Archive for September, 2009


By Dr. Jan Bellows

As animal lovers, we naturally want our pets to enjoy all of the things that we enjoy. Many of us remember giving our dog a little bit of leftover food under the table, or wanting to cook a homemade meal for the family pet. However, unlike human beings, most animals are not able to eat any food that is given to them. Few animal stomachs are as adaptive to new foods as ours are, and so there are several foods that you must avoid in order to reduce the risk of your animals getting illness.

Toxic Foods to Cats

Cats are notorious for eating some particularly disgusting things from garbage cans and dumpsters. Yet cats have a variety of very common foods that they cannot eat without risking serious illness. Below are a variety of different foods that can be toxic to your cat.

  • Onions

Perhaps one of the most well known toxic foods, onions contain a chemical known as N-propyl disulphide, which can destroy your cat’s red blood cell count. This can cause serious health problems including causing your cat to become dangerously anemic. Keep your cat away from onions, as well as garlic and other types of root vegetables that contain the chemical.

  • Chocolate

We may love chocolate, but a cat’s stomach finds it highly toxic. Cats are very prone to the toxic effects of Theobromine, which is highly present in darker chocolate, moderately present in milk chocolate, and almost non-existent in white chocolate. Still, it is best to keep your cat away from all chocolate treats.

  • Raw Potatoes and Tomatoes

Many different types of cat foods contain ripened versions of both potatoes and tomatoes, and these are perfectly acceptable for your pet’s stomach. However, the unripened (green) versions of these vegetables can cause terrible gastrointestinal problems. The main toxin is known as Glycoalkaloid Solanine, and the effects of the toxic ingredient can be fairly devastating.

  • Macadamia Nuts

The toxins in macadamia nuts are not quite well known, but they have been known to cause harm to a cat’s digestive system. While research continues to be conducted, it is best to avoid these nuts altogether for safety.

  • Raw Meats (especially pork)

Your cat may eat raw meat in the wild, but in general you will want to avoid feeding them any type of raw foods, especially mean like pork. These meats are notorious for containing high levels of bacteria that may cause significant health problems for your cat. Cooked meats tend not to share this problem, so if you are going to make your cat a meaty dish, make sure it is cooked thoroughly as if you were feeding it to your own family.

All Foods Can Be Dangerous

One thing to note is that cats require a very balanced diet in order to enjoy greater health. All human foods – regardless of toxicity – are not going to be balanced for your cat’s specific dietary needs. While you may want to make food for your cat, the reality is that your pets do not need to enjoy the safe foods you enjoy to be happy, and the cat foods that are available on the market today have been specifically designed to be the most beneficial for your cat’s specific dietary needs.

However, if you would like to make your cat a treat on rare occasion, proceed with caution, and fully research all of the foods that may be toxic to your cat. Most foods should be able to pass through your cat’s stomach unharmed, but you would not want to cause your cat illness just because you wanted your cat to enjoy a special treat.

By Doctor Jan Bellows


Like people, dogs have their own feelings of self worth. In most cases your dog will think it is the greatest animal in the world, ready to protect your family and loved by all that interact with it. But in some cases, your dog may experience signs of low self esteem. This can be due to:

  • Constant scolding for bad behavior.
  • Insufficient praise for good behavior.
  • Neglect or a lack of stimulation.
  • Limited mobility and a great deal of time in a crate.
  • Pain/injury as a result of play.
  • Failure to achieve any rank within the pack.

In some cases these cannot be avoided. For example, your dog –for its own safety and yours – needs to be on the lowest end of the hierarchy within your “pack.” It is healthier for your dog if it is last in pecking order, as a dog that believes it is higher on the food chain is far more prone to behavior problems.

That said, in most other cases your dog’s self esteem needs to be raised, otherwise serious problems can result. A dog with low self esteem may be prone to:

  • Increased stress in new situations.
  • A general lack in mobility.
  • Submissive urination.
  • Severe separation anxiety.

For your dog’s own health, as well as the status of your furniture, it is very important that your raise your dog’s self esteem when it has become overly submissive.

How to Raise Your Dog’s Self Esteem

Raising your dog’s self esteem is not only better for the health of your dog – it is more fun for you as well. The first tip for improving your dog’s feelings of self worth is by far the most important. You need to praise your dog often for any behavior that it does that you like, while attempting to ignore behaviors that you do not like.

The best way to do this is to keep a large number of treats with you at all times. Whenever your dog does anything you enjoy – even if it is simply laying down by your side and getting pet – you respond by giving your dog a treat and showering it with affection and praise. The latter part of this is important. Simply giving your dog a treat is not enough – your dog wants attention from you to know that it has done a good thing, and that praise and attention that you give it after it has performed the behavior is enough to make your dog feel much better about itself.

Similarly, while you cannot let your dog be higher in the pecking order without risking negative behaviors, you can still let your dog win a few “fights” with you until its self esteem is raised. If you play tug of war with your puppy, for example, it is okay to let your dog win on occasion. This will help your dog feel as though it has strength can handle itself.

Also, don’t forget to exercise your dog regularly. A tired dog is a more content and less emotional dog. The more time you spend outside, the more energy you burn, and the less likely your dog is to misplace its energy.

Finally, this type of low self esteem can also be the result of problems within the pack. If you are fighting constantly with other family or house members in front of your pet, the stress can cause your dog to feel scared and alone. If you have to fight, fight more quietly or away from your dog, as the angry energy that comes from these loud noises can be harmful to your dog’s sensitive emotional balance.

Loving Your Dog

The affection your dog receives from love and play is more than enough to raise its self esteem. Dogs do not respond well to punishments, but they respond extremely well to praise and affection. Let you dog know how important it is, and your dog’s self esteem is sure to rise in no time.


Unlike most other pets, cats are notorious for being able to clean themselves regularly without the need of your assistance. With bodies that can bend all of the way backward in order to lick even the most private of areas, cats can generally groom themselves on a regular basis without any assistance from you. In fact, cats not only can groom themselves on their own – it may be more beneficial for them as well.

A cat’s tongue is designed to help groom itself. As a result, it actually has many benefits for your cat’s overall health, including:

  • Removing dead skin cells gently.
  • Easily removing fallen/stuck hairs.
  • Improving your cat’s blood circulation.
  • Helping to tone your cat’s muscles.

A cat’s tongue is quite clean and designed for this purpose, which is why most cats can get along just fine on their own even if they are never groomed by their owners.

However, some grooming can be beneficial for your cats. There are areas of your cat that tend to get less attention, and if you are able to groom them correctly, your cat will be cleaner, and likely healthier as well.

Tips for Cat Grooming

Obviously it is a good idea to give your cat a light brushing and a bath now and then. Cats are not fond of water, but on rare occasion these baths can help clear away any dirty and debris that your cat may have missed. But beyond that there are a few additional tips for grooming your cats that you should use whenever you decide to clean your pet.

1)      Cleaning the Inside of Your Cat’s Ears

One of the places your cat is unable to reach is inside their own ears. Inside of their sensitive ears can be a variety of different pieces of dirt, bacteria and mites that may result in at worst health problems, and at best annoying irritations for your pet. That is why whenever you choose to groom your cat you should always check inside their ears and possibly use a cat ear cleaning solution in order to remove any particles and living things that may have built up in there over time.

2)      Make Grooming Rewarding

Another tip for the cat groomer is to make sure that the entire process of grooming is a rewarding experience. Provide your cat with a variety of tasty treats as you are grooming in order to have your cat looking forward to you handling it. Cats can be grouchy at times if you try to groom them without their permission. But when you give your cat a treat before and during the grooming process, you are able to keep your cat’s attention away from the grooming and make the entire experience extremely rewarding.

3)      Cut Your Cat’s Claws

You have no doubt watched as your cat has attempted to scratch up your furniture (or hopefully a scratching post). Often times cats will scratch items a great deal, especially if their claws grow longer. While you cannot stop scratching behavior, you can reduce the damage that your cats do to your furniture by cutting your cat’s claws regularly to make them shorter and less painful. Not only will this reduce damage, but when your cats jump on your lap you will not have any painful accidents.

Cat Grooming

Some cat owners believe that you need to be grooming your cat all the time. In general, however, your cat can keep itself clean on its own, and does not require much work on your part – especially if you are raising an indoor cat. However, on occasion you are going to want to give your cat a nice grooming in order to reduce the likelihood of skin and hair irritation. Follow these tips and gentle grooming practices, and your cat should appreciate you  for them.


One of the most popular new pets in the past few decades is the ferret. It is estimated that roughly 800,000 ferrets are kept as pets across the United States, with many of these owners purchasing two or more of the active little fur balls. With dogs and cats in seemingly every household, the ferret is a fun change of pace for families that want to experience a friendly, curious animal with a variety of uncommon behaviors.

A Common Ferret Problem

However, like any animal, ferrets are also prone to unwanted behavior. One such behavior is “nipping” – where the ferret gives you a tiny (but no less painful) bite when you come close.

Nipping is not always a sign of bad behavior. Nipping may occur when your ferret is trying to get you to play with it, or when your ferret is afraid, hungry, or trying to get your attention. Ferrets have much stronger skin than humans, so what is painful to your skin may not be a strong bite to another ferret.

Training your ferret out of this behavior takes some time and patience. Because nipping is part of a ferret’s natural instinct, it is important that you do not expect your ferret to easily pick up on your discomfort with its nipping behavior. Rather, work with your ferret gradually in order to reduce the behavior over time.

How to Stop Nipping Behavior

To stop nipping in ferrets, you need to try several different methods at once. Each method will help your ferret learn that nipping is not acceptable.

Method 1: The Dominant Method

The first method you will want to do involves showing your dominance. The second your ferret nips at your finger, yell out “No” or “Ouch” (choose one), then grab your ferret by the back of the neck and slowly but gently drag it across the floor. This is a dominant behavior, and it allows your ferret to realize that:

a)      The bite hurt.

b)      You are in charge.

This will help your ferret understand that not only is nipping painful, but it just bit a dominant member of the group, and that behavior was strongly discouraged.

Method 2: Check Your Smells

What is thought to be nipping can sometimes be curiosity and hunger. If for some reason you have a scent that you may not have had before (such as a new deodorant or laundry soap), you may have sparked something in your sensitive ferret that has it interested enough to bite. In these cases you will need to replace the scented item so that your ferret is less hungry/interested, and continue saying “no” if these problems occur.

Method 3: Give Your Ferret Attention

Like most pets, ferrets need attention to. A ferret that is ignored and not used to your handling may become frightened or angry when you finally try to interact with it, or it may be trying to get your attention. In addition, if something is wrong with your ferret, nipping may be its only way to communicate with you. In any of these instances, the more you interact with your pet, the better you will pick up on warning signs before your ferret feels like biting for attention, and the more pleased your ferret will be with your contact.

Get Your Ferret to Stop Nipping

There are several ways to get your ferret to stop nipping. Regardless of which ones you choose to use, remember that with any animal you must be firm. If you let your pet nip “sometimes” but not other times, it will not be able to tell the difference between when nipping is okay and when it is not. This will lead to confusion, and most likely the behavior will not be changed correctly.