Archive for April, 2012

Dogs change their minds based on human actions

Monday, April 30th, 2012

From LiveScience and the AVMA:

Want to trick a dog? It’s all in the body language, a new study finds.

When given a choice between a big serving of food and a small one, dogs almost always go for the bigger option. But when a person makes a fuss over the small amount, particularly by handling it, dogs can be tricked into picking the less-hearty portion.

The study, published Wednesday (April 25) in the journal PLoS ONE, highlights dogs’ ability to follow human social cues, a tendency which has likely served them well over thousands of years of domestication.

Researchers recruited 149 dog owners to bring their ordinary household pets into the psychology laboratory at the University of Milan, Italy. There, study leader Sarah Marshall-Pescini and her colleagues set up a series of experiments in which dogs had a choice between two plates, one with a single piece of food on it and one with six pieces. Other experiments had dogs choosing between equal-size portions.

In some cases, the dogs were allowed to pick a dish freely. In others, a person came in before the dog was allowed to make a choice, interacting with the food in some way. Sometimes the person would approach and stare at one of the plates; sometimes he or she would hold the piece of food near their mouth; and sometimes he or she would talk to the dog during the interaction.

The researchers mixed and matched these various conditions. For example, in some conditions the person merely looked at the dog and then at one of the plates. In others, the person might walk up to the food, pick up a piece and say, “Oh wow, this is good, this is so good!” while looking at the dog.

When left to their own devices, 73 percent of the dogs made a beeline for the bigger portion of food in the majority of trials. But when people started to get involved, the dogs were more often swayed to make the worse choice, going for the smaller food portion. The most powerful gesture for tricking dogs into making this choice turned out to be a hand-to-mouth action by the person. [What Your Dog’s Breed Says About You]

Dogs in two experimental conditions were significantly more likely to make a dash for the small plate, the researchers reported. In one, the person approached the food, picked up a piece and held it to her mouth for five seconds before putting it down and retreating. In the second, the researcher did the same thing, except she also talked to the dog and looked at it as she held the food. When food was lifted and dropped with utensils from behind a curtain — so dogs couldn’t see that a person was involved — the dogs were no more likely to pick that plate, suggesting that the animals are cueing in to human actions.

Dogs may see the handling of food as an explicit invitation to come chow down, the researchers wrote. Or it may be that seeing a person grasp a piece of food makes dogs want to do the same, much in the same way that babies imitate their parents’ expressions and gestures. Earlier research has suggested that dogs are at least as receptive to human communication as are pre-verbal babies.

The study also highlights that imitation is not always the best strategy for learning, the researchers reported.

“The current study adds to a small but growing literature showing that social learning is not necessarily always the best strategy and provides an experimental paradigm which may potentially be used to explore when an animal will rely on private vs. social information,” they wrote.

You can follow LiveScience senior writer Stephanie Pappas on Twitter @sipappas. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

AVMA Brochure on Pet Loss

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Click Here


Coping with the Death of a Pet

Monday, April 30th, 2012

The English novelist George Eliot said it best about pets when she wrote, “Animals are such agreeable friends. They ask no questions and pass no  criticisms.” Perhaps that is why some pet owners feel closer to their animals  than even other members of their family.

It is no wonder, then, that people experience intense grief at the loss of a  pet and that it can even rival the same levels as the death of a human friend or  family member. Rest assured, that somber feeling following a loss is  completely normal.

What sometimes can make it harder to cope with the death of an animal in a  pet and owner relationship is the impossibility of being able to talk about the  situation if the pet is aging or ailing. — In human interaction, such a  discussion may be able to alleviate some of the questions people  face. Animals don’t understand the process of dying as much.

With humans, conversations can create some closure for loved ones. But  depending on the type of death the animal experiences, there may be no sense of  resolution for a pet owner because there is no opportunity for  communication.

There are several ways that pet owners can help themselves, and others, move  forward after a loss. Here are 7 tips to cope with the loss of a pet.

1. Maintain a normal routine

Sometimes pet owners are used to a schedule that was based on their animal’s  needs. Waking up to walk the dog in the morning was not only a way to keep the  pet healthy but it also helped boost the owner’s activity level.

Be sure to stay active so physical health does not become a concern on top of  emotional strain.

2. Consider holding a farewell ceremony

A farewell ceremony doesn’t need to be as elaborate as a human funeral  typically is, but having a dedicated time set aside to remember your pet and say  goodbye can be very therapeutic and help move you closer to closure.

Deciding how to dispose of your pet’s remains is a personal choice. Some  people choose to bury their pet nearby where it can be visited on a regular  basis. This might not an option for everyone so cremation and keeping or  releasing the pet’s ashes might also help. Still others have gone to the extreme  and decided to take the remains to a taxidermist to preserve the pet.

3. Keep photos or videos

Photos, scrapbooks, home videos, collages and other forms preserving memories  can be a good way to remember the fondest times owners have shared with their  pets. Whether it is a visual reminder or just a journal or even as simple as a  poem, having something concrete that you can revisit time after time can help  you remember your animal.

4. Understand the grief of others

What might be easy for one person to move beyond can seem like an  insurmountable obstacle for another.

Seniors, especially, may have had a long relationship with a pet that may  have been more significant because they have already lost a lot of people in  their lives. The loss of a pet can trigger a response in them to revisit some of  the pain of the loss of human relationships as well.

With a child, the best thing to do is to be honest with them as much as  possible about the death of the pet. Assure them that this pet is no longer in  any pain and although they’re gone, they will always be alive in their  memories.

Having a memorial service is even more important for kids than adults — even  if it’s just for a pet like a fish or hamster — it’s just as important to  acknowledge the significance of the animal’s life.

5. Understand the grief of other pets in the household

For families with multiple pets in the household, the owners are not the only  ones who suffer when an animal dies. The pets themselves have their own  unique relationship in playing with each other or just serving as  companions.

Owners must take that in consideration to give the remaining pets a little  more love and attention to help fill the void that was left without their animal  friend.

6. Finding a replacement pet

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death of the pet, jumping in  and trying to find a replacement as a distraction is not a good idea and can  actually make the grieving process worse.

If the death of a pet is sudden and unexpected, it is important for owners to  take time and fully evaluate when might be a good time to find another pet.  However, if the pet has been ailing or aging for some time, owners may have  already begun the grieving process earlier, and can plan to find a new pet  sooner than expected.

7. Find a support group

If the grief becomes too much to handle alone, surrounding yourself with  others experiencing similar feelings can be beneficial.

Support groups are available in some location for those who need  it.

Pet owners will often feel the same five stages of grief associated with  human loss including denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Perhaps they feel guilty because they didn’t do enough to save them or second  guessing themselves on deciding if euthanasia was the best option.

Sometimes people will look at you and try to make you think you shouldn’t be  experiencing as much pain as you are at the loss of a pet. But grief over the  death of a pet really depends on where you are in your life. People have  different reactions to grief and different expectations of death and dying. This  naturally creates varied responses to death of human figures or pet figures.

Rhondda Waddell is the Professor and Director of the Center for Values,  Service and Leadership at Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida.

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Brachycephalic Breeds’ Snoring Could Require Surgery

Monday, April 30th, 2012

When brachycephalic breeds have difficulty breathing, cosmetic surgery is therapeutic, and owners should not worry about the change in the dog’s appearance, but instead focus on the improved health aspects of the procedure, writes veterinarian John De Jong. Born with long soft palates and pushed-in nares, brachycephalic breeds often suffer from respiratory problems; surgery to shorten the soft palate and increase the diameter of the nares can improve their quality of life.

This is common with bulldogs and all short-faced breeds including pugs, boxers, Pekingese, Lhasa apsos and Shih Tzus. These brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs have been designed with these pushed-in faces and short muzzles. The two most common congenital defects are collapsed nostrils (stenotic nares) and elongated soft palates in which the roof of the mouth is too long and catches on the epiglottis. The second condition may also cause occasional gagging noises.

Both conditions are surgically repairable. For the nose, a section of cartilage is removed. In the soft palate, a wedge of tissue is removed from the back of the mouth. While one is cosmetically visible, both relieve the dog of difficulty breathing and stop the snoring as well. In veterinary medicine we do perform some procedures that are cosmetic, but in this case your dog may be well-relieved by the ability to breathe more easily.

Don’t worry about the way he looks but rather about how he breathes. If necessary, go ahead with the surgery. You can always seek a second opinion in person as well.

John de Jong, D.V.M., is the owner/operator of Boston Mobile Veterinary Clinic and CEO/director at Boston Animal Hospital.

Diamond Pet Foods Expands Voluntary Recall

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Diamond Pet Foods Expands Voluntary Recall to One Production Run of Dry Dog Food

Due to a Potential Health Risk Recall is limited to one formula of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul distributed to 10 states

Consumer Contact: 800-442-0402 Media Contact: 816-255-1974


Diamond Pet Foods is expanding a voluntary recall to include one production run and four production codes of Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food. One bag of the product has tested positive for Salmonella, and the recall of the four production codes is being conducted as a precautionary measure. No dog illnesses have been reported.

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul

35 lb.                      CLF0102B31XCW            27/JAN/2013

Adult Light Formula – dry dog food                                            CLF0102B31XCW           28/JAN/2013                                                                                                                       CLF0102B32XWR            28/JAN/2013                                                                                  

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul        

6lb.                       CLF0102B3XALW           28/JAN/2013

Adult Light Formula – dry dog food

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food is manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods and was distributed in Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia, who may have further distributed the product to other states, through pet food channels. The company is working directly with distributors and retailers who carry these products to remove them from the supply chain.

Consumers who have purchased Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food with these specific production codes and best before dates should discard the product. Diamond Pet Foods apologizes for any potential issues this may have caused pet owners and their dogs.

Pets with Salmonella infections may have decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. If left untreated, pets may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Infected but otherwise healthy pets can be carriers and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

Individuals handling dry pet food can become infected with Salmonella, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with surfaces exposed to this product. Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some or all of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who are more likely to be affected by Salmonella include infants, children younger than 5 years old, organ transplant patients, people with HIV/AIDS and people receiving treatment for cancer.

Pet owners, who are unsure if the product they purchased is included in the recall, or who would like replacement product or a refund, may contact Diamond Pet Foods at 800-442-0402, or by visiting

Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul Adult Light Formula dry dog food is an expansion of an April 6 limited voluntary recall that included:

Product Name                                   Bag Size          Production Code & “Best Before” Code

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     6lb                   DLR0101D3XALW Best Before 04 Jan 2013

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     20lb                 DLR0101C31XAG Best Before 03 Jan 2013

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     40lb                 DLR0101C31XMF Best Before 03 Jan 2013

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     40lb                 DLR0101C31XAG Best Before 03 Jan 2013

Diamond Naturals Lamb & Rice     40lb                 DLR0101D32XMS Best Before 04 Jan 2013


Background Information

On April 8, 2012, Diamond Pet Foods temporarily suspended delivery of all products made at its Gaston, S.C., plant. The company took this precautionary step immediately upon discovering a quality issue when it voluntary recalled on April 6, 2012, a limited number of batches of its Diamond Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice dry dog food produced at the plant, which was the potential that the product might be contaminated with Salmonella.

The above release was provided to me by Diamond.

Written By: Susan Thixton        4-26-2012

Knowing First Aid Can Minimize Pet’s Trauma

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

By Carrie Harrington
Marin Humane Society


(Photo by Kristin Herrera)

Our pets rely on us to take care of them when they’re sick or injured. But if we’re not prepared, panic and confusion might hinder our ability to act when they need us most. The best way to increase your chances of responding quickly and calmly to a pet emergency is to familiarize yourself with basic pet first-aid techniques.

“Properly applied first aid can minimize a pet’s trauma and even save its life until you are able to transport them to a veterinarian,” says Dr. Jim Clark of the Pet Emergency and Specialty Center of Marin. Clark and PESCM staff have treated animals for countless life-threatening conditions.

In an emergency situation, your first priority should always be to protect yourself. Before approaching an injured animal, carefully assess the scene to check for hazards (such as, electrical wires, traffic, unstable structures, etc.). If all looks clear, approach slowly and with caution. Any injured animal has the potential to bite.

An animal should be muzzled and properly restrained before any care is administered. If necessary, you can make a homemade muzzle on the spot using a piece of cloth. It may be dangerous to muzzle an animal that is coughing, vomiting, having trouble breathing or resisting. In this case, do not attempt treatment on your own.

Practice measuring vital signs on your healthy pet so that you become sensitive to changes that signal a medical emergency.

The heartbeat of a dog or cat can be felt by laying an animal on its right side and placing your hand over its chest, just behind the left elbow. Normal heart rates for dogs average 60 to 160 beats per minute, while cat heart rates average 160 to 220 beats per minute. A pulse also can be measured with your middle and index finger on the inner thigh, just below the wrist and just below the ankle.

You can measure an animal’s breathing rate by observing its sides to watch its chest expand. Normal dog breathing rates are 10 to 30 breaths per minute, while cat breathing rates average 20 to 30 breaths per minute.

While it may be difficult to practice taking your pet’s body temperature, note that temperatures from 100 to 104 degrees are considered an emergency.

If an animal has stopped breathing, knowing the ABC steps (airway, breathing and circulation) can mean the difference between life and death. If there is no breathing despite a clear airway, you will need to perform artificial respiration.

If there is no pulse, compressions alternating with breaths will be necessary.

Difficulty breathing, seizures, excessive bleeding, shock, poisoning, heatstroke and snake bites are some of the more obvious situations constituting an emergency. Learn what is normal for your pet so that you are able to recognize when something is abnormal.

Always have the phone number for your emergency veterinarian handy, too.

Carrie Harrington is the director of communications at the Marin Humane Society. which contributes Tails of Marin articles. Visit; follow them on Twitter at

New Smartphone App Can Be Helpful in Saving the Life of Your Pet in a Poisoning

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

SamIam.jpgLorrie Shaw | Contributor to

These days, the ubiquitous smartphone keeps us connected and can help us get the information that we need quickly.

In my business, a smartphone is crucial tool in caring for animals, from being able to text, email or call clients to give daily updates, to verifying schedule changes and, most importantly, getting in touch immediately should an emergency happen.

I’ve mused about how we can put our smartphones to work as an effective tool helping with a sometimes difficult task by capturing a pet’s behavioral changes, lameness or symptoms that you can’t quite explain or mysteriously disappear when you step foot into the veterinarian’s office.

Handheld devices just became even more useful: A new app designed with your pet’s welfare in mind was released in late-March and could mean the difference between life and death for your animal companion.


Apple has made Pet Poison Help available for download and does two things: it offers information on hundreds of searchable household products and plants that have the propensity to be toxic to your critter, as well as guiding you through steps to take if your dog or cat is exposed to something that can harm them with direct dialing to the Pet Poison Helpline. The helpline is staffed by board-certified veterinary internal medicine and emergency critical care specialists and veterinary toxicologists.

The app, which costs .99 cents to download and is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, is no substitute for a trip to your vet’s office or an emergency vet should something happen, but it can help get the ball rolling. The professionals staffing the helpline have special training to assist you and your own vet or emergency vet hospital (by dialoging directly with them) if your pet is critically ill from a potential poisoning.

Click here to download Pet Poison Help.

Lorrie Shaw leads the pets section for

Pet Obesity

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

As the number of Americans who are overweight has grown, studies show that the same statistics apply to our companion animals. About half of all dogs and cats in American homes are overweight or obese, up slightly from 2010, according to a recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

And although owners may think their pudgy dog or cat is cute, all that extra weight spells trouble the some 85 million U.S. pets who are considered overweight.

And many pet owners are finding that the extra pounds on a pudgy cat or dog can lead to severe secondary health problems. Just as diabetes, joint problems, and heart disease are more common in people who are obese, these diseases also are more common in overweight animals. The average cost of veterinary care for a diabetic dog or cat in 2011 was more than $900, according one pet insurance company. Treatment for arthritis and cruciate ligament tears in dogs, which can be caused by the strain of an overweight frame that weakens joints, cost pet owners an average of $2,000.

Last week, an interesting article the cost of pet obesity was published in the Wellness section of the New York Times. To read the complete article, entitled “Paying the Price of a Fat Pet,” click this link.


From Dr. Mark Peterson’s Animal Endocrine Clinic Blog

Do Cats with Hyperthyroidism in Cats Ever Go into Spontaneous Remission

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Posted: 18 Apr 2012 06:36 AM PDT

From Dr. Mark Peterson on the Animal Endocrine Clinic Blog
Gracie, our 8-year old, spayed female DSH has just been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, based on the finding of a high serum T4 value (12.4 μg/dl; reference range, 1-4.7 μg/dl). We only did her blood work in anticipation of a dental cleaning, and are shocked by this news. 

Gracie has no symptoms whatsoever of this disorder. She eats and drinks a normal amount; her diet has been mostly high quality, grain-free dry food (she never liked or ate canned until very recently, also grain-free).  She has shown slight weight loss, but only because she was overweight and we were controlling her intake — trying to get her to loose weight.  Her behavior and attitude are positive; no change from before. Her coat, skin, and eyes all fine. Hydration is fine. Digestion and bowels fine (no vomiting, no diarrhea). Just some bad breath (hence the dental). 

Our vet feels nothing upon palpation of her thyroid. If anything, she may have a slightly high heart rate (212 beats per minute taken at vet’s…possibly nerves), but her blood pressure was fine (averaged 128/77 out of 5 readings).

We had the T4 test run a second time at a different lab and it came back high again at 11.2 μg/dl.

My question to you is this….in your years of experience with hyperthyroidism, has there ever been an occasion when the T4 values have receded on their own, without medication or irradiation? I ask this because Gracie is so young and has no symptoms. 

I would not want to irradiate her thyroid if there is any possibility of this being a “passing phase” in her life. However, I am quite aware of the dangers and complications of hyperthyroidism, and do not want to play around with her health. With everything else so “normal,” I would be willing to wait a month or two and recheck her if you think there’s any hope in doing so. Are you aware of any current research indicating that T4 numbers can fluctuate in a young cat? More than any other factor, it is her young age that makes me question whether these T4 readings are permanent. 

My Response:
No, I’ve never seen a hyperthyroid cat go into remission. Cats with hyperthyroidism all have one or more benign thyroid nodules, generally benign tumors or adenomas (see Figure below). These thyroid tumors will not go away spontaneously once they have formed (1-4). The only way to cure this disease is by use of radioiodine (I-131) to irradiate the adenomatous thyroid nodule(s), or by use of surgery to remove the abnormal thyroid gland (1-6).

It’s sounds like you think that a cat of 8-year’s of age is too young to develop hyperthyroidism. But we do occasionally see cats as young as 6 years of age, and very rarely, even as young as a year or two (1-4,7).That all said, I’m bothered that your veterinarian is not able to palpate an enlarged thyroid tumor with a T4 value that is clearly quite high. You might want to have another veterinarian palpate Gracie’s neck to see if they can identify one or more thyroid nodules. If they cannot and the serum T4 remains high, it would be very useful to do thyroid scintigraphy (ie, a thyroid scan) to document the presence or absence of a thyroid tumor. Thyroid scintigraphy is the most sensitive diagnostic test we have to confirm the presence of hyperthyroidism in cats (8-10), and we use this procedure routinely in my practice.

You certainly could monitor the T4 value again in a month or two, especially since Gracie is stable. But it certainly does sound like she has hyperthyroidism and will need to be treated at some time in the near future.

I Remember Ceilidh!

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

An alumni of the recovery center showed up outside when Karen and Ceilidh were leaving. He flipped out when he saw Ceilidh – it was a reuniting, she was loving him up and he was crying, telling her that she “was such an important part of his recovery and being able to stay drug free”.  He was grinning ear to ear and introduced her to everyone around him, truly joyous.