Friday, 15 December 2017

How Do You Find A Puppy Without Supporting A Puppy Mill?

So, you want to buy a puppy, but you want to do it right. That’s cool. Support good breeders all the way!.

First, a question. Is the puppy a gift? If so, remember, pets should NEVER be given as gifts, and decent breeders will not sell a dog for someone to give as a gift 

How do you find a puppy without supporting a puppy mill?

Sometimes that’s harder than it seems. Aside from avoiding those pet store pups and any that can be purchased over the internet, how do you know? 

Some mills are smaller, harder to see, but are still putting profit above the welfare of their animals. On top of that, finding a good breeder with a litter of puppies can take more than a year.

Not all breeders are great. Even some of those listed on sites like the AKC breeder recommendation list don’t fall into the category of a “good breeder.” The AKC doesn’t have the capacity to inspect every breeder they certify and have acknowledged such.                                                                    

Puppy Mill run out of a house

 Some breeders might look good from the outside but be running small puppy mill operations out of their home or another location.

 Some breeders may not have that many dogs, but if they don’t care for the health of their females, and breed them repeatedly for several litters, the breeder still fits in the category of using the animal for profit.

Some breeders think they are doing everything right but don’t health test. These breeders aren’t contributing to the future health of their breed and therefore do not care about the welfare of the dogs.

Some breeders don’t want you to visit, or don’t want you to see any of their other dogs aside from the mother. This is a big red flag. 

Some breeders don’t want to offer you any guidance after you purchase the dog. This is not necessarily a sign of a puppy mill but just a sign of a breeder worth avoiding.

Ok, all these no’s probably aren’t helping you figure out how to tell what a GOOD breeder looks like and how to find one.

A breeder you found online is neither a good or a bad one although their website may give you some information about them.

The first sign that you have found a good breeder is if you feel a little interrogated, politely of course. Questions you should be asked include:

·         Why do you want a dog and this breed in particular?

·         Who in your family will be responsible for the pup’s daily care and training?

·         Where the dog will spend most of his or her time?

·         How often will the dog be left alone?

·         Can you provide both veterinarian and personal references?

·         Will you sign a contract to spay/neuter the dog?

·         Are you willing to sign a contract agreeing to return the dog should anything change in your situation? 

A breeder is going to want to know all these answers in depth. They are also going to want to hear you ask questions. Some things you need to ask are,

·         How old are the mother, father, and their parents? The mother and father should be 2 or older and the parents preferably 5+.

·         Do you health test? Will you provide me with the results of these parents/grandparents?

·         Can I come visit?

·         When is your next litter of puppies planned?

·         Do you have a waiting list?

·         Can you provide me with references?

·         Do you breed any other dogs? Breeders with multiple kinds of dogs are not likely to be good breeders.

·         Are you willing to answer my questions after a puppy comes home with me? 

·         Do you have a contract?
Molly O’Hara is the author of Callie’s Wag, a blog dedicated to her puppy mill rescues and others like them. In addition to her blog, she has regular bylines in two local newspapers regarding animal topics, and often can be found under a pile of cats and dogs, trying to reach her computer. 

Friday, 8 December 2017

Avoid Calamities at Christmas for your Cat

Now that the festive season is upon us there will be lots of preparations for Christmas. Whilst this is a happy time for most of us, it can bring about additional stress and potential problems for our feline family members.

Here is the lowdown on some of the common hazards along with some hints on how to prevent feline foes during the festive period.

Festive Plants
Mistletoe contains toxic compounds and, although considered to be fairly low in toxicity, some cats develop drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal discomfort within a few hours after eating it.  The toxic part of the plant is the leaves and stems rather than the berries. In rare cases tremors or convulsions have been reported so it makes sense to keep them well away from your cats.
Poinsettia is a Euphorbia species of plant. Although it does contain a toxin it is less toxic than most other Euphorbia.  Almost half of the cases reported to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service remained well after eating Poinsettia.  However, it can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach with drooling, vomiting and in-appetence.  Occasionally, animals may develop a high temperature and have more severe stomach irritation with bloody vomiting or stools. Keeping plants out of harms reach is therefore a good idea.
Lilies are often included in Christmas bouquets. Many varieties are dangerous as they are highly toxic to cats. Ingestion of any part of the plant, including drinking the water they have been stood in, poses a high risk. Kidney failure and fatalities are a strong possibility. Prevention is very much the advice for this particular plant. Don’t wait for symptoms to arise. Immediate veterinary attention should be sought if you suspect ingestion.

Christmas Trees & Decorations
Christmas tree species include spruce, fir and pine.  These trees are considered to be of low toxicity but if eaten may cause mild stomach upset such as vomiting and diarrhoea, and they could cause gut obstruction if eaten or injury to the G.I tract if needles are sharp.
Loose needles can drop in to ears too.  Signs of this include sudden onset ear irritation and head shaking.
Lametta - Cats and kittens tend to be curious about most decorations but lametta is one of their favourites. It catches the light and oddly some cats like to chew and swallow it. If enough is consumed a tight ball in the gut could cause an obstruction.

Salt Dough Decorations pose the hazard of salt poisoning in dogs and cats. A decoration may contain around 8g of salt per tablespoon which is very high. As well as vomiting and diarrhoea, symptoms can include a raised heart rate, high blood pressure and kidney failure. Consequently prompt veterinary attention is important.
Chocolate: Although it tends to be more common in dogs, chocolate poisoning can affect cats too. Advent calendars and christmas tree decorations are a particular risk. Theobromine is the toxin responsible, with the higher percentage cocoa being the most toxic. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, increased thirst and in some cases convulsions. Keeping chocolate away from cats is therefore just as important as it is for dogs.

Feline Stress at Christmas
Scent profile is important for making a cat feel safe and secure. Christmas paraphernalia brought in to the home brings in new and strange smells. This can be very stressful for a cat. In an attempt to restore their own scent, some use urine to mark the house. Rather than scold them, which is likely to make the problem worse, it’s important to help them feel secure again. However prevention is better than cure.

What can we do?
  1. Think about making sure their core territory is not disrupted. This is where they eat and sleep. Avoid bringing any different scents into this area. Also don’t wash their bedding too much at this time of year as this will help retain their own scent in the home.
  2. Prepare for parties by making sure your cats can retreat somewhere safe and secure. Having lots of boxes to hide in away from the noise as well as providing places to climb up on will help too.
  3. Make sure that the cat’s litter tray remains in a quiet place and avoid lots of foot traffic in that location.
  4. Provide house-cats with mental activities. This may help to take their minds off all the comings and goings.
  5. Feliway is a feline pheromone that is said to help promote security. It’s available in a spray or diffuser and can help keep make the environment feel safer. Click here for some useful information on cat behaviour and how to ensure the home is a safe haven for them at Christmas and throughout the rest of the year.
Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Canine Food Processor

How we digest our food is very different from the way dogs complete the same task.  Even the food itself is very different.  Some of our food is processed to make it easier to digest.

We gather around the dinner table and between moments of witty repartee, demurely introduce a modest fork or spoonful of food into our mouths, chew it anywhere from 10 to 30 times, and let it slide down the hatch.

A pack of dogs, on the other hand, would gather around the carcass and between moments of fierce competition, rip off a huge chunk of something, chew it once or twice, and as its going down the hatch, be clamping their jaws on another chunk of something.

We’re designed to eat several small meals each day.  Dogs are designed to eat one big meal because, in the old days, they never knew when they’d get their next meal.  It could be a day or two, or even longer, before they’d eat again.

We have relatively small stomachs (for some of us, in our dreams) that accept food which has already been partially broken down; by chewing and mixing with our saliva, which contains powerful enzymes that begin to break the food down. 

The dog has a relatively large stomach with an extremely acidic environment; loaded with powerful digestive enzymes and up to three times as much hydrochloric acid as we have.  Those huge chunks of food are lubricated with saliva and slide down the hatch into a stomach that grinds and liquefies the food.  The saliva itself contains no enzymes.

The liquefied food, called chyme, then passes into the small intestine where absorption of nutrients into the blood stream takes place, aided by digestive juices from the pancreas and gallbladder.  Although the intestinal tract is about 4 times the length of the dog’s body, it’s still shorter than that of a human. 

That’s because carnivores need the food to move quickly through their system because they’ve got work to do and can’t be lying around waiting for their food to digest.  As nomads, they need to patrol and defend a territory, protect mates, offspring and other pack members, and they’re already hunting for their next meal. 

 In the large intestine, or colon, most of the water and minerals from the chyme are absorbed and the last hard-to-digest material is broken down by powerful digestive bacteria.  As it exits the dog, the anal glands coat the waste with pheromones that are the animal’s signature scent.

Most domestic dogs gulp their food the same way their wild counterparts do, barely chewing it.  Nor do they pause to savor the flavor; since they have practically no sense of taste.  Satiated, the next time they think of food will be when they’re hungry, or when you open or cook something and the aromas get their attention. 

We and our dogs look at food very differently.  To us it’s an art form and a focal point of our culture.  We take great pains to optimize how it looks, smells and tastes, and when company comes over, we bring out food. 

To dogs, food is strictly utilitarian.  They eat to live (while many of us live to eat).

Bob Bamberg has been in the pet supply industry for more than a quarter century, including owning his own feed and grain store in South-eastern Massachusetts, USA. He writes a weekly newspaper column on pet health, nutrition and behaviour and his articles appear at

Thursday, 30 November 2017

It's Cool For Men To Love Cats Too!

Pretty much all of us have encountered the term 'Crazy Cat Lady', it's so famous now it's almost a brand and gift ranges have sprung up celebrating it.

What many perhaps don't realise is the popularity of cats amongst men. Many male celebrities openly celebrate their feline love and surveys such as this show that a rise in cat ownership is being driven by males.

Famous men that own cats include:

Ricky Gervais - UK animal lover Ricky has a cat called Ollie who has his own Facebook fan page here
Ed Sheeran - We came across Ed's love of cats accidentally....a tiny Japanese 'cat island' sent out a plea for Ed to visit them after discovering he was a cat lover. Ed's instagram feed is full of kitten pictures and he is the proud owner of a beautiful cat that he adopted as a kitten who goes by the name of Graham.
Norman Reedus - The Walking Dead star not only owns a cat called 'Eye in the Dark' who joins him everywhere but Norman's feline friend even has his own 'fan run' twitter account here

Other famous males that are cat lovers and owners include George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Nicholas Cage and John Travolta.

A famous historical figure who was well documented as a 'cat fan' was...

Mark Twain - The famous American writer was so infatuated by cats that he owned 19 of them! Twain's love of cats has him credited with some pretty feline friendly quotes such as...

'When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction' and
'If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat'

An interesting cat related tale about Mark Twain states that when one of his 19 cats went missing he took out a newspaper ad that offered a $5 dollar reward. After the cat returned home on it's own a steady flow of people came to Twain's door with feline impostors so that they could meet the great man!

The term 'Crazy Cat Men' may not be as well publicised as it's female counterpart but the above maybe helps to show that men are not too macho to show their love and adoration for our feline friends.

Friday, 17 November 2017

How Our Five Senses Compare To Those Of A Dog

Our dogs may be deprived of common sense, but when it comes to the 5 senses, we should be in awe and understandably envious, with a couple of exceptions.  We have a better sense of taste, possessing about 6 times as many receptor cells on our tongues as do dogs. If they had as many taste buds as we do, they wouldn’t (you finish the sentence).

I’d also rather have my eyesight than a dog’s. They see better in dim light and hold a slight advantage over us when it comes to seeing beside and behind them, but their color perception is weak.  I’ve seen their color vision likened to our color vision at dusk. A dog’s eyes are 90 per cent rods, and you’ll remember from primary grade science that it’s the cones that provide color perception.

A dog’s hearing is better than ours, though. Not only is the frequency range of sounds they can hear wider than ours, but dogs with upright outer ears are able to funnel fainter sounds into their hearing mechanisms.

The outer ear, besides acting sort of like a satellite dish, is also capable of independent motion (floppy-eared dogs are disadvantaged here). By rotating the ears, dogs are better able to determine where a sound is coming from.

The main difference between a dog’s sense of touch and that of a human is the fact that they have specialized hairs (back on the block we just called them vibrissae) on their muzzles, eyebrows and lower jaws.

These stiff hairs, which are embedded deeper than other hairs, can detect air currents, subtle vibrations, and objects in the dark. It’s possible that they also direct food and other objects to the mouth. I think some of us old human males have these hairs in our ears.

Saving the best for last, there’s no comparing a dog’s sense of smell to that of the lowly Homo sapiens. Heck, a dog can detect butyric acid, a component of sweat, from 1 million to 100 million times better than we can. Jealous?

In humans, the area of olfactory receptor cells that communicate to the brain covers about 1 square inch. In a dog, depending on the length of its muzzle, that area can be up to 60 square inches. And here’s where those “hearing compromised” floppy-eared dogs make up for it.

Those floppy ears allow for more scent to be directed to the nose. What’s more, dogs and other non-human mammals possess a functioning vomeronasal organ (VNO) also known as Jacobson’s organ. We have one, but it doesn’t work anymore.

The VNO’s specialized receptor cells detect pheromones, which are abundant in dog pee and poop, providing a lot of information, including another’s social status and reproductive state.

You’ll see an interesting behavior in dogs, known as tonguing. They’ll click their tongue against the roof of the mouth, the teeth may chatter and there may be a little foam on the top lip. They’re directing molecules of scent to the VNO.

Dogs lift their legs to deposit their urine high up on vertical surfaces so that the scent can be better carried by air currents to the VNOs of others, and also to prevent those yippy little lap dogs from over-peeing the spot.  

Bob Bamberg has been in the pet supply industry for more than a quarter century, including owning his own feed and grain store in Southeastern Massachusetts, USA.  He writes a weekly newspaper column on pet health, nutrition and behavior and his articles appear at

Friday, 10 November 2017

The Top Five Things that are Making Your Cat Fat

“Fat Cat”: It’s a phrase we learned as early as kindergarten when attempting to rhyme words. In fact, it seems like children’s books are particularly partial to chubby kitties.

But that could be a problem.

According to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, 50 percent of cats are overweight, or even obese. But is that a problem?

I’m afraid so. Packing on too many pounds can lead to all kinds of health issues, including osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, diabetes, and poor cardiovascular health.

So, what’s making our cats so fat? Here are the top five culprits!

 1.Free Feeding

It’s very common for cat-owners to simply pour a bowl of kibble in the mornings and allow their cats to feed throughout the day at their leisure.

While this is very convenient for us humans, it’s extremely unnatural for a hunter! Biologically, cats are designed to work for their food by stalking and catching it. As you can imagine, that burns calories.

When we let our cats just eat whenever they want to, we take away that instinctual need to hunt that helps keep them slim and fit. Cats need to eat set meals each day, rather than graze an all-hours buffet.

2.Too Many Carbs

Just like cats are biologically predisposed to hunt, their tummies are designed to eat meat. They’re carnivores.

Even protein-packed dry cat food typically uses plant proteins, instead of meat, to keep your cat full. Wet cat food, made from animal-based protein -- and even raw meat from the butcher -- is a better alternative.

Of course, consult with your vet before making major changes to your cat’s diet, and to get tips and recommendations on which wet food to buy and how to introduce raw meat to your cat.

Although it might seem gross to us, remember your cat was born to catch small critters, and hasn’t evolved enough to learn how to cook them. So long as you don’t use ground meat (where bacteria can thrive), your cat should be able to safely consume raw foods.

3.Not Enough Exercise

Keeping a cat indoors is best for their overall safety and longevity, but it doesn’t come without downsides. Like I mentioned above, cats naturally burn calories by hunting for their food, and they simply can’t do that when cooped up inside.

If you’re a cat-owner who goes to work all day, you might not be interested in entertaining Whiskers when you get home -- but you must.

Playing with your cat is a great way to encourage your cat to exercise, and by extension, keep your cat healthy.

 4.Boring Indoor Habitat

Even if you make it a habit to play with your cat for 15 to 20 minutes a day, that’s probably not all the exercise your cat needs.

That’s why you should invest in cat trees, scratching posts, and plenty of toys that will help keep your cat moving while you’re away.

The more places your cat has to climb, jump and hide, the more likely she is to stay on-the-go. And a nice variety of toys will give her something fun to do while you’re away


Ouch. Have you noticed that those first four points all have one thing in common? Yep, you -- me -- the cat mom or dad.

It’s hard to admit that our way of “treating” our babies is actually causing them harm, but in the case of feline obesity, it is.

The best way to help your cat stay fit is to make sure you’re doing all you can as a pet-owner to encourage a healthy lifestyle. That means talking to your vet about ways to improve your kitty’s diet, making time each day to engage your cat in play, and investing in toys and cat furniture to keep him occupied while you’re gone.

Your cat is dependent on you! Why not be the best pet parent around so you can enjoy all 9 of her lives?

Author Bio
Natalie McKee rescued her cat, Pumpkin, from living as a stray when he was just a kitten. A decade later she writes at Leaping Cats about ways to keep your indoor cat fit, healthy and happy.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Canine Health – Poisons

Seasonal Hazards (Autumn/Winter)

Now that the days of summer have slipped by we all begin to turn our thoughts to events like Halloween, Bonfire night and preparations for Christmas. There’s lots of activity going on in the kitchen with Christmas fare and warm comforting casseroles being made. Long walks in the countryside with our dogs is also high up on our weekend agendas. So begin aware of hazards in the home and outside is important at this time of year. Check out some of them here.


Grapes and dried vine fruits (currants, sultanas, raisins)
Grapes and their dried products are poisonous to dogs. Eating just a small quantity can result in kidney failure. Foods that have high quantities such as Christmas cake, puddings and minced pies contain high concentrations and are especially dangerous.


If alcohol is left unattended, dogs may help themselves to left-overs! Alcohol is absorbed rapidly in the dog’s system.  They will show similar symptoms to a person when they have drunk too much but problems occur at much lower quantities.  Incoordination and drowsiness are common signs.  Alcohol is a toxin and in severe cases it can cause respiratory distress, a dangerously low body temperature and low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) leading to collapse and coma.

Onions (including other Alliums: garlics, leeks, shallots and chives – even sage and onion stuffing!)

Foods that belong to the Allium plant family are poisonous to dogs, even when cooked.  Relatively small amounts can cause disturbances to the gastro-intestinal tract. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhoea. The main effect is on the red blood cells leading to anaemia (lowering of red blood cells). Poisoning isn’t always obvious immediately after ingestion but illness can occur several days’ later, making diagnosis more difficult.

Macadamia Nuts

This nut is often used in Christmas cakes. If eaten, they can cause a high body temperature, tremors and stiffness in the limbs.


Most dog owners are aware of chocolate toxicity. Theobromine is the name of the toxin responsible for poisoning. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more toxic it becomes. So whilst all chocolate is toxic, a dog would only need a very small amount of 70% dark chocolate to become extremely ill. White chocolate is generally not a risk as it has very low levels of theobromine. Signs of toxicity include agitation, hyper-excitability, heart problems and convulsions.

Hazards outdoors

Oaks and Acorns (Quercus species)

Oak and acorns contain a toxin called tannic acid. Ingestion leads to gastro-intestinal and kidney problems. Bloody diarrhoea and vomiting are the main signs of poisoning and dogs will often show abdominal pain.

Ethylene Glycol (anti-freeze)

Very organised people are thinking ahead and topping up the car with anti-freeze in preparation for the winter months. It is very toxic to all mammals, especially cats so think about them and other animals that visit the garden. Neat or run off fluids are toxic so make sure that any spills are washed away with copious amounts of water. Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, an increased heart rate, lethargy and a low body temperature.


Conkers are synonymous with autumn. Although cases are rare, dogs will become ill if they are ingested. Throwing them to play catch can pose a serious threat too. Not only can they cause an obstruction in the gut, they contain a chemical called aesculin – found in all parts of the horse chestnut tree, including the leaves.
Signs include vomiting collapse, diarrhoea, restlessness and abdominal discomfort. Some dogs can go into toxic shock, experience respiratory paralysis and in severe cases can die. Signs of illness can occur within a few hours after consumption but sometimes symptoms don’t occur until after a couple of days.

Fireworks and Glow sticks

As well as the usual health and safety advice for bonfire night, fireworks can contain a number of different chemicals that are dangerous to dogs and other animals if ingested. These include fuels, metals, colouring agents, phosphorous, sulphurs and nitrates.
Signs include vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal discomfort and incoordination.

Around this time of year, glow sticks are also a cause for concern. These tubes are made of a bendy plastic containing a liquid called dibutyl phthalate that glows in the dark. Dogs, especially puppies, might be attracted to them to chew. They are extremely unpleasant to taste and even small amounts will cause excessive hyper-salivation and foaming at the mouth. The liquid is very irritating to the skin and eyes. For ingestion of glow sticks, lots of oral fluids will help dilute the chemical.
Irrigation of the eyes with water or sterile saline is recommended and use luke-warm soapy water for exposure to the skin.

What first aid treatment can you carry out?

ü  Contact your veterinary surgery and tell them exactly what your dog has ingested. They will be able to provide you with the best treatment whist waiting to see them.

ü  Making your dog sick can cause more problems and is often not recommended - Never make your dog vomit if:

·         They are drowsy or having difficulty breathing
·         Are having seizures ,
·         If the poison contains paraffin, petroleum products or other oily or volatile organic products
·         Contains detergent compounds,
·         Contains strong acids or alkalis

ü  Activated Charcoal is often used by vets to absorb the toxin. However there are a number of toxins that are not absorbed by charcoal and for more serious poisons a charcoal biscuit is unlikely to be sufficient.

If you would like to learn more about Canine First Aid follow this link:
OR contact me for more details of hosted and online accredited courses:

This article was written using information from the veterinary poisons information service (VPIS).
The VPIS offers a helpline for pet owners. Details are available by following this link:

Friday, 27 October 2017

Up Close And Personal With Your Cat’s Ears

At one of the events I participated in I met up with a crazy cat lady and got into a discussion about a cat’s sense of hearing.  I know a little bit about it but there was a lot discussed that none of us knew for sure about.  Memo to self:  check with Prof. Google when you get a minute. 

That opportunity came and I got a lot of interesting info, mainly from the petMD and Animal Planet web sites.  The best way to share what I found out is to peel back the onion, so to speak, and look at the cat’s hearing hardware and software from the outside in.

The triangular ear flap, known as the pinna, and the ear canal make up the outer ear.  Those little slit-like folds of skin at the base of each pinna are known as Henry’s pockets, but back on the block we just called ‘em cutaneous marginal pouches.  No one, not even Prof. Google, knows why they’re there.

The pinnae can independently rotate 180 degrees, increasing the cat’s hearing capability by up to 20 per cent and enabling it to locate and identify even the faintest sound in as little as six one-hundredths of a second.  I’ve seen that capability attributed to German shepherds, too.

The pinnae capture sounds, sending them through the ear canal to the middle ear, which is made up of the eardrum and ossicles, tiny bones that correspond to the hammer, stirrup and anvil in our own middle ears.  OK, back on the block:  malleus, incas and stapes
Sound waves cause the eardrum and ossicles to send vibrations to the inner ear, where those vibrations are converted to electrical impulses and transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve.  Cats can hear sounds at higher and lower frequencies than dogs and people.

The inner ear also contains the vestibular system, tiny chambers and canals lined with millions of sensitive hairs and filled with fluid and floating crystals.  Most mammals are equipped with a vestibular system, but the feline edition is one step better than the others.

When a cat suffers a fall, it’s righting reflex enables the cat to reorient its body to an upright position in less than a second, thus landing on its feet virtually every time.  And the tail helps, too.  But, they’re not born that way; it takes about six weeks for the reflex to develop in kittens. 

So how come white cats with blue eyes are often deaf?  A genetic flaw in the gene that produces white hair and skin, causing it to suppress pigment cells, including those in the tissue of the inner ear. The tissue degenerates and the cells die, leading to deafness. 

 Deafness in domestic cats is most commonly hereditary, although disease, infections, outer-ear and/or inner-ear damage, and aging can be factors. White cats with eyes of different colors are often deaf only in the ear on the side with the blue eye.

And, as cats age, their ear drums thicken and compromises their high frequency hearing.  That’s not particularly problematic for indoor cats, but outdoor cats that rely on their hunting skills for survival are affected.  They often prey upon animals that squeak and chirp at high frequencies.

Bob Bamberg has been in the pet supply industry for more than a quarter century, including owning his own feed and grain store in Southeastern Massachusetts, USA. He writes a weekly newspaper column on pet health, nutrition and behaviour and his articles appear at

Friday, 20 October 2017

Yes, Dogs Can Be Allergic to Fleas!

Fleas are the tiny vampires of the dog world. Like mosquitoes and other blood-seeking parasites, fleas bite their victims to obtain their blood and then live off the rich nutrients found there. It's also the bite that causes the flea allergy process to begin through an immune response within the dog's body.

Antigens: Basic Cause of Flea Allergies
Canine flea allergies are caused by something called an antigen. In simple terms, an antigen is a substance introduced into the body that the body perceives as dangerous. In this case, the antigen would be chemicals contained within the flea's saliva. It gets into the dog's body through the insect's bite. An antigen-mediated flea skin condition in dogs is called flea dermatitis.

What to Look for
Flea allergy tends to affect younger dogs, meaning those aged five and under and it's more prevalent in the fall. Don't assume that it takes an army of these parasites to cause flea dermatitis because that is not true. Potentially, a few of them is more than enough to initiate the problem. Watch for the following:

•             Episodes of intense scratching
•             Biting at the base of the tail
•             Red, raised bumps and reddened patches of skin
•             Patchy or generalised hair loss
•             Hot spots

Also known as moist dermatitis, hot spots are smaller areas of ultra-inflamed skin. Skin will be moist and hot to the touch. These spots can easily become infected.

Flea dirt
This is flea faeces. It resembles flakes of black pepper and is often concentrated around the base of the tail.

Flea Poop or Just Doggy Dirt?
Now it's true that pets go outside and they get dirty, so how can you tell if it's flea poop or just plain doggy dirt? Easy, just put some of the material on an old white plate and spray lightly with water. If it turns red or pinkish, then it's flea poop.

Prevention is Key!
Flea infestation must be eliminated and if possible, prevented altogether. It really is just that simple: no flea exposure, no flea bites and no antigen exposure means that your pet will not develop flea allergy dermatitis in the first place.

Flea prevention regimens
Ask your vet for a recommendation for a flea-control product to eliminate these parasites for use on or in the body. Some preparations are topical; some are oral. Some need a prescription; some don't. Check online for best prices either way. Make sure you understand how to use the product.

Make sure your pet's environment is clean and free of pests as well. Use a good external environment pest control product, intended for pets, as recommended by your veterinarian. You can treat the pet's bed and carpeting, drapes and household furnishings.

Medical Treatment
Your vet will determine if a dog already afflicted with an antigen-mediated flea allergy needs medical treatment. Sometimes just eliminating the offending antigen by eliminating the parasite is enough. If not, expect that the patient may be treated with short-term steroid therapy with a drug such as prednisone. This will effectively alleviate discomfort and promote healing until the parasites can be eliminated from the body and environment.

Flea control is paramount to your companion's health and comfort. There are many effective products on the market today. With your vet's help, choose one, use it properly and then just watch those fleas flee! Remember, your pet is depending on you!

Paul Haines is the author of “My Life With Pets Blog” where he shares his life experiences involving his family and pets.  In addition to his blog, he is the creator and owner of the website is an educational and fun site dedicated to all types of Pets. You can visit the site at  

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Educated Speculation About Why Cats Are So Finicky

In talking about cat food with cat owners like I do most days, the most common point I hear is that “my cat is so finicky.”  And, cat parents, you say it as if your cat is the only one that’s finicky.  Most every cat is finicky.  They must think they have a license to be.

I read an interesting white paper by Dr. Nancy Rawson, a Ph.D. scientist with AFB International (  The company produces palatants for the pet food industry. 

The purpose of a palatant is to optimize the animal’s response to the food.  Make it pass the sniff test.  Palatants can be wet or dry, applied topically or baked in, and used alone or in concert with fats.  However they’re used, they’re largely responsible for the pet’s acceptance of the food. You usually see the palatant listed as “natural flavors” or “animal digest” in the ingredient panel.

As is the case with many aspects of animal husbandry, know one knows for sure why cats are so finicky, but Dr. Rawson made a number of interesting points…mitigating factors, if you will…to suggest that cats aren’t finicky just to be difficult, which is what most of us lay people think.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must get their nutrients from animal flesh, while dogs are carnivores with diets that resemble that of omnivores.  Cats have fewer options.  Rawson also points out anatomical and physiological difference in cats that factor into food acceptability.
She says that the cat’s unique genetic makeup drives distinctive anatomical adaptations, nutritional needs, metabolism and sensory biology.  For instance, they lack a “sweet gene” a protein in their taste receptors that, if they had it, would enable the cat to perceive sweetness.

They also lack the ability to digest lactose and other dietary sugars, and they have no lactase, an enzyme that breaks down starch, in their saliva.  This distinction alone, suggests Rawson, could result in the perception of ‘finickiness’ when compared to our human experience of food.

She also puts forth the possibility that cats aren’t finicky at all, but that we perceive them to be because their food behaviors don’t fit our expectations.  She speculatively points the guilty finger at cat owners who can display a certain “hypocrisy” when it comes to their cats behaviors.

“‘Cat people’ often report appreciation for cats’ independence, including their ability to fend for themselves during owner absence. Yet when this same independence and lack of owner-directed behavior occurs at feeding time, we call it ‘finicky’! Do cat owners secretly wish…their cats acted more like dogs?”  Ouch…them’s fightin’ words in some circles, ain’t they?

Dr. Rawson points out another thing that I often think about and talk to cat owners about; free-feeding.  My first objection to free-feeding is that it can contribute to obesity, although a relative had a free-fed cat that was lean and mean right up to the end, at 19 years.  An exception to the rule, perhaps.

Free-feeding may allow the cat to notice subtle differences it might not note when food availability is limited, like it is in the wild. When food is less available, the cat may be less selective.  They take what they can get.

Thus, attempting to please our cats with varied and plentiful food options, we may actually be setting them up to be finicky.   

Bob Bamberg has been in the pet supply industry for more than a quarter century, including owning his own feed and grain store in Southeastern Massachusetts, USA. He writes a weekly newspaper column on pet health, nutrition and behaviour and his articles appear at

Friday, 6 October 2017

Improve Your Canine Communication Skills With These Top Tips

1. Observe dogs’ body language: You can watch your own dog in the home, when out on walks and during play sessions. See how they interact with you and the world around them. Observe well socialised dogs interacting together and look at the way they communicate too. Video recordings are useful to pick up on subtle body-language and things that you might have missed.

2.Watch how dogs’ use their senses: The dogs’ sense of smell is 10,000 times better than ours. See how they take in information using it. Encourage them to use it with scent games and give them time to have a good sniff when out on walks.

3. Apply up to date methods of communication: It is now well known that trying to act like an alpha dog is an outdated method of training. Alpha rolls and muzzle grabbing only makes your dog think you are unpredictable and someone to fear. This can lead to self-defence aggression. Instead use positive reinforcement alongside quiet, non-threatening body language.

4.Know how to respond if a dog chases or charges towards you in a threatening manner by following these tips:
  • Remain still
  • Remain silent
  • Avoid direct eye contact
  • Present a side-on, closed stance, using your peripheral vision to assess the situation
  • Keep your hands and arms close to your body
  • Quietly and very slowly move away backwards but DO NOT run 

5.Watching dogs’ play is great fun but sometimes things go a bit too far. Knowing when to step in and call a halt to the session is important. Look out for:
  • One dog controlling the play session
  • One dog doing all the chasing with the other trying to escape, crouching or cowering
  • A dog displaying a high body stance – tail held high and ears erect
  • Stiffness in the body and locked eye contact

If you observe any of these signals immediately distract the dogs by calling them away. Reward the recall and put them both under control.

Understanding canine body language is like learning a whole new language so invest time and practice in getting it right.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find Caroline's excellent pet related courses at

The Dog Solution

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Pet Food Ingredients: Their Bark Is Worse Than Their Bite

You turn that bag of dog food over and look at the ingredient panel.  OMG, WTH, YGBKM.  Those aren’t the ingredients, they’re your response…Oh my goodness, what the heck, you gotta be kidding me (you may be familiar with a slightly different version of this texting shorthand).

But they might as well be the ingredients since you can’t pronounce them, either.  You picture some mad scientist formulating the food with toxic chemicals, knowing that dogs are gonna die…bwahaha.

Some pet food labeling has wording for which there is no legal or regulatory definition as it pertains to pet food.  Think “Holistic,” “Organic,” “Super Premium,” “Large Breed,” “Small Breed,” “Senior,” “Low Fat,” “Indoor Formula,” “Hairball Formula,” and other such designations which mean whatever the manufacturer says they mean.

In the US, the only formulations for which standards have been established are: gestation and lactation (puppy/kitten food), maintenance (adult food), all life stages (must meet the puppy/kitten standards), and large breed puppy (dogs 70 pounds or more at maturity).

Then there are ingredients that have vague, loosely regulated meanings.  Think “Byproducts.”  Some people think they’re beaks, feet, feathers and guts all chopped up.  Those people are mostly wrong.  The guts could be in there.
“Byproducts” means anything but muscle meat.  In pet foods, they’re mostly organs…digestive organs, reproductive organs, brains, and assorted other organs that you’re quite happy to let the dogs and cats have, thank you. 

If it’s any consolation, some byproducts are considered delicacies elsewhere; tripe (stomach), sweetbreads (the thymus gland) and tongue for instance.  And they’re nutritious.  Other byproducts you shell out good money for as treats…bully sticks (what bulls have that cows don’t), moo tubes (cattle trachea), porky pumpers (pig hearts), lammy puffs (sheep lung), to name a few.

Then there are the scary sounding ingredients.  Those have very specific meanings and the scientific names must be used to pinpoint the ingredient.  Think of it this way:  there are several types of foxes: red fox, arctic fox, fennec fox, etc.  If you’re talking about the red fox, the scientific name is Vulpes vulpes.  

Requiring the use of that multi-syllable, toxic sounding name is akin to requiring the use of the name “Vulpes vulpes” instead of just “fox.”  So, in spite of how dangerous the ingredients may sound, they’re simply not.

Remember, also, that everything that is ingested has a threshold for toxicity.  You take one blood thinner and it saves your life; you take five and you bleed to death.  That’s why you shouldn’t freak out when you see propylene glycol in pet food or treats. 

Yes, it’s the active ingredient in pet-safe anti-freeze, but the key words are “pet-safe.”  Propylene glycol has a low freezing point and a high toxicity threshold, making it a safer alternative to ethylene glycol, the highly toxic active ingredient in regular anti-freeze.  And, don’t look now, but it’s in some human foods, too.  It’s usually used as a moistening agent.

By law, to be a “natural” food, there can be no ingredients that were made in a lab.  That’s almost impossible, if a pet food is to be complete and balanced.  A truly “natural” formulation may not be complete and balanced. 

A complete and balanced formulation will contain synthetic vitamins and minerals.  What it cannot contain are synthetic preservatives.  That’s why you see “preserved with mixed tocopherols” following the fat.  Tocopherols are what the mad scientists call Vitamin E.

If you’re feeding a “natural” dog or cat food, look closely at the bag.  You’ll probably see the words “with added vitamins and minerals.”   That puts it in compliance with the law.

Bob Bamberg has been in the pet supply industry for more than a quarter century, including owning his own feed and grain store in Southeastern Massachusetts, USA. He writes a weekly newspaper column on pet health, nutrition and behaviour and his articles appear at 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

My Cat Doesn’t Like Being Hugged- Why?

I’d like to hug my cat but they won’t let me – why?

Here are 10 common reasons why many cats really don’t like too much close and personal handling:

1. Cats prefer choice. This means that if your cat approaches you and wants to get close and have a cuddle, then by all means engage in some mutual loving.

2. Cats do not like to feel trapped and most dislike being restrained especially if they have no option to escape. Try and avoid picking them up and hugging them tightly. If they have all four paws on the ground they will feel happier.

3. Research has shown that if we handle kittens properly they will be more likely to respond to being handled as adults. The crucial time for this is between 3 and 8 weeks. Short, gentle and regular handling sessions throughout the day is recommended. Try and ensure that a range of different people get involved so that they will be socialized to men, women and children (under supervision).

4. Cats generally do not like their tummies being touched. This is a vulnerable area for cats so avoid tickling or stroking them there.

5. A large number of cats have a low threshold for time spent cuddling. Try and have regular but shorter episodes of contact.

6. In cat language, a raised tail in the shape of a question mark is a greeting. If a cat approaches you like this it’s usually an invitation to stroke and pet them.

7. Cats have a number of scent glands on their body. An abundance of these are found on their face. When they rub you, they are exchanging their scent. You can take this as a compliment as they are sharing their scent profile with you.

8. Cats show affiliation to another cat by mutual grooming and licking. If your cat likes to lick you it’s likely that they see you as a member of their social group.

9. Some cats are just not tactile. Many show their affection by choosing to sit close to you. If this describes your cat be content that they are wanting to be around you.

10. A slow blink is another way that a cat will show you affection. Try doing it back – most cats will respond.

So if your cat isn’t the hugging kind, just show them affection in different ways and be grateful that they choose to live with you.
Remember to give them choice and respect their species’ specific behaviours. By doing this your cat is more likely to want to be with you.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Some Interesting Dog Owning Statistics - Check These Out!

Dog owners are in for a bit of a treat with this post (excuse the pun!). I recently came across a set of statistics that threw up some interesting findings.

For example - Did you know?

Walking our Dogs

Worldwide, the most popular time-slot to walk dogs is around 6pm. A leading dog monitor survey also found that afternoon walks tended to be twice as intense as morning walks. No surprise there for some of the early-riser dog owners perhaps?

Europeans Are More Active With Their Dogs

Statistics showed that Switzerland has the most active dogs in the world. Not to be out-done, dogs belonging to European neighbours in Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and The UK also enjoy a highly active lifestyle compared to dogs in other areas around the world.

These Breeds Are Good Sleepers!

Dogs that scored highly when it came to enjoying a good quality of sleep included Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Siberian Huskies. It seems that larger dog breeds love a snooze!

Phobic About Fireworks

Bigger breeds figured highly here too. Monitored activity showed that bigger dogs seemed to be less disturbed by fireworks than smaller dogs. Beagles and Golden Retrievers showed a higher degree of calmness than many other breeds when it came to celebrations involving fireworks.
On the other end of the spectrum Maltese dogs showed a high degree of discomfort and restlessness when it came to dealing with the noise associated with pyrotechnics.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Why Is My Cat Weeing Outside Its Litter Tray?

As a behaviour counsellor with a special interest in feline behaviour, one of the most common problems I am called about is inappropriate urinating in the house.
Here are ten reasons why this might be happening:

1. Aversion to the type of litter used. Sudden changes to the type of litter can put them off using it. Ones that have a very strong scent are often not tolerated.

2. A negative association with using the litter tray. For example if a cat has a urinary tract infection they will experience pain each time they pass urine. This often results in them linking using the tray with something unpleasant and so they start urinating in other places.

3. Insufficient litter trays. In multi-cat households each cat requires its own tray (plus another extra). Plenty of space between each of them is important too.

4. Intimidation by another cat. In multi-cat households, a confident cat may prevent another, more timid individual, from using the tray.

5. Over- zealous cleaning. This can be very off-putting especially if very strong smelling disinfectants are used.

6. Stress is often linked to inappropriate urination. Urine can sometimes be used as a self-appeasing behaviour. Identifying conflict and the emotional status of the cat is important

7. Physical pain. Elderly cats can suffer from arthritic changes, making it difficult for them to climb into the litter tray. Because cats hide pain, inappropriate urination can be the first indication that there is a problem

8. Lack of privacy. Placing a litter tray in a busy place in the house is not a good idea. Some cats even prefer a covered one. Provide them with an open and closed one to assess their preference.

9. Urine is used as a marker to advertise territory. If urine is primarily around doors, windows and cat flaps it can indicate that the cat feels threatened from something outside.

10. Cats do not like to toilet close to where they are fed. Place the litter tray some distance away from their core territory.

If you want to learn more about feline behaviour I run full day courses throughout the year. Or if you are experiencing behaviour problems with your cat I can arrange a home visit or if you are out of my area a skype consultation can be arranged.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at

Cat Spraying No More

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Elephant In The Waiting Room: Vet Bills At An All-Time High

Many pet owners have concerns regarding the rising cost of Vet bills and we asked UK pet insurers Insurancefair for an insight into why this might be and for any tips that may help owners meet the costs.

The shocking cost of veterinary bills can often hit pet-owners with devastating effect. It’s a horror story that we have heard many times before, beloved pets are taken to the vets for a check-up or to investigate a change in behaviour and the animal is diagnosed with a medical condition that requires treatment. A common example of this is hip dysplasia, known to be prevalent in dogs and especially so in certain larger pedigrees. Hip dysplasia in severe (but not uncommon) cases is treated by a full hip replacement. A procedure that comes in at an eye-watering £9,000, depending on your area and vet.  Pet owners now more than ever need to have the correct pet insurance in place to cover themselves against these eventualities.
In 2016, we saw the average cost of veterinary treatment reach £810 and as a country we are set to see it continue to rise this year to new heights. Figures from major insurers show that the most common claims were for joint conditions with an average cost of £452.92. There are of course much higher bills such as ruptured tendons in cats setting owners back up to £4,000 or more.

But why are these costs on the rise? This is a complicated question with several key factors affecting the industry as a whole. The area you live in plays an important part of the overall cost of the treatment, there can be a difference of up to 400% between the North and South of the country. It may not surprise you that prices in London on average at the highest while Scotland and Northern Ireland on average are the cheapest. As technology and medicine develop, alternative treatment options became more viable for our furry companions. More intricate surgeries or advanced medicines may now be available for medical conditions; however, these treatments may have a higher price tag due to their complexity, or the increased price of medication due to their development. There is also a shortage of incoming veterinary students according to the British Veterinary Association, leading to higher costs and wages to attract new professionals and established and qualified international veterinary surgeons. Combine this with the compulsory needs to maintain a 24hour service and specialised equipment all year round and the overheads begin to mount.
With the mounting cost of vet bills continuing to rise it is more important than ever to have some financial security in place in the event that your pet falls ill. Some pet owners may choose to ‘self-insure’ which means that they allocate money aside each month into a fund to be used in the event that their pet falls ill, the benefit of this is that if your pet does not get ill then the money is still your own. However, if your pet falls ill early on, you may not have had the opportunity to build up a big enough pot to cover the bills or if your pet requires lots of treatments in a short period of time or several expensive procedures, this pot may not be sufficient to cover it. Now for the majority of UK pet owners (some 52%) this security is provided by pet insurance paid through either a monthly or annual premium. It cannot be stressed enough that if you are purchasing insurance for your pet that you fully understand the cover available, some insurers or policies may exclude conditions that your pet is prone to and this can mean a nasty surprise waiting for you down the line. If you are in any doubt, research the most common medical conditions or treatments that your pet is prone to. Then ensure that your policy will adequately cover this condition for the rest of the pet’s life should they receive a diagnosis, this means both the cover and the financial limit. 

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