Parrots as pets

Some of the most exotic and beautiful birds that are suitable as pets are parrots. They come in a variety of colors and sizes. What people do not realize is that they have a wide range of personalities and needs. Not all parrots are the same. What people also do not realize is that each type of bird is a separate species with their own health needs.

Some parrots are very active and need a lot of interaction with their owner. Some are very quiet and do not interact as much. Some are one person birds and may not tolerate other people handling them, and some are very sociable.

Sweetpea my parrotlet

For example, some of the smallest parrots are budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds and parrotlets. They are smart, energetic and cheery making them good pets.

Often people keep lovebirds in pairs. However, if birds are kept in pairs or in a group, they often bond with each other rather than humans. If you do not have a lot of time to spend with your bird it may be kinder to have two so that they can keep each other company.

No matter which parrot you choose, they all have basic needs. If you are going to have only one bird, you must socialize and handle the bird on a regular basis to ensure that the bird bonds with humans and is easy to handle. This is important so that you can maintain your bird or give it medicine as needed.

Petey the budgie

Teaching your bird to do tricks is fun for the bird as well as for you. Birds that are not handled and are left alone for hours a day can become neurotic and may pull out their feathers or develop other destructive behavior.

You must keep in mind that normal parrot behavior includes being part of a flock, foraging for food, pairing up with a mate and guarding his territory. Therefore some birds will bond with one person, as a replacement for their mate. The bird may accept other family members or frequent visitors as part of his flock. Your bird may consider his cage or the room he is kept in as his territory. If your bird is given freedom outside of his cage or room, he may shred and destroy objects to satisfy his need to search for food.

Birds show affection by preening your hair, nibbling on your chin or ears, and often screech a plaintive call when the love of their life leaves the room.

When parrots become upset, they will bite hard enough to leave a wound or they may destroy their cage. Because birds are very smart, they can get into mischief. They do enjoy playing with different things and by pecking at a cage door they may solve the mystery of how to open it to let themselves out when they want. Of course this newfound freedom will be used to have a delightful time to play and destroy whatever they see fit. Therefore you need to parrot-proof your home or the room where your parrot stays.

It is important that the parrot owner meets the needs of their bird by providing opportunities to explore, such as hiding treats in a small cardboard box that the bird can shred to find the treat. Also stashing treats in your bird’s toys keeps him occupied and busy solving the mystery of where the treat is.

Choosing the right bird for you can be challenging. As a rule, budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds and parrotlets are easier birds to keep as pets. They are small and happy birds. Most of the larger birds such as macaws, cockatoos, African greys and Amazons are high maintenance birds and require someone who is experienced to successfully own them.

An important thing to consider is the life expectancy of the species of parrot that you want to get. Some parrots live for 80 – 100 years. Can you make arrangements for your parrot if you are unable to care for him any longer?

I have personally owned several budgies and parrotlets and was able to clicker train all of them to do tricks. Clicker training a bird is a very successful way to shape behavior and have fun with your bird. For example, my parrotlet Sweetpea would pick up paper clips and put them in a box. All my birds would come when I called or signaled them. One of my budgies would gather small toy balls and put them in a tight group on command. The possibilities are limited only to your imagination.

If you have other pets you need to consider the safety of both the other pet and the bird. A large bird can seriously hurt a dog or cat. And a dog or cat can kill a bird. Both dogs and cats can be taught to leave a bird alone or not hurt the bird. I have both dogs, cats and birds, and they have always gotten along. Petey my budgie loved to sneak up on one of my dogs while she was sleeping and pull one hair on her tail. Then he would fly back to the desk lamp and, it seemed like he would laugh. The dog would go back to sleep and he would do it all over again. However, it takes dedication on your part and training for all the animals for them to live together safely.

Where to find the right bird is often an issue that people have. The last place you should buy a bird is a pet shop. Instead you should locate a dedicated breeder who has healthy birds. There are several ways to find a good breeder. Look for a bird club for the species of bird that you want. Also locate a bird rescue. Those people will know breeders and you may find that you can adopt a bird from them. Your avian veterinarian will also be able to help since dedicated bird breeders have their birds examined yearly.

No matter what type of parrot you choose, there are a few important things you must research before you get your bird.

1. Find a good avian veterinarian in your area. Birds need yearly wellness care the same as other pets.

2. Understand the dietary needs of the bird you plan to purchase.

3. Make sure you have a very large cage for your bird. Even the small birds need more room than the typical small bird cage offers. Your bird will be spending most of his life in that cage.

4. Decide if you want more than one bird.

5. Research which toys are suitable for the type of bird you are getting.

6. Outfit your bird cage with more than one food and water cup.

7. Provide various size natural branch perches for your bird. They should not be limited to the standard wooden dowel perches. They need various sizes to ease their feet. Also include more than one ladder for the bird to climb on.

8. Get a good book about bird care so that you can recognize any illnesses.

9. If you have other pets, consider their impact on your bird and the bird’s safety.

10. Decide on the location of the bird cage before you get your bird. It should not be isolated or in too busy an area. Have an alternate location if the bird does not adjust to the original location.

With planning and care you can have a wonderful parrot for a pet. Even the smallest bird, such as a budgie can live for 15 years. I keep my budgies in my office and enjoy listening to them sing to music. It is fun to see which type of music they enjoy the most. Parrots are lots of fun.

Indoor/outdoor cats and wildlife

Researchers studied 935 indoor/outdoor cats to determine how their hunting habits impacted local wildlife. They found that the cat’s hunting range was small, but the impact on the wildlife in their range was two to ten time more than wild predators. This is because their hunting was limited to their own property or into neighbor’s yards. It was also interesting to note that cats do more damage to wildlife in areas that have been disturbed by housing developments.

Sue’s Note: Many people think that cats need to roam outside. This is not true. Cats can be 100% happy and satisfied as a house cat if their needs are met. Different breeds of cats have different activity levels. Since many domestic short and long-haired cats have questionable parentage, their needs may have to be determined by how the cat acts. If a cat owner feels that their cat needs to go outside, there are products on the market that can confine a cat safely outdoors or in a cat designed window box. Keep in mind a cat that is allowed to roam outside freely becomes prey for other animals such as foxes, coyotes, wolves and free roaming dogs as well as other cats. If the cat is small enough, it may be snatched by birds of prey as well. Cats that eat or come in contact with wildlife are exposed to various parasites as well. For the benefit of local wildlife and for your cat’s well-being, it is better to keep them indoors or have safe access to the outdoors. Google outdoor cat enclosures to see the many products available.

Managing aggressive behavior in dogs

Dr. Emma Williams, from the School of Psychological Science at the University of Bristol has conducted a study about managing aggressive dog behavior. According to her research, aggression in dogs is a worldwide problem.

She found that animal behaviorists need to focus on helping dog owners feel confident that the rehabilitation program prescribed will work. Behaviorists must also ensure that the dog owner is capable of initiating and following through with the program. Behaviorists should not only focus on the behavior of the dogs, but also the behavior of the owner when developing a rehabilitation program. They found that when a dog acts badly toward a person or another dog, the dog’s owner may react with extreme negative feelings.

What they also found was that positive reinforcement-based behavior modification techniques were very effective in rehabilitating aggressive dogs while punishment-based methods were detrimental for the dog and led to increased aggression.       

Sue’s note: At the first sign of aggression, even in a puppy, the dog owner must consult with a certified canine behavior consultant. Too often dog owners feel that the dog will out-grow the aggression when in reality it always gets worse if not addressed immediately.

Raw meat diet in dogs associated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria

No matter what age the dog is, eating a raw meat diet causes them to pass antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli (E.coli) in their feces which can be transmitted to humans.

Researchers from the University of Bristol conducted an in-depth study of 823 dogs of all ages.

They found that dogs who lived in the country had a strong risk factor in passing antibiotic resistant E.coli but dogs who live in the city had more complicated risk factors that may be linked to the variety of lifestyles and exposure to other dogs.

E. coli is found in the intestines of both humans and animals and is a common cause of various diseases including urinary tract infection and can cause sepsis in other parts of the body.

The bottom line is that feeding raw meat to dogs is not safe for both the dog and humans. If a dog owner insists on feeding raw meat to their dog, they must be very careful of infection.

Finding a lost dog

Losing a dog can be devastating. A person’s first reaction is usually fear, confusion and panic. However, with a good plan in place, looking for a lost dog can be less stressful and more successful. There are a few simple points to consider when looking for a lost dog. However, prevention is the key ingredient. The most important thing you can do is have your dog microchipped and have a collar on your dog with his name tag that includes a way to contact you. If someone in your area finds your dog, they will not have a microchip reader and will rely on a name tag.

1) If you organize a group of people to look for the dog, use all safety precautions so that the volunteers do not become lost as well. Stay in touch using cell phones or handheld radios. The radios can be purchased for a nominal fee at any store that sells outdoor equipment. Radios will work in areas that cell phones may not, however, they have a limited range so be sure that a chain of people can relay messages over distance. Also, establish radio protocol so that one person does not tie up the frequency preventing communication with others. Communication is essential to let the other volunteers know what is going on, if the search is being suspended, or the dog has been found. Because people feel safer and calmer if they know what is going on, this will allow the volunteers to do a better job.

Be sure that volunteers wear the appropriate clothing, (long pants and long sleeves), hats, and substantial footwear. Each volunteer must carry a snack, water, leash, bath towel, bowl, enough water for themselves and the dog, canned cat food or treats and a flashlight. Flashlights are necessary during the day to check dark places.

The canned cat food should have the strongest aroma, (or a similar treat) to lure the dog. Small cans of cat food work well because they can be carried easily and kept fresh.

A bath towel can be used to carry the dog if he is injured, exhausted or to wipe the dog if he is wet or dirty. If the dog is cold, he can be wrapped in the towel.

Volunteers must always work in pairs for their own safety, and in the event two people are needed when the dog is found. A meeting area and time should be established in case communications break down. No one should leave the meeting area until all are accounted for.

2) A dog that ran away because he is frightened will bolt in any direction, but usually to the least noisy, darkest area. Given the choice of an open field or woods, the dog will go for the woods. If the dog is lost in the city or suburbs, the dog will look for a dark, quite spot to hide after it has run to exhaustion.

Therefore, try to estimate how far the dog will run (this varies with the dog’s size and condition) and add a mile to that. On a map of the area mark where you last saw the dog as the center of a circle and draw a perimeter around that point, based on the furthest point where the dog could be. The circle will encompass the area to start looking for the dog. If you saw the dog run, you can focus in that direction. Be sure to check small dark areas: under porches, stairs, garages, sheds, etc. If you have several people helping to look, have some start at the perimeter of the circle and some from the center. Be sure to look for the dog, never assume that the dog will come when called.

3) If a dog runs away, they usually run into the wind. That means that the wind will be blowing toward the dog, into the dog’s face. Check with a local airport to see what the wind direction was when the dog ran away. Then start looking into the wind from the point where the dog was last seen.  Often the wind will usually blow in the same direction in a given area. Check each day to see which way the wind blows.

Dogs who wander away will usually meander along unless they find something to chase or something that interests them. This means that the search area will be smaller. If searching in the woods or a park, look for a game trail and look for fresh dog tracks to see if the dog went that way. If you do find tracks, you will not be able to tell for certain if they are from your dog, so do not give up searching in the rest of the area. If you are searching in an urban or suburban area, listen carefully if neighborhood dogs are barking. Often, they will bark at a stray dog. If you hear a lot of barking in one direction, check that area first.

4) When searching for a dog, travel slowly and make frequent five to ten-minute-long stops. Many people will drive around in a vehicle, calling to the dog. Unless the dog is within a few seconds of your location, he will not be able to find you if you move too quickly. Keep in mind that a dog can hear you calling from quite a distance away. They need time to determine the direction of the sound and then get to it. Wind and other environmental elements can distort the direction of sound (tall buildings, large hills, etc.) making it difficult for the dog to find the source of the sound. By stopping and continuing to call for about five to ten minutes, the dog will have time to find you.

5) When you sight the dog, do not act excited and/or run toward the dog. Sit down or stand still and let the dog approach you, even if it is your dog. Sometimes a dog can become so frightened, hurt, or weary that they may not think straight. Their survival instincts may take over, making them more cautious than they would be at home. Depending upon the direction of the wind, you could be downwind, and the dog may not recognize you right away.

Give the dog time to feel safe. Running to the dog may make him run away from you and lose what little trust in humans that he has left. If you feel it will work, you can, at a distance, slowly move so that you are upwind of the dog, and then open the can of cat food, but still let the dog come to you. When the dog comes to you do not try to grab the dog. Let the dog stay there and relax. Slowly pet the dog until you can attach a leash without frightening the dog. If the dog does not want to be caught, you will most likely not be able to grab the dog fast enough to catch him, even if he is next to you.

6) If the dog does not approach you, do not give up. Stay in that area and/or return to that area. You can leave food etc. but do not try to catch the dog.

7) If you leave food for the dog, do not assume that because the food was eaten that it was eaten by the dog. Other animals may eat the food, so continue to search the area. If you can, spread sand around any food that you leave so that you can check for footprints to determine if a dog ate the food. If sand is not available, loose soil will work as well.

8) If you have to search for the dog over a period of time, keep a log of the weather and the location of water sources. The dog will generally head into the wind and seek water.

9) Never forget to advertise. Use every means possible to let the people in the area know that there is a lost dog. Contact all veterinarian clinics, shelters, pet supply stores, and rescue groups. Also post signs in stores with bulletin boards, on telephone poles, especially where children congregate, by public transportation and any other place that you can think of. Be sure to post on social media. If your dog is not found right away, about every two weeks call everyone you notified, such as the local rescue groups, to let them know that the dog is still missing. This will keep your dog fresh in the minds of the employees.

Always have an up-to-date photo of your dog. If the dog is a breed that looks like others in the breed, a similar picture will do. Remember, the average pet lover will not notice the fine differences between your dog and others of the same breed. So do not panic if you do not have a recent photo. Be sure to expand the area that you advertise to at least five miles from the point where you last saw your dog.

Keep all your bulletins up to date. If the lost signs that you post look old or weathered people will think the dog was found. When you find your dog, it is important to call all the organizations that you originally notified to let them know that the dog was found. Also remove all your postings.

10) Lastly, never give up. Dogs have been found months after they disappear.

Knee injuries in dogs

Dogs who compete in agility and flyball and lack core strength have a higher rate of cranial cruciate ligament rupture which is similar to ACL in people.

According to Dr. Deb Sellon, a Washington State University veterinarian, some types of exercises and the size and shape of the dog increase the risk of knee damage. The exercises that increased the risk were short walks, runs over hilly or flat terrain, even if done on a weekly basis. The exercises that seem to help build core strength are balance exercises, and wobble boards. Dogs that competed frequently in agility at a higher level (more technically rigorous courses) built more core strength.

good core strength for SAR training

Regular exercise such as swimming, playing fetch or frisbee, walking or running didn’t increase or decrease the risk of injury.

It seems that Labrador Retrievers, Rottweilers and Australian Cattle dogs were high risk breeds. The researchers also felt that having or not having a tail could be a factor.

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!

Household noise and stress in dogs

We all know that some dogs seem to be more stressed than other dogs. Part of the reason is the genetics of the dog. Certain breeds tend to be more noise sensitive than others. But all dogs can be stressed by certain types of noise. Researchers at the University of California found that dogs are often stressed by common household noise. Particularly noises that are high frequency or very loud. Examples are smoke detectors, microwave ovens, and vacuum cleaners.

Many loud and high pitches noises actually hurt a dog’s ears. Most owners recognize obvious signs of fear or stress, such as trembling, hiding, howling, barking and running away. However, owners often miss a dog’s more subtle signs and therefore do not help their dog when stressed.  Some of the subtle signs are panting, licking their lips, turning their head away, a rigid body, ears turned back or flattened against the head, and lowering their head below their shoulders.

By watching your dog or cat carefully you can learn to recognize their relaxed body language. This will help you recognize when your pet is not relaxed.

Babs, totally relaxed

Whenever a stressful noise occurs, a concerned owner will remove the dog from the area. It is important to watch the dog’s body language to see how far away the dog needs to be to avoid being stressed.  

Cats are also stressed by noises therefore cat owners should also be aware if noise bothers their cat.

Pluskat totally relaxed

Juvenile epilepsy in Parsons Russell Terriers

When epileptic seizures caused the death in some Parsons Russell Terriers at six to twelve weeks of age, researchers delved into the cause. These puppies’ seizures were so severe that they died and medication would not help them. The researchers at the University of Helsinki found a gene disorder similar to the cause of Alzheimer’s in humans.

Riley, PRT

They developed a test that can determine if a dog carries this recessive gene. Because the gene is recessive, both the sire and dam must carry it to produce the defect in dogs. Therefore, it is essential that breeders of PRT’s have their dogs tested before they breed.