Indoor dogs and cats have a higher rate of certain diseases

Keeping a dog mostly indoors and cats exclusively indoors typically benefits the pet by reducing their exposure to communicable diseases that can be caught from other animals and insects. Yet researchers have found that dogs and cats kept indoors suffer from a higher rate of diabetes, kidney disease and hypothyroidism compared with pets that are kept outdoors.

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The researchers tested 58 varieties of dog and cat food as well as 60 urine samples from dogs and cats and found certain parabens, which are a preservative, in the food and urine samples. They discovered that the highest level of parabens were methyl paraben and the metabolite called 4-hydroxybenzoic acid (4-HB). Parabens are used as preservatives both in human and pet food as well as cosmetics. The use of them is regulated by the FDA.

The researchers found that there were higher levels in dry dog food and less in wet food. Cat food had the highest levels. The researchers also determined that dogs are exposed to parabens through non-food sources as well as food, whereas a cat’s exposure was only from food.

This is the first study to consider the affects of paraben on diseases in dogs and cats. More research is needed to further examine the initial findings.

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Female cats react differently to unrelated distressed kittens than male cats

Wiebke Konerding the lead researcher at the Hannover Medical School and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany studied the reaction of male vs female cats to distress calls of unrelated kittens.

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Interestingly, the more distressed the kittens were, the more the female cats reacted, even if they had not raised kittens themselves. The researchers found that there was no difference between the response of male or female cats to low arousal calls from kittens. But there was a difference to high arousal calls. Only female cats reacted differently.

The study implies that the ability of adult cats to react differently to emotional cues from kittens is ingrained and not due to experience. The kittens used in the experiment were not related to either the male or female cats.

Further research is needed to determine if adult cats react differently to their own kittens then they do to unrelated kittens.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160812073702.htm

New research says dogs are smarter than cats!

A recent comparison of the number of cortical neurons in the brains of various carnivores found two things: First, the size of the brain does not necessarily coordinate with the level of intelligence as was previously thought and, Second, dogs have over twice the neurons than cats.

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For example, raccoons have as many neurons as a primate but in the brain about the size of a cat while bears have the same number of neurons as a cat but in a much larger brain.

The research was conducted by Associate Professor of Psychology and Biological Sciences Suzana Herculano-Houzel, who developed the method for accurately measuring the number of neurons in brains.

Herculano-Houzel is convinced that the number of neurons an animal has determines their ability to predict what is about to happen in their environment based on their experience. What that may mean is that dogs are biologically capable of doing more complex and flexible things with their lives than cats.

The study also found that there was no difference between wild and domestic animals or predators or prey. It was always thought that predators were smarter than prey.

My comments: This is an interesting study that adds more fuel to the debate about who is smarter, dogs or cats. One thing to keep in mind is that intelligence varies from individual to individual (human or animal) and having greater intelligence does not necessarily mean it is used to its fullest capability.  In the case of animals, there is no accurate way to measure their true intelligence or their willingness to do what humans want, also known as being biddable.

FMI: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171129131341.htm

Declawing a cat

Some people feel that they must declaw a cat in order to save their furniture, rugs and curtains. However, they fail to realize that declawing a cat is not the same a trimming their nails. It involves removing the end bone and claw on each of the cat’s toes. This is a painful procedure and the cat will need care and pain medications to recover. Many veterinarians will not declaw a cat.

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Declawing a cat will also take away the cat’s main defense mechanism. While you may feel that your cat will be an indoor cat, during the cat’s lifetime, he may accidently get outside and will be almost defenseless.

Scratching is a normal behavior for a cat. They mark their territory and sharpen their nails by scratching. It seems that they also enjoy the activity.

Rather than declaw a cat, you can teach a cat to use a scratching post. Provide a scratching post in the places the cat likes to scratch. If the cat starts to scratch furniture, simply say no and move the cat to a scratching post. They are capable of learning where to scratch. Clicker training can help a cat learn to use a scratching post.

There are different types of scratching posts for cats. Experiment with them to see which one appeals to your cat. Some of the types of scratching posts are ones made from rug, natural wood and cardboard like substance.

It is easier to train a young cat than an older cat, but the main thing is to not give up. With the right scratching post and encouragement, your cat will learn.

If you do consider declawing, consult with your veterinarian first to see what is involved in the procedure as well as the care that the cat will need after. It is always easier to declaw a young cat. Declawing an older cat or one that has medical issues can be riskier and cause health problems.

Understanding your cat can be easier than you think

Cats communicate in many ways. They use vocalizations, body language and spatial position to communicate.

For example, a cat will gently paw you to get your attention. While batting things around is a form of play, a hard swat without their claws out can be a warning. A swat with the claws out is a much more aggressive act, either in defense or as an attack. Of course there is the kneading action with their paws that cats do when they are happy.

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(my cat who was taught not to bother the bird, note the bird is not afraid of the cat)

When a cat vocalizes a short meow is like a greeting, or a friendly “how are you doing?” A meow that is a bit louder and perhaps longer typically is a request for something, such as dinner or to get to a place that is inaccessible. A longer meow is a more demanding request, typically if you ignored the cat’s earlier request. A high pitch meow is a protest, such as if the cat does not like to be groomed or have its nails clipped. Then there is a long, almost sad meow that sounds as if the cat is confused.

If an old cat does this and seems to be lost or confused, it is time for an examination by your veterinarian. The cat may be suffering from or starting to get dementia. A hiss is usually a warning to move away from the cat. Purring is usually a sign of contentment but a cat that is in pain or stress will purr.

Facial expressions are important, including the ear set, eyes as well as the mouth. Flattened ears show that the cat is angry or frightened. Large dark eyes also can mean anger or fear. An opened mouth with a hiss is anger or fear and it can be difficult for a cat owner to tell the difference between anger and fear.

A cat’s tail is just as expressive as vocalizations. A happy cat will have its tail up and often with a small hook at the end. A swishing tail is a sign of annoyance and sometimes anger. Of course there are many positions in between the upright tail and the swishing tail. Some cats will appear to be contented but the tips of their tail flicks up and down or back and forth, it can mean that the cat is irritated. When some cats are very happy their tail will stand upright and shake with the hair at the base of the tail puffed out.

As most people know, when a cat is angry or frightened they will arch their back and raise the hair on their back and tail. The tail will usually be erect or curved down and sometimes tucked between their legs.

To help our cats understand us, we need to be consistent in our body language and tone of voice. You can train a cat if you are careful not to give the cat mixed signals. A treat with a happy face and voice will show a cat that you are pleased with their behavior. A firm no and a serious face will let them know that you do not approve of their actions.

Cats sometimes do not recognize our space. Therefore, if a cat gets on you, near you or goes where you do not want them to go, such as on the table at dinner time, you can give the cat a stern “no” and point to the floor while you gently push them away. It may take a few times but the cat will learn.

For behavior that you want, you can smile, tell the cat that it is good and give the cat a treat. The cat will learn that this is acceptable behavior. Of course, you can clicker train a cat. https://clickertraining.com/cat-training

With a little thought, planning, and careful observation, it is not as difficult to communicate with a cat or understand what they are trying to tell us as a person may think. Your cat will love you more for the effort and you will understand your cat better.

Tick diseases in humans and pets

Tick season is here again in many parts of the country. Ticks can cause diseases in both dogs and humans as well as other pets. Most people do not realize that there are a number of diseases that are transmitted by ticks with some infections taking place in as little as three hours after being bitten.

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Many diseases transmitted by ticks can infect a variety of species of animals as well as humans. Although many pet owners use tick and flea prevention drugs, it is important to realize that while the tick may not bite the pet, the tick can travel from the pet to a human.

Therefore, if the pet owner lives in an area where there are ticks or their pet goes to a tick infested area, the pet should be checked thoroughly for ticks. One way to do this is to use a flea comb and comb the pet’s fur right to the skin but not digging into the skin.

Sometimes a pet owner can run their hands over the pet and feel a tick. This is very important if the pet sleeps on the owners bed, furniture of sits on the owner’s lap. Keep in mind that ticks are found in bushes, trees, grass, weeds, and in the soil. Check with your veterinarian to see what tick preventative medicine is best for your pet

Pets and humans (especially children) should be checked for ticks every time they go into a potentially tick infested area. Ticks are often most active in the spring and fall, but in certain areas of the country can be active year round.

Humans can use insect repellent when entering tick infested areas. Wearing long sleeves and putting pant legs inside socks can help prevent ticks from crawling up pant legs and arms. Hats can help to protect the head from ticks dropping from overhead vegetation. .

If the tick embeds it should be removed as quickly as possible. A product called a tick key is very useful in removing ticks from pets and humans.

If you do not have a tick key, remove a tick by using tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, then pull up with a stead, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick since the head of the tick may break off. If it does try to remove the head with the tweezers. Do not touch the tick with your hands if possible. Dispose of it by dropping it in rubbing alcohol or wrap the tick on sticky tape and throw it away. Be sure to wash your hands after handling a tick.

It is a good idea to take a shower after working or playing in tick infested areas and washing your clothes. Ticks can hide in clothing and then crawl into the home. With a little diligence and care, you can protect yourself and your pets from tick diseases.

Ticks exist in all 50 states, with some having greater infestations than others. Here is a list of some of the tick diseases:

Anaplasmosis human, – is also known as human granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Ticks get the organism when feeding on deer, elk or wild rodents. The symptoms are: fever, headache, muscle pain,malaise, chills, nausea and/or abdominal pain, cough, confusion and although rare, a rash. Dogs can get anaplasmosis as well as other animals. The symptoms in dogs are: joint pain, high fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and neck pain.

Bartonellosis – Although it is thought to be carried by ticks, this disease at present, does not seem to be transmitted to humans through ticks. However, it is transmitted by cats through fleas. It causes what is commonly known as “cat scratch disease” and is most likely carried by feral cats. There is some evidence that it can be transmitted to humans by being bitten with an infected flea.

Hepatozoonosis – is often fatal in dogs. Dogs get it by eating an infected tick. The symptoms include: fever, weakness, muscle atrophy, generalized pain, reluctance to move, ocular discharge; and gradual deterioration of the body.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is a serious, potentially fatal disease that is transmitted to humans by a tick. It is carried by the American dog tick, Rocky mountain wood tick, and the brown dog tick. Symptoms include fever, headache, abdominal pain, vomiting and muscle pain. A human can get a rash from the tick bite. It must be treated in the first few days or the disease can be fatal.

Dogs and other animals can get RMSF. The symptoms in dogs include: depression, lethargy, anorexia, blood in the urine, irregular heartbeat, discolored skin that often looks like a bruise, loss of coordination, swelling in the limbs, bleeding through the nose and stools, difficulty with blood clotting, swollen lymph nodes, pain in the eyes, inflammation or conjunctivitis.

Ehrlichiosis Affects both dogs, humans, and wild canids and is found worldwide and throughout the United States. It is transmitted by ticks including the brown dog tick and the Lone Star tick. What is important to realize is that this disease can live in a tick for up to five months, which means that a tick that has it in the fall can pass it along to a dog or human in the spring.

There are three phases of this disease. The acute phase develops in 1 – 3 weeks. The liver, lymph nodes and spleen are often enlarged. Humans get fever, depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joint pain and stiffness and bruises. Dogs can sometimes fight the infection and go into the subclinical phase. In this phase the dog may show slight anemia. This phase can last for years when the dog will eliminate the disease from its body or go into the chronic phase which can be mild or severe. The signs are weight loss, anemia, neurological signs, bleeding, the eyes can become inflamed, fluid builds up in the hind legs, and fever develops. Sometimes the disease will only show up when the dog becomes stressed. In some cases arthritis or kidney disease may develop.

Lymes Disease in humans is transmitted by deer ticks or the blacklegged ticks. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and sometimes a rash. This disease can spread to joints, the nervous system and the heart.

Lymes disease in dogs Symptoms include: a stiff walk with an arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing, fever, lack of appetite and depression, lymph nodes may be swollen, and although rare, heart abnormalities and neurologic issues.

Belly rubs for cats

“My cat rolls over but if I try to rub her belly, she will scratch and bite, why does she do this?” is a question I am often asked by cat owners. People who are familiar with dogs and have experienced the dog that rolls over to have his belly scratched, assume that cats want the same thing.

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When a cat, rolls over it is a defensive position that they use when they cannot out run an attacker. This allows them to use the claws on all four feet for defense.

However, some cats do roll over and lay on their back because they enjoy it. They will do this when they feel comfortable enough in their environment to expose their vital organs.

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If you have a kitten, you can get the kitten used to being handled and petted by gently handling all their body parts in a caressing manner. This will allow a veterinarian and you to examine the cat for lumps, bumps and injuries without too much stress to the cat.

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If you gently pet a kitten sometimes the kitten will allow you to rub its belly. If the kitten seems to enjoy this, you can do it as a sign of affection. Often a kitten will playfully hit your hand with its front and hind feet. As long as it is playful and no teeth and claws scratch or bite, this can be a fun time for the kitten and owner. But if the cat offers its belly but does not like to be touched there, it is best to accept the friendly gesture as a compliment and do not try to rub their belly.

Rat bite fever

Many people have rodents as pets and they can make wonderful pets for people who do not have room for a larger pet or cannot have a dog, cat or bird. However, although it is rare, rat bite fever can be transmitted by pet rodents, either through a bite or scratch. Rats, gerbils, mice, guinea pigs and ferrets are capable of transmitting rat bite fever. Rat bite fever is an old disease that has been recorded for over 2300 years.

Rat bite fever is caused by Streptobacillus moniliformis which is the most common cause. The symptoms include fever, pain in joints, nausea, rash and vomiting and can be fatal if not treated.

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Children, pet store workers, veterinary technicians, veterinarians and laboratory technicians are in the higher risk group since they handle rodents on a regular basis. People who frequently handle rodents can wear protective gloves to prevent being bitten.  Parents should monitor children who have rodents as pets and if they are bitten or scratched, notify your pediatrician.

Socializing a pet rodent is a precautionary measure that will reduce the chance of being bitten. Rodents can be trained using clicker training methods which will also help to reduce the chances of being bitten by teaching the rodent to come to you.

Always be careful not to frighten or startle a rodent. Avoid trying to handle a rodent that is sleeping. A tap on the cage or talking to the rodent before handling it can calm the rodent and allow the pet to be aware that it is going to be handled. Using common sense will help prevent being bitten and avoid rat bite fever. 

Keep in mind that rat bite fever can also be transmitted by wild rodents. If there are wild rodents in your area and they are trapped, use caution in removing them or handling predators that might have caught and killed a rodent.

 http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/12/151223141151.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fplants_animals%2Fanimals+%28Animals+News+–+ScienceDaily%29

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1797630/

Chronic kidney disease in cats

If your cat is ten years old or older, there is a 33% chance that your cat will get chronic kidney disease, (CKD). Cats that have CKD often have a number of signs and complications which include, lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, anemia, hypertension and urinary tract infections (UTI).

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Because standard tests can be iffy, diagnosing CKD may not be easy for a veterinarian. To help veterinarians, cats and their owners, the International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM), the veterinary division of International Cat Care, formed an international panel of veterinarians from the UK, France, Australia and North America to analyze CKD.

They found that dietary management is one of the best therapies, but often it is difficult to get a cat to eat the prescription diets. They also found that routine blood pressure monitoring and the use of antihypertension medications helped reduce damage to other organs such as the eyes and heart, thus prolonging the quality of the cat’s life. While there is no cure as yet, it is heartening that veterinarians continue to search for ways to help our pets live longer, quality lives.

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160302121038.htm