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November 2017

Do I need to brush my cat’s teeth?

 by lucy on 30 Nov 2017 |
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As with humans, dental care is important to ensuring your cat’s gums and teeth stay healthy, but it isn’t as easy for our feline friends to take care of their teeth. Good oral hygiene has been shown to improve your feline’s health overall, as an overabundance of bacteria in your cat’s mouth can cause infections that can spread to other parts of the body. You may think it’s impossible to clean a cat’s teeth, but with some practice and patience, you can easily maintain your pet’s oral health in less than minutes a day.   To brush a cat’s teeth, it is best to start as early in his life as possible. Gradually ease into the process by using a damp gauze pad to rub his teeth. When he accepts that without a fuss, begin using a toothbrush coated in a small amount of cat meat, which will help your pet form positive associations with the brush. It’s important to use a toothbrush specifically designed for cats that is small and fits over your index finger and to use toothpaste designed specifically for pets. This will make brushing easier, since pet toothpaste comes in a variety of cat-friendly flavors such as poultry. You won’t be able to brush all of Kitty’s teeth in one sitting at first, so don’t worry about cleaning one side of his mouth in the morning and the other at night. Once your pet is accustomed to his toothbrush, clean his mouth using gentle brushing motions along his teeth and gums, especially his back molars, at least a few times a week. If Kitty absolutely will not let you near his mouth, there are a range of dental rinses and tartar control chews that can help keep his teeth clean. Feeding him a mixed diet of wet and dry foods will help preserve his oral health, too.   Signs your cat is already suffering from dental disease include bad breath; red, swollen or bleeding gums; pawing at the face; yellow deposits on the teeth; and loose or missing teeth. Felines who are reluctant to let you see their mouths might also be showing signs of pain. If you can see or smell a problem, your pet is already suffering from advanced periodontal issues and should see a vet immediately. He can perform an anesthetized dental assessment and thorough tooth cleaning for your pet. Once Kitty’s choppers are clean, you can keep them healthy with at-home brushing, though you should continue to get your cat’s teeth cleaned professionally at least once a year to prevent tartar buildup, gingivitis and gum disease, and to track your pet’s oral health.

Flea allergies in dogs

 by lucy on 27 Nov 2017 |
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All pets itch when they have fleas, but some dogs face severe allergic reactions to bites from these pests. From itchy, red bumps to hair loss and life-threatening infections, flea allergies can cause a host of worries for your canine companion. Fortunately, preventative flea treatments can stop allergic reactions and help keep Fido feeling his best.   Like people, dogs can be allergic to mold, pollen and dust mites. Pets with those allergies are likely to struggle with flea allergies, too. The allergy—formally known as flea allergy dermatitis—is a reaction of your dog’s immune system to fleas’ saliva when they bite. Infected pets will itch and gnaw at irritated areas, causing hair loss and open sores. A tell-tale sign your dog has flea allergy dermatitis is hair loss on the back half of his body, especially near the base of his tail, inner thigh, stomach and groin. Dogs with fleas will also have either visible bugs on their skin or “flea dirt” that can be readily seen. Because fleas can cause your dog to itch until he has open wounds, infested pets can also develop staph infections, which can prove fatal if they spread. Fleas don’t tend to cluster on animals’ feet or heads, so hair loss or itching in those areas is likely due to another problem.   The first—and most obvious—step towards treating your dog’s flea allergy is to rid him of fleas. A wide variety of flea control products available on the market kills the parasites through oral treatments, topical applications or long-lasting collars. Most flea medications are available in a quick, monthly dose, making curing and preventing infestations easier than ever. New flea treatments are developing constantly, so ask your veterinarian which medication will work best for your pet. Secondary infections from a flea allergy, such as bacterial or yeast infections, may require antibiotics or antifungal medication to heal. Some pets will also need anti-itch medication such as antihistamines or steroids during their recovery. In these cases, follow-up exams are often necessary to track progress of treatments. Your veterinarian can test your pet for flea allergies using blood tests or pinpricks, but the easiest way to cure the symptoms of a flea allergy is to eliminate the bugs.   Certain breeds such as terriers, labs and golden retrievers are more prone to flea allergies, so owners should be especially attentive when it comes to preventing fleas. If your pet starts licking, chewing, rubbing or rolling to try to relieve his itching, he may have a flea allergy. Look for red bumps and hair loss as further signs your pet needs help treating his symptoms— and remember, the easiest way to treat a flea allergy to is stop fleas before they strike with a preventative medication.

Can humans contract diseases from cats?

 by lucy on 24 Nov 2017 |
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Illnesses that can be passed from animals to humans are known as zoonotic diseases. While most zoonotic diseases only impact our furry friends, there are a few that can pass from felines to humans. Fortunately, a few simple precautions can reduce your risk of catching an infection from your cat.   The chances of contracting a zoonotic disease from your feline friend are low, but certain individuals are at a higher risk— namely, those with a weakened immune system. That includes infants, elderly people, those with autoimmune diseases and anyone undergoing chemo- or drug therapy. These people should be careful of feline-carried bacteria, which in a few cases, can infect humans. Cat scratch disease, for example, takes hold when humans come into contact with the saliva of an infected feline either through scratches, bites or contact between that cat’s saliva and an open wound. Fortunately, most healthy adults recover fully from CSD. Salmonella is another bacterial infection that can leave humans with symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and stomach pain. Contaminated foods are often the culprit behind salmonella infections, putting outdoor cats at a higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease to the people. Pasteurella multocida is another feline bacterial infection that can pass to humans. Antibiotics are often needed to cure this illness that can cause pain, swelling and redness around the wound.   Bacteria aren’t the only culprits behind cat-to-person infections, though. Felines can also carry a handful of harmful Protozoan diseases that are caused by single-celled organisms. One of them, cryptosporidiosis, can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever, cramps and dehydration in both cats and humans. It is passed through contact with infected feces, so owners should wear gloves and wash their hands when handling potentially infected material. Microscopic Giardia can also spread from pet to person and causes diarrhea, cramps, nausea and dehydration. The disease is often caused when humans ingest contaminated food or water and can be successfully treated with prescription drugs. Cats can also spread tiny parasites that cause toxoplasmosis, which leads to flu-like symptoms in humans. This disease spreads through contaminated material, so again, wear gloves when scooping the litterbox or handling anything else that could carry the disease.   In addition to these infections, cats can also pass internal and external parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, scabies and fleas to humans. Humans can also contract ringworm—a fungal infection and not a worm—through contact with an infection cat’s skin. Rabies is a viral disease that passes through bites and can be fatal.   To reduce your risk of contracting a zoonotic disease from your cat, avoid rough play that can result in bites or scratches, wash your hands after playing with your pet, and keep your feline indoors to reduce his exposure to diseases. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on his vaccinations, including rabies. You can also wash your hands or wear gloves when handling objects that may be contaminated by cat feces to reduce your risk of exposure to zoonotic disease.

How to talk to your dog

 by lucy on 22 Nov 2017 |
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What we say to our dogs is important, but the way we say it is crucial. Our tones and body language give our pets clues about whether we are giving commands, correcting bad behavior or lavishing them with praise for a job well done. By knowing what cues you are giving your pet, you can communicate better, reduce behavioral problems and strengthen the bond you share with your furry friend.   One of the cardinal rules of talking to your dog is to offer commands in a strong, firm voice. The most effective way to give a command is to say your dog’s name first so he knows you’re speaking to him. Even before asking him to sit or stay, however, you should teach your dog to look at you when asked. To do this, trace a line from your pet’s eyes to yours using your pointer finger or a treat. Once your dog holds eye contact with you for several seconds, reward him with a praise and the treat. Be consistent when giving commands and always reinforce good behavior with plenty of praise. Dogs use body language to communicate, too, so be sure to stand tall and act confident when asking your pet to perform a command.   Of course, our pets don’t always listen. When correcting your dog’s misbehavior, use a lower-pitched tone and short-clipped words. Once Fido has learned what a command means, do not simply repeat the command, but instead correct him with “No” followed by the command. If your dog continues to ignore you, place him in the instructed position. When he’s done what you’ve asked, be sure to reward him with praise, speaking in tone that is enthusiastic— but not so much that it drives Fido into a frenzy.   Humans and dogs use a whole different series of body language and you should be aware of this when communicating with your pet, too. If you’re telling your dog to stop barking, for example, remain calm and stand tall—an overly excited owner giving this command will only send mixed messages to his pet. Be careful not to loom over your dog, lock him in direct eye contact, or grip him in a tight hug, which can be seen as threats. Greet your dog with a hand he can sniff rather than a pat on the head, which can give Fido the impression you’re about to strike him. If you have an anxious or timid pet, you can even try licking your lips or yawning while looking away, which are appeasement gestures in dog-speak, and speaking in a higher-pitched, soothing tone.

Four ways to ensure you have a happy indoor cat

 by lucy on 20 Nov 2017 |
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Indoor cats live safer, longer lives, but some pet owners worry their feline friends’ mental and physical wellbeing suffer without the excitement of the outdoors. The truth is that housecats can and do get bored, but there are some simple steps you can take to help your indoor pet lead a fulfilling life. Here are a few ideas:   1. Give him plenty of stimulation: One of the best ways to keep Kitty happy and physically fit is to provide him with plenty of stimulation. This means playing with your cat every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You can use a fishing rod toy, throw a catnip mouse, or even dangle a piece of yarn to engage your pet in play. This doesn’t just keep him mentally tuned in, but also reinforces the bond you share with your pet. For when you’re not at home, provide your cat with plenty of spaces to climb and hide—especially perches by the window. Cats are natural explorers and will enjoy watching the goings-on outside. Because cats need to exercise their claws, too, provide your pet with acceptable scratching surfaces, such as a scratching post or cat tower.   2. Groom him regularly: Cats spend a great deal of time grooming each other in groups, and brushing your cat regularly will help him feel closer to you. Groom your cat regularly or even every day to removes loose hair, which helps prevent hairballs and keeps your house cleaner. As a bonus, regular grooming gives you a chance to check on your pet’s physical state and makes it more likely you’ll notice any sores or other health problems if they appear.   3. Nix litter box problems: If you have multiple indoor cats, another great way to keep them happy is providing them with the right number of litter boxes. Felines don’t like to share, so this means one litter box per cat. Most cats prefer open pans to closed ones and a secluded location that’s not too far out of the way. Clean litter boxes regularly and you’ll greatly reduce chances of having a cat eliminate outside the box, which will keep your home clean and you happy, too.   4. Offer him green spaces: A less familiar way to keep indoor felines feeling good is offering them a small pot of grass. Cats outside nibble grass to aid their digestion, and indoor cats will appreciate this opportunity, too. Most cat grass mixes contain barley, oats or wheat and can be purchased online.   5. Spend quality time together: Cats are more likely to feel content when they share a strong bond with their owners. Spend plenty of time with your feline and even allow him to sleep in your bed to strengthen your bond, ensuring you have a happy, loving companion.

Asistance Animals

 by lucy on 18 Nov 2017 |
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Humans and animals have been working side by side for around 15,000 years, but more recently animals have been helping us in much more complicated ways. We've all heard of hearing dogs – dogs trained to alert their owner to important sounds like ringing telephones, alarm clocks and fire alarms – but there are so many other animals, canine or otherwise, who have been helping out their human friends in new, exciting ways.   Guide horses are the equine equivalent of the guide dog. Some blind or visually impaired people choose not to use a guide dog for religious or medical reasons, and a miniature guide horse can be a useful alternative. Just like a dog, a miniature horse can be trained to guide its owner around objects, away from danger, notify its owner to surface elevation changes and retrieve objects on command. More unusual than dogs, they're more likely to be seen as working animals. They can live for as long as 40 years, twice as long as the oldest-lived dogs.   Some adults with severe motor impairments are assisted by highly intelligent helper monkeys. These highly trained capuchin monkeys go through 8 to 12 years of intense socialization and training before they're available to work with a human to assist them in their daily lives. These helper monkeys are trained to fetch glasses of water, turn lights off and on, load CDs and DVDs and to turn the pages of a book. Like guide horses, they live significantly longer than guide dogs, able to assist humans for around 25 to 30 years.   Dog noses are around 40 times stronger than human noses, so its no surprise that we've employed them in the detection of everything from drugs to termites to mobile phones. Canine cancer detection is a relatively new and potentially revolutionary non-invasive method of identifying certain types of cancer in people. Dog noses are so sensitive that they can sniff out the compounds generated by malignant tumors in the breath and urine of cancer sufferers. One study found cancer detection dogs accurately detected lung cancer in 93% of breath samples. These potentially life-saving pooches could be integrated into medical services like their bomb detecting cousins working with the military and police.   Seizure response dogs assist people who experience seizures associated with some types of epilepsy and other psychiatric conditions. They are trained to alert people when their owner is experiencing a seizure by barking or activating an alarm system to summon help. During a seizure, a seizure response dog might use its body weight to keep a person in a specific position to keep them safe until help arrives, fetch medication or help their owner to communicate and come round after a seizure. These clever canines save lives, acting as both a companion and a caretaker.   These incredible animals work together with their human owners to improve their independence, quality of life and safety. From emotional support to detecting deadly disease, these animals deserve our love and respect as working animals with real, applicable skills. Their capacity to learn is surprising and full of potential to help people as well as to act as a loving companion. 

Is your cat suffering from dental disease?

 by lucy on 17 Nov 2017 |
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What starts as a little tartar and bad breath can lead to serious health problems for your cat. Periodontal disease is one of the most common issues felines face, but many pet owners do nothing to curb Kitty’s symptoms until they’re in their advanced stages. By knowing the signs of dental disease and taking simple steps to prevent it, you can save your cat’s teeth and gums, as well as some costly trips to the vet.   Dental problems begin when food particles and bacteria accumulate along a cat’s gumline. Over time, the plaque forms and calcifies into tartar, which attaches to the tooth enamel and below the gum line. Not only can this cause gingivitis, an inflammatory condition of the gums, but it is also an early stage of periodontal disease. Left unchecked, tartar builds up under the gums and causes them to separate from the teeth, creating perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. Once this happens, your cat will experience periodontal disease that can lead to tissue destruction, pus and even bone loss, as well as other issues as bacteria travel to other parts of his body.   The good news is, preventing oral infections is easy. It may sound ludacris, but you can train your cat to let you brush his teeth—without getting maimed. Start by rubbing his teeth with a damp gauze pad, easing into gently massaging his teeth and gums with a toothbrush specifically designed for cats. Always use an animal-safe toothpaste and brush his teeth daily, if possible. Even healthy cats should have their teeth examined by a veterinarian every 12 months— or more often, if your pet is showing signs of dental decay.   One of the first symptoms of periodontal disease is reddening of the gums just below your cat’s teeth. Other signs include bad breath, bleeding, drooling, trouble eating, a swollen face, loose or missing teeth, and looking unkempt or failing to groom. If you notice any of these signs, take your cat to the vet as soon as possible. When caught in its early stages, periodontal disease can be treated with daily brushing to control plaque and prevent the gum from detaching from the teeth. Later-stage oral disease requires cleaning the space between the gums and teeth and applying antibiotic gel to keep the space clean. In advanced cases, bone replacement procedures and tissue regeneration may be necessary.   The best way to minimize damage to your cat’s mouth is to prevent periodontal disease. Brush your cat’s teeth regularly and take him to the vet for a yearly oral check-up. If you notice any signs something’s wrong, take him to the vet as soon as possible to catch the disease in its early stages. Not only will your cat thank you, but his bad breath will go away, making it even sweeter to cuddle your pet.
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