Monday, November 25, 2013

Motion sickness in pets could be mitigated by employing one simple trick, vet finds

Cats are not known for being terribly excited about traveling in a car for any distance. Most find it to be a scary thing, but a percentage of our feline friends actually experience motion sickness from riding in a vehicle.

The latter can complicate the already daunting prospect of going to the vet. No one wants their pet to feel queasy or vomit, nor does anyone want to clean up a mess.

One clinician seems to have stumbled on a way that just might help mitigate the incidence of car sickness in cats.

Tom Morganti, DVM recently posted his unexpected findings on the 'Idea Exchange' section of the veterinary website DVM360.

The vet, who practices in Avon, Conn., indicated that one of his patients, a senior feline, had an ongoing problem: they vomited each time that they rode in a vehicle.

On one occasion, the cat required minor surgery and was sent home after the procedure wearing an Elizabethan collar (or E-collar, as you've probably heard it referred to). For the very first time in it's life, the animal did not experience any motion sickness-related symptoms.

The cat was transported back a short time later for suture removal -- once again wearing the collar -- and exhibited no signs of nausea or vomiting.

Morganti saw a correlation and thought that the trick might also prove to be useful in helping other pets.

"I have suggested E-collars as a treatment for car sickness for more than a dozen cats and even a couple of dogs, and, anecdotally, it seems to work," says Morganti.

Whether a pet is hopping in the vehicle for a visit with the vet or heading out to have fun with family, this simple tip could be a boon for family members, whether they have two legs, or four.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Teaching children how to interact with dogs mindfully is an ongoing process that will yield lifelong skills

The other day, I ran across an article written by David Valdes Greenwood that piqued my interest, and for a lot of reasons.

The topic was resonant: the interaction between children and dogs.

As someone who lives and works with canines everyday, I know that teaching children about how to mindfully share life with dogs is likely the most important legacy that we can leave.

Dogs and kids -- they go together, there's no doubt. But because of their young age and lack of experience, children need positive exposure, supervision and lots of help from mindful adults in gaining the finesse to co-exist with four-footed friends safely and happily.

Greenwood mused about a potential outcome from his 8 year-old daughter's interactions with the family's 2 year-old miniature Schnauzer in a way that was nothing short of alarming.

The child was closely interacting with the dog, rubbing his tummy, then at one point playing with his muzzle in a way that caused him to display displeasure by letting out a growl.

After Greenwood's interjection that the pooch was uncomfortable with the young girl's actions, she continued and the animal gave another but more pointed growl. At that point, child let go of the dog's muzzle and he ran off.

It was after detailing that incident that Greenwood expanded on a silent wish that came to mind: "Next time, I hope he bites her."

A seemingly harmless thought? A potiential 'Low-Cost Lesson', as this father put it? To a pet professional like myself and many others, hardly.

Natural consequences and those like them are undoubtedly a part of a young child's learning process, and they can be some of the most resonant teaching moments and often a parent or responsible adult need not intervene. But when it comes to the interactions between children and pets, there is no substitute for the oversight of a responsible adult to help both of those parties navigate them safely and mindfully, regardless of the size or breed of the dog. After all, a bite is a bite, and the truth is, dogs often bite for one common reason: they are uncomfortable or fearful about a situation that a human has put them in -- regardless of the age of said human -- and the dog's behavior has not been read correctly.

Later in his piece, Greenwood revealed that later that day the dog did end up biting his daughter, citing that it was "was suitably frightening to her", and "a perfect 'Low Cost Lesson' -- no blood, only tears".

Let's consider that an injury like this could prove to be more than just a nip -- and maybe that a bite would need medical attention. Certainly during the course of treatment, the question of "how did this happen?" would arise and dog bite of any kind would be cause for further concern.

What started out as a so-called 'Low-Cost Lesson' would then become quite complicated.

I acknowledge that it can be quite challenging for adults to police the interactions between kids and pets; to remind that animals are living things who, just like people, have preferences, thresholds for interaction and pain. It's a tough job, but that's part of parenting, right?

Perhaps rather than a 'Low Cost Lesson' in this case, let's keep the focus on an approach that is more mindful -- more effective, even: educating children about all things dog at a level they can understand.

It's unrealistic to expect youngsters to be able to accurately read a dogs’ body language — they lack the mental sophistication to understand, so starting off by demonstrating gentle behavior and talking about that dogs have specific preferences when it comes to interaction and help them gain an understanding of canine behavior that will flourish as they age.

Granted, children have a natural tendency to push the limits (or in some instances would make the case that if they were another dog, their interactions might make it okay), and because of that, it's even more important to supervise things.

Neither party should be put in a situation that is less than ideal.

Whether it's basic interaction with a canine, giving a dog a treat or helping children to understand that puppies lack of self control and mental sophistication at different stages of development, there are many opportunities to have a teachable moments with youngsters that are safe and are the real 'Low-Cost Lessons' that are valuable for a lifetime.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thanksgiving can be a happy holiday for pets and people by keeping some things in mind

When it comes to holidays, Thanksgiving offers a bit of all things that we really love: a little time off from work, more time with family and friends — and especially food!

Pets are a part of the equation for many families, and, although the idea of having more people around the house can seem like a boon for pets, the extra hustle and bustle, upset routine and the table scraps that inevitably find their way to a pet's tummy can prove to be a bit more than some pets can handle.

Pet health emergencies and behavioral problems tend to increase during the holidays. With some mindfulness, the next few days and weeks can be more enjoyable and safe for everyone, whether they are on two feet or four.

Stay on track

Just like most of us, pets thrive on routine. There is something to be said for maintaining your pets' regular meal and exercise schedule. In doing so, you’ll encourage good behavior and keep them feeling good.

We all need to be alone, sometimes

When company comes, it’s a lot of fun, but as any host knows, having house guests for any length of time can be a bit stressful; it’s natural. Times like this can be difficult for any pet, too.

Minimizing any tension is simple. Provide your four-legged friends with a quiet, out-of-the-way room during gatherings. Even if your pets enjoy socializing with people, having a space where they can chill out without being bothered is a must. I particularly like the idea of providing a crate for dogs in that quiet space, with a comfy dog bed in it to provide an extra sense of security.

Stay hydrated

Make sure your pet always has fresh water. With more people in the house, invariably someone is bound to bump into the water bowl, leaving your pet high and dry.

Counter surfing

A common, yet unwanted behavior, some dogs easily reach things in the kitchen that are counter-level. Ingesting yummy food that can harm or cause simple stomach upset is an obvious concern, but so is dragging off a heavy dish or pan or getting burned. Click here to get practical, positive reinforcement tips on curbing this dangerous behavior and dissuading curious canines.

Keep the wraps under wraps

The holiday season is synonymous with more cooking and baking. Intestinal obstruction can result from ingested pieces of aluminum foil, wax paper and plastic wrap. Make sure that these items are put into the garbage.

Talking trash

All of the extra cooking means that a higher volume of the amount of refuse thgat accumulates. Let’s face it — it’s attractive to some pets. To be on the safe side, take out your trash often, use a trash can with a lid or, in some cases, physically lock up your trash container where it’s completely out of reach.

Playing keep away

Too many fatty, rich, or unfamiliar foods can give your pet pancreatitis or gastroenteritis, two medical conditions that can be very painful and even life-threatening in some breeds.

A tiny bit of skinless fully-cooked turkey, gravy and veggies like plain sweet potato are okay to give your favorite feline or canine, (consider stuffing a Kong full of these goodies for your pooch during mealtime in their space), but too much of a good thing can result in a bad time for them. You also want to avoid giving pets any bones, grapes, raisins and chocolate.

Keep an eye on your beverages

Many gatherings include alcoholic refreshments. Bear in mind that dogs will readily lap up an errant beer or other alcoholic drink if given the chance. Alcohol can prove deadly to pets, so make a point to keep an eye out for unattended drinks, and remind guests to keep their beverages close at hand.

Ready, set, go

Considering a road trip with your furry friend? Lots of families do it, and successfully so! After all, dogs, especially like to be included, too if possible. Click here for things to keep in mind when heading out with your pooch.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Female dogs differ from their male counterparts when it comes to navigation, but who has the upper hand?

There are plenty of jokes made that men tend to be better navigators and that by and large, they need not ask for directions.

New findings indicate that skill may not be one that is shared amongst the male members of all species, however.

Two researchers from Duke University and the authors of The Genius of Dogs, Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, discussed the findings in the book.

What was discovered is interesting to say the least. Hare, an Associate Professor and Woods, a Research Scientist in Evolutionary Anthropology, note that data seems to indicate that female dogs seem to possess more advantageous navigational skills than their male counterparts.

This is especially intriguing as it can offer us crucial insight into how canines see the world.

Data was gathered from the website created by Hare and Woods,, and used a game to test possible differences in the way that dogs navigate.

To play the game, treats were hid under two bowls, and the dogs were taught that the treat was always on one side, right or left. Then, the pet was brought around to the opposite side and the bowl that they picked was recorded.

The findings indicate that female dogs were more likely to use a landmark-based (allocentric) strategy, using objects in the room to gauge distance and location and figure out which bowl had treats underneath.

To better illustrate, when female dogs were introduced to the bowl of treats, it might have been near a landmark in the room, like a door or a lamp. Then, they were brought around to the opposite side of the room. Interestingly, they used the landmarks to choose the correct bowl -- demonstrating that regardless of the way they were oriented in the room, they would always go back to the same bowl.

Male dogs were found more often to use egocentric navigation: using the position of the bowl in relation to themselves ("the treat is on my left.."). When these dogs were reintroduced to the room on the opposite side, they chose the bowl on their left, which was the opposite bowl from that they had chosen before.

Egocentric navigation is associated with using the area of the brain called the basal ganglia, which is associated with motor skill use. Allocentric navigation is linked to the hippocampus, an area of the brain that mediates things like spatial awareness and memory.

This isn't the only area where male and female canines have been found to differ with regard to how their brains work. Female dogs have been found to have enhanced visual skills -- and probably for good reason -- whereas males are thought to be more scent-oriented.

Interestingly, these results are the opposite in humans: men are typically allocentric navigators, and women lean toward egocentric skills.

Click here to read more here on the topic in a recent article featured on Yahoo News.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.