Pain in Animals

Because animals are very similar in many ways to people, they experience some of the same problems. Recently researchers at the University of Leeds have learned that chemical triggers in the nervous system can malfunction making pain much more intense in response to certain stimuli. This is similar to the way humans suffer from long-term, chronic pain such as associated with neuropathies, arthritis and migraines. The chemistry involved amplifies the electrical signal to the brain which alters the sensation of pain.

With this new discovery, researchers may be able to find a better way to control pain in both humans and animals.

Author’s Note: What comes to mind is when our pets seem to have long-term pain that does not seem to represent the level of the cause of the pain. The pain is real, but seems extreme or continues after healing.

Do you really want a dog?

There are many reasons why people decide to get a dog (or any other pet). It is important to think it through before making a decision. Although this article focuses on dogs, it applies to any type of pet.

Consider the following:

  1. Do I have the time to care for a dog? Training, housebreaking, exercise, grooming and daily interaction.
  • Can I afford the cost of the dog throughout its lifetime? Costs include purchasing or adopting the dog, food, veterinary bills, grooming, spay/neuter, boarding, possibly fencing and space for the dog.
  • Do I have time for the extra housework a dog will cause? Some breeds shed a great deal, muddy paws, accidents.
  • Is it OK to have a dog where I live and will live in the future? Does my job require frequent moves, if I rent, am I allowed to have a dog, do I travel a lot, what about vacations?
  • Are any family members willing to help care for the dog? Are there family members who would be hindered by a dog running around the house?
  • Am I willing to make the commitment to care for the dog for its lifetime? Nothing is worse than abandoning a family pet, isolating the dog or neglecting its needs. Dogs are social animals and suffer mentally the same as a person would if they are neglected.
  • Be sure you understand the type or breed of dog that you want. Not all dogs will fit into your lifestyle or home. Know what training requirements, grooming, exercise, and medical issues that are involved with that type of dog.

If you decide to add a dog to your home, it is important to be educated about where to get the dog.

  1. Animal shelters or rescue groups

These are often the first place a person will look for a dog. Keep in mind that neither of these agencies may know the history of the dog(s) that they have for adoption. A dog that is housed in a shelter or rescue group will not behave the same as when it is adopted. It takes about six months for a dog to adjust to a new home. The first six months is the “honeymoon” period and the dog’s behavior may change after six months. Also keep in mind that some people do not tell the truth about why they have given the dog up for adoption. They believe that someone else will be able to fix the dog’s behavior issues. That being said, it is possible to get an excellent pet from these agencies.

  • Friends, neighbors, newspaper ads, pet shops or the internet

These are the riskiest places to get a dog. A good, quality breeder will not allow their puppies to be sold through these venues. Most breeders have waiting lists for puppies. The above-mentioned sources are often backyard breeders or commercial breeders who have little or no knowledge about breeding quality dogs. Pet shops and newspaper/internet ads often get their dogs from puppy mills where the dogs are bred at every heat, forced to live in horrible conditions, receive no socialization or handling by people, are not tested for genetic diseases, are malnourished, are not true to the breed and are often not purebred.

That means the dog may not behave or look like it is supposed to. The latest trend are designer dogs which are cross-bred dogs. These do not adhere to any standard and there is no proof other than a DNA test to ensure that they are the mix advertised.

Some of these sources will provide AKC or other types of “papers” with the dog but papers are often forged or misrepresent the dog they are issued with. No registry organization guarantees that the dog is a quality dog or even that it is pure. Often pet shops purchase their puppies from a broker who is a middleman. The price is inflated and the poor-quality puppy may cost more than a well-bred dog from a reputable breeder. The other disadvantage of getting a dog from these sources is that the seller is in the business of making a profit, therefore they will sell a puppy to anyone without discussing the characteristics of the breed or try to match the buyer with the right type of dog.

What about papers?

         Many people think that if the dog is registered that the papers ensure that the dog is top quality. The reality is that few dogs bred by quality breeders are show quality. Some breeders only produce working lines but even then, there is no guarantee that the dog will perform as expected. Some people can falsely report the number of puppies in a litter and then give an unrelated puppy registration papers. Unfortunately, there are registries that specialize in registering puppy mill dogs and dogs that did not have papers to begin with.

These registries help breeders that cannot meet the national registry requirements or have been banned from registering dogs because they are puppy mills. Papers on a dog are only as good as the information reported to the registering body, the registering body does not check the breeder or dogs.

Puppy Mills

         Some people do not understand that puppy mills exist throughout the world. All puppy mills operate under the same basic conditions.

  1. Dogs are bred indiscriminately without regard to health, breed characteristics, temperament, and physical type for the breed. Often the puppies are not pure. Many of these dogs are inbred for many generations causing severe health issues.
  • After a lifetime be being bred every six months in horrible conditions, such as overcrowding, poor shelter, living in their own waste, lack of good food, water and veterinary care, these dogs are killed when they cannot produce puppies.
  • Many of the puppies are shipped through a broker and suffer the stress of a long trip, often in the back of a hot or freezing truck/van, and suffer physical and mental health issues as a result.

Getting a purebred puppy

         Be sure to research the breed or type of dog that you want. Understand the physical aspects of the breed, (for example some breeds drool a lot), the health issues, exercise requirements, training requirements, and grooming needs.

         Once you have narrowed down the type of dog you want, find a good quality reputable breeder. Nationally recognized registries are a good place to start. Some breeds such as the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie have their own internationally recognized registries. Each country has its nationally recognized registry such as the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club, and so on. Some states have a Federation of Dog Clubs which is another excellent source of information. (If anyone wants a free brochure that I have written about how to select the right dog and breeder please feel free to contact me for a copy).

         It would be to your advantage to hire a certified canine behavior consultant (iaabc.org) to help you evaluate a potential litter/puppy. It is true that puppies go through developmental stages, but a good behavior consultant can often pick out potential problems if any exist.

         Be wary if a breeder has multiple litters at the same time or the dogs live in a kennel and do not receive much attention. These breeders may keep their dogs in better conditions than a puppy mill, but the dogs are still neglected in a number of ways. Also avoid situations where the dogs are bred by people who put out a handmade sign advertising puppies for sale. There are religious groups who run puppy mills as a source of income.

Getting an adult dog

         Some people do not have the patience or desire to go through the first year of raising and training a puppy. The advantage of getting an older dog is that what you see is what you get for the most part. Many adult dogs are in need of a good home because of their owner’s situation, not because the dog has a major problem. Often breeders retire dogs after their show career and when they are too old to breed any longer. A good breeder may retire a bitch after two or three litters. That means that the dog is still young. A potential show dog that did not make it may also be available for adoption.

In many cases if a dog’s owner cannot keep their dog, they will return the dog to the breeder to be placed. And again, a shelter or rescue group may also have wonderful dogs for adoption. It is a great kindness to adopt a senior dog who may have been given up because the owner had to retire to a facility where they could not have the dog. This will ease the pain of separation for both the owner and the dog if the dog finds a loving home.

Contracts

         It is not unusual for a breeder or an organization to require that you sign a contract to purchase or adopt a dog. Make sure that you read the contract carefully and better yet, take it to a lawyer for review. Some commercial breeders will give you a bitch at no cost if you promise to let them breed the dog a number of times. Often the dog’s owner must pay for all of the expenses and then they cannot have a puppy from the breeding to sell to recoup the cost of birthing and raising the litter. What happens is that after the dog’s owner has met the required number of litters, they will breed the bitch themselves to make some money. At no time is the bitch evaluated to be worthy of breeding or are the puppies judged to be a good quality. It is simply a way to mass produce puppies and claim that they are “home raised.”

         Another clause in a contract may say that the breeder will withhold registration papers until the dog is either neutered or spayed. This is to ensure that non-show quality puppies are not bred. This is actually a good thing to promote the breeding of quality dogs only.

         Be careful when reading a contract and look for empty guarantees. They will look something like this: “We guarantee that this puppy (fill in the blank).” There is no statement as to what the breeder will do if the puppy does not turn out as it was guaranteed. While it sounds nice on paper, it is an empty guarantee. Or the guarantee will require that you return the dog to the breeder for another puppy. The breeder knows that most people will be too attached to their dog to give them up, therefore they get out of their guarantee. If the dog develops a severe problem, would you want another puppy from that breeder? I would hope not. The bottom line is that no breeder can honestly guarantee anything about a puppy since genetics is not that exact and the breeder has no control about how the owner has treated or taken care of the puppy/dog. The breeder can guarantee that at the time you receive the puppy it is healthy. Make sure to take the puppy to a veterinarian within days after bringing the puppy home.

         Almost all shelters and rescue groups will require an adoptive owner to sign a contract that guarantees that the puppy/dog will be neutered or spayed and often, if you cannot keep the dog, that it will be returned to the agency that adopted it to you. This is a good thing.

Training the dog

         Regardless of how old your dog or puppy is when you bring him home, you should take him for training. If you have adopted an older dog, the training may not be necessary for the dog, but it will help you and your dog bond and learn to understand each other. Everyone handles a dog differently so your dog needs to learn about you as much as you need to learn about the dog. Puppies of course, need training. The best time to start a puppy is about two weeks after you bring him home. You can start teaching a puppy basic rules until he is old enough to go to a puppy kindergarten class. Do not wait until your puppy is six months old to start training. Even if you do not formally train your dog right away, your puppy/dog will be learning anyway and often he will make up the rules to suit his own needs and desires. 

With careful thought and consideration, getting a dog can be one of the most enjoyable things in your life. It would be wise to review this article each time you want to add a pet to your household. Feel free to ask me any questions.

Grooming products for dogs and cats

H.I.C.C. Pet has some very nice grooming products for dogs and cats. We all know how difficult it is to bathe most cats but now there is an alternate way to keep a cat’s coat clean. H.I.C.C. Pets has Cat Glove Wipes specifically made for cats that are double sided. One side is used for cleaning and the other for massaging. The formula on the glove is antimicrobial and deodorizing, is safe if the cat licks it and dries quickly. For dogs or cats that have hot spots or have wounds that are healing, H.I.C.C. offers a pet skin care spray that is also safe to use. They also offer a pet grooming glove that can be used on either dogs or cats. Check out their products. https://www.facebook.com/Hiccpetsupplies Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/groompetsbyhicc/

Separation anxiety in dogs

Researchers have recently determined that separation anxiety is a symptom of various frustrations rather than a diagnosis. The key symptoms of separation anxiety are: destruction of household items, urinating or defecating indoors and excessive barking.

The team of scientists from the University of Lincoln, UK found that there are four main forms of distress when dogs are separated from their owners. These include when the dog wants to get away from something in the house, or they want to get to something outside. It can also be a reaction to external noises or events as well as simple boredom.   

A combination of factors such as the dog’s temperament and the type of relationship it has with the owner will determine whether or not a dog will develop separation anxiety.

Sue’s Note: Dog owners often create separation anxiety in dogs by making dramatic arrivals and departures from their home. It helps to prevent this problem by making arrivals and departures as calm and non-specific as possible. If a dog owner notices any of the behaviors listed above, do not wait to engage the help of a certified canine behavior consultant. The longer the behavior is allowed to continue the harder it will be to cure. Cats can also suffer from separation anxiety. To find a qualified behavior consultant go to iaabc.org

Because of the unique combination of issues that contribute or cause separation anxiety, diagnosing the problem is difficult therefore a dog owner should not try to solve the problem themselves or go to a dog trainer since this is not a training issue.

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.

Cat food formula surprise

Different groups of researchers are interested in learning how much wildlife cats kill for food. With this in mind researcher Roland Kays from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences decided to study how much wildlife domestic cats kill and eat to supplement the food they are fed by their owners. What they found was very surprising as well as important for cat owners.

The researchers found that they could not determine the amount of wildlife that cats eat because they were studying elements in cat food as a comparison. The reason why this study failed is because cat food manufacturers do not use consistent types and amounts of ingredients in their food. Even foods that were the same flavor and brand were inconsistent. The researchers found that the less expensive brands had more corn products and that the cat food produced in the United Kingdom had a lower amount of corn products.

Author’s Note: This information accounts for why some cats who like a certain brand and flavor of food will suddenly refuse to eat that food. Cats have a very acute sense of smell and they can detect the change in their food. Dog food is no better and dogs can suddenly reject a food that they liked previously. Changing the formula of dog or cat food can also induce loose stools and weight changes in a dog or cat.

Working with animals can cause mental issues

It may be surprising to learn that veterinarians and people who volunteer to help animals may be at a higher risk for mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicide.

Katherine Goldberg, DVM, LMSW, community consultation and intervention specialist at Cornell Health and Founder of Whole Animal Veterinary Geriatrics and Palliative Care Services has conducted a study to determine how and why this exists. She found that people who volunteer with animals are often confronted with the results of cruelty, and while they want to help animals, they are often faced with having to euthanize healthy animals due to a shortage of homes.

Veterinarians are faced with the same circumstances as well as high college debts, lower income and clients who may question the cost of care for their pets and be suspicious that their veterinarian is trying to push services that their pet doesn’t need.     

Goldberg feels that veterinarian colleges should include courses to help veterinary students deal with the pressures of caring for animals.

Author’s Note: With the advances in veterinary care, at times it has become more difficult to determine how much intervention a pet owner should do for their pet. Like human doctors, veterinarians want to save the life of a pet and will offer all of the options available. What helps the pet owner decide is to evaluate what quality of life the pet will have after treatments. Veterinarians will help make that decision.  

DNA Study shows disease causing variants in cats

Studying the DNA of animals helps breeders produce healthier animals. A recent study conducted by Heidi Anderson from Wisdom panel in the USA and researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland found that there were 13 genetic variants in pedigree cats that are linked to diseases. This was more than researchers previously thought. The good news is that these variants are decreasing in breeds that are regularly DNA tested.

The researchers studied over 11,000 cats which included 90 pedigree breeds and breed types as well as 617 non-pedigree cats. What is interesting is that the researchers found that there was more genetic diversity in the non-pedigree cats. The non-pedigree cats had three disease associated variants found exclusively in non-pedigree cats. The bad news is that they found 13 disease associated variants in 47 breeds where none had been found previously. In the past, 40% of Persian cats were affected by PKD1, the variant that causes Polycystic Kidney Disease yet of the 118 Persians tested, none had the variant, yet it was found in Main Coon and Scottish Straights cats. Good breeding practices will continue to provide healthier pets for everyone.

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.

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.