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March 2014

Canine Toxins: 7 Plants In and Around Your Home That Are Poisonous to Dogs

 by wai on 19 Mar 2014 |
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Many breeds of dogs are infamous for their tendency to eat anything and everything in sight. Whether you might think of a plant as edible or not will have no bearing on your pup's attitude. While most plants are harmless, however, many are actually poisonous to dogs, and you should do everything you can to keep Fido away. Here is a look at seven very common offenders that you may have in or around your home.   1. Dieffenbachia - Also known as Dumb Cane, the dieffenbachia plant is toxic when ingested by both dogs and cats. A tropical plant naturally, the dieffenbachia contains a chemical that is meant to deter animals away from eating it. If your dog ingests the leaves, be on the lookout for oral irritation and swelling of the tongue and lips. Later symptoms may include vomiting, problems swallowing (due to swelling of the esophagus), and increased salivation.   2. Asparagus Fern - This common houseplant doesn't need to be ingested to be bad for your dog. Repeated rubbing up against it can lead to allergic dermatitis (skin irritation). The asparagus fern also produces berries that are toxic to dogs. Ingestion can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and upset stomach.   3. Castor Bean - Though you may not be familiar with the castor bean plant, you could have it in your garden without knowing its name. A favorite among landscapers, this tropical plant is also very common in parks. When ingested, the leaves of the castor bean can burn your pup's mouth and throat. You may notice excessive thirst, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea in the hours that follow. The seeds of this plant are the most dangerous part, and consumption is often lethal.   4. Daffodil - A cheery addition to your flower garden, daffodils contain poisonous chemicals that could cause diarrhea, vomiting, and increased salivation when consumed by your dog. The worst toxins can be found in the bulb of the daffodil plant, and ingestion can lead to much more serious symptoms, including low blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and tremors.   5. Aloe Vera - Soothing to human skin, aloe vera is often kept as a houseplant so that people can take advantage of its medicinal properties. Unfortunately, when consumed by dogs, the saponin and aloin toxins found within the plant cause it to be moderately poisonous. In addition to vomiting and diarrhea, ingestion can lead to depression, tremors, and a change in the color of your pet's urine.   6. Corn Plant - Easily recognizable by their ribbon-like leaves, many people have corn plants either inside or outside their homes. No one knows exactly why this plant is poisonous to dogs (and cats), but it is thought to contain a steroidal toxin related to saponin. If eaten by your dog, be on the lookout for vomiting (with or without blood), diarrhea, weakness, depression, and anorexia.   7. Baby's Breath - Though it's included in most flower bouquets, you shouldn't let your pup nibble on baby's breath. The gyposenin found in abundance within these flowers can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. This plant is less likely to cause serious side effects than some others, but its abundance around the house makes your dog much more likely to come across it.

Weight Loss Guide for Cats

 by wai on 12 Mar 2014 |
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Is your feline friend beginning to look more like a pot-bellied pig than a cat?  It might be time to start a weight loss regimen.  Helping a cat lose weight will take patience and persistence, but will improve the overall health and well-being of your pet. Cats lose weight the same way humans do.  There’s no secret science for either species.  Overall, your pet will need to eat less and exercise more.  If your cat currently controls the amount of food they receive, you’ll need to take note of how much food they eat in one 24-hour period.  If they are just overweight and don’t appear to be gaining or losing any weight, then the amount of food they are currently eating is considered their maintenance diet.  It’s just enough food for them to maintain their current weight. To change their weight, you’ll simply need to begin controlling the amount of food they eat by decreasing the amount of food they are given each day to below their maintenance level.  If they currently eat 2 cups per day of cat food, then try feeding them only 1.75 cups.  While this is likely still too much food for the average adult cat, you will be able to gradually step them down to a healthy weight.  While they are on a reduced calorie diet, you will notice their weight drop initially then level off to a stable weight.  It may take up to a month between feeding reductions for their weight to stabilize.  Continue to reduce their food intake a quarter cup at a time each time until they are a more healthy weight.  Most cats will need 5-6 ounces of wet cat food per day.  For dry cat food, the feeding recommendations are typically listed on the outside of the packaging. Image credit Since different brands and types of cat food have different nutritional values, the amount of food they’ll need is brand-dependent.  Simply switching brands and feeding them the same amount can cause a cat to lose weight.  Some cat foods are high in fats and filler material while others are mainly lean meats.  While quality cat food is often more expensive, you’ll find that you don’t need to feed them as much of it to get the same nutritional value. Aside from feeding habits that take in calories, you’ll also need to be aware of your cat’s overall calorie expenditure.  How active your pet is will play a big role in how much of that food they consume gets used in running around and climbing things and how much will go to fat storage.  If you have a house cat that spends all of their time indoors and much of it sleeping, then they will need at least 20% less food than the average cat.  Outdoor feral cats that hunt for food and are very active need much more food than the average cat to maintain their current weight. As both calorie intake and export play a role in shaping the figure and health of your cat, you can manipulate one or the other to see positive results.  Increasing your cat’s time spent exercising has the same effect as decreasing their amount of food.  The only thing that is important at the end of the day is that the overall difference between the amounts of calories they take in and calories they use up is less than it was when they were overweight.  If you follow that simple formula, you’ll see positive results in your feline friend, and they’ll be on their way to a happier, healthier life.

Dog Training: You May Be Sending Mixed Signals

 by wai on 05 Mar 2014 |
2 Comment(s)
Humans have been training dogs for thousands of years.  So naturally, you might assume that we would have it down to a science by now.  But all too often, new dog owners contribute to canine misbehavior by making honest mistakes that send mixed signals to their four-footed companions.  Unfortunately, these mistakes can lead to long periods of frustration and strained canine/human relations.  Here are a few of the most common mistakes that people make when trying to get their pets trained. Broken Record Syndrome Oftentimes, dog owners repeat a command like “sit” over and over again thinking that repetition will bring results.  Professional dog trainers say, however, that a dog will become desensitized to continuous repetition and will basically learn to ignore the command.  And there are other psychological reasons that a dog doesn’t respond.  For example, strong-willed dogs do not like to lie down because it is an act of submission.  Similarly, submissive dogs may feel unsafe when they are told to lie down.  One of the best things a dog owner can do to elicit proper behavior from their dog is to spend time with them.  Take them for walks.  Play with them.  And make sure you are the one who feeds them.  When a dog feels bonded with its owner, it will respond more readily to commands – even those that they don’t like. Confusing Language A dog owner that is attempting to train their pet should understand a few principles of dog psychology before they get too far into the process.  One of those principles is how dogs understand our words.  Remember, they do not know English, Spanish, or French.  They simply learn to associate a word with an action.  So when you use different phrases for the same command like “sit” and “sit down,” your dog will become confused.  They aren’t cognitively able to understand that “come” and “come here” mean the same thing.  The same goes for non-verbal language as well.  For example, you are sending mixed signals if you pat your leg to get your dog to come to you one day and snap your fingers the next day.  For the best results when it comes to dog training, stick with simple one-word commands where possible and be consistent with your physical hand signals.  Training Session Length Dog training is a process that takes time and patience.  Some dog owners become frustrated because it doesn’t seem that their dog is responding.  It’s important to understand that a new behavior will take several sessions to establish and several more sessions of practice to perfect.  And impatient dog owners who want to get it all done at once are in danger of compromising any progress that may have already been made.  A training session should be fairly short and goal-oriented.  As soon as you observe an obvious behavior result, reward your dog and end the session. Image credit Using Too Much Emotion You might be able to coerce your kids into doing something by displaying anger or acting irritated, but dogs don’t operate that way.  One of the best ways to confuse your dog is to let emotions enter the training session.  Flying off the handle will not lead to positive results and your training session will turn into a confusing torture session for your dog.  Calmness is the best countenance to adopt during your training sessions in order to get things done.  When your dog does not respond correctly, simply regroup and try again. Consistency Not being consistent is one of the most common mistakes that people make when training their dogs.  For example, if you are calm and collected during one training session and overly excited or frustrated the next session, your dog will not be able to predict your response and will live in a state of confusion.  And this makes training much more difficult if not impossible.  You must remember that dogs act in a predictable manner towards other dogs and this consistency is how a dog learns to build trust and rapport with its owner. Save yourself a lot of frustration when it comes to training your dog by getting on the same page that he is on.  Follow these simple guidelines to avoid sending mixed signals to your dog.
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