February 27, 2008

Pet Lover’s Warning: Smoking Is Dangerous To Your Pet’s Health

We all know how smoking kills people. Atherosclerosis, vascular disease, hypertension, tongue cancer, stroke, impotence - these are just some of the various ways cigarettes can shorten your lifespan. Problem is, all smokers are aware of these risks; yet these debilitating, even murderous, diseases are not enough to make them kick the habit. Why, you ask?

God only knows.

This is one of life’s mysteries; you know it will kill you but you still do it. Smokers know that cigarettes will eventually kill them yet they still do it. They even consider it as one of the pleasures of life. Most smokers, unfortunately, are actually dependent on cigarettes. They want to quit but very few muster up the will to actually do so. If you have a pet at home and are one of these I-wanna-quit-but-I-can’t smokers, maybe the next few words can encourage you.

Every pack of cigarettes you buy warns you of its adverse effects on your health but it doesn’t warn you of its ill effects on your pet. Your pet may actually have it worse than you. Its exposure to second-hand smoke is actually something to be more concerned about than your own nicotine contaminated well-being. Veterinarians have always suspected that pets of smokers have higher chances of developing cancers and other respiratory illnesses. No one really paid attention before; now the evidence is overwhelming.

In cats, lymphosarcoma is the most common of cancers. Studies say that cats who live with a smoker are twice as likely to develop it. The chances of developing this disease is also directly proportional to the number of years a cat has lived with a smoker - and the number of smokers in the household haven’t even been included in that equation! Of course, this is just one of the many diseases our feline friends can get from their owner’s bad habit. There is also a higher incidence of the oral tumor, squamous cell carcinoma, in cats who live with a smoker. On average, only 10 percent of cats diagnosed with cancer will will live through a year of it.

Dogs don’t fare any better, unfortunately. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology indicates that dogs who live with a smoker are likely to develop lung cancer. Long-nosed breeds such as Collies are also at a higher risk for nasal tumors. This is because long-nosed dogs more efficiently filter out the air they breathe, therefore filtering out airborne carcinogens and depositing them in the nasal cavity.

Hey, it’s my life!

If you find yourself thinking this way, think again. Our pets do not have much choice when it comes to their living conditions; we do. In the end, it really is your choice. Be responsible - either for your pet’s good health or for its untimely death.

February 22, 2008

Backyard Tales & Beyond (the Fence) Presents… The Dog, The Cat, and the Chicken

Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s man’s best friend of them all?

"Is that a question or a joke?"says Goddy The Dog. "Granting it’s a question, why ask the mirror? Ask men. I’m man’s best friend. If that happens to be a joke, sorry, but I don’t think I will waggle my tail at it. Come on.."

Tikky The Cat, licking her paws, retorts "Mister, mirror or no mirror, we are man’s new best friend."

Pointing her newly cleaned right paw to doggy she adds " No offense but you’re history. According to research, men and women prefer waking up in the morning with their cats. Listen, 46 percent of the respondents wants us to be the first thing they see in the morning, while only a meager 26 percent wants to see that dog face of yours ."

"Research, research, always referring to research. I mean, why don’t you look back at history, men and dogs have been partners for thousands of years." Goddy qualifies.

"History? Haven’t I told you, You’re history!" Tikky hastily reminds Goddy.

Goddy sees in his mind hundreds of cats in different colors and sizes all echoing Tikky’s last words. He is about to give Tikky a thundering growl, when a stream of wind brings him back to his dog senses. Just behind him is Checky The Chicken flapping her wings.

"Sorry guys, but what is research? Is it the same as.." she makes a double-scratch, her two feet brush the ground one after the other, all in the split of a second. No reply. Goddy is busy brushing his rib cage with his hind leg while Tikky does finishing licks on her paws.

"Anyway, I think chickens are going to be the next big thing." Checky continues. Both dog and cat pause and give Checky a cold stare.

"Well," Checky arranges her wings, "Both of you may be barking at the wrong tree,"

"Correction, I don’t bark and never will." Kitty quips.

Checky continues "Men find us cute and funny; ever heard of the "Backyard Poultry" magazine? It closed in the 1980s but has been resurrected lately because of our increasing popularity as pets. There is this guy from Iowa named Bud Wood. He owns a hatchery business and is amazed at the number of calls he’s gotten form urban residents who wanted chickens in their homes. His hatchery ships 2 million chicks a year to various customers."

"Cool." Goddy remarks.

Kitty who is now sitting Lion-King-style comments "The last time I checked, men wanted you and your eggs for dinner." Then she looks at Checky - beak to claw.

Next on Backyard Tales: Dolly the Cloned Sheep Visits the Backyard.

February 21, 2008

CSI: Pet Style


CSI: Miami

CSI: New York

Who knew forensic science was going to be a big hit - no matter what the location? The National District Attorneys Association is even complaining about the "CSI effect" that is becoming more and more evident with real-life jurors. It’s getting harder by the minute, or by every episode, to deceive jurors and make them buy lawyers’ creatively thought out reasoning and educated theories.

However, it is amazing to discover that this branch of science is not limited only to humans. Melinda Merck, a veterinarian who specializes in animal cruelty cases, travels across the country to aid law enforcers in investigating animal-related crimes. She is the one and only animal CSI specialist in the US. However, it is surprising and unfortunate that she investigates about 2 cases per month, the cases ranging from animal cruelty to dog fighting.

What Melinda does is very helpful since animal abuse cases are very hard to prosecute. Even if you do have witnesses, they can’t talk - even if their lives depended on it. This is where the CSI methodology, as seen on the hit TV franchise, plays a vital role. If you’ve ever watched even a single episode of CSI, CSI:Miami, or CSI: New York you know that witnesses and victims there don’t do a lot of talking. CSIs rely on hard evidence to solve cases; they let it do the talking for them. That technique is applicable and very useful when solving animal-related cases.

An interesting fact to note is that Melinda uses the same tools as those seen on the TV show. She examines blood spatter, collects DNA samples, and compares dental characteristics to properly evaluate a crime or to determine if indeed a crime has been committed. Fans of the show will find her methods familiar and will breathe easier knowing that their pets have their own CSIs that will give them a voice if the need arises.

Veterinary colleges across the US are starting to embrace the idea and are offering forensic classes to its students which, I believe, is good news for all pet lovers. Police and law enforcement have very little, if any, knowledge of animal behavior and physiology. Animal forensics is a big step forward for law enforcement and I’m glad it is being taken seriously; I’m only surprised as to why it has taken so so long for people to realize its importance.

Uno’s Big Celebrity Break

One lucky dog. Uno, the beagle who won best in show at the 132nd annual Westminster Dog Show, has been all over the news lately. Since making history as the first of its breed to win the title, he has become America’s top dog for 2008.

So how has life changed for Uno? The press demands for him. Pet lovers adore him. And he has become a popular TV guest. Not bad for our good old Snoopy huh? He really has created quite a stir. His handler, Aaron Wilkerson, must be really proud of him.

Just several hours after winning the Westminster title, Uno went on a world media tour, which made him famous in various parts of the globe. I came across an MSNBC report detailing Uno’s itinerary on that day and my, my, it was a media frenzy!

Like in true celebrity fashion, the beagle was waited on by a convoy of chauffeur-driven vans outside his hotel, the morning after his win at the Madison Square Gardens. He had his own entourage, which includes his very own publicist. Uno appeared on various TV shows such as the TODAY, the "Early Show" on CBS, and Martha Stewart Show, to name a few. He also received many greetings from fans and well-wishers.

Interestingly, like a hot celebrity who has paparazzi watching his every move, Uno has photographers following his canine lifestyle. Photographers would grab any photo opportunity just to see him eat his food! Even members of the Metropolitan Dog Club, the newest dog club in New York, mobbed Uno just to get photos of the talented pet.

In the beagle’s appearance on the set of Mike and Juliet, MSNBC contributor Sandy Robins describes Uno: "Within seconds, the hosts were on their knees and playing with their celebrity guest who wagged his tail and talked directly to the cameras, howling on commands and snuggling up to Wilkerson as if conferring with him."

All this media attention seems overwhelming, but from the looks of it, the beagle is handling it with ease. Uno’s a smart one, and he seems a TV natural as well. I think we’ll get more surprises from this true celebrity pet as we go along.

February 20, 2008

A Reminder to Pet Owners: Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

For us humans, “cleanliness is next to Godliness” isn’t it? That is why, brushing our teeth is essential to us as breathing. We desire to have strong and pearly white teeth as well as clean and fresh breath. But what most of us do not know, our favorite animal friends also need some level of dental care and attention just as we do. Aside from spending a lot of time walking and grooming their dogs and cats, pet owners should actually consider giving serious thought to brushing their pets’ teeth.

The California Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), the largest state veterinary medical association in the United States, reports that lack of attention given to dogs and cats’ oral health may cause gingivitis and periodontal disease, which may eventually lead to major health issues.

Dental diseases are widespread in dogs and cats. In fact, the American Veterinary Dental Society, an international organization of veterinary dental professionals, says that more than 85 percent of dogs and cats already show signs of oral disease by age four. Gingivitis and periodontal disease, when ignored, can lead to tooth decay, bad breath, bleeding gums and tooth loss. Meanwhile, bacteria from periodontal disease can damage the pet’s bloodstream, organs and the nervous system. Worse, if they are not treated immediately, they can even cause death.

This February, in celebration of the "National Pet Dental Health Month" in the United States, the CVMA calls for pet owners to take simple oral care steps for their pets. It encourages them to practice regular brushing at home; a special toothbrush and toothpaste are highly recommended. Some pet-friendly products available in the market are Saint Francis Cinnamon and Tea Tree Oil Toothpaste , Aristopet’s Oral Hygiene Kit, Mavlab Dental Spray Gel, and Petshed’s Cotton Chewy toys that help pets effectively clean their teeth. These and other similar dental care products can be ordered online through www.petshed.com.

In addition to regular brushing, it is also important to seek regular and professional dental care from veterinarians.

Warning signs that tell if your pets are infected with oral disease include: bad breath; tartar buildup on the teeth; swollen or bleeding gums; fractured or abscessed teeth; and change in eating habits. If your pets show any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian immediately.

The Dog in Me

Have I gone to the dogs? I mean this literally. Even if, lately, I tend to express myself in dog metaphors.

Let me backtrack a little. I was gifted with a mixed breed dog which I christened Spy although he looks more like a pirate with that black patch over his eye. I was not really wanting a pet and the way I figured he was just another responsibility. Or so I thought. That rascal’s charm eventually got to me.

By observing his moods and dog-speak, I got to know whether things are good for him or not. Like when he is strutting around with his head tilted-up, waiting for a pat, or sparkling eyes that are following me then a short but sharp "Arf!". Well, I say, "Spy is happy as a flea in a doghouse"

My continuous use of these metaphors kind of stuck with me.

I describe myself as doggone-persistent despite some people discouraging me because they say I’m barking at the moon. After running with the big dogs, I’m simply not exhausted. I’m dog-tired. Surely, anyone who has had a hectic day can get mean as a junk-yard dog but my bark is worse than my bite.

Now, you see what I mean? Probably, I’ll get over this in time. For now, love me, love my dog, and may I add, love my talk.

I just wonder, what if I had a pet pig?

What’s Your Excuse?

We all have reasons for having a pet. In my case, they’re my excuse for almost everything. If I want to avoid certain people or certain social activities, I tell them my pet needs my attention urgently. Surprisingly, people don’t ask questions whenever I do this - and I like that. Rearranging your sock drawer just doesn’t cut it nowadays as a legitimate excuse, and I’m glad I have my cute little shih tzu "Cookie" to make my life easier. Don’t get me wrong, I love Cookie as my best friend but I want to share how my pet and I have a give-and-take relationship - a relationship we didn’t even have to talk about.

First, let me tell you how Cookie has saved me several times from boring parties and no-show dates; Cookie is my savior - my constant excuse and fallback when things don’t go exactly as I’d hoped. When a date doesn’t show up, I can content myself with lounging on the couch, watching TV with Cookie. Does she care if we catch up on the latest episodes of CSI: Miami or watch Seinfeld reruns over and over again? No. In fact, I can watch TV static or the famous colored bars all day and she’ll watch it with me, no questions asked - and she will be elated because I was with her. She will not complain even though I spent time with her only after wasting away the greater part of the day looking for something else to do. I mean, who else will you find eagerly waiting for you at home after you’ve ignored them the whole day?

In spite of using Cookie to avoid or limit social interaction, she is also, ironically, the key to most of the social interaction I have with other people outside my circle of friends. I can’t count the times some friendly stranger approached me in the park to comment on how cute Cookie is. One thing leads to another and by the end of our conversation I have just gained a friend - or at least an acquaintance. Cookie also makes canine friends when I take her out for walks and their owners almost always become my friends, too.

Now, you might say the relationship Cookie and I have is a one-way street but you’re mistaken. I take care of my pet and make sure that all her needs are met. I don’t just feed her and give her a place to live, too; I provide her certain luxuries that will put other pet owners to shame. I recently bought her a new raspberry-colored "Lap of Luxury" velvet bed. Now she sleeps and feels like a queen; thanks to online shopping. Online shopping gives Cookie and me a chance to shop together. There are also various pet products that you can only find online. Have a gander at the product catalog of www.petshed.com and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Now when I’m invited to a party I’m not interested in attending, I don’t need an excuse. I have a reason. I have Cookie. How about you? What’s your excuse?

February 18, 2008

Playing Cupid To Canines

In love and in pet breeding, it pays to make the right choice.

Matching couples is not the monopoly of Cupid. Pet owners and breeders play the role of the Prince of Love when they match and mate pets. For Cupid, all it takes is shooting an arrow soaked in love potion to kindle the flame between prospective couples; for pet breeders, they need more than an arrow to strike the perfect match. Breeders have a lot of homework to do even after finding the perfect stud for the female.

Valentine’s Day may be a perfect date to breed pets if you are one of those hopeless romantics. But the straight-from-the-heart truth is that any date is just as good if breeders keep in mind the main goal of pet breeding - to improve the breed.

Compatibility should be the foremost consideration when planning to breed dogs. It is also necessary that the purpose for which the dogs will be used is known. Factors such as genetic information, temperament, health and physical characteristics must be assessed beforehand. A stud should undergo a similar background testing as the female in order to determine compatibility. Likewise, it should be ascertained that one of the dogs belongs to a non-related pedigree. Breeding two closely related dogs could result to inbreeding depression. First-generation inbred animals are prone to health problems and physical defects. Reduction in genetic diversity is most likely to occur when breeding closely related dogs.

Breeding purebred dogs is more complicated. The ill-effects of inbreeding is most likely to occur among purebreds because most of them come from a single lineage. Precaution must be taken to avoid genetic problems. Breeders should be very particular about the type of genetic testing they use. Genetic problems could still occur even with the best DNA testing facilities currently available.

On the other hand, hybrid dogs are less likely to incur genetic problems compared to purebreds. This is so because hybrid dogs have a mixed gene pool. As a matter of fact, hybrids are known to manifest hybrid vigor otherwise known as the heterosis effect. Hybrid dogs are said to have this effect because they are usually stronger and more intelligent. Some breeders have noticed that hybrids are healthier and more vivacious compared to a purebred. However, the issue whether hybrid dogs are the answer to the genetic problems common in purebreds is still being debated by scientists and by breeders themselves. Critics of hybrids contend that undesirable behavioral traits and genetic disorders from one or both of the parents could still be inherited by the dogs.

Once the ideal match for the female dog is found and the mating perfectly carried out, pet owners and breeders should be prepared for emergencies during pregnancy such as a c-section surgical procedure. It is advisable to allocate funds for whatever cost that might be incurred especially after the puppies are delivered.

In love and in pet breeding, it pays to make the right choice.

Toilet Water, Anyone

I was going through the motions of starting my day when I came across this article. Seems Fido’s been doing all along what we should be doing now - drinking sewage water. No, I’m not saying that we should be drinking out of the toilet bowl but it’s more like the principle of it. The article said that California has built this facility that puts ’super treated’ water back into the lake so that the water will filter down into the aquifer. The water is then pumped out and treated again before it goes into our taps. Obviously, there’s a lot of opposition to the plan. The idea of ’sewage water’ going into their taps is the ‘yuck’ factor. Even if it has gone through a lot of filtering and treatments, people still think it’s ‘dirty’.

But you’ve seen a dog drink straight out of the toilet bowl and nothing went wrong with him. Does he know something we don’t? As experts tell it, some treated sewage water are better than those that come from the aquifer. One sampling even showed concentrations of an anti-anxiety drug present in the water being treated for use in our homes. The thing is, if sewage water has been filtered, treated and purified according to human health safety standards, then it must be safe to drink. This is probably what we can learn from our pets.

Drinking water is fast becoming an environmental issue. Unchecked development and population growth will continue to put pressure on any area’s ability to adequately provide safe drinking water. As the article mentioned there’s a sewage water treatment facility in Africa where output is directly used by the communities there for their daily drinking water needs. What is it going to take to make us realize that treated sewage water is safe enough to drink? We’ve been feeding our dogs the food we eat and the beverage we drink thinking that what’s good enough for us is good for pets. Maybe Fido’s telling us that what’s good enough for him is good enough for us too?

Reference: http://www.slate.com/id/2182758/

Bunnies, What’s Up, Doc?

Did you ever want a rabbit for a pet? Rabbits are nice creatures, timid most of the times which is why many parents give them to their kids as pets. But like any other pet, rabbits need their share of care and attention. It doesn’t mean that just because they’re silent all the time that their needs have been attended to.

The problem with rabbits is that they hardly make any sound. Not even the tiniest squeak. If anything, all they do is sit in a corner of their cage. But take it from the professionals, rabbits are delicate creatures. They may look strong because of their muscled hind legs but in reality, their bones are just too weak for the force their muscles produce. Rabbits may look like they’re the best pets for kids but they really require the attention of adults especially if they are to live their life to fruition.

Rabbits are sociable animals but they require space. They like to be touched but probably just for a short period of time. They sleep almost all the time and they’re active around dawn and dusk so it’s probably safe to play with them during these periods and let them be for the rest of each day. When picking up bunnies, don’t do it by pulling them by their ears! They’re ears, not handles!And rather than petting them, why not try short strokes on their face, head and back. These are areas where rabbits groom each other so it’s likely that they’ll find any touch in these zones pleasurable. When it comes to food, you’ll never hear them complain about the grass you feed them day to day, but really, they’ll appreciate it more when you put in a little more variety in their diet. A little bit of parsley, dandelion greens and carrot tops would do them well and a teaspoon or two of rolled oats, unsalted crackers and dried fruit wouldn’t hurt either. Give them water in sipper bottles -less messy and more convenient. Hay, specifically timothy grass, works to keep their digestive system functioning properly. And if you’re going to put them in cages, make sure the cages are big enough to give them ample space to hop around in, and please, put some cardboard on the floor so that the bunnies don’t get their feet hurt.

Now that you know a little more about taking care of rabbits, don’t go into it just yet. Do your research. Learn a little more about rabbits before you get one for yourself or your kids.

Reference http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbits

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