Friday, 27 January 2017

Cat Lover? Ever Notice This?

My cat and dog research often uncovers some interesting perceptions about cat and dog owners and I thought I might share a few observations with my feline-loving readers.

The Crazy Cat Lady Thing
Ever notice how many 'fun' tests there are to find out if you are a 'crazy cat lady'? I have noted quite often that if you generally answer the questions based on your love of cats then you will always score highly enough to be considered a crazy cat lady!

Cat Lovers Are More Interactive
I don't know whether my cat loving subscribers are just more into their pets but pro-rata they interact more on my social media channels. That's not to say we don't get a lot of interaction from our canine-loving friends but cat lovers are definitely social media superstars!

Men Love Cats Too!
Although our cat followers are predominantly female, you may be surprised at how many men are not afraid to celebrate their love of cats too. For those that haven't heard of him there is a well-known social media figure and TV host Jackson Galaxy who is known as The Cat Daddy.

Cat People Love Sharing Pictures!
What is hugely apparent is that cat lovers are snap-happy! We receive so many fantastic pictures of people's cats and it is evident that cat owners love showing off their pets. There is an excellent contest on Cat Owners UK where cat owners can upload a picture of their cat and the winner becomes the 'Cat Of The Week' and is rewarded by becoming the profile picture for the following week and a shout-out on their Twitter page ensuring them 7 days of social media fame.

Cat Health Quiz's
We hold our hands up here! We published a dog health quiz some months ago and have not done the same for our cat loving friends. We realise that many cat owners like to test their knowledge relating to their cat's well-being and we invite you to try out a nice little cat health quiz here

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Monday, 23 January 2017

Why The Condition Of Your Dog's Skin And Coat Is Important

Everyone likes to see a soft shiny coat on their dog because, well, because it just looks healthy.  But, it goes much deeper than just looks. A dog’s coat serves to protect his largest organ, and if it’s not healthy, its role as protector is compromised.
Whether hair or fur, it protects his skin (the body’s largest organ, man or beast) from the harmful rays of the sun, the chilling effects of the cold winter wind, stinging and biting insects, and potential cuts and abrasions while roaming through fields and woodlands.  The coat also helps them thermoregulate. That is why having your dog shaved down for the summer is not a good idea.  
A healthy coat enables the skin to better resist infection. When the skin is dry, it’s itchy, and dogs will scratch incessantly, sometimes resulting in what veterinarians refer to as self-trauma, that can lead to a secondary infection.
An unhealthy coat easily becomes dry and matted, which causes a persistent and painful pulling on the skin. It also inhibits the dog’s mobility and interferes with his ability to groom.
To help keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy, there are three basic weapons in your arsenal: a high quality diet, regular grooming, and supplementation when necessary.
The marketplace abounds with pet food selections. Many are high quality, many are not. In the wild, the dog would hunt and consume animal protein and animal fat. Protein is necessary for the growth and maintenance of hair, indeed, keratin is the fibrous protein that makes up hair and nails…and also hoofs and horns, for that matter. Our knee-jerk reaction to fat is usually a negative one.
But fat enables the dog’s body to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and it gives shine to the coat.  When L-carnitine is in the food, it helps the body utilize fat for energy while maintaining the lean muscle mass.   That helps reduce the overall body fat and may also help decrease the levels of cholesterol and lipids (fats) in the blood
When provided with satisfactory amounts of high quality animal protein and fat, a dog’s coat will be soft, luxuriant and shiny. Conversely, when the diet is lacking in quality protein and fat, the coat will be dull, dry and rough.
When selecting a dog food, read the ingredient panel and select one that puts a named-source meat as the first ingredient…such as chicken or lamb. Avoid unspecified protein such as meat and bone meal or poultry by-product meal.
And speaking of meal, most folks think meal isn’t good. The opposite is true. Chicken meal, for example, has up to 300% more protein than chicken. Chicken is the clean combination of flesh and skin, which contains about 80% water. Chicken meal is that same meat, but with the moisture extracted, down to about 8%. So look for a food that has chicken meal, lamb meal, etc. as the first or second ingredient.
Do a little experiment the next time you’re food shopping. Look for a food that lists chicken as the first ingredient. If chicken meal is the second ingredient, it's most likely a high quality food.  If farther down the ingredient panel you find something like chicken by-product meal or poultry by-product meal, it's probably of lower quality. Here’s why:
By law, manufacturers are required to list ingredient in order of descending weight, and are allowed to weigh the ingredients with their water content prior to cooking. In a simplistic example, the company takes a pound of chicken, throws it in the pot with their other ingredients, and cooks it into dog food.
When it went into the pot, it was the predominant ingredient by weight, so it could be listed first. But, during the cooking process, the water evaporates. The chicken that went in as a pound comes out as about a third of a pound. Now they have to do something to get the protein level up to whatever is stated in the Guaranteed Analysis. Cue the chicken by-product meal.
Why not just use chicken meal as the first ingredient and be done with it? Money. Chicken and chicken by-product meal, together are satisfactory, but it’s a cheaper way of producing the food.
An exception to that example would be the holistic foods, which characteristically contain multiple protein sources anyway; and it could be in a combination of named-source meats and named-source meat meals. And they’ll also contain other quality ingredients aimed at specific organs and systems. For example, antioxidant-rich botanicals, probiotics for digestive health, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, etc.
Also look for foods with a balanced ratio of Omega 6 and 3 fatty acids. Some ingredients have both, others only one. For example sunflower oil has 6s but no 3s and fish oil has 3s but no 6s.
I’ve read articles from credible, professional sources that dismiss grain-free diets and deny that grains such as wheat contribute to dry skin. I’ve got 25 years of retail pet food sales experience and dealing with pet owners that beg to differ.
Although my experience is anecdotal, it’s undeniable. Customers who got their dogs off of grain-based diets and treats overwhelmingly saw improvements in skin and a drastic reduction in scratching. Many were able to take their dogs off steroids and supplements.
And in the past couple of decades, we’ve seen an influx of wheat-free and grain-free treats come to the marketplace. Detractors will say, “That’s just marketing.” Supporters point out that they’re often a preferable alternative to steroids.
But it’s not just the food. You have to consider treats. Some of the grocery brands are loaded with wheat. One popular bacon-like treat in particular has wheat as the first and third ingredients.
Then there are the table scraps…pizza crust, pasta, bagels, toast, English muffins, the last few nuggets of breakfast cereal…that many maintain contribute to dry skin. If you’re feeding a high quality diet, but also treats that are high in problematic grains such as wheat, you’ll often find that the negative effects of the grain trump the positive effects of the good food.
Also be aware that fish oil can be a double edged sword. It’s a good ingredient because of its Omega 3 fatty acid, but it’s anonymous. Some fish species are preserved with the controversial preservative ethoxyquin.
If a pet food manufacturer uses fish oil that arrives for processing preserved with the substance, it isn’t required to be listed in the ingredient panel since the pet food manufacturer didn’t add the ethoxyquin to the fish oil. Most people feel more comfortable when the species of fish is identified, such as salmon oil.
Regular brushing of the coat helps prevent mats and facilitates the distribution of the dog’s natural oils, creating a healthy, lustrous coat. Brushing also gives owners the opportunity to examine the skin for trouble spots and parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites.
And of course, frequent brushing translates into quality time with your dog. That being said, there’s also a lot to be said for bringing your dog to a professional groomer. They’ve got the proper tools and techniques to do a better job in most cases, and their trained eye is more likely to spot trouble before you do.
There’s no shortage of supplements that claim benefits to the skin and coat, and they’re often beneficial. But, they can’t cure allergies just as a good diet can’t. They can only support the skin.
More than 90% of the time a dog’s allergy is the body’s response to an inhaled or absorbed allergen (atopy, in vetspeak), not a food allergy. But…and your veterinarian may scoff at the notion…eliminating grains such as wheat, soy, sorghum and corn have been credited with lessening the intensity of the symptoms. I’ve seen it countless times in dealing with pet owners over a period that spans three decades in which dramatic advances in the quality of food and treats have occurred.
Absent an underlying health issue, most dogs on a diet of high quality food and treats will not require supplementation. If the skin and coat are in good condition, a supplement won’t make them any better.
A possible exception would be during the winter in cold weather regions. The air…both inside and outdoors…tends to be very dry. Sometimes even dogs fed quality food and treats will experience a seasonal dry skin condition. In those cases, a fatty acid supplement such as salmon oil or coconut oil would probably be helpful.
It would be beneficial to your dog’s overall health if you consider the quality of his coat as an integral component of his regular health care.
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 on!/posts and .

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Five Of The Stranger Cat Superstitions

I've been delving through the archives again and wanted to share with you some of the stranger superstitions that I have come across about our feline friends. 

  • The Japanese have a superstition that states that a cat washing it's face with it's paws denotes the imminent arrival of a visitor. Maybe our furry friend is getting 'beautified' in order that it receives it's rightful attention!
  • In Holland, our Dutch friends have a superstition that believes that cats eavesdrop and gossip so private conversations shouldn't be held in front of their cats are interested in what we think!
  • The Greeks have an even stranger superstitious belief that if a cat jumps across a person's grave then that person will rise again as a vampire. 
  • In Norway there is a feline-friendly superstition that states that if the weather is fine on the day of a wedding then the bride can be said to have 'fed the cat well'.
  • The Amish people, many of whom settled in America have an interesting cat-based tradition/superstition. It states that if a couple place a cat in a cradle and the cat settles this denotes that a baby will be conceived quickly. If the cat jumps out of the cradle then a delay in conception can be expected. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Are Dogs Capable Of Laughter?

Animal emotions are a bit of a fascination for us and we often find ourselves reading the latest study on dog behaviour looking to gain a further insight into the workings of the canine mind.

We are often taken aback as to how some dogs look really happy and decided to try and find out if dogs could actually laugh.

Studies carried out by animal behaviorist Patricia Simonet, who sadly passed away in 2010, resulted in Simonet being recognized as the researcher who 'discovered' dog laughter.

Through analysis of recordings taken of dogs playing, Simonet found that a 'forced breathy exhalation through the mouth' of dogs at play could be defined as 'dog laughter' as opposed to simple panting.

Interestingly, in 2005 Simonet carried out a study on shelter dogs and found that playing recordings of 'dog laughter' had the effect of minimizing stress behaviors and actually lead to smiling and laughter in the shelter dogs!

Patricia Simonet's work was so valued that she was posthumously honoured in Spokane County USA in 2010 with the renaming of a local dog park, which is now known as the Patricia Simonet Laughing Dog Park

So in answer to "Are Dogs Capable Of Laughter?"....Yes it seems they are indeed!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Why Are Onions Toxic To Dogs And Cats?

So here I am leafing through my dog-eared copy of the February, 2011 edition of the Brazil-based Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases when I come upon a review article that says onions will cause hemolytic anemia in cats. Ya think?

Maybe news travels a little slower down there. My column reported, back in 1999, that onions cause Heinz-body hemolytic anemia in dogs, cats, ferrets and monkeys, and since then a lot has been written about the issue. A large number of pet owners have become aware of it as a result. But I digress.

Actually, I wasn’t going through the above named journal, but the October, 2011 issue of “Catnip,” a publication of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University which quoted the Brazil-based journal in its “Mews in the News” section under the headline, “Study validates that cats should not eat onions.”

I found what I consider to be a crucial error. The section’s author quotes the Brazilian journal as saying that onion toxicosis is “consistently noted in animals that ingest more than 0.5 percent of their body weight in onions at one time,” then goes on to add (quoting Catnip now), “which translates to a 10-pound feline eating about one-half pound of onion.” That’s an easy math error to make, I suppose, but it’s a serious error.

If I did my gozindas correctly, a ten pound cat would only have to eat about eight-tenths of an ounce of onion to exhibit signs of onion toxicosis. A half pound equals one-half of one percent of a 100 pound animal’s weight, not a 10 pound animal. So, even highly credible, authoritative resources can make mistakes.

The toxic element in onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, scallions and chives is a chemical called N-propyl disulfide. Interestingly enough, there have been reports of Heinz-body hemolytic anemia in some dogs caused by skunk spray, because of alkyl mercaptans and disulfides found in the substance a skunk releases when it sprays.

The toxic element ruptures red blood cells (RBCs), releasing molecules of damaged hemoglobin called Heinz-bodies The RBCs ability to transport oxygen throughout the body is now impaired. Cooking and spoilage doesn’t reduce the toxicity of onions and the others in that family; neither does converting them to a powder.

Although Heinz-bodies (which are visible under the microscope) may be present within a day after your pet eats onions, the anemia typically develops several days later. If your dog has onion breath, that’s the first sign that appears.

Other early signs of onion poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, refusing food, depression and dehydration. The signs of red blood cell loss, pale mucous membranes, rapid and/or difficult breathing, lethargy, reddish/brown-colored urine, jaundice, weakness, and rapid heart rate, may take a few days to appear.

There’s no specific antidote for onion poisoning. If you act within one or two hours of ingestion the veterinarian can induce vomiting (back on the block we just called it gastrointestinal decontamination) and feed activated charcoal, then, going forward, watch for signs of the anaemia and treat that. Severe cases may require blood transfusion and oxygen therapy.  

Our Guest Poster for this article 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 on!/posts   and

Friday, 6 January 2017

Five Unusual Cat Studies And Observations

My cat and dog research often uncovers some of the lesser known facts, trivia and quirky information about our furry friends. Below is a selection of my favourite finds about studies conducted on our feline friends.

Cats Can Be Allergic To You
Research has shown that humans can trigger asthma attacks in cats. Around 1 in 200 cats suffer from feline Asthma and the condition has been proven to be triggered by factors such as human dandruff and the dust in our homes. A study shown here found that this is on the increase as more and more cats are being kept solely indoors.

Cats Prefer Their Routines 

A study found that even completely healthy cats can exhibit symptoms of illness if their routines are changed. The study showed that cats can get stressed and mimic chronic illness behaviour by a simple change in their external environment such as a different feeding schedule. More on this fascinating study can be found here

Why Do Some Cats Drink Water Off Their Paws?

This is something that it seems is just a personal preference to some cats. Some behavioural preferences in cats are known to be formed at an early age and this water drinking habit seems to be a case in point. Further information on the subject can be found here 

Ever Been 'Herded' By A Cat?

Cats are known to exhibit a behaviour whereby they dart through their owner's legs and rub up against them in an attempt to manipulate their owners into feeding them or paying them some sort of attention. Some cat behaviour experts argue against conforming to the cat's playful manipulations as they believe it leads to the cat using this 'herding' behaviour more and more when it requires our attention. An interesting piece providing more information as to 'why cats try to herd us while we are walking' can be found here 

Cats Are More Susceptible To Hereditary Disorders Than You May Think 

You may be surprised to learn that cats are susceptible to more than 250 hereditary disorders. Many of these disorders are similar to the disorders that we humans suffer from and even include a form of feline Alzheimer's disease 

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

Five Common Pet Food And Diet Myths....

A while ago we published a quiz about pet nutrition that surprised a few people, for those that missed it please click here

Many of us who took the quiz were perhaps taken aback at how little we actually know about our pet's dietary requirements. I thought I would take the opportunity to debunk a few commonly held misconceptions about pet food and pet diets.

Commercial Pet Food Is Vitamin Deficient 
Although the heating process during production and shelf storage of commercial pet food does destroy a few vitamins, many approved manufacturers allow for this and add extra vitamins to allow for this loss. (Source)

Commercial Pet Food Is Mineral Deficient
Pet food processing doesn't destroy minerals and the cooking process may actually make the minerals in the food more readily available and digestible. (Source)

Homemade Pet Diets Are Healthier And More Nutritional Than Commercial Pet Foods
This is only true if the diet prepared has the correct nutritional balance to meet the needs of the pet. It should be noted that poor preparation of home made diets may leave pets subject to the risk of airborne contaminants and food-borne microbes. (Source)

Dry Food Cleans Your Cat's Or Dog's Teeth
Cats and dogs have teeth that are shaped and designed to shred and chew meat and will either swallow dry food whole or shatter it before swallowing. Healthy chews and regular brushing will clean your pet's teeth. (Source)

Feeding Your Pet Onions, Garlic Or Brewer's Yeast Repels Fleas
Studies have shown that the feeding of brewer's yeast will not repel fleas on your pet. Feeding your pet onions or garlic has no effect on flea infestations and excess consumption can prove to be toxic to dogs and cats. (Source)