Living with dogs has an unusual benefit – prevention of Crohn’s disease

Researchers used an environmental questionnaire to evaluate 4300 people related to family members who had Crohn’s disease. Interestingly they found that one of the factors that surfaced was that children between the ages of 5 – 15 who lived with dogs and/or a large family were less likely to develop Crohn’s disease. The study did not indicate that living with cats had the same benefit. Other factors also came into play, and the connection is not entirely clear, but it is promising and warrants further research.

Pet Toys

Note: This article is my opinion, based on my experiences with many dogs, cats and birds.

Pet owners spend a considerable amount of money on toys for their pets. Toys are important for pets; they give pets something to do and, in some cases, build the bond between the pet and owner. While I will refer mostly to dogs, this article applies to all pets.

It is important to realize that there is no regulatory body for pet toys. What that means is that manufacturers can use whatever material they choose to make pet toys. Unfortunately, many of the products that are available are not safe, either because of a chewing or a toxic substance risk.

When picking a toy for your pet, you should consider the type of animal it is and what it likes to do. Dogs like to fetch, toss and chew and shred toys. This satisfies their natural hunting instinct. Cats like to chase, pounce, carry and sometimes tear up toys.

Birds generally like to tear apart, peck and toss toys. Although many birds play with toys in various ways. I had a budgie who liked to “herd” plastic balls into a tight group.

When considering a toy for a pet, keep in mind that if there is a risk associated with the toy, the risk increases if the pet is small. This is because it takes less material to block their intestines and less toxins to make them sick or kill them. This is why a pet owner should carefully evaluate what toy they give their pet.

I feel that toys for dogs pose the most risks because dogs tend to chew and eat pieces of their toys more than other pets. Know how your dog likes to play with a toy before you pick one out for him. Some dogs will totally destroy a stuffed toy or a plastic one. Other dogs like to carry a toy around and will not destroy it. Many dogs are obsessed with getting the squeaker out of a toy that has one. My Parsons Russell Terrier is a squeaker killer. He will work on a toy almost endlessly until he gets the squeaker out. Then for the most part, he loses interest in the toy.

Puppies almost always chew a toy until it is destroyed and they are more likely to eat the pieces of the toy. For this reason, plastic toys are a higher risk for puppies. Regardless if your dog is a puppy or an adult, plastic toys in general are the highest risk.

Because dogs like to chew and destroy toys, they are less likely to play with the chew-proof variety of toy. Some of the nylon toys are coated with a scent and when the coating wears off, the dog loses interest in the toy. Stuffed toys pose a problem because the stuffing, which can be ingested and not digested. The stuffing in most dog and cat toys are fiber fill which is a form of plastic.

If a dog owner is going to give their dog one of the many products on the market designed to clean the dog’s teeth while they chew the toy, be sure to check the ingredients. Most dental chews for dogs are only 96% digestible. What is the other 4%? Some of these products have plastic in them to make them last longer.

Those chew products that are designed to be eaten, should break down in five to ten minutes when placed in water, if not, it is a high risk for your dog. These types of products can block a dog’s intestines. Because of a dog’s short digestive tract, these products do not have enough time to break down if they can break down at all.

This is also true of any rawhide product. I personally do not approve of any animal product such as cow hooves, pig’s ears and rawhide. These products are often treated with formaldehyde as a preservative. Many people think that rawhide comes from a butcher, but in reality, rawhide comes from a tannery. Also, keep in mind that any wild domestic canine does not eat bones, skin or hooves.

This is evident when you see a dead deer along the roadside. After everything, animal, bird and insect are finished feeding on the carcass, the things left are hide, hooves and bones. The main risks for letting a dog eat rawhide are contamination, choking hazard, and intestinal blockage. A number of pet related organization discourage giving dogs rawhide. However, dried chicken feet and antlers are a better alternative than rawhide, pig’s ears and cow hooves.

Rope toys are acceptable if your dog does not chew them and swallow the threads. The safest rope toy is one made of cotton instead of nylon. Cotton has a better chance of breaking down if it is ingested whereas the nylon will not.

Ness’s favorite toy, an old bowling ball

It is never a good idea to give a dog old shoes or slippers because of the chemicals used to make them. It is especially difficult for a puppy to understand that old shoes and slippers, and rawhide products are OK to play with but new shoes and slippers are not. Keep in mind that rawhide comes from a tannery and dogs have a very sophisticated sense of smell. Therefore, a dog of any age can smell the similarity between rawhide and other leather products, which include furniture, gloves, jackets and briefcases.

Bones are not a good choice for dogs either. Again, it is not natural for dogs to eat bones. Many of the “natural” bones have bacteria on them that can harm both dogs and people who handle them. Some of the stuffed bones that are treated can be safer for a dog who likes bones. The danger associated with bones are splinters from the bone and bacteria.

The bottom line is knowing your dog. If a toy becomes small enough to swallow it should be taken away from the dog. By knowing your dog’s play habits you will be able to decide what toy is safe for them to play with. The best toy is one that allows you to interact with your dog, playing fetch games, chase games or whatever your dog likes. If you understand your dog’s breed, it will guide you to selecting the right toy for your dog. All dogs can benefit from puzzle toys and treat dispensing toys. Also think outside the box, you never know what a dog will take a fancy to as illustrated by our dog Ness.

Budget-Friendly Tips for Keeping Pets Healthy During Cold Weather by guest blogger Brandon Butler

The weather is cooling, and although most four-legged creatures enjoy a break from summer’s heat just as much as us two-legged creatures do, fall and winter can also pose certain dangers to our furry friends. Not all animals are equally equipped for cool temperatures, and your pet might need a little extra help to stay healthy and comfortable.

While a great fitting jacket or cozy pjs can be a great start on cold weather comfort, there is often more to it than that. With that in mind, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant Susan Bulanda presents some tips for giving them what they need without breaking the bank:

Stock Up on Basics

One important step towards keeping your furry friends safe in the cooler season is to stock up on basic supplies like food and any medications your pet needs. If you wind up stuck in inclimate weather, having a stockpile set aside can keep your pet happy and your stress levels low. Moreover, buying in bulk might cost more up front, but it can save you money in the long run.

Look for discounts online like a Chewy promo code to build a budget-friendly pet supply stockpile. Keep extra food somewhere cool and dry so it stays fresh for your pal. If your pet takes any medications, talk to your vet about getting extra before the cold season hits.

Stay On Top of Grooming

Many animals go through a cool-season shed. This allows them to grow out their thick winter coats. Although this is a vital tool for keeping them warm and cozy, it can be tough on them without proper grooming. Long-hair pets in particular can develop mats and hairballs, both of which are uncomfortable and have the potential to cause serious problems.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Some animals will need professional grooming once a season to remove blown-out coats. Look for affordable groomers in your area to find a good fit for your budget. If your buddy gets anxious at the groomers, try a natural relaxation technique like massage or essential oils to help them calm down for their big salon day.

Dress Your Pet for the Weather

Dogs in sweaters aren’t just extremely adorable – they’re also well-prepped for harsh temps. If your dog isn’t a cool-weather breed, it’s important to make sure they’re properly dressed for cold weather when you take them out for walks. This means doggy jackets and well-fitting boots. The dog-lovers over at Cuteness remind us that dogs can easily get frostbite on their paws if they’re not properly protected – after all, you wouldn’t want to walk barefoot in the snow, would you?

If you have a very young or senior pet, it’s especially important to get them something cozy when it’s cold. According to Dogster, these animals don’t have the ability to regulate body temperature their counterparts have, so their body temperature can drop dangerously in chilly conditions. If you have the skills, a great way to save money on pet clothes is to DIY your own designs. There are a ton of knitting, crocheting, and sewing patterns out there for the interested crafter.

If you want to give your pet a little extra coziness this winter, an indoor dog house may do just the trick. Just make sure you read up on the different available products to ensure you’re getting one suited to your dog’s size and temperament. The last thing you want is to spend money on something your pet will destroy in a matter of days.

Get a Checkup

Finally, consider scheduling your pet’s yearly check up for the start of fall. This will give you the chance to make sure they’re in good shape for the winter, as well as an opportunity to ask your vet if there are any other steps you can take to keep them healthy over the cooler months. Regular checkups keep your pet (and your wallet) safe by catching issues before they’re too serious, and more expensive to treat.

Keeping your furry friend healthy during winter is just one way to show them how much you love them. Think ahead before the weather gets rough so you have a plan for any possibility. You and your pet deserve to have a wonderful winter together!

COVID in dogs and cats

A study in the Veterinary Record, has reported a few cases of dogs and cats contracting the SARS-CoV-2 variant in England. In these cases, the pets caught the variant from their owners who had shown symptoms several weeks before the pets became ill. Heart problems were manifested in the pets who contracted the variant.

While this is not widespread and actually rare, it is a good idea for pet owners to be aware of the possibility since COVID-19 is so widespread. At this point the research does not indicate that people can catch the variant from pets.

Cats often get a bad rap

Many people think that cats are asocial. Quite the opposite is true. Cats are very social animals but their way of showing it is quite different from dogs. Because people are used to dogs, they do not recognize the social behavior in cats. Also, many cat owners have just one cat, therefore they do not see cat to cat social interaction.

            From studying feral domestic cat populations, we have learned quite a bit about the cat’s social structure. Female cats, known as queens, will help each other raise their young. They even act as midwives to a queen giving birth. For example, they will help clean the newborn kitten and nurse them if they are lactating. They will groom and guard the kittens as well. Males, or tom’s will also help defend kittens in their colony.

            Cats will sleep together, touching, even if it is hot, which rules out some assumptions that they only sleep close to each other for warmth. Cats will form special friendships with each other, having preferences in the colony. Cats are very family oriented and are closer to relatives than a stranger. Although the colony will accept a strange cat after a period of time. This takes weeks to months, depending on the situation.

            When cats groom each other, it is almost always in areas that are hard to reach, such as the head, face and neck. It is considered bad cat manners to groom below the shoulders.

Another way cats communicate to each other is by rubbing. Anyone who has owned or seen cats would have seen head bumping, body and tail rubbing. Sometimes cats will wrap their tails together, which is a form of rubbing.

            Adult cats will also monitor the play between kittens. If the kittens get too rough, the adult will break it up. The kittens always listen and will stop their play.

            Cats do not hunt in groups. This is because each cat needs the equivalent of three mice a day to survive. Their hunting technique is to sit quietly, slowly stalk and then pounce. This does not lend itself to sharing the food. It is very rare for more than one cat to hunt together but it has happened, for example when trying to catch a squirrel. Cats will spray to mark their territory so that other cats, even those in the colony do not hunt in another cat’s area.   

Pluskat and Sunshine (budgie) who are friends

            Kittens need to stay with their litter until they are at least 12 weeks old. They go through developmental stages similar to other animals. They learn how to behave and how to interact with other cats while they are young. If they are taken away from the litter too soon, they do not know how to act like a cat. If the cat owner decides later to get another cat, the resident cat will not know how to accept or interact with the new cat. This is one of the reasons why people have trouble introducing a new cat to the home. It is always better to have two kittens instead of one, and if possible, adopt litter mates. Family is very important to cats.

Mimi

            Like dogs, there are many breeds of cats and there are breed traits. Despite the breed of mix of a cat, each individual will have its own personality. Some cats act more like dogs and some are very aloof. Some cats are bold and some are timid. All cats are different due to breeding, family involvement, early training and experiences. It is important to keep this in mind and not label all cats as having the same personality and temperament. By understanding your cat’s natural social behavior, you can make the quality of life for your cat much better.  

Those amazing whiskers

A study has shown that rats determine the direction of the wind with their whiskers. Since many other animals such as dogs, foxes, coyotes and cats also have whiskers that are similar to those of a rat, is it possible that they also use their whiskers to determine the direction of the wind?

All wild animals also have to be aware of the direction of the wind to either find food or avoid being detected by predators. Therefore, the ability to determine the direction of the wind or even a slight breeze is a life and death skill.

cat whiskers

It seems reasonable that that they would use their whiskers as well as the movement of their fur to detect the direction of air movement. As a person who has trained many working dogs, I have seen dogs learn how to use the direction of the wind to find scent. It is quite an amazing thing to watch, and another example of how intelligent animals are.

Behavior and personality traits identified in cats

With cats being the number one pet, there is surprising little research about their personality and behavior traits, especially in relation to cat breeds. This study has managed to explore the world of cats. They studied 4300 cats in 26 breed groups. Their study was the most extensive and significant to date and opens the door for further research.

By using questionnaires in an efficient manner, the researchers at the University of Helsinki have identified the following:

  • Activity/playfulness
  • Fearfulness
  • Aggression towards humans
  • Sociability towards humans
  • Sociability towards cats
  • Litterbox issues (relieving themselves in inappropriate places, precision in terms of litterbox cleanliness and substrate material)
  • Excessive grooming
Turkish Angora – Bonnie

 According to the study, “The most fearful breed was the Russian Blue, while the Abyssinian was the least fearful. The Bengal was the most active breed, while the Persian and Exotic were the most passive. The breeds exhibiting the most excessive grooming were the Siamese and Balinese, while the Turkish Van breed scored considerably higher in aggression towards humans and lower in sociability towards cats.”

The result of this study coincided with a previous study, giving it more validity.

Author’s Note: It is just as important for anyone who plans to add a cat to their home to be aware of the personality traits of cats as it is for future dog owners to select the right type of dog for their living arrangements. Even if a cat is a mixed breed, certain physical characteristics can give the potential cat owner an idea of the breed group it comes from, helping them make a selection.

Cats prefer free food rather than work for it

According to a study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, even active cats would rather have “free” food rather than work for their meal.

The researchers offered a sample of cats, the option of getting their food from a food puzzle or having access to their food on a tray. All of the cats preferred the easily available food on a tray.

This was true for active cats and cats used to using a food puzzle. The researchers added that the food puzzles used in the study may not have stimulated their natural desire to hunt and ambush their prey.

The researchers added that this does not mean that cat owners should stop using a food puzzle.

Cats, the new source for genetic research

Scientists use dogs and other animals to learn about genetically related diseases and illnesses that are common to animals and humans. By developing a cure for an animal disease, they often have breakthroughs for curing similar human diseases. One species that has been overlooked in this process is the common domestic cat.

Leslie says Lyons, of the Department of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery at the University of Missouri has explored this option. According to Lyons, cats can be an important asset in understanding the genetic “dark matter” that makes up 95% of DNA. Lyons has found that cats have genetic diseases that are related to the dysfunction of their genetic dark matter.

Lyons feels that cats could pay a role in developing precision medicine for genetic diseases. This could allow scientists and medical personnel to fix the actual gene and what the gene does instead of treating the symptoms.  

The Animals In Our Lives

I had the honor of contributing to this book. Please spread the word.

Stories of Companionship and Awe

by Catherine Lawton (with Cladach Authors and Friends)

The wonderfully varied stories recount experiences with dogs and cats, sheep and horses, backyard birds and woodland deer, and other surprising creatures. The encounters and adventures of people and animals include childhood memories, individual and family experiences, and wilderness adventures. They all celebrate the companionship we have with animals both domestic and wild, in good times and bad, in times of celebration and times of challenge.

As fellow creatures, we give animals attention and care, and they give us so much in return. If we listen and observe, they teach us about God and about ourselves. This inspirational volume will evoke laughter, tears, and the experience of awe.

Animals entertain us, help us, teach us, play with us, mourn with us, even work with us. They help us experience God’s presence in our lives.

Publication date: August 20, 2021

ISBN: 9781945099274, 5.5″ x 8.5″, 15 Black/White Photos

$17.99 Pre-order Now: https://cladach.com/the-animals-in-our-lives/