Animal Health Foundation Blog

50 of the Most Popular Cat Breeds in the World (Infographic)

February 15th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

It’s easy to tell the difference between a Pug and a Poodle, but how much do you actually know about the most popular cat breeds out there? Did you know that there are at least 43 cat breeds—each with their own personality, traits, and history—in the US alone? And this doesn’t even count the domestic cats that don’t have a pedigree or your run-of-the-mill stray and feral cats.

For all we know about cats, they are still creatures of mystery. Maybe getting the basic info on the best species of cats in the world will bring us closer to learning what makes cats ticks and why they bother with us, humans.

Click on the image to see the Infographic






New 4-Legged Hope for Veterans With PTSD

February 14th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker, February 13, 2020



  • Between 11% and 30% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Gulf War or the Vietnam War suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers, or PAWS, Act would establish a grant program to provide service dogs for veterans with PTSD
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would provide eligible veterans with a $25,000 voucher for a service dog
  • Service dogs decrease nightmares in veterans with PTSD while also lessening symptoms like social isolation and intra/interpersonal difficulties associated with psychological trauma

It’s estimated that between 11% and 30% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Gulf War or the Vietnam War suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).1 This mental health condition may occur in those who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, leading to symptoms that are often debilitating.

People with PTSD may struggle with recurrent memories of the traumatic event, nightmares and feelings of irritability or hopelessness. The condition often causes a person to always feel on guard, have difficulty concentrating and engage in self-destructive behavior, such as speeding while driving or drinking alcohol in excess.

PTSD often causes problems with relationships along with feelings of detachment from family and friends, and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed.2

Service dogs can prove to be invaluable for people with PTSD, but the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) does not support service dogs for veterans with mental health conditions — only for those with mobility issues. A new bill, however, could change that.

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers (PAWS) Act

The Puppies Assisting Wounded Servicemembers, or PAWS, Act would direct the VA to carry out a grant program to provide service dogs for veterans with PTSD.

The VA would provide eligible veterans with a $25,000 voucher for a service dog from a service dog organization that meets national standards set by the Association of Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans (ASDPMV).3 According to K9s for Warriors, the largest provider of service dogs for disabled U.S. veterans:

“The intent of the bill is to make service dogs more accessible to all veterans wanting an alternative PTSD treatment option, to help reduce the veteran suicide rate of 20 per day and enable them to reintegrate successfully into society.

Currently, the VA does not fund service dogs or recognize the use of service dogs as a viable method to treat PTSD. Nonprofit organizations like K9s For Warriors train and supply service dogs for qualifying veterans.”4

The PAWS Act was first introduced in 2017 by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, who said in a 2017 news release, “Veterans with PTSD may have left the battlefield, but they are still in a tough fight. Service dogs can provide support, peace, and joy to these Americans as they confront the invisible scars of war. Through the PAWS Act, we can bring our veterans relief by offering them hope.”5

VA Study Looking Into Service Dogs for PTSD

In 2010, Congress mandated VA researchers to study whether service dogs could help veterans with PTSD. A pilot study began a year later but was was halted in 2012 due to health and training issues with some of the dogs.6

The study was launched again in 2015 but results aren’t expected until 2020. In summer 2020, the results should show whether service dogs or emotional support dogs helped veterans with PTSD, while a second part of the study, slated for release in late 2020, will look into whether the type of dog affected factors such as hospital stays and medication use.7

While the results of the VA study are still pending, other research has found favorable results for service dogs in PTSD treatment. Service dogs have been found to diminish the effects of nightmares in PTSD patients, for instance. Up to 70% of those with PTSD suffer from nightmares, and the dog acts by immediately awakening the person and also providing comfort. According to the journal Sleep Review:8

“Dogs are also used to mitigate anxiety, which is often associated with insomnia, and to modify hyperarousal and hypervigilance, which in turn creates a more amenable mood state for sleep initiation, as well as a greater sense of safety in those who are uneasy in the dark and/or night and who tend to phase-reverse to dodge nighttime sleep.”

How do Dogs Help Veterans With PTSD?

Part of service dogs’ ability to help people with PTSD lies in providing a sense of purpose — a reason to get up and keep going. Rory Diamond of K9 for Warriors told, “People are always asking me what is it the dogs actually do. The genius of the dog, or the magic, is it gets the warrior out the front door. You have a reason to get up in the morning because the dog needs to be fed and walked.”9

In more objective measures, one study found higher levels of salivary cortisol awakening response (CAR) among veterans with PTSD with a service dog, which could be indicative of better health and well-being compared to those without a service dog.10

A number of other beneficial outcomes have also been suggested, including that service dogs decrease social isolation, increase physical activity and exposure to green space and possibly even favorably alter humans’ microbiomes.11

In a pilot study of 30 veterans with PTSD, those who completed a service dog training program had significant decreases in PTSD symptoms as well as fewer intra/interpersonal difficulties associated with psychological trauma.

The results were so promising that researchers noted, “Social work practitioners may want to consider referring their veteran clients with PTSD to qualified service dog programs for adjunctive support when they are having difficulty engaging with or benefiting from office-based traditional therapy approaches.”12

K9s for Warriors welcomes up to 12 veterans to their headquarters every month, where they stay for three weeks, getting to know their service dog and learning how to work together.

While it costs about $27,000 to train and place a service dog, the program is free to veterans. If the PAWS Act becomes law, it could open up access further, allowing many more veterans with PTSD to benefit from having a service dog by their side.

5 Fun and Easy Brain Games for Dog

February 14th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

Exercise your pup’s mind and increase your bond when you play these brain games for dogs.

John Woods  |  Apr 16th 2019 for

Want some easy ways to keep your dog entertained while increasing the bond you share with your loyal dog? Try these fun and easy brain games for dogs!

Why brain games for dogs?

Playing brain games for dogs can help to alleviate boredom and prevent destructive behaviors such as chewing or excessive barking. Brain games for dogs can also give your dog a sense of purpose and achievement and help to form an even closer bond between the two of you.

All of these games are easy to play and will keep your dog’s brain engaged and active. Have a go at playing these five brain games for dogs, and your four-legged friend will thank you!

1. Which Hand Game

This is one of the easiest brain games for dogs — you won’t even need to get up from the sofa.

Use your furry friend’s favorite toy, or a treat, and hide it in one of your hands. Have your dog sniff both your hands, and guess which hand the treat is hiding in. Whichever hand they place their nose on first is your dog’s guess.

If she gets it correct, turn over your hand and release the treat or toy. Your dog will soon be conditioned into playing this game easily.

2. Treasure Hunt

This is one of those brain games for dogs that you can play over as little or as large of an area as you like. For the first few times, try it just in one room. As your dog gets more adept at this hunting, you can span the whole house!

Hide a few treats around the room and watch as your dog has fun trying to sniff them out. If you don’t want to use treats, you can use anything that has a strong scent, for example a toy or some of your clothes.

As your dog finds each toy, label the behavior as “hunt.” Say “hunt” just as your dog finds each treat.

To increase the challenge, hide treats all around the house in separate rooms, once you’ve hidden the treats, ask your dog to hunt.

Tip: If you do this outside, you’ll have to set it up directly before playing the game or you’ll end up losing the treats to other animals!

3. Toy Tidy Up

We love when brain games for dogs help you out, too! To be able to play this game, your dog must know the name of her favorite toys and the “fetch” command.

If there is ever a point where there are a few different toys out around the room, try training her to fetch them. Underneath your hands, place a basket, as your dog fetches each item let it pass by your hands into a basket.

For example, ask her to pick the ball up and fetch it.

Once your dog has mastered this, you will be able to train her to bring certain items to you, such as your shoes, or her leash.

4. Hot or Cold

Hide a treat, or a ball, somewhere around the room. For the first attempt, you can put it somewhere in plain sight, until your dog understands the rules.

Each time your dog moves in the right direction, say hot and give her a small treat. If she’s not going in the right direction, say cold and don’t hand out a treat.

Your dog will soon start to associate the word hot with moving closer toward whatever you’ve hidden, and you’ll be able to choose harder hiding places, such as behind the curtain or even under a box. This command can also be used during the treasure hunt game.

5. The Shell Game (or the Cup Game)

This is one of the brain games for dogs that we’ve all heard of.

Get three identical cups from your kitchen, line them up in a row and hide a treat under one of them. Let your dog watch you put the treat underneath a cup so she can see there will be a reward to guessing correctly.

Then mix the cups up — the more challenging you want to make it, the more quickly you move the cups.

Let your dog select the right cup with her nose or paw and lift the cup up. If she is right, she wins the treat!

If she’s not right, mix the cups up and try again. To start with, place treats under all three cups before reducing this down to two and then one. For an extra challenge, don’t lift the cup up. Let your dog figure out how to knock it over to get the treat.

Thumbnail: Photography ©Purple Collar Pet Photography | Getty Images.

Need more ideas for fun with your dog? Check out some suggestions from Whole Dog Journal >>

About the author

John Woods has two degrees, is a graduate in Animal Behavior and Welfare is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and is an accredited author by the Dog Writers Association of America. He is the senior editor of All Things Dogs.

use approval from John Woods given to the AHF in February, 2020 via email

This South Bay veterinarian is leading the pack to provide hospice care for cats and dogs who are terminally ill

February 7th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation
From The Beach Reporter  By Melissa Heckscher   Feb 5, 2020

So when emergency vets recommended hospitalizing the 12-year-old dog to give her, maybe, a few extra weeks in her six-year battle against cancer, Russell knew what needed to be done:

“I just looked at them and said, ‘I’m taking her home,” she said. “We sat in the chair until about midnight, then I put her in the bed and laid there holding her until 4:30 in the morning.”

Cricket died the next day with the help of in-home euthanasia.

“She was tired,” Russell said. “She had gone through a lot.”

But she wasn’t alone. For the past six years, Cricket has had the help of veterinary oncologist Alice Villalobos, a Torrance-based veterinarian who specializes in palliative and end-of-life hospice care for dogs and cats.

For Cricket, palliative care meant treating the cancer—the dog underwent four surgeries and four chemotherapy sessions for her recurrent tumors—and getting a slew of supplements and medications to keep the champion agility dog active and comfortable.

Hospice care meant preparing Russell for the days when nature would take its inevitable course—and guiding her about how to recognize her dog was “ready to cross the rainbow bridge.”

“In human medicine, physicians don’t generally refer to hospice until patients are about three days before death,” said Villalobos, who in January received the Shomer Ethics Award from the Society of Veterinary Medical Ethics for her contributions to both cancer and palliative care for pets.

“When we use the word ‘hospice,’ we want to make sure people know that we are going to support the pet and provide comfort care whenever they get the diagnosis of a life-limiting disease,” said the Hermosa Beach resident.

While palliative care is a growing niche in the world of pet care, it isn’t all that different for dogs and cats than it is for humans. The goal is to make patients comfortable so they can live out their days in peace, even in spite of incurable conditions. The only difference for pets is the added option of euthanasia when suffering becomes intolerable.

“Many times people say, ‘Let nature take its course,’” said Villalobos, who has been called the”Mother of Veterinary Hospice” by the SVME.  “And then I’m contacted to help with that end-of-life decision. People want to know, ‘When is the right time to put my pet down?’”

To aid in this decision-making, Villalobos developed a Quality of Life Scale to help people determine if their pet has “acceptable life quality to continue with pet hospice.” Her guidelines have been shared and used by veterinarians and pet-owners worldwide.

“In the old days some doctors would just recommend euthanasia right away,” Villalobos said. “People would take a limping dog into the vet and they would come home without a dog. [Doctors] would choose to do euthanasia upon diagnosis.”

Veterinarians, she said, would often give patients two options when presented with a seriously sick pet: Euthanize the pet or opt for surgery, the latter of which is expensive and may not necessarily extend the animal’s life significantly.

“I’m trying to give people a third option—and that is hospice,” Villalobos said. “Hospice embraces the whole beginning right up to the end. It allows people time to grieve and gives me time to counsel the family members.”

For Ari Dane of Playa del Rey, Villalobos helped his 17-year-old chihuahua, Roxy, stay comfortable despite a trio of grim diagnoses including a chest tumor, heart problems and kidney disease.

“(Roxy) keeps bouncing back and she’s still here,” said Dane, who sees Villalobos about every six weeks. “She will perk up around mealtime, but most of the time she sleeps. It’s fading time.”

Under Villalobos’ direction, Dane adds more than 15 different medicines and supplements to Roxy’s food every day, all of which are meant to treat the tiny dog’s myriad health issues. It’s a tedious, expensive process, but one that Dane wouldn’t give up.

“It’s a sad thing to watch her decline, but that’s the price of admission,” he said. “Roxy has been a part of the family for 17 and a half years. I wouldn’t want her to be treated any differently.”

Pets As family

In a society where people consider pets part of the family—and where half of all dogs that reach the age of 10 will be diagnosed with cancer, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association—it only makes sense that palliative care would become a part of the deal.

As of 2020, there were more than 800 members in the International Association for Animal Hospice & Palliative Care (IAAHPC), an organization dedicated to developing guidelines for comfort-oriented care to pets as they approach the end of life. The organization was founded in 2009.

“Veterinarians have been offering some measure of comfort care for animals as long as they have been caring for them, but the shift has come with families embracing pets as members of the family,” said IAAHPC President Tyler Carmack, a Virginia-based veterinarian. “They now wish their pets to have the same level of compassionate care at end of life as our human family members.”

Carmack said many providers and pet-owners shy away from discussing hospice and palliative care until their pets are already very sick. She hopes this will change as people become more aware of their options.

“As we open the communication about caring for pets as they enter their end-of-life stage, we allow more and more families to make the best possible decision for their pet and their family,” Carmack said.

Costs of care

Of course, caring for sick and dying pets isn’t cheap.

According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, cancer care costs for dogs ranges between $150 and $600 per dose of chemotherapy and between $1,000 and $6,000 for radiation. Pet insurance can help pay some of these costs, but many companies have a cap on annual or per-illness expenses.

On top of that, in-home euthanasia, the option most palliative care specialists prefer, costs about $250.

For many pet-owners, it’s a price that must be paid.

“You get them as a pup and you know that you’re probably going to outlive them,” Russell said. “It’s part of the package.”

For more information about Dr. Alice Villalobos and to get information on palliative care for pets, visit Villalobos operates out of Harbor Animal Hospital. She plans to move her services to Redwood Animal Hospital in Redondo Beach in the coming months.

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

Look for the Look Away

January 28th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

AHF Board Member awarded Shomer Ethics Award

January 28th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

AHF Board Member, Dr. Alice Villalobos, was awarded the prestigious Shomer Ethics Award at the 2020 annual meeting of the Society for Veterinary Medical Ethics in Orlando, FL.

Dr. Villalobos was presented the award by Dr. Paul Pion, Co‐Founder of VIN.

Dr. Villalobos was given the award “for her years of service and leadership for the SVME, and for her role as the “Mother” of veterinary hospice and quality of life assessment at end of life, with emphasis on bioethical decision making for euthanasia, while honoring the human-animal bond.  She introduced Pawspice, an end of life care philosophy that embraces kinder, gentler palliative cancer care and palliative medicine for terminal pets, while supporting the emotional needs of carers.”

To learn more about this award and it’s criteria, please go to www.

Cats Do Bond Securely to Their Humans – Maybe Even More So Than Dogs

January 28th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation


Many think of dogs as loyal, love-filled companions, and cats as cute beasts that tolerate us – but we might have to rethink that a little. According to 2019 research, cats can get just as bonded to their human friends as dogs do.

“Like dogs, cats display social flexibility in regard to their attachments with humans,” said animal scientist Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University in September 2019.

“The majority of cats are securely attached to their owner and use them as a source of security in a novel environment.”

In their behavioural experiment, the research team observed how cats respond to their owners in a strange environment. Previous research on rhesus monkeys (the controversial wire mother experiments reported in 1958) and dogs (a much more ethically sound experiment reported last year) had shown that both species form secure and insecure attachments.

In a secure attachment, a dog in a strange environment will, upon being reunited with their humans, relax and continue to explore. An insecure attachment, on the other hand, will see the dog continue exhibiting stress behaviour, either clinging excessively to the human, or avoiding them as much as possible.

First, the kitten or cat and their human caregiver were placed together in a room, with the human sitting in a marked circle. If the cat entered the circle, the human could interact with it. After two minutes, the human left, leaving the cat alone. After another two minutes, the human returned to the room, to sit in the circle again.

The entire test was filmed, and the scientists analysed the video to classify the cats’ attachment type.

The adult cats only participated in the test once, but the kittens were tested twice – once initially, and once again two months later, after 39 of the kittens had been through a six-week training and socialisation course. The other 31 acted as a control group.

Of the kittens, 9 ended up being unclassifiable, but of the remaining group, 64.3 percent were categorised as securely attached and 35.7 percent as insecurely attached – with the training having no bearing on attachment style. Once an attachment style has been established, it seems, that’s probably how it is going to stay.

Interestingly, those rates – 64.3 percent and 65.8 percent – are pretty close to the 65 percent secure attachment rate seen in human infants. And cats showed a secure attachment rate slightly higher than found in a test of 59 companion dogs published in 2018; the canines were 61 percent secure and 39 percent insecure.

Previously, Vitale’s work has shown that cats aren’t as aloof as their public image would make them appear; in fact, those fuzzy little felines can be downright sociable and affectionate, so long as you aren’t a jerk to them. And they often prefer to interact with humans over food or toys.

This new study suggests that cats have the ability and the necessary traits to form deep social bonds with humans. It’s just that they may express themselves in their own special way.

“In my opinion, it’s very important to go out and try to interact with your cat and see what happens,” Vitale said last year.

“I think there’s this idea that dogs are this way, and cats are that way. But there’s a lot of variability in both populations.”

The research has been published in Current Biology.

A version of this article was first published in September 2019.

Our Pets are Lent to Us

January 28th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

Pet Loss Bereavement Specialist Certification Course Available

January 21st, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation
Pet Loss Partners has some exciting news.
They are offering an online Pet Loss Bereavement Specialist Certification Course in response to the many inquiries from people interested in the area of pet loss.
Their goal is to design a course that would give not only information about grief and pet loss but also specific and useable tools for helping grieving pet parents.

Angel Fund Helps Give Owner Options for Bulldog With Cancer

January 19th, 2020 by Animal Health Foundation

In late October Laura Pierson’s bulldog, Baby, had a puffy ear.  So she took the dog to see her veterinarian, Dr. Wendy Brooks at Mar Vista Animal Medical Clinic.  “I thought the ear might be infected but it was just a blood clot from shaking her head,” Laura said.  “However, the doctor noticed a tumor on her abdomen.”

Laura, whose primary income is a Social Security disability check, did not have the resources to pay for surgery to remove the tumor.  Dr. Brooks told her about Angel Fund.   She applied and received a grant of $314.50, which was matched by the hospital and the surgery was scheduled.

When the procedure was performed, Dr. Brooks removed the growth she had originally found and a second tumor.   A biopsy revealed that the masses were cancerous. The disease had spread to Baby’s lymph glands.  The doctor told Laura that Baby was not likely to live much longer than six months but that chemotherapy could extend her life to a year.

That was not something Laura thought she could do.  “I opted not to do chemotherapy.  I couldn’t afford it and I don’t want to inject her with any chemicals.  But I definitely am going to keep on top of the progression [of the disease].

“I am in the process of changing her diet,” Laura said, and is hopeful that will help Baby live longer.  She has spent considerable time researching recommended diets for dogs with cancer.

“It’s uncharted territory for me,” she said.  Dr. Brooks, who has been Baby’s veterinarian all her 12 years, “is very respectful of what I feel like I can do and what I can afford to do.  She is my go-to expert.”

Laura’s reading indicated that she should not feed Baby raw foods and that cooked meat and vegetables with some supplements could be beneficial. “I’ve been trying to get her closer to higher protein, higher fat and less carbs in her diet with none of the additives like corn and rice.

“If nothing else, I’ll be adding to the quality of her life,” she said.  “She’s my girl.  She’s my child. And she’s doing really well, actually.  She’s such a youthful dog.  You’d never know that she’s 12 years old.”

Laura, who lives alone in a Venice apartment, adopted Baby as a puppy.  About the same time, she adopted Whiskers, a Schnauzer mix.  “I’ve raised them like a family,” she said. Whiskers, also female, is a happy dog who is makings Baby’s life better, Laura believes.

Laura was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2007, shortly before she adopted her two companions.  “They are my emotional support,” she said.  In recent years, she has worked part time as a personal assistant and a curator for a photographer.  She was working on a Ph.D. when she was diagnosed.

She finds living in Los Angeles challenging and has decided that she will return to Parkersburg, W. Va., to be near her family.  Her father suffers from Parkinson’s disease.  She plans to make the trip in her car with Baby and Whiskers.

Laura is grateful to Angel Fund – and to Dr. Brooks – for making Baby’s surgery possible. After the surgery, a member of the hospital staff “told me that Baby woke up from anesthesia wagging her tail, wiggling her bottom,” she said.

“I thought that was a wonderful thank you to the doctor.  I got really excited when I heard that.”