24May

Doctor Jan Bellows.

Pets are nothing more than domesticated wild animals. Everyone knows that animals like dogs and cats make great pets, but these animals themselves once started out as a type of animal that was wild, aggressive, and sometimes dangerous. Yet someone decided to find, breed, and domesticate these animals and turn them into the loveable pets we have today.

It would make sense, then, that there must be other animals in the world that would also make great pets. One example that is quickly growing in popularity is that of sugar gliders.

What are Sugar Gliders?

Sugar gliders look like rodents, but are actually a type of marsupial. They have the ability to glide through the air like flying squirrels. These animals are quickly becoming great pets appreciated by men and women all over the country.

Benefits of Sugar Gliders as Pets
• Very Friendly
With the right amount of human interaction, sugar gliders are very friendly to humans. They bond extremely well and are not especially timid or aggressive around humans.
• Intelligent
Sugar gliders are surprisingly intelligent. They are not necessarily trainable (in the sense that you are unlikely to train them in a lot of tricks) but they have the ability to figure out things for themselves and CAN be trained with the right amount of patience.
• Small
Sugar gliders do not take up a lot of space in your home. This allows them to be fairly easy to manage, no matter where you live. They can also fit in your pocket, and are referred to as “pocket pets.”
• Active
Sugar gliders are very outgoing animals. They are curious and friendly. Because they are not considered aggressive, they can be fun to play around with and watch as they play and learn inside of your home.
• Long Life Spans
Sugar gliders tend to live until 10 years old or longer. They make great, long lasting pets.

Weaknesses of Sugar Gliders as Pets

Though sugar gliders have a lot of benefits, they also have some weaknesses. Some of their weaknesses as pets include:
• Nocturnal Animals
Sugar gliders are nocturnal animals, so if you are expecting to take them out with you all day, you will be in for disappointment. Their internal clocks can differ dramatically, but in general you can expect your pet to wake up late at night and stay up until early morning.
• Need Attention
Sugar gliders REQUIRE at least 2 hours of attention and play every day. This is the primary reason sugar gliders are not right for everyone. Without attention sugar gliders become extremely depressed. Remember, sugar gliders are nocturnal animals, so it may be very difficult for you to show your sugar glider attention if you are not awake.
• Expensive
Sugar gliders are not prohibitively expensive, but they are certainly not cheap. What adds to the expense is that in order to ensure that your sugar glider does not get depressed due to lack of attention, it is recommended that you get two sugar gliders so that they can interact. This means that though you get two pets, you will also need to pay twice as much money.
• Picky Diet
Without the right diet, sugar gliders can easily get sick. It is vital that you give your pet proper care.
• Not Easily Potty Trainable
Sugar gliders may be intelligent animals, but they are difficult to potty train. Expect to be cleaning up after these animals a great deal.
• Expensive Vet Fees

Most veterinarians are not equipped to handle major sugar glider problems, as these exotic pets are new to the veterinary world.

Overall, sugar gliders make great pets, but only if you have the time necessary to ensure their health and happiness. They are affectionate and loving animals, but require very specific care in order to thrive.

20Apr

Your dog cannot tell you when it’s sick. No matter how ill it feels or how much pain your dog is in, if your dog sees your smiling face looking down at it, its tail will wag and it will pant excitedly. Dogs will always appear happy, and are willing to ignore all of the pain simply to show you that they love you.

This type of unconditional love is great when you need a friend, but terrible when you are worried about your pet. How are you going to tell when your dog is sick if it is unable to share any feeling with you other than “I’m so happy you’re here!”?

One of the most common ways that dogs can worry their owners is when they are experiencing a large amount of diarrhea. It is not uncommon for a dog owner with an extremely house trained dog to wake up and find that their dog left wet stool all over the floor. When dogs get diarrhea, it is a sign that something was wrong, even more so when they go against their training and leave their sick on your floor. Unexplained diarrhea can be a scary thing, and it affects pets all around the globe.

Should You Be Concerned About Diarrhea from Your Pet?
Short Answer: No.
Long Answer: Many illnesses can cause diarrhea in your pet. Diarrhea is one of the early symptoms of almost every dog illness, and could be caused by anything from rabies to worms. However, diarrhea is also caused by anything that upsets your dog’s stomach. Consider all of the things that your dog licks and eats every day:
• Food that you dropped on the floor.
• Water from puddles from the previous night’s rain.
• Cat waste.
• Grass, leaves and other greenery.
• Rotten spill from a leaky refrigerator.
• Your hand after everything you have touched.
• The bottom of your shoes.

Your dog tastes and eats everything in its path. Dogs lick things they don’t understand, they eat things that look like food, and they chew on things that are decades old. Every day they get into the some of the most disgusting items on the planet, and they do this without worrying about their health or safety.
In addition, dogs have some of the most sensitive stomachs in the animal kingdom. A single piece of bread can cause your dog considerable stomach discomfort, and certain vegetables will cause its stomach to rattle as though it was food poisoning.

Simply put, while diarrhea is most certainly a possible symptom of some terrible canine diseases, it is also a sign that your dog licked or ate something that upset its stomach, and since almost everything in the world upsets a dog’s stomach, it is easily possible that there is nothing wrong.

If your dog has diarrhea, it is worth a little bit of concern. But your next step should be to simply watch what your pet eats and see if there are any other symptoms. If the diarrhea is still occurring over a long period of time, or your dog appears to have other problems such as a lack of energy or worrisome eye gunk, it may be a good idea to take your dog to a vet. If you simply wake up and your dog has diarrhea, however, it is a good idea to wait a day or so and watch what your dog eats and its behaviors. Chances are it was nothing more than an upset stomach, and that upset stomach could have been caused by almost anything.

17Mar

Kittens are extremely cute animals. When you first get your kitten, chances are you will never let it out of your sight, showing it off to friends and family as it stumbles around your home.

But cats, like all animals, have the potential to catch and carry diseases. Even if your cat is an indoor cat, it is at risk for commonly spread viruses and diseases that can harm your cat’s health. When your kitten is young it is important to make sure that it is properly vaccinated in order to ensure that your cat stays safe.

What if My Cat With Stay Indoors?
Even if you expect your cat to be an indoor cat for most of its life, it is still a good idea to get your cat immunized for diseases. There are several reasons that vaccinations are advised:
• Your cat can escape, causing it to be at severe risk for disease as it roams the outdoors.
• You can bring in some of these diseases on your clothes or shoes.
• Your cat may someday need to be an outdoor cat, and immunizing your cat as a kitten makes it more likely that the immunization will work effectively.
Though a true indoor cat that never leaves your home is not at great risk for diseases or illness, there is still too great a risk that your cat can get sick to avoid getting the immunizations. It is safer for your cat, and since most of the shots are inexpensive, safer for your wallet as well.

Shots for Cats
If you are going to raise an outdoor cat, your vet may recommend more than just the basic kitten vaccines. Still, here are several of the potential vaccinations that your kitten should receive early in life.
• Distemper/Panleukopenia
Distemper is a widely spread disease throughout the feline community. Any contact with any secretion from another cat that has the disease can cause the illness to be spread. Distemper can cause vomiting, diarrhea and severe fluid loss. Immunizations for distemper have been shown to be highly effective and are recommended for all cats both indoor and outdoor.
• Calcivirus
A respiratory illness, Calcivirus is also extremely contagious and can quickly spread from cat to cat. The illness can also be caused by other infections that weaken the immune system. Like Distemper, Calcivirus shots have been shown to be highly effective.
• Rhinotracheitis
Rhinotracheitis is similar to Calcivirus, except that it is does not often show up with other infections. It is also spread through sneezing and affects cats of all ages. Immunizing your kitten is the best way to reduce the effects of this disease.
• Leukemia
Unlike the disease in humans, Feline Leukemia is a virus that can spread through bites or shared saliva, such as two cats eating the same meal. Feline Leukemia is very dangerous and painful for you cat.
• Feline Chlamydia
It is also important that your cat gets immunized for feline Chlamydia. Unlike many of the other diseases, this type of disease can spread to humans, because it is caused by aggressive bacteria.
• Bordetella
If you ever want to bring your cat to a kennel, you will need to get it immunized for Bordetella. This illness is not often fatal, but does spread EXTREMELY quickly, especially with cats in close quarters.
• Rabies

Cats are always at risk for rabies, especially outdoor cats. Simply coming in contact with the saliva from a rabid animal can spread it to your cat. Since rabies can spread to humans, getting your cat immunized for rabies is as important for you as it is for your pet.

Additional Vaccines
There are also additional vaccines available. Giardia and FIP are a few examples. Talk to your vet about what immunizations are best for your kitten. The cost of these vaccines is not very high, but the medical costs of a cat that catches these diseases, as well as the risk of spreading the disease to other cats is so high that it is highly recommended that you get your kitten vaccinated, even if you are planning on keeping your cat indoors all of its life.

10Feb

Dr. Jan Bellows

Having a pet is a fun, loving experience. Even the most boring of animals still allows you to feel affection and enjoy the feeling of life that the animal brings into your home. But like all animals, pets pass away. They have shorter lifespans than human beings, and any pet that you purchase is likely to die of old age sometime during your lifetime.

If you are one that tends to feel intense affection towards your animals, this could be a difficult emotional experience, and one that you may not want to subject yourself to willingly. So how long do pets usually live and what types of pets live the longest?

Lifespan of Pets
• Fish
Fish tend to be the shortest living pets. Many fish raised in captivity only live approximately 1 to 2 years on average. But there are several fish that live as long as 10 years or more, such as Neon Tetras and Angelfish, so it is not impossible to find a longer living fish. Still, expect that most captive fish do not have long lifespans, and may pass away within a short time after they are purchased.
• Ferrets
Domesticated ferrets live approximately 5 to 8 years, depending on overall health. However, ferrets tend to age oddly. A ferret of roughly equal size can be “old” by as young as 4 years, while some ferrets live to be as old as 15 (though this is very uncommon). For their size, ferrets do not have a long lifespan overall.
• Cats
For many decades, cats lived only about 9 years, with a few exceptional cats living as long as 30+ years (!). But within recent years – thanks to more cats being kept indoors and advancements in veterinary medicine – cats actually live an approximate lifespan of 15-17 years when well taken cared for, making them some of the longest living pets available. In history, the longest living cat lived to be an amazing 38 years old.
• Dogs
A dog’s lifespan differs greatly depending on the size of the dog. Smaller dogs live roughly 14 to 15 years, while larger dogs experience “old age” at just 8 or 9 years old. Dog breeds have fairly well known lifespans, and each breed is different, but the average dog will live to be 12, with 13 a better bet if the dog has remained active and in good health. Unlike cats, the oldest living dog is just 21, and the oldest known living dog lived to be 29.
• Birds
The longest living pet is not dogs, or cats, but birds. Birds have amazing lifespans – with some birds living longer than human beings! However, bird lifespans can vary dramatically. There are some birds that live only a few years in captivity, while others live an amazing 80 years. Birds also thrive in captivity. A pet crow, for example, can live to be as old as 30, but a wild crow rarely lives more than 10 years. Finches live roughly 15 years, as do Canaries and Cockatiels, while Cockatoos live an amazing 65 years. Not to be outdone, Macaws have been known to live to be over 100! But their average lifespan is closer to 60 years compared to the Cockatoo’s 65.

Overall Thoughts on Pet Life Expectancies

As you can see, there is a great deal of difference between animals. If you are looking for an animal that will live as long as you will, a pet parrot is going to be your best bet. But if you are happy simply caring for a pet for possibly a decade or two, a cat or dog is still a great choice.

8Dec

One of the most common health problems that affect dog is known as “Hip Dysplasia.” Found in dozens of different breeds with different levels of commonality, hip dysplasia can cause your dogs a great deal of pain, due to poor positioning of the hips that is exacerbated over the course of your dog’s life. It is not uncommon for hip dysplasia to lead to such issues as paralysis, extreme discomfort, and immobility.

Finding Out if Your Dog Has Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia may be based on bone formation, but it gets worse over time due to various muscles around your dog’s body being too weak to keep the hip in place, causing it to be pushed into various other parts of the body. Over time, more muscle and tissue problems occur, and the hip dysplasia gets worse and worse.

It becomes very important, then, to catch hip dysplasia as early as possible. Though there is no surefire treatment, there are various ways that the vet can help reduce the effects of hip dysplasia in order to ensure that your dog is able to continue moving as usual, and reduce the long term effects of this painful health concern.

To catch hip dysplasia it is important you know the signs. Some of these signs include:

  • Uncomfortable Rest – Dogs usually rest comfortably, with their hips turned in order to easily keep their legs to the side. A dog with hip dysplasia may not be comfortable relaxing in this manner.
  • Reduced Activity Level – Dogs that do not want to participate in exercise or other fun doggy activities (or those that do but do not appear to be enjoying it) may have hip dysplasia that are making these activities too painful or difficult for them.
  • Standing/Jumping Problems – The most hip pressure is going to come from the back legs. If your dog is having any problems standing when forced on their hind legs (such as sounds that indicate extreme pain) or it chooses not to jump or go up or down stairs, hip dysplasia is a possibility.

One final way that can be tricky is if you see your dog running in an odd formation that looks more hop like than it does a healthy gait. Dogs may run in odd ways anyway, but if you see your dog appearing to hop and – when compared to others of the same breed – this hopping appears considerably different, then you may want to get your dog checked for hip dysplasia.

Hip Dysplasia is Treatable – So Catch it Fast

Modern medicine has continued to create new and effective ways to treat hip dysplasia, including various fake joints and better formations through surgery. It is also now known that hip dysplasia, in general, is fairly preventable by ensuring that your dog is fit (so that it does not have extra weight pushing on its hindquarters) and giving your dog foods that are effective for bone and joint health. The surgery to fix hip dysplasia can be expensive and painful, but prevention is free, easy, and may considerably reduce the risk of your dog experiencing hip dysplasia pain.

Hip Dysplasia affects millions of dogs across the nation, and is one of the primary genetic diseases found in most dog breeds. Though it may not be life threatening, it may still threaten your dog’s way of life, which is why prevention should be your first priority. Give your dog lots of exercise, watch for warning signs, and be sure you let your vet know if you notice anything that worries you.

29Oct

By Dr. Jan Bellows

When you need to obedience or trick train your pet, finding a good dog trainer is a great way to make sure that you raise a well behaved dog. There are some fantastic dog trainers across the country that have a great deal of experience teaching dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments how to perform interesting behaviors and maintain good obedience to their owner. But to be a dog trainer, you do not necessarily need some type of advanced education – which means that two individuals with the same credentials can vary vastly in how qualified they are to be chosen as your dog trainer.

Most dog trainers these days recognize how to train canines correctly, as there is a wealth of information available about proper training methods. Dog training is one of the most understood sciences available in the world today. But there are still some dog trainers that are under-qualified and misinformed about how to dog train correctly, and these are the trainers you need to do your best to avoid. If you meet a dog trainer that supports any of the following, that is likely a dog trainer you would like to avoid:

  • Punishment Training – Any dog trainer that believes physical punishment is a successful way to train dogs is vastly misinformed and a trainer that you should avoid. It is a well researched facts that dog learn considerably better through positive reinforcement than they do from positive punishment, and a trainer that does not acknowledge this difference is not an effective trainer.
  • Trainer-led Training – Dog trainers are not there to take your dog from you and bring them back to you as a well behaved animal. On the contrary, the only effective way to dog train is if you, yourself, are the trainer, and the dog trainer’s purpose is to coach you on how to train your dog effectively. Dogs that learn solely from a trainer are still unlikely to take those behaviors home with you, making the entire training irrelevant.
  • Trainers that Believe in Pet Equality – It is healthier for you and your pet if you establish yourself as alpha in the pack. Any trainer that believes you should treat your dog like an equal member of the family is vastly misinformed. Dogs need a “place” in the pack – there is no such thing as equality in the dog world. A dog that is confused about its place in the pack will exhibit poor behaviors and possibly suffer from increased stress.

If you notice any of these three beliefs from your prospective trainer, you will want to avoid them. Dog behaviors are extremely well studied and understood. There are very few things that have not been researched about dog training and dog behavior effectiveness. As behavioral creatures, what works and what doesn’t work has been extremely well established, and a trainer that deviates from the norm is doing so recklessly, because when it comes to what works best with your pet, there is very little that is not known.

The best thing for you to do is look for references from other people that have had their pets trained. Dog trainers that have successfully trained your friend’s pets are likely provide the same level of efficacy with yours. However, if you do not know anyone that has a reputable dog trainer available that you can work with, use the above criteria to weed out the pool, and carefully monitor the way that your trainer suggests training methods to ensure that you are using someone that knows what they are doing.

24Sep

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

22Sep

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.

22Sep

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.