dog does or doesn't do.

Freedman-Smith, who has trained a dog to work with a middle school boy, recently announced on her blog that the dog has been approved to accompany the boy to school.

Before the dog enters the school, we have a lot of work to do. On my part, I have been working with the dog to polish her skills and be sure that she is prepared for her new job. I will be meeting with the school to help set everyone up for success and we will most likely make a short movie or two to show to staff and kids as well an inservice about the dog. The boy and dog have two aids that also need to train with me. The aids will be the dog's primary handlers. She will have a crate in the room for chill time if needed and to get to school, she will be taking the bus!

This is wonderful news. As for young Carter in Illinois, although his family won their case, all has not been smooth. Even in the face of the court order, the school declined to allow the dog. The boy--and his dog--are now attending a special school 30 miles from their home.

Dangerous Foods For Pets

Part of the Pet Net Safety Event

We've all heard that chocolate is bad for our furry friends, but there are many other everyday foods that could be potentially harmful to our pets. Americans spend over $10 billion dollars on pet food and despite buying the best food available, some pets would rather eat what we eat. But beware as certain foods can be dangerous to your pet.

-Alcoholic Beverages. Ethanol is the component in alcoholic beverages that can be toxic when an excessive amount is ingested. Pets are much smaller than us and can be highly affected by small amounts of alcohol.

-Apples, Apricots, Cherries, Peaches and Plums. Ingestion of large amounts of stems, seeds and leaves of these fruits can be toxic. They contain a cyanide type compound and signs of toxicity include apprehension, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, hyperventilation and shock.

-Avocados. The leaves, fruit, bark and seeds of avocados have all been reported to be toxic.

-Baking Powder and Baking Soda. Baking soda and baking powder are both leavening agents - It produces a gas causing batter and dough to rise. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate. Baking powder actually consists of baking soda and an acid. Could lead to congestive heart failure or muscle spasms.

-Chocolate - Depending on the type of chocolate ingested and the amount eaten, various problems can occur. The high fat content in chocolate may result in vomiting and possibly diarrhea. You may notice restlessness, hyperactivity, muscle twitching, increased urination and possibly excessive panting. Heart rate and blood pressure levels may also be increased. Seizure activity may occur in severe cases.

-Coffee (grounds and beans). Dogs that eat coffee grounds or beans can get "caffeine" toxicity.

-Fatty Foods. Rich and fatty food are favorites of dogs. They often get them as treats, leftovers or from getting into the trash. These fatty foods can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can affect any pet. Miniature or toy poodles, cocker spaniels and miniature schnauzers are particularly prone. Signs of pancreatitis generally include an acute onset of vomiting, sometimes diarrhea and abdominal pain.

-Dairy Products. Dairy products are not highly dangerous but can pose problems for two reasons. One is their high fat content. The second reason is that pets poorly digest dairy products since they lack the enzyme required to digest lactose.

-Grapes and Raisins. Any dog that ingests large amounts of grapes or raisins should be treated aggressively, so contact your veterinarian immediately if ingestion has occurred.

-Macadamia Nuts. Macadamia nuts, also called the Queensland nut or Australia nut, can be toxic. The mechanism behind why these nuts are toxic is a mystery. Dogs develop weakness, depression, vomiting, difficulty walking, tremors, abdominal pain, lameness, stiffness and/or pale gums. The signs usually dissipate in 12 to 24 hrs.

-Moldy or Spoiled Food. Dogs love to get into the trash. In addition to food poisoning, some pets can develop tremors related to the ingestion of certain molds.

-Nutmeg. You may not realized this but high levels of nutmeg can be toxic, even fatal. Signs of toxicity include tremors, seizures, nervous system abnormalities or death.

-Onions or Garlic. Dogs and cats lack the enzyme necessary to properly digest onions and this could result in gas, vomiting, diarrhea or severe gastrointestinal distress.
All forms of onion and garlic are a problem. This includes raw, dehydrated, cooked, powders or those in foods.

-Yeast Dough. When ingested, bread or yeast dough will "rise" in the stomach just as it would for bread. As the dough rises and ferments, alcohol is produced. There are two problems with yeast dough. The biggest problem is that the dough often rises to many times its size, expanding the pet's stomach. The second problem is from the alcohol component, which can cause "alcohol toxicity."

-Cooked bones - Your pet does not have to give up their favorite raw bones, but they do need to give up any cooked bones they have. Cooked bones can become brittle, and because of this they can shatter and cause severe injury to the lining of the digestive track.

-Everday Toxins in the Home - Beware of everyday toxins that your pets can get into, including cleaning supplies, beauty products and even antifreeze. The smells of these items may attract your pets, but it is important to keep them away to avoid any issues.

-Beware of other pet wastes - Yes, some pets like to eat their own wastes, and sometimes the wastes of other pets. This one sure way for a pet to be at risk for diseases and parasites, which can make your dog ill. One such parasite, called Giardia,is transmitted from one dog to another through the ingestion of cysts in contaminated feed, drinking water or feces.

-Pet food not meant for your pet - in other words, dogs should only eat dog food, not cat food or any other pet food. Foods are specifically formulated for that particular animal and could be harmful to other pets because it won't have the right balance of proteins, vitamins and other minerals that your pet needs.

- Raw Salmon - It is thought that raw salmon and trout could carry a parasite that is potentially fatal to pets. The parasite has little effect on the fish itself, but if ingested by a dog, could cause serious problems.

These are just some of the everyday items to be avoid, but as always, check with your vet before giving your pets any type of diet that involves "people food."


Handling Thunderstorm Anxiety in Pets

By Linda Cole

A thunderstorm is a natural weather condition that produces cracks of thunder which can shake a house to the core. A fearful pet will scamper under the bed before the thunder has finished echoing across the sky. Thunderstorm anxiety in pets is real, and can be a traumatic experience. Although thunderstorms occur most often in spring and summer, they can happen in fall and winter, too. A rare weather phenomenon called thundersnow can occur in late winter or early spring, producing loud claps of thunder and usually heavy snow. So pets with a fear of storms can be affected by thunderstorm activity all year long.

While many dogs and cats are carefree animals that never give a passing storm the time of day, others become anxious before a thunderstorm darkens the skies. Dogs seem to experience thunderstorm anxiety more often than cats, but cats can have a fear of storms as well.

My rescued German Shepard/Collie mix trembles when a thunderstorm is in our area. She wraps herself around me as tight as she can get and shakes from head to toe until the thunderstorm drifts away. If we are outside and she hears thunder in the distance, she's inside in a flash and refuses to come back out. Her eyes are wide as she listens for the next thunder boom. Thankfully, she isn't aggressive. In severe cases of thunderstorm anxiety in pets, dogs have jumped through windows injuring themselves or someone in the family, and some do become aggressive.

There is evidence animals have an ability to predict the weather using their sense of smell and hearing as well as having an awareness of detecting changes in atmospheric pressure. Because of this sixth sense, our pets usually know a thunderstorm is approaching long before we do. Pets that are fearful of storms may pace, shake, drool, whine, bark, pant, hide or even run away from home as soon as they sense a storm brewing.

An Internet survey of dog owners suggests that herding dogs and hounds tend to suffer from thunderstorm anxiety more than other breeds. Rescued or shelter dogs are also more apt to be fearful of storms. It's possible that puppies or kittens can sense our uneasiness which reinforces their fear. So a pet's fear of thunderstorms could be something they learn at a young age, or is a fear developed from uncaring owners who may have mistreated them or left them on their own for a period of time. Regardless of how or when thunderstorm anxiety in pets develops, there are things you can do to help ease your pet's fear.

Thunderstorm anxiety in pets has different levels of fear that can go all the way to phobia. Most pets can be kept calm in a safe place where they feel comfortable, such as a crate (kennel) they sleep in or a well lit cozy room in the basement away from a storm's fury. Most cats never get to the phobia stage and will simply hide in a spot they feel comfortable in until the storm moves on. Try not to cuddle or reassure your pet that everything is alright because this rewards the fearful behavior. However, that's easier said than done.

If thunderstorm anxiety in pets isn't severe, you can try to desensitize your dog or cat by playing a recording of a thunderstorm starting off with a storm in the distance and gradually coming closer. Have plenty of treats on hand to reward your pet only as long as he remains calm. The idea is to condition him with treats for good behavior so he learns to ignore the storm through positive reinforcement. If your pet becomes anxious as the fake storm grows louder, ignore his behavior, do not give him a treat and reduce the sound until he calms down. You have to be careful with this technique, because if you move too fast or don't notice your pet's fear increase, it can make things worse. Make sure you know what you are doing if you try to desensitize your pet.

Music has been used successfully in treating thunderstorm anxiety in pets. Cats and dogs love classical music, but stick to a nice Brahms or Mozart – something relaxing and calm.

Natural remedies may be able to help, but it would be best to discuss the use of any medications, natural or prescription, with your vet first. A vet can prescribe anti-anxiety or anti-depressants if necessary.

Thunderstorm anxiety in pets can range from mild to severe. If your pet becomes aggressive, his fear grows into panic, you are afraid he may hurt himself or someone else or has injured himself, then it's time to discuss options with your veterinarian who can help you help your pet the next time a thunderstorm pops up overhead.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The Benefits of Doga: Yoga for Dogs

By Ruthie Bently

We’ve all heard about yoga and its benefits for people, but there is a new movement in the United States today called “doga,” which is yoga that you and your dog can do together. You can even purchase an instructional doga DVD that shows you how to teach doga poses to your dog. I first encountered doga last year working for Wendy’s Animal Talk radio show. It was suggested that the topic of doga might make an interesting show, and I can tell you, it was not boring!

Doga began catching on in New York and California at about the same time. Now there are several teachers around the country, as well as a new book on the subject, though the idea is not credited to any one person. Doga has spread to Jacksonville, Florida, San Francisco, and Seattle here in the States. It has even caught on in Canada and Japan, and is being taught at the Nippon Ayurveda School by the Japan Dog Association.

Doga combines meditation, gentle stretching and massage for human owners and dogs alike. While teacher training seminars are available, doga instructors do not have to complete a certification program and most instructors learn by sharing their techniques. Unfortunately doga, like anything else that is new, has its detractors. Some yoga instructors feel that yoga could be trivialized by turning it into a fad. As dogs are pack animals, many doga instructors believe that they are a good match for yoga’s premises of connection and union with other creatures.

Some of the benefits of doga include: increased flexibility, helping to resolve behavioral issues, reducing stress, lowering blood pressure and aiding in digestion. As to the difficulty of teaching a dog doga, it is about the same as any other training technique. The dog probably won’t be perfect the first time out of the box, but after a few sessions he/she could be a “dogi” pro.

In a regular doga class you help your dog into different poses, and in some classes acupressure and massage are used to help your dog relax and to soothe them. If you aren’t sure how your dog will behave around other dogs, you might want to buy the DVD or the book and try it at home.

There are no special requirements for teaching your dog doga, but you should contact your vet first to make sure they are healthy enough to do it. Also, with anything else that is new you want to be very gentle with your dog no matter how healthy they are. If you take a class, you will probably want to contact the teacher first to see if you need a health certificate to make sure your dog’s shots are up to date. If the instructor tells you that you don’t need one, you may want to consider teaching your dog at home. I know if Skye was going to be in a class with a lot of other dogs, I would want to know she was safe from picking something up from another dog in class.

Doga has even spawned clothing lines, toys, exercise mats and beds for your dog. Whatever you think about this new form of exercise, it helps you spend more time with your dog, and will increase the bond that you share. What could be better than that?

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Welcome to Monday's Rufferences and Mews!

Could your dog be the next National Spokesdog for Cesar Millan? Why not enter your lovable pooch today? The grand prize winner will appear with Cesar Millan in a public service campaign to educate on spaying and neutering. In addition, they'll win an autographed pair of Landroller skates and $1000 shopping spree at Petco. Finalists will also be eligible to compete for Best Pack, Most Outrageous Feat, Best Camera Face and Most Hilarious Costume.

It sounds like a Halloween murder mystery: Toxic-choc, or chocolate poisoning. But for dogs, it's all too real. While we might indulge in a few mini-Hersheys bars or bite size Snickers, it's important to keep these candies away from our dogs. Years ago, I was given a giant Hersheys kiss--you know, one of those gifts the size of a grapefruit but not as healthy? I placed it safely on a table, but my agile dalmatian found a way to get at it and eat the whole thing. He became extremely sick, but fortunately survived. So remember to hide the treats this Halloween.
The headmaster of my kids' school brings his dog to work. The auto dealership where we bought our van features several dogs in the office. What's with this trend for bringing dogs to work? For one thing, dogs are good for our morale. They have a calming effect on people. They also might open up communication. According to an article in K9 magazine, a dog in the office can help your business. The article offers tips on how to implement a dog friendly workplace, and guidelines for proper dog-owner behavior. Maybe it's time you considered bringing your dog to work!

What category would your dog best win in Cesar Millan's contest? And why is he offering roller skates for a prize anyway? How do you and your pet celebrate Halloween? And do you bring your dog to work? I'm looking forward to your comments. And check back next Monday for more Rufferences and Mews!

Win Free Pet Food for a Year!

By Julia Williams

Every pet owner I know (including me) takes scads of photographs of their beloved animal companions. Every time we see them doing something cute, funny or heartwarming– which is pretty much every day, isn’t it? – we can’t resist snapping their picture. I enjoy showing them off to my friends and family; I even made a photo scrapbook once, dedicated to all the pets I’ve known and loved.

Well, now’s your chance to win something wonderful from one of those photographs. Your favorite pet picture could net you a year’s supply of free CANIDAE dog food or FELIDAE cat food! How cool is that? I mean, what dog or cat owner wouldn't want to win a year's supply of super-premium pet food? Even better, the food is all natural and good for your pet, because it contains no corn, wheat, soy, grain fractions or fillers, and it’s naturally preserved.

So what do you have to do to win a year’s supply of CANIDAE All Natural Pet Food for your dog or cat? First, become a fan of the CANDAE Facebook page. If you don’t already have a Facebook account, you’ll need to sign up for one (it’s entirely free) at Then choose your best photo of your dog or cat, and email it to Include a brief description of your pet, their name and a little information about them, such as what you love most about them or how they came into your life.

Two Grand Prize Winners will be chosen by a panel of judges at CANIDAE Pet Foods. One winner will be selected in the Dog category, and one winner in the Cat category. Both winning contestants will receive a free one year supply of the CANIDAE or FELIDAE formula of their choice. (A year's supply of pet food is defined as the nutritional requirement for one medium size dog or one domestic cat).

About Your Entry

Some photos and emails will be selected to appear in a special CANIDAE Pet Foods Facebook page photo album, and on the CANIDAE website. Please limit your entry to one JPEG image, no larger than 2MB; other types of images will be rejected. The judges will select the winning entries, one dog picture and one cat picture, based on which two pictures they determine to be the most visually attractive in each category.

Official Rules

No purchase necessary. Only one entry per household and email address allowed. Winners must be at least 18 years of age, a resident of the United States or Canada, and a registered fan of the CANIDAE Pet Foods Facebook Page. Contest ends November 13, 2009. Odds of winning depend on number of entries. Winner will be contacted via email and must respond within 48 hours or, at the sole discretion of CANIDAE Pet Foods, the prize will pass to the next runner up.

Contest void where prohibited by law. Selection of winner is subjective and at the sole discretion of CANIDAE Pet Foods. CANIDAE is not responsible for entries lost due to any technical difficulties including any that might occur with Facebook, the Internet, or email.

Entrants agree to receive the CANIDAE Pet Foods Newsletter and grant CANIDAE permission to publish their information and photos. To protect your privacy, last names and email addresses will not be published. Judges decisions are final. Employees of CANIDAE and its vendors are not eligible to enter.

Read more articles by Julia Williams