22Mar

You love dogs, right? And you wish you could help the abandoned, sad and neglected sweeties that you see on Petfinder or in your local newspaper’s Adopt-A-Pet section, but you already have a dog. Maybe even two, and a cat or two to boot. No room at the inn, but a heart that overflows with desire to help? No problem! Perhaps you can’t adopt another shelter dog right now, but you might be able to save lives and have a truly profound impact by donating money to the shelter. Dog food costs, utilities, veterinary services, staff… shelters struggle to make ends meet and times are tougher than ever.

If you have a large pack at home and maybe even some kids, you are likely strapped for cash as well. Fund raising, of course! And if you do it right, it will become a ton of fun as well!

From Funds to Fun: A Few Ideas to Get You Started:
The tried and true ideas first
• A car wash,
• Sponsorship weekend at Barnes and Nobles or other stores willing to donate a percentage to your effort,
• Ink jet cartridge collection,
• Dog-walking day at the park,
• An eBay charity auction (get businesses to donate items to be auctioned off on eBay)
• Register with an online charity organization like iGive that allow customers to shop online at “regular” stores but collect a percentage of sales as donations

Are you ready to go deeper? Need some creative inspiration to get your local community excited and ready to support your efforts? Here are a few ideas that will make you laugh, smile or say “yes! That could work for my shelter!”

Kiss a Pig/Llama/Iguana!
Find a public figure in your community who is ready to pitch in. The mayor, superintendent of schools, coach for the high school football team or police chief are all great possibilities. Think you will have difficulty nabbing one of them? They love (and depending on how close it is to election or other strategic timing) and need the positive publicity. Now find a community member who owns an unusual pet. Arrange for a public kiss, and really talk it up ahead of time: send out press releases, use social networking sites, and pull out all the stops to get some media attention. To get the most “bang for your buck,” this may work best as part of a festival or other event so that you can piggyback on the existing crowd and publicity. Arrange for the kiss if your fund-raising goal is met!

Wild, Racy and Wet!
Would a slightly racy idea go over well in your community? How about a “topless” car wash? Arrange for the traditional car wash with a twist. Have shelter staff present with adoptable dogs, just like at any other adoption day event. Here’s the twist: the dogs are topless! Dress the dogs in shorts (with holes cut out for their tails, of course) and make sure once again that press releases go out ahead of time and tons of photographs get taken for follow up press.

Caged for the Critters
“Caged for the critters” events have been very successful in many locations around the US. The Shelter Director and/or the President of the Board are placed in dog crates out in the local McDonalds parking lot or equally large location that gets lots of car and foot traffic, with the promise that they will be let out when the fund-raising goal is reached. This is another event that would do well if a festival style day were organized, so that foot traffic and publicity could be shared among events. This would be a fun effort to pair with the Kiss a Pig event!

Going, Going, Gone!
Upscaling things a bit, how about an art exhibit and auction? The catch: all the “artists” are shelter dogs, and the artworks are all paintings made by pawprints. Be sure to check that the paints are non-toxic, and enlist the help of children with the paw-painting part. Use standard size pre-stretched canvases and try hard to have a local store or a “big box” crafts emporium donate frames. Once you have your artwork, create an event: classical music, elegant hors d’oeuvres, and minimum opening bids will help your event be a success!

Bring Your Dog to Work Day
If handled properly, this could be great fun and raise a nice chunk of cash. Of course you will need to get the boss’s and possibly Human Resources’ permission first. But the idea here is to bring your dog to work and let people know they too can adopt an equally adorable and loving dog or sponsor a dog who has yet to be adopted. To garner the most attention ahead of time, see if you can send all staff members an email announcing your plans. Then hold an “all staff meeting” somewhere on the company grounds and parade your best friend around and let people know what you are doing. Hey, you never know. You may be able to get your company’s CEO/president and other staff members to participate.

What is the bottom line? Talk it up, write your press releases, do your homework about your community and what might get folks to leave their house and open their wallets. At minimum you will help your canine community members by raising not only cash but awareness and you never know, you may end up having a blast doing so!

10Feb

Found as strays or turned in by owners, rescued by law enforcement or animal control officers, shelters are full to the brim with dogs. Big dogs, small dogs, older dogs and puppies of every imaginable breed or mix – they are there. According to most sources of statistics regarding shelter adoptions, 50 to 60% of all dogs that land in a shelter are euthanized. And as you might expect, smaller dogs and younger dogs or puppies are preferred and more likely to be adopted. But what about disabled, ill or special needs dogs?

Dogs that are blind or deaf, three-legged or in wheelchairs (yes, wheelchairs for dogs!), or diagnosed with chronic illness can be more than most families want to take on. Left in shelters or dog pounds, they can also become even more ill due to confinement or depression. The pound can be a tough place even for robust healthy dogs, despite the best care overburdened shelter staff and volunteers can offer.

That’s where special needs rescue organizations come in. There are a number of these rescue groups around the United States, working with volunteers coast to coast. Some groups specialize in one particular disability, such as Blind Dog Rescue, which obviously works with rescuing and rehoming blind dogs. Other groups are more general and will work with any number of illnesses or disabilities. One group specializes in hospice care for elderly and terminally ill dogs.

How Does it Work?
Anyone who has ever owned a dog knows that a sick dog is a sad story. Unfortunately one chapter in this tale is that of finances and veterinary bills. Diagnostics, treatments, medications, x-rays… all these services add up quickly and for many owners may even contribute to the dog being left at the shelter. More and more owner turn-ins cite inability to afford the pet as the reason for giving it up.

Many of the special needs rescue group link volunteer sponsors with foster or forever homes. People in a financial position to donate sponsor a dog or dogs, and are identified on the rescue organization’s website as the sponsor of the specific dog. People often sponsor in memory of a beloved pet who may have gone to the Rainbow Bridge or perhaps had the same ailment. These sponsors help defray the costs of removing animals from the shelter and placing them in volunteer homes.

Is This the Right Pet for Me?
For some pet owners, the notion of providing a comfortable and safe “final refuge” for an elderly or ill dog sounds perfect. For others it sounds perfectly awful! If your interest is piqued, how would you know whether or not you are the right match for such a dog?

• You need to be around. Do you work from home? Ok. Are you retired? Even better. Often these dogs don’t do well alone for long periods of time, and may need frequent bathroom breaks.
• No young kids in the house, and no other young and rambunctious pets in the home. A quieter, mellower household would be a better match.
• Messes, bodily fluids, and “clinical” care, such as learning how to provide certain treatments or administer medications don’t bother you. Some clean ups should be expected from time to time, even under the best of circumstances.
• Is everyone in your home (spouse, older kids, housemates) on board with the idea? It is a big commitment and responsibility, and may be a very emotional experience. It’s only fair to all involved that everyone in the household is aware and engaged.
• Infrastructure: is your home friendly to a frail or weak dog? Do you have lots of stairs or lots of clutter? Polished wood or tile floors? Do a walk through with your special needs dog in mind. If you are wincing and cringing by the time you’re finished, you have your answer!

All that said, providing love and care to an animal with special needs can be one of the most powerfully rewarding experiences a dog owner can have.

23Jan

One of the most delightful things about having a cat is the way he or she has of surprising us with demonstrations of intelligent behavior. This is not to suggest we are surprised by their intelligence. Far from it – rather, it is their specific demonstrations of intelligent behavior that open our eyes.

One of the strongest indicators of intelligence in any animal – two-legged as well as four – is the possession of a personality. If you think about it, you realize that personality would not be possible unless there were a range of possible reactions to various stimuli by individual members of an animal species. A reptile or amphibian, for example, will react to external provocations in predictable and entirely species-specific ways, with no diversity based on individual identity because they lack any intelligence beyond simple instinct. And the range of personalities in mammals or birds cannot be explained by environmental differences, because even pets who come to maturity and live out their days in the same households will have completely unique personalities, as any experienced pet owner can tell you.

Cats have personalities that are as diverse as can be found anywhere in the animal kingdom. What is really interesting about cats, however, is that their intelligence and their personalities are each a reflection of the other – intelligence makes personality possible, and personality then becomes a vehicle through which intelligence is manifested. The curious cat, for example, will teach himself how to open doors or cabinets with his paws. The outdoorsy cat, on the other hand, will teach himself how to open a screen door with his paws or body so he can escape into the backyard. The cleverness of the individual cat is directly connected to his own unique personalized desires, and this is why they are able to surprise us with the things they do. What we are watching at those moments is our cat’s individualized intelligence and distinct personality both unveiling themselves at the same time, doubling our sense of excitement at the new things we discover about our beloved feline companions.

The intelligence of cats is often compared unfavorably to that of dogs, based on greater brain size and performance on some tests that are supposedly able to measure relative brainpower. However, it must be noted that dogs are more social in their nature than cats, and a large part of the dog’s brain is connected to their social nature, which does not really have much to do with pure intelligence. Also, dogs throughout history have been selectively bred to emphasize certain characteristics or behavioral traits that are considered useful to humans. Therefore, it is perhaps not surprising that dogs might perform somewhat better on intelligence tests developed by human scientists who may share those same biases about which characteristics in animals are most important or useful to measure.

The intelligence of the cat, on the other hand, is generalized, adaptable to many different circumstances and situations. This gives the cat a flexibility that is often missing from dogs or any other animal that has been subject to extensive breeding at the hands of people. Most likely, cats would never have stood for such treatment, and would have abandoned humanity and returned to the wild long ago if such a thing had been attempted. But because the cat has maintained her generalized, personality-specific style of intelligence, the cat has more ability to surprise us with her individual behavior than any other animal that we keep close to us. So in the end, if you want to know how smart cats are, the only real way to find out is to go to someone who lives with one and ask him or her. No one knows more about the intelligence of cats than those who live with them; because only they can explain the specific circumstances in which that intelligence reveals itself, through each and every individual feline personality.

21Dec

Cats are marvelous creatures, aren’t they? Aloof, lovable, regal, haughty, adorable, graceful, funny and then some. Truly, cats, like humans (and you must bear in mind that cats aren’t human, and can’t be treated as such, even if you ‘do’ consider them part of the family), are highly varied in their personalities. Some have a marvelous sense of humor, others are grumpy and spiteful. Still others seem a perpetual kitten, even when they’re showing their age at 16.

Similar to dog breeds, where you live can play a big part in how and where your cat lives. Outdoor cats tend to lead rather different lives from indoor cats, requiring different strategies for their care and happiness. A busy urban environment, such as a Manhattan walk up, differs greatly from say, a mountain farm on a few acres, where your nearest neighbor may be miles away, and traffic is naught but a rare sight. No environment is without its potential dangerous, and although kitty really wants to go outside, sometimes you must set the limit to keep him or her safe. However, if you do live on a farm or in the country, kitty can run around with relative safety from predators and cars. You still want to follow some steps first.

Cat On A Hot Tin Roof
That’s not to say that your outdoor kitty will suffer the tribulations of Magaret (Maggie the Cat) from the Tennessee Williams play. But if you are planning to keep, or already do keep your kitty outdoors, here are some things to keep in mind.

• If kitty hasn’t been spayed or neutered yet, make sure you get this done. It will cut down on your cat wandering around in search of Amore!
• Make sure your pet has all his or her shots and vaccinations. This won’t prevent injury, but should it get into a fight or become injured, it will help curb infection.
• If you live in an urban area, especially one where traffic is heavy, make sure and bring your cat indoors after dark. Also, be sure to do so when there won’t be anyone at home. In such an environment, there’s always a chance the cat could be hit by an unwary driver, and suffering until you’ve realized what has happened or returned home. To entice your feline friend to come in at night, try bribing it with a tasty tidbit, like his or her favorite treat. If you have roommates, make sure they know the rules about the cat as well. If the weather turns bad, try to bring the cat in during rain and snow storms. You don’t like being soaked to the bone, or frozen and we’re pretty sure the cat doesn’t either.
• For the love of all that is sacred, do not declaw your cat. Some owners erroneously go this route to keep their cat from shredding things in the house. Not only is this cruel and unusual punishment to kitty (you try walking around with the tops of your toes cut off), but if he is living out-of-doors, it will make it impossible to defend himself.
• Be consistant in your training, making sure the cat only comes and goes through one access point, preferrably to the backyard, or a more secure area. The average fence won’t stop a cat for long, but provides a modicum of safety – certainly more than he would have in the front yard and potentially the street.
• If you live in a rural area, such as the aforementioned farm, it can arguably be safer to have your cats roam free (barring natural predators that are bigger than they). Cats can be marvelous mousers so don’t be surprised to see ‘love notes’ at your doorstep each morning.
• If you do live in an urban area, or at least an area that poses a greater danger to your cat, you would do well to consider installing a cat door so your friend can come and go as he or she pleases, but also an enclosure. You can easily make one from wood and chicken wire. This lets kitty see, smell and hear all that he or she might want to, while keeping her safe from predators or careless humans. Don’t forget to put toys in the enclosure, or make your kitty her own outdoor cat tree on which to climb or to curl up for a nap. This allows you to keep things interesting.

Ultimately, how and where you keep your cat depends on your environment and your willingness to let the furry beastie out of your sight. With a little common sense, forethought and a modicum of effort on your part, you can indulge his love of outdoors and ensure his or her safety.

30Nov

With winter coming in and temperatures dropping over much of the continent and beyond, electric heaters and wood burning stoves are turned on and the heat is raised. However easy it is to make your home cozy, you have to be sure that you are practicing good safety measures, not just for yourself and your family, but also for your dog’s sake.

Baseboard electric heaters are long, running along your baseboards. They are dangerous appliances if used incorrectly and around pets. They can cause injury and even death if not handled properly. However, it is easy to mitigate much of the chance of injury in your pet, so exercise proper caution and follow these tips and you’ll be able to snuggle up this winter.

The Dangers of Both Electric Heaters and Wood Burning Stoves Pose for Dogs
Many of the dangers of electric heaters for dogs are the same as the dangers for children. Electric heaters can get very warm on the outside and cause burns if a puppy nose gets too close or an inquisitive paw touches it. Older electric heaters can have exposed wires, which some dogs consider great chew toys – until the dog is electrocuted, taking your electric heater with them! Finally, although very rarely, a dog can become trapped in an electric heater, leading to burning, injury and even death –although, thankfully, this is extremely rare of course.

In the case of wood burning stoves, also known as Vermont stoves, part of what allows them to heat the entire house is that they are constructed entirely from heat insulating metal. Surface temperatures can reach in upwards of 300° F. Adult dogs generally sense the heat with their whiskers and know to avoid it, but a puppy isn’t as clued in to the world around him yet. Something this large and odd looking is just the sort of thing Jeffrey would love to sniff, touch and challenge to a wrestling match. The results, you can imagine are disastrous!

Mitigating the Dangers
There are several ways of making sure that your dog is safe this winter, no matter how inquisitive or even um, sweet but lacking brain cells he or she might be about the whole thing! First of all, make sure that whatever heater you are using, it is clean. In the case of baseboard heaters, it is important to ensure that filters are changed, and everything is ready to be used before the first cold day, not after. This way, your electric heater will not only run safer, but also more efficiently, saving you money on your utility bills.

Next, make sure that all of your access panels are closed and that there are no wires hanging out. Wires can prove irresistible and then very damaging or even fatal to dogs (and cats too), so by locking them up, you get rid of the temptation and the problem. This also helps your electric heater as well; exposed wires are more easily damaged by the elements.

Wood burning stoves should be checked annually. Your manual will explain what to look for to ensure it is running properly. It is important to clean the waste tray of fallen ashes regularly. This is just the sort of play toy whose contents Jeffrey would love to spray all over the house.

In the case of both baseboard electric heaters and Vermont stoves there are very easy ways to end Jeffrey’s curiosity before it starts.

On a day when it is warm and you don’t have your heat source turned on, bring Jeffrey to it, whichever one it is, and as with anything else you don’t want him to touching, train him not to go near it. As he approaches it, say firmly, “No!” When he backs off, give him a treat. If he keeps moving toward it, another firm but in control, “No!” will be necessary. You may have to do this a few times. As with anything you are training him to do or not do, repetition is the key. Eventually he will get it.

Having either an electric heater or a Vermont stove is an important way to survive a cold winter and your dog will be glad for the heat as well, especially when he can curl up next to the vents! But you have to keep him safe from the possibility of harm or else you could find that your dog will be damaged or could even be killed through your own negligence. It only takes some simple steps this winter and you and your dog can enjoy being warm after a day of romping in the snow without any fear of harm.

25Oct

Everyone needs a hand now and again. And sometimes we could use a paw or a two. Yes, that’s right. We are not talking service animals suited to one person, but therapy and care dogs. The practice of using therapy dogs to comfort sick, wounded and otherwise incapacitated people began in World War II. A Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky was to become an unlikely accomplice to one Corporal William Wynne. She was purchased for $2.40 AUD ($2.32 USD), when he was stationed on New Guinea. Adjusting for inflation, the dog would have cost approximately $36.00 today. As you will learn, it turned out to be a wise investment for this young Corporal.

In addition to boosting morale and providing comfort and amusement to Wynne’s compatriots, she accompanied the Corporal on numerous missions. One such task had her stringing out telegraph cable in an exercise that would have otherwise put Wynne’s group in mortal danger. The ability to fit into smaller places than could he or his troops, she time and again proved herself invaluable.

Later on, when Wynne became ill with Yellow Fever and was hospitalized, a visiting Smoky quickly earned the love and adoration of the soldiers in Wynne’s wing of the hospital. Offering comfort to those who were wounded, severely disabled and depressed, she turned many of their spirits around. Indeed, if an animal can do this during wartime, imagine what she or he could do in a hospital.

And it is that which inspires us to this day, the therapy dog’s perseverance, intelligence and gentle demeanor. Therapy dogs are not bound to a single breed, but one thing that all of them have in common is their temperament. A therapy dog worth her coat must be patient, sweet mannered, confident, gentle and must maintain a mellow disposition in the face of all manner of distractions and goings-on.

It is very important that they enjoy the company of people. Everyone loves to pet and handle a therapy dog. Hospitals are some of the most depressing and dismal places one can have the misfortune to stay and a therapy dog helps to lift the veil, if however briefly and let a little ray of hope shine through.

There is an important distinction between service/assistance and therapy dogs. Service dogs directly assist their human owners in day-to-day activities, from getting around town to taking out the trash. They are legally protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Service dogs are allowed to go into any building or vehicle that their owner may. Conversely, therapy dogs do not enjoy such protections and may be refused access based on their status. Additionally, they work with many people in their work, not just one. Service animals tend to work with one person only and then after a certain age, are retired, after which they become pets. One thing that both types of dogs have in common besides the breeds commonly utilized is their rigorous and highly detailed training regimen. Both classes of dog must undergo general and highly specific training in order to be certified to do certain tasks.

One task at which therapy dogs excel hearkens back to the Terrier, Smoky. Therapy dogs of every hue and shape are a common sight in children’s hospitals and hospice wards for the elderly. Their loving, patient manner coupled with their playfulness brightens the lives of young and old alike, provided some much needed respite and enjoyment, to let them forget, if only for a moment, their pain and unhappiness. Therapy dogs truly are one of the greatest things; a masterful blending of fun and compassion which has the universal power to give hope where there was none, bring a smile to a face where before there was only sorrow and instill peace where before there was only chaos. Ironically, they have also been known to mediate between squabbling family members where nurses and doctors proved unsuccessful.

Put him or her in a Superhero costume and cape; they deserve nothing less.

27Sep

Often confused with a black St. Bernard, which they are not, Newfoundlands, or Newfies, are extra large, massive behemoths of canines that are coincidently in the habit of saving lives on a regular basis. So, you say, a St. Bernard. Only if a St. Bernard has webbed feet and swims like Neptune himself. Newfies are insanely strong for a dog breed, able to pull over 2000 pounds (that’s a full ton), rescue grown men who fall overboard during storms, and break through feet of ice to grab a drowning child in hypothermia-inducing waters and never once puncture the skin with his great maw. Yes, these are impressive and amazing dogs, and they commit impressive and amazing acts because the instinct has been bred into them.

Newfies originated in Newfoundland, Canada, where they were used by fisherman to really be an extra pair of hands, or paws, and go where men could not. They would take out fishing nets and bring them back in, heavy with fish; they were the rescuer when someone fell overboard; they were the Clydesdale-like power that pulled huge sleds laden with mail or equipment; they were used to pull lumber and, during World War 1, they pulled supplies and munitions in blizzard conditions through Alaska and the Aleutians.

Their greatest exploits, however, are when they save the lives of drowning and shipwreck victims. There are many tales of their bravery and power, like the one that awarded a Newfie a medal: in 1919, a stalwart Newfoundland dog pulled a lifeboat brimming with 20 people to safety, by clamping his powerful jaws onto the lead line and paddling them to shore. An unnamed Newfie is credited for saving Napoleon Bonaparte’s life when he was knocked overboard from rough seas. Storm, hail, sleet, or rain, nothing stops this titanic fur ball from doing his job. And that whole ‘looks like a black St. Bernard thing’? Well, it’s actually the other way around. After an epidemic of distemper nearly obliterated the St. Bernard population in the Switzerland, the hospice monks sent away for Newfies, who resembled them, to rebuild the stock. The modern Labrador Retriever is also descended from the Newfie.

Appearance
With an oily and thick double overcoat to keep him dry when he’s in water, the Newfoundland also has fully webbed feet, which help him displace large amounts of water when he swims. Males can weigh in at 130-160 pounds, and females at 100-120 pounds. They grow anywhere around 22-28 inches at the shoulder. Monster-sized bones offer him mass and weight, while his heavy musculature allows him to charge through rough tides and currents. A barrel-chest cradles the gigantic lung capacity allowing him to stay in water for extended periods of time, which he very much likes to do. Newfies sport loose jowls, which do cause him to slobber a lot, but they make sure he can easily breathe through the water when carrying something in his mouth, too. The Newfoundland dog does not doggy paddle as most other breeds; instead he uses a modified breast stroke, where his paws push out and down in a controlled and effortless manner.

Known Health Issues
Newfies are susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, which are malformed hip and elbow joints or sockets that may eventually cause extreme arthritis and even lameness. They are also prone to cystinuria, an hereditary illness that causes calculi stone to form in the bladder, which can lead to blockage. Subvalvular aortic stenosis, another genetic disorder, is a rather common defect that affects the heart valves, and can force sudden death at a young age.

Temperament
The Newfie is a gentle giant with a sweet disposition, very kind, patient, benevolent, and loyal. He is also a brave beast, exceptionally good with small children, and makes a fine watchdog. As all dogs, he needs to be socialized and trained young, but his personality is such that he is easy to train. They are slower than most dogs in movement due to their great size, but he isn’t lazy. In fact, he needs a good deal of exercise to keep his massive frame limber and well worked. Newfies are intelligent, generous, calm, and trustworthy. They shed copious amounts, however, and need to have their undercoat fully brushed out twice a year. The undercoat refuse is literally the size of the dog. Again, they slobber, and they need their human contact. They are a poor choice for an apartment, and their titanic size makes them unsuitable for many small houses, too. To be fair to the dog, one would need a large home, preferably with access to a swimming area, and a big back yard. Owners would also need to be prepared for lost of drool and grooming. Given these things, though, a Newfoundland will be an excellent, safe addition to the family and he’ll keep you safe, in return.

23Aug

Malignant Melanoma is a very dangerous form of skin cancer and it’s one that cats can contract under myriad circumstances, many of which you have a great deal of control over. Malignant Melanoma in cats is rare because there’s not much skin exposed to the sunlight or anything else that causes the problem. However Malignant Melanoma can be found in the ears or in the eyelids where the skin of even the furriest cats is exposed. Cats with this form of skin cancer have tiny black bumps on the skin where the cancer is set to spread from.

Although Malignant Melanoma can be both benign and malignant, in cats, it tends towards malignancy, so it’s very important to have it diagnosed and taken care of as quickly as possible. Malignant Melanoma will spread very quickly through the body of a cat and will kill it if it’s not taken care of in a swift and decisive manner. Although Malignant Melanoma is rare in cats, there are some instances where it’s more common. For example, Malignant Melanoma is more common in cats of middle age (six to fourteen years of age). If you have a white cat, there is an increased chance of your pet contracting Malignant Melanoma.

There is a very simple reason why white cats have a higher chance of contracting Malignant Melanoma; they reflect the sunlight and leave the skin exposed to the UV rays that cause the cancer. This does not mean that you should stay away from white cats altogether, but you should be careful about letting your cat outside in bright sunlight and make sure to check up on vulnerable areas periodically. However, any cat can find themselves struck down with this disease, so don’t think that if you adopt a black cat, you’ll never have to worry about it again.

Malignant Melanoma in cats has to first be diagnosed as either malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous). This is best done by taking your cat to the vet; only a vet will be able to correctly diagnose the problem. You can self diagnose up to a certain point: if your cat has a skin lump, bleeding sores, bleeding ulcers, loss of fur, and itchiness and redness, these may all be signs of cancer. However, since these are the symptoms of many skin problems, you’ll need to talk to a vet and order blood work or a biopsy done to confirm the presence of cancerous cells.

Malignant Melanoma is most commonly seen as a skin cancer, but it can also be found as a kind of optic cancer in older cats. It can be seen as a change in eye color and redness in the eye.

Malignant Melanoma in any cat is serious, regardless which form it takes; it can spread very quickly and can be fatal if not dealt with quickly. Although it’s rare, in some cats it’s more common, especially in white cats who don’t even have much in the way of fur to protect them. By this token, hairless cats are also more susceptible to this disease, given that they lack the second and third layers of fur that the majority of cats are born with. An advantage to having a hairless cat, such as a Devon or Cornish Rex, you’ll be able to see the skin problem a little faster, than in those with lots of fur.

If your cat is diagnosed with Malignant Melanoma, then there are some treatment options available to you. Surgery is the most common one; your cat will have the tumor or tumors removed surgically. Some people have opted to treat cancer, both in humans and animals, homeopathically. This is, as you can imagine, quite controversial and although an option, it’s best to do your research first to determine its efficacy. Something as serious as cancer deserves an educated and well-informed decision.

Remember, as with anything, it can’t be stressed enough that if you suspect any abnormality with you furry friend, having your vet look at it, if only to reassure you that all is well, is recommended.

31Jul

We always try and make sure our furry friends stay safe, whether or not they stay predominantly out of doors or not. For those who do live outside or who go in and out frequently, we have to be extra cautious – motorists, and unforeseen hazards can put an end to your gorgeous boy’s life but quick. The risk is increased if you live an area where wild animals are prevalent, such as coyotes. What can happen to Dante and how can you protect him?

In the 1800s, Louis Pasteur became famous for inoculating the first human patient against the rabies virus. (A contemporary, one Emile Roux actually came up with the vaccine). While the rabies virus has been all but eliminated in pets and wild animals within the United States, owing to strong vaccination programs and coordinated animal control action, there still does exist a chance that your boy could pick it up, the chances are slight, but they still exist. Rabies is slow to progress, yet virulent once it gets going, so if you hope to keep your dogs safe from getting it, you’ll have to act swiftly. Before we clear up the details on ‘how’ to safeguard your furry friend, let’s find out how the disease is transmitted and just what happens.

Rabies transmission almost always comes about through the bite of an infected animal, be they skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, opossums, and bats are the likeliest culprits. Outside of a host body, the virus can’t survive for very long, and typically only remains viable for 24 hours in the corpse of a former host. There are a series of symptoms that your dog may go through if he contracts it – not every animal goes through every phase. Given that the disease is slow progressing, it may be some little time before you notice a change in your pet’s behavior. A rule of thumb for incubation limits is this: three to eight weeks for dogs and two to six weeks for cats. (Human gestation of the virus is roughly the same length as for dogs). The phases of the disease are:

Prodromal phase
Lasting about two to three days in dogs, apprehension, nervousness and a desire for solitude are the norm, as well as a possible fever. Your dogs may even do a 180° turn on their personality – if they’re friendly, they may become shy or irritable. If they’re aggressive, they may become affectionate or docile. Many animals also lick the site of the wound in a rather obsessive manner.
Furious phase
After the prodromal phase, dogs (and cats both) are at risk for the furious phase. They become restless, angry and hypersensitive to sights and sounds. Viciousness is also commonplace, as are seizures (during which your pet may or may not die). Hallucinations are also one symptom that doctors believe occurs in this stage.
Paralytic phase
Assuming your boy survives the furious phase, two to four days after the first symptoms present, the paralytic stage is next. As rabies affects the central nervous system, the third phase targets nerves in the head, neck and face, causing excessive salvation or drooling. As the virus attacks the body, it also paralyzes the muscles, which govern the throat and neck. In addition to causing great thirst and intense pain when the pet attempts to swallow, hydrophobia is also common. This is usually the last phase, as the body shuts down; the dog will suffer respiratory failure and die a rather agonizing death.
Treatment
Vaccinations are always the best policy when it comes to rabies. While there is no cure for pets and humans alike if it isn’t caught early, timely action when you even suspect an infection may save your boy’s life. Your vet will administer several shots in order to kill the fledgling virus. The difference in treatment options is this: Injections administered after an exposure are composed of both the vaccine itself and a single dose of rabies immunity antibodies. Conversely, vaccination prior to exposure only means three doses of vaccine and no immunity antibodies are necessary.

Now that we’ve discussed the harrowing trial that is rabies, let’s talk about how you can prevent Dante from getting it in the first place. If he is an outside dog, make sure that he has his vaccines annually, and that his enclosure is sturdy and well protected. Don’t let him roam around (or off) the property, and keep a sharp look out for any wild animals that he may come in contact with. If you see any, don’t try to handle them yourself, call animal control – it’s their job to deal with such things. Any animal you may see might not be infected, but they’re still wild, and still dangerous.

29Jun

Although this might be mistaken for a joke, one that ends up with you in the hospital or at minimum, with scratches up and down your arms, this is actually meant to be a helpful guide to medicate your cat.

If you currently are “owned” by a cat, you know that unless you got “Rocky” as a baby – meaning under 3 months when he learned socialization, you already know that unlike dogs, he dislikes being handled, loathes being bathed and the thought of being force fed anything, whether in dropper or pill form is enough to make the claws come out. If you own a dog as well, you know all you need do is wrap the pill in peanut butter and watch him chow down.

Rest assured, you will be able to rid him of whatever ailment is plaguing the poor thing. At this juncture, it’s appropriate to point out that if you live through this experience, it is going to be comical.

This technique is best achieved with two people. Assuming this the first time you’re attempting this, unless you possess four arms, a harness and the reflexes of a cornered cat, you may wish to enlist the aid of a friend, your spouse, a sibling or even the letter carrier.

The first thing is to make sure both your partner and you are wearing long pants and long sleeves. This minimizes the pain considerably. Next is to have all the pills or droppers lined up in a towel and ready to go. This means you’ve already crushed, measured, filled the dropper and all that’s left is the execution, um, so to speak!

Before resulting to the “towel technique” try first to win Rocky over with your charm. Without scaring him, see if you can pick Rocky up and place him on your lap facing away from you. It’s best if the one Rocky trusts the most be the one to hold him. He will hate both of you, but you a little less than the one who’s agreed to spare his life for you.

Hold Rocky’s forearms and bear down on him. A scared cat has an uncanny way of developing super human strength in these situations.

Your partner, already having the meds in her hand, will force Rocky’s mouth open using one hand – she will need the other to administer – indeed Rocky will have developed the jaws of a pit bull by this point. If it’s a pill, your partner must shove it as far into the throat as possible, not to induce gagging but if it’s resting on the tongue, your cunning Rocky will spit it out and laugh at you. If it’s a dropper, do the same.

If another dose is necessary, do encourage her to hurry, as you must surely feel you are wrestling a mountain lion. It’s advisable that you not allow Rocky the opportunity to stretch. It’s a ploy, one that will surely result in the loss of your partner’s eye or ear.

Confirm that your partner is done. Don’t assume anything. The pill may have fallen on the floor or Rocky may have spit up half the dropper. Once you let Rocky go, it will be hours before you can re-catch him, now that he’s on to you. If after all this Rocky is still talking to you and hasn’t opened up the classified section in search of a new roommate, make sure you praise him profusely and pay your partner handsomely.