Dog ownership lessens risk of heart disease

In a unique Swedish study, researchers found that people who owned dogs had a lower mortality rate then those who did not. They also found that people who lived alone and owned a dog had less cardiovascular diseases then people who lived alone who did not own a dog.

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The researchers studied 3.4 million people between the ages of 40 and 80 making this a comprehensive comparison. What the study did not show was why there was a difference between dog ownership and non-dog ownership.

One possibility considered was that people who own dogs are more active because they walk their dogs. There was also no indication as to whether or not there were other factors such as the type of people who own dogs vs those who do not.

However, the bottom line is that dog ownership, again, has proven to benefit the health of their owners. It would be interesting to study how growing up with a dog or pet affects the health of children as adults if they continue to own a pet vs those who get a dog or pet later in life. We know that children who own pets are less prone to developing allergies. It would be interesting to know what other physical and mental benefits pet ownership has on children.

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Allergies in Pets

All types of pets, just like people, can suffer from allergies. Unfortunately, pets cannot tell us when they feel poorly. We must look for the symptoms.

There are a few common types of allergies in pets but not all are true allergies, some may be sensitivities which can be as bothersome as a full-blown allergy.

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Skin Allergies are the most common type and are usually caused by flea bites, food and things in their environment.

Flea allergies are the easiest to find and stop. By keeping your pet free of fleas, you can prevent the allergic reactions. If fleas are the problem you may see red and inflamed skin, scabbing, and flea dirt which looks like small black dots.

Flea dirt or droppings are digested blood so if you put one in a drop of water it will turn red. To get rid of the fleas you need to consult with your veterinarian as well as an exterminator. The veterinarian will help make your pet more comfortable and control the fleas, however, if your pet has fleas, they will be in your home. You must use an exterminator, or the fleas will come back because at this point they have infested your house. The eggs are microscopic and will hatch periodically.

Sometimes various foods can cause sensitivities that are not full allergic reactions. Typically, food related allergies and sensitivities manifest themselves by causing the pet’s skin to itch. This usually happens around their paws and ears. Sometimes they can get an upset stomach as well. The usual culprits are beef, chicken, eggs, corn, wheat, soy and milk.

Environmental allergens are often the same ones that bother people. Things like dust, mold, and pollen are often seasonal, so you may not see the allergic reaction year-round. The typical areas that are affected are: paws, ears, wrists, ankles, muzzle, underarms, groin, around the eyes, and between the toes.

Although it is more rare, acute allergic reactions can be a result of bee stings or shots. For this reason keep a close eye on your pet after being vaccinated. Signs can be facial, throat, lips, eyelids or earflap swelling. Any of these signs should be an immediate visit to your veterinarian or emergency clinic. Always have the phone number and address of your nearest emergency clinic handy.

Overall, the general signs of allergies or sensitivities are:

  • Itchiness
  • Hives
  • Swelling of the face, ears, lips, eyelids, or earflaps
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Sneezing
  • Itchy ears
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Constant licking

It is critical that you take your pet to the veterinarian as soon as you notice any sign of an allergy or sensitivity. If your pet continues to scratch, rub or bite an area of his body, it can lead to other types of infections, not to mention that your pet may feel miserable. Keep in mind that allergies and sensitivities can develop at any time in a pet’s life, therefore you must be vigilant and watch for any signs that they have developed.

Allergies and sensitivities will often affect your pet’s behavior which you may be the first thing you notice. If your pet seems a bit withdrawn, sullen, irritable, not as interested in playing, it would be a good idea to pay close attention and look for signs of allergies or other illnesses. It is always wise to err on the side of caution and schedule a visit to your veterinarian rather than wait until your pet becomes more uncomfortable. Because of the potential seriousness of allergies, it is not in your pet’s best interest to try and treat them yourself.

Like people, pets can lead a happy normal life with allergies if they are treated and if possible, prevented.

 

 

Delayed weaning makes cats better companions

According to a study conducted by Professor Hannes Lohi’s research group at the University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Faculty of Medicine as well as at the Folkhälsan Research Centre, cats have less behavior problems if they are allowed to stay with their mother until 14 weeks of age.

Professor Lohi’s group studied about 6000 cats and learned that behavior problems are more widespread than expected. They found that 80+% of the cats surveyed had mild behavior problems while 25% had serious behavior problems. The problems included shyness, wool sucking, excessive grooming and aggression.

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The study found that cats weaned under the age of 8 weeks had more aggression issues and other behavior problems. Those weaned at 14 weeks had fewer behavior problems.

Early weaning seemed to manifest itself in aggression which according to the study, suggests changes in the neurotransmitters of the basal ganglia. What this means to the person who owns a cat who exhibits aggressive behavior as a result of early weaning, is that the behavior is not a result of the cat’s experience but is rather “hard wired.” Behavior modification in this case will not produce the same results as it will with a cat who is aggressive because of trauma or experiences.

This should be taken into consideration when adopting kittens who are very young and/or who were feral or barn cats. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they may have been forced to be weaned prior to 14 weeks.

Allowing kittens to stay with their mother and litter for two more weeks is an inexpensive, easy way to help cats and cat owners have a long happy relationship.

Can humans identify the emotions of all air-breathing animals?

A study by researchers at Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Ruhr-Universität Bochum, in collaboration with colleagues from Alberta, Canada, and Vienna, Austria, say yes!

Humans are capable of identifying the emotions of all air-breathing beings via the sounds that they make.

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The research team headed by Dr Piera Filippi, currently at the University of Aix-Marseille and the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands, included, among others, three academics from Bochum: philosophy scholar Prof. Dr. Albert Newen, biopsychologist Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Onur Güntürkün and assistant professor Dr Sebastian Ocklenburg.

To test their theory, they used 75 people whose native language was English, German or Mandarin. The participants listened to audio recordings of nine different species of land-living vertebrates to include, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, and birds.

The participants were able to identify both high and low levels of arousal in all species. This suggests that there is a universal ability to communicate emotions. If humans can identify the emotions of other animals, it stands to reason that this ability is not unique to humans and that all animals have the ability.

Of course, pet owners have seen this to be true with their pets. They always seem to know how we feel and we know how they feel.

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.

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.