Is it time to say “Goodbye” to your pet?

This is a tough topic for many people to deal with. It is charged with emotions that often cloud our ability to decide what to do. With veterinarian medicine as advanced as it is, we can keep our pets alive much longer than we could years ago, but to what end?

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There are a few things that you need to consider when trying to decide if it is time to euthanize your pet or not.

  1. Is your pet in pain? This is not always easy to determine since animals in general do not show pain until it is severe. The signs may be subtle and come on gradually as age and illnesses increase. Your veterinarian can help you determine what illnesses your pet may have, and how it impacts their life, but that will be a generalization because every animal is different. Some tolerate pain much better than others. In the case of birds they may not show signs of illness until they are very sick.

 

It helps if you pay attention to your pet’s behavior. Do you notice that your pet does not move as well as before? Does your pet refuse to jump onto things whereas before they would fly through the air? Do they walk slower, run less, and are less active in general? Has their appetite and water consumption changed? Has their breathing changed, for example they pant more or sooner than before? Do they seem to hold part of their body still when they breathe? These are all signs of pain and/or illness.

  1. Does your pet have difficulty keeping food or water down? Has their overall appetite decreased? Is your pet eating a normal amount of food but losing or gaining weight?
  1. If your veterinarian suggests treatments you have to determine what the outcome will be for your pet. Will the treatment cause pain and suffering? How long can you expect your pet to live after the treatments? Will your pet be hindered for the rest of its life because of the treatments? If the treatments are painful or cause suffering such as a loss of appetite or physical difficulties is it worth it for your pet? You also must consider the cost of treatments and weigh if they will help your pet or just prolong his suffering.
  1. Has your pet’s toilet habits changed? A change in toilet habits can be a sign of dementia in a pet. A pet who cannot get up to go out or cannot control his bowels and bladder and will eliminate and lay in it, is a good sign that it is time to let them go. A pet that has abnormal eliminations, such as blood in either stools or urine, weak or strong urine, or who has trouble eliminating is a candidate for a serious evaluation. Has your pet’s stools and urine decreased or increased yet they eat and drink the same amount? This of course depends on what your veterinarian determines the problem is.
  1. Does your pet act as if they are lost? Some will cry out as if they are calling, “Where are you?” Some pets may stand with their face in a corner and not be able to find their way out. Some will stare at walls or have a blank look in their eyes. Some may not recognize their family members. Some may wander around the house or yard and not seem to know where they are. A pet may not respond to commands that they always responded to before, even though they hear you. These can be signs of mental degeneration.
  1. After all the considerations are evaluated, you must determine if the quality of your pet’s life is going to be better, tolerable or only prolong suffering.
  1. The most difficult part of the decision and perhaps the most important is determining how much of your own emotions are playing a part in your decision making. Are you trying to keep your pet alive because you cannot tolerate the thought of losing your pet? Are you keeping your pet’s well being as the main decision maker? This is the most difficult part of the decision-making process, separating your emotions and feelings from what is good for your pet. The biggest fear that many people have is that they are not making the right decision. Or they feel that they are letting their pet down by giving up, that something more can be done. This is why it is important to go over the points in this article. We all hope for a miracle, but they rarely happen. Letting a pet go is sometimes the kindest thing we can do for them. It helps if you have a friend who is not emotionally involved that you can go over the situation with, to help you see what is going on.

I know that sometimes it is hard for me to make that decision. For this reason I talk to my veterinarian before my pets age and let them know what I want to do in the event that my pets get a terminal illness or injury. Even though we cannot foresee the future, it helps my veterinarian guide me when the time comes. This helped me with a 17 year old cat that I dearly loved. When I took her to the veterinarian, she was having a cardiac arrest. I could not say the words to tell my veterinarian to put her down. But he knew my wishes ahead of time. It made it just a bit easier for me to not have to say it.

Deciding to let a pet go is never easy. No one wants the grief and loss that it brings. We all know that it may take a long time to heal and get over the pain. I know because I have had to go through it many times. For me, I take comfort in knowing that my pets will be in Heaven waiting for me, that they are going to a better place. This is one reason why I wrote my book God’s Creatures which you can see on my website, www.sbulanda.com

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We all must deal with the loss of a beloved pet in our own way. As our pets come into our lives and then leave us, one after the other, the loss- and decision-making process never gets easier. But as good stewards of our pets, it is up to us to do what is right for them, even if it means our loss. Doing this is the deepest and most unselfish kind of love.

Once we lose our pets we have to deal with the grief. Everyone handles it in their own way. In the case of a pet who has suffered a prolonged illness, some people grieve for awhile before the pet dies. In those cases it can make the actual loss less painful. If there was no time before losing a pet to grieve, the full emotion of grief will come on right away. The pain can at times feel like physical pain. There are many ways to handle your feelings. Talking to someone who understands how much a pet can mean to you is one way. Attending a grief counseling group can also help. Some people find that volunteering at a shelter or rescue group helps.

If you know that your pet is getting on in years, getting a new pet before the pet passes can help ease the loss for some people. Providing of course that the new pet isn’t going to stress or harm the resident pet. Some people find that writing about the lost pet helps or designing a photo album dedicated to the pet. These are just a few ideas about how to go through the grief. The main thing to keep in mind is that time does heal. We may never fully get over the loss of a pet, one particular pet means more to us than any others, but we can enjoy the fond memories and love that the pet has given us.

Do bigger brains mean smarter dogs?

According to a study conducted by Daniel Horschler, a UA anthropology doctoral student and member of the UA’s Arizona Canine Cognition Center, dogs with bigger brains can perform certain tasks better than dogs with smaller brains. The researchers found that larger-brained breeds had better short-term memory and self-control than smaller dogs, regardless of the extent of training the dogs had received.

The tests showed that brain size did not determine a dog’s performance on tests of social intelligence such as being able to follow where a person points or with the dog’s inferential and physical reasoning ability.

What the study did not define is what is considered small and what is considered large? What the study also did not seem to take into account is the difference between the way humans relate, handle and treat small vs large dogs. As a canine behavior consultant and dog trainer I have seen a vast difference between the way owners treat and relate to large vs small dogs. For example, you do not see owners carrying their Labrador Retrievers around in backpacks or pushing them in strollers. Often small dogs are not allowed to act like dogs whereas large dogs are allowed to act like a dog should act. It is interesting to consider.

Do dogs need training to understand human cues?

Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India, and colleagues studied stray dogs across several Indian cities to determine if dogs can understand human cues without training.

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They found that stray dogs that were not timid or shy, would respond to a strange human pointing to a bowl. If the dog was friendlier and less anxious, they approached the bowls that the tester pointed to about 80% of the time. This shows that the dogs not only recognized human body language but are able to understand complex gestures.

What the researchers were unable to tell is how much experience the stray dogs had with humans and was it positive or negative. Also unknown is if people had fed the dogs in the past, using a pointing motion to indicate that there was food available.

The study does mention that more research is needed to determine if the personality of the dog is a factor in their response to human pointing. But all in all, it is another piece of information that gives us insight into the mind of the dog.

Roaming cats worry their owners

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, found that owners who allow their cats to roam freely outdoors worry about their cat’s safety. Why then do they let their cats roam? The study shows that many cat owners feel that their cats need to roam and hunt. They feel that a cat would not be happy or fulfilled if they are kept indoors.

 

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A feral kitten we rescued a few years ago. We found her in the road on a cold, snowy Christmas eve. She was adopted to a good home. 

Unfortunately these sentiments can be detrimental to a cat’s health and even it’s life. Cats do not need to be free outdoors to roam and hunt. Cats can and do live a happy and productive life indoors. It is up to the owner to provide interactive toys or play with their cat to satisfy the cat’s need to hunt and attack prey.

Cats also need companionship, either from another animal or their owners. Most cats are very social although not in the same way as dogs are.

There are videos made for cats to watch. If a cat owner feels strongly that their cat should spend time outdoors there are cat containment systems that allow a cat to go outdoors and be safe. You only need to google “cat outdoor yards” or “cat containment systems” to find a wide variety to meet your cat’s needs.

There are a number of reasons why a cat should not be allowed to freely roam outdoors. Being outdoors, even in a city or urban environment subjects the cat to predators which can range from dogs, other cats, hawks, foxes, coyotes and other wild animals that will attack a cat either aggressively or defensively. There are also evil people who make it a sport to trap and torture or kill cats.

If a cat kills wildlife, they are exposed to various parasites and diseases. If they come in contact with other outdoor cats, they can be exposed to various cat borne diseases which could be fatal. If a cat kills and ingests some of the blood of a rodent that has eaten rodent poison, the poison in the rodent’s blood can kill the cat.

Being exposed to injury, diseases and parasites, can make the cat sick and cost the owner multiple veterinarian bills. Not to mention subject the cat to preventable suffering and death.

If the cat is not spayed or neutered, letting it roam freely will cause pregnancy and add to the feral cat population. Contrary to what many people think, feral cats do not live a good life. They are subjected to all the above-mentioned diseases and death. Most feral cats do not live past kittenhood and if they do, only live about two very harsh years, struggling to find food, water, warmth and to fend off predators.

In conclusion, there is no positive reason to let a cat roam freely outdoors. There is every reason to trap, spay, neuter and adopt feral cats.

Early exposure to dogs lessens the risk of schizophrenia

An important study conducted by Robert Yolken, M.D. the chair of the Stanley Division of Pediatric Neurovirology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center showed that early exposure to dogs may lessen the risk of children developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The study also explored if early exposure to cats had the same affect. It seems that it has not been proven if cats produce the same results.

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It is not hard to understand how this is possible when you realize, as the article explains, that serious psychiatric disorders are associated with changes in the immune system. Changes result from exposure to different environmental conditions (not just pets). In the case of pet cats and dogs, they can affect the immune system through allergic responses, bacteria related to pets, contact with animal bacteria and viruses, the microorganisms in the home environment as well as the reduction of stress which changes the brain chemistry.

While this study has given us insight to another benefit of raising a child during his first 13 years with a dog (and possibly a cat), the study points out that more research is needed. It is my hope that researchers will eventually be able to pinpoint the exact cause of this benefit and develop a way to use it to help many people.

Pilot whale groups have their own dialect

In a new study by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) has found that short-finned pilot whales living off the coast of Hawaii have their own vocal dialects. This discovery may help researchers understand the whales’ complex social structure.

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By using genetic material scientists have determined that the smallest family of whales, referred to as a unit, are directly related. We would call it the immediate family. Next is the cluster which would be the extended family, such as aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. When a group of clusters gather it forms a community, such as a neighborhood.

Understanding their social structure will help scientists understand the life and nature of the whale. They have a close-knit relationship which is evident by mass beaching. If the leader of a group beaches, the rest will follow.

Although the pilot whale is not on the endangered list, they do have risks. They are hunted in many countries and research suggests that they are sensitive to human made noise.

It would be a super thing if we could find a way to understand the language of whales as well as other animals. This latest research is one more step in that direction.

Animal related injuries account for over 1 billion dollars of health care

What may be surprising to many people is that most of the injuries are due to non-venomous insect and spider bites, about 40%. Dog bites only accounted for about 25% of the injuries. About 13% were caused by hornet, wasp and bee stings.

The dollar amount does not include doctor’s fees, outpatient charges, lost productivity, and rehabilitation.

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Over half of the costs associated with animal injuries included dog bites, non-venomous insect and spider bites, and bites from venomous snakes and lizards.

Death due to injuries is rare, only .02% with the highest rate of death due to rat bites, with venomous snake/lizard a close second and third was by dogs.

People over the age of 85 were six times more likely to be admitted to hospital and 27 times more likely to die after their injury.

It seems that while people are careful around dogs and other animals, they should be more aware of the reptiles and insects that they may encounter. This is especially true of ticks that carry several diseases that can make a human or animal seriously ill or even bring about their death.

Shining Hope: The Sparkly Silver Travel Trailer by Libby Trostle

This is a delightful children’s book series that will help children explore North America. The main characters are Gracie and her dog Marshmallow. Shining Hope is the travel trailer that they bring across the country with them.

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The series not only introduces magical places in the US but also teaches children about valuable camping and life lessons. The first book in the series visits Niagara Falls. The book is based on the experiences of the author as they travel throughout the country.

You can order a copy from: shininghopeadventures.com

The Child’s Role in Picking Out a New Dog

Over the years when I have helped families find and select the right dog/puppy, I have seen the frustration, heartache and pressure that allowing children to be part of the process at the wrong time has caused. In some cases even disagreements within the family. As a result I have developed a system that works 100% of the time if followed. In this article I mention my brochure about how to find the right dog and breeder. If you would like the brochure email me with brochure in the subject line. (sbulanda@gmail.com)

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The Child’s Role

Parents often want their children to be involved in picking out the family dog.

While this is a sweet thought, it must be done in a positive way for the benefit of the family, child and dog. First read my brochure, Selecting the Right Dog, Finding the Right Breeder that I offer at no cost.

Once the parents have followed these instructions, they can start the process that will include the children. It is important that only adults select the type, breed and age of the dog for the family. The reasons why are:

A. Children are not educated enough to know what will work for the entire family.

B. They do not understand the cost and care of a given type of dog. They often pick a dog that looks nice to them with no thought to the grooming requirements or costs to pay a groomer to maintain your dog’s coat.

C. If you bring a child with you to evaluate a breeder and/or a litter, and you find that the situation is not one you want to get a dog from, the child may not understand why you are not going to buy or adopt that cute puppy or dog. It can be traumatic for the child to walk away. It can also be impossible for some parents to walk away in that situation. For example, we all know that we should never buy a puppy from a puppy mill breeder. But picture a child who does not understand this and falls in love with a puppy in that situation. Try walking away with a child who is crying and begging you to bring home a puppy. It can be embarrassing for the parent to justify the decision in front of an unethical breeder.

Once you find the right breeder and litter, only the adults should pick which puppy is a candidate. If it is a good litter, then there should be more than one puppy that meets your needs.

Preselect the puppies that are candidates. Come to terms with the breeder about payment and paperwork. Once that is accomplished, then arrange for another visit to the litter. At that time you can bring the children and the breeder can introduce them to the preselected puppies. Now the children can pick which puppy they like.

By handling the puppy selection in this manner it will be a 100% happy experience for the whole family, as well as the breeder.

If you are going to adopt an older dog it is essential to have the dog evaluated by a professional, preferably a certified canine behavior consultant to be sure that the adult dog will be safe around children and safe in your home environment. This includes an evaluation to determine if the adult dog is safe around other animals. Even if you do not own other animals, the chances are that you and your dog will encounter them. It saves everyone heartache and disappointment if you carefully evaluate the new member of your family before you bring him home.

I would also like to mention that it is never a good idea to surprise an adult family member with a puppy as a present. Because of the unique bond that develops between people and their dogs, it is essential that the family member pick their own puppy/dog. If you want to give a dog as a gift, you can give the recipient a stuffed dog with a note that when they are ready, they can pick out the puppy/dog that they want. This way they can choose the breed, breeder and puppy. In many cases people have told me that they really did not want another dog or that they would have rather gotten a different breed even though the family thought they would want a dog like they had before. In some cases if the family member is elderly, they may want a smaller breed or even a cat instead of a dog.

New pets should not be given during the holidays and good breeders will not allow a puppy or kitten to be purchased as a holiday gift. This is a dangerous time to bring a new pet into the home. Often there are many guests coming and going that can frighten a dog or cat, or the pet can bolt out of an open door. It is frightening enough for them to be taken to a strange home. Remember, the pet has no idea why it was taken from its mother, litter mates and put in an unfamiliar environment.

The new pet needs a quiet environment to adjust and feel safe. There are also decorations and typically, an abundance of food available that the new pet might be able to get a hold of, so extra monitoring is needed.

Guests will want to see and perhaps play with the new pet. This can be traumatic for the pet who does not feel safe to begin with.  The new owners may be too busy with guests and even family celebrating the holidays to give the new pet the care and attention that he needs. This is especially true if the family does any visiting and must leave the pet alone.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to email me. I am always glad to help. When picking a dog for work, it is essential that the right breeder, breed and line are up to standards. We put too much effort and time into training a working dog to find out after a year or more of training that the dog cannot work up to the requirements. If children are part of the family, it is likely that you will keep the dog and try to find another. Keep in mind that genetics are not an exact science and even the best breeder can produce a “lemon.”

 

Catnip may help cancer patients

Many of us have seen how catnip also known as catmint makes cats act like a kitten. I have seen cats who played like crazy and some who seemed to get angry and aggressive when given catmint.

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Now scientists have discovered what the chemical process is that makes cats go gaga over catnip.

It turns out it is a two step process that has never been discovered before, where the plant produces nepetalactone, a chemical called a terpene. Other plants such as peppermint, have terpene. By understanding how this chemical is produced, scientists will be able to recreate chemicals such as vinblastine that comes from the Madagascan periwinkle and used for chemotherapy. If scientists can unlock this mystery they will not have to rely on the actual plants for medicines.

Again, our pets have helped us unlock the mysteries of medicine and we will benefit from this research. The lesson for me from this study is that researching something that seems to have no benefit can unlock lifesaving techniques for both humans and animals. After all, who would think of studying catnip?