Monday, January 23, 2012

How do Dogs Spread Happiness

Dogs make us happy - there is no doubt about that! But have you ever wondered why? Well my dad told me when I was little that it was because when they wagged their tails, we got sprinkled with doggy magic, but according to a recent article in USA Weekend, there is actually some science behind it.

Acording to the article there are numerous scientific reasons why dogs make us happy including:
  • Studies show that when petting a dog, a hormone called oxytocin is released helping reduce blood pressure and decreasing levels of cortisol, a hormone related to stress and anxiety.

  • The simple act of taking a dog for a walk is healthfu as it has a cardiovascular benefit and acts as  a social lubricant.
The article quotes John O’Hurley, host of the National Dog Show Presented by Purina e who says  “When a dog wags his tail, it is connected to his heart.”and that's a sentiment we sure agree with.

Read the full article in USA Weekend here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Teaching Puppy to Recognize his name


puppu name
Every puppy needs a name
Once you've  chosen a name for your puppy one of the first things you need to do is teach your puppy to respond to  his name. You want to teach your puppy to give you his full attention when you call his name. He needs to  stop what he’s doing, turn his head and look directly at you.

This simple puppy trick means that as you go on to teach your puppy other commands you’ll have much more success as your puppy will be focussed on you while you are teaching him these commands.

Its also important from a safety point of view, as you can call your puppy if he is about to get in to danger such as walk on to a road or chew on a power cable.

When you use your puppy's name, make sure it’s associated with good things. Don’t call his name and then proceed to tell him he as been naughty because if you do, he’ll start to associate his name with getting into trouble and won’t respond. Try some eye contact and a nice pat or tummy rub when he responds to his name.

The next progression is to introduce distractions, such as other people being in the room, and try it outside in the garden, in the driveway, when you are at a friend’s house and anywhere else you can think of. Don’t rush this stage and always make it easy for your puppy to succeed, he wants to please you, so make it easy for him to do so!

To begin the training, arm yourself with a few puppy treats  and put your puppy on his lead, that way you have full control if he’s distracted by something and tries to wander off.

Call your puppy by name in a happy and light hearted voice - puppies love to hear the sound of your voice and will naturally look towards you when they hear you speak.
puppy name
Teach puppy to come when you call
As he looks towards you, give him a treat and praise him verbally with words such as ‘good boy’ or ‘yes’. Repeat this a few times every day until he consistently looks towards you every time you call his name.

Only use his name once. If he doesn’t respond, give a very gentle tug on his lead or tickle his leg so he turns to look at you.
Next, call him and hold the treat near to your face so he has to look at you - reward him with the treat and praise as he does so. Once your puppy does this consistently, swap the food for a toy. His reward for looking at you will then be to play with you for a couple of minutes.

The next progression is to introduce distractions, so try it with other people in the room, outside in the garden, in the driveway, when you are at a friend’s house and anywhere else you can think of. Don’t rush this stage and always make it easy for your puppy to succeed, he wants to please you, so make it easy for him to do so!

Soon your puppy will learn that wherever you are, whatever the distraction, if he hears his name he needs to look at you and wait for the next instruction. If you use these simple puppy training techniques you'll have your puppy responding to being called by name in no time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Introducing your pet to baby

With a few simple steps baby and puppy cam be best friends
Are you expecting and wondering how your new baby and your pet will get along? Well first of all, "congratulations"! Secondly, "don't panic"! Thousands of households every day bring baby home to meet the pets and it all goes swimmingly! Remembering a few simple things will also help ensure that the first time baby meets your dog or cat will go as smoothly as possible.
Your first step is to consider a series of obedience classes before the baby arrives, especially if your dog doesn’t know the basic commands: sit, come, stay. When teaching the ‘leave it’ command, rather use the word ‘mine’, as this word is commonly used by toddlers. Also, take bite prevention exercises. Even if your dog is perfectly trained not to bite, do this training again, just in case.

Also prepare your pet by preparing your nursery and you should get on to this at least several weeks before the baby is due. For hygiene and safety reasons, the nursery should be a 'pet free' area -if you have  curious pet, consider a  self-closing screen door to keep pets out.  Or you might want to consider installing a motion sensor to the nursery door to alert you if one of your pets enters that room.

Renovating the nursery might be enough to make your pet anxious so try and give your pet time to adjust before baby arrives.

It's important that you're aware that pets can sometimes transmit diseases to babies but, in reality, serious diseases are rare. Some Bacteria, worms and other infectious agents can be transmitted to children from pets  and some diseases are transmitted from infected cats to the unborn child.

The bacteria that pets can share with babies mostly cause abdominal upsets. Worms transmitted from pets to children can cause muscle, joint and abdominal pains, neurological disturbances and even blindness and the fungal skin infection, ringworm, is another potential problem.

Lastly, if you are a cat owner, you need to be aware of Toxoplasmosis. This single-celled parasite is transmitted from young cats to unborn children via the child's pregnant mother. It can cause blindness and other problems. All the above infections are extremely rare and simple hygienic measure will stop all such problems.

  1. After either you or your baby has played with your pets, wash your hands
  2. Don't let pets lick your baby, especially on the face and hands.
  3. Cover the sandpit when it is not in use.
  4. Pregnant ladies should wear gloves when gardening.
  5. Don't let your infant crawl in areas where your dog has soiled and remove all   of your pet's deposits from the garden on a daily basis.
  6. Worm your dog regularly. Pups should be wormed every two weeks until three months old, then monthly until six months old. Beyond six months of age, every dog should be wormed every three months. Use a monthly heartworm preventive that also kills intestinal worms but be aware than none of these will kill all intestinal worms so a three monthly all-wormer is still important.
  7. If your pet is unwell, especially if it has diarrhoea or a skin disease, consult your veterinarian.
  8. Keep your pet free of fleas
When you have a baby, consider moving away from chemical insecticide rinses for your pet that you drench its coat with insecticide. The 'spot on the neck' preparations are good, but  keep your pet away from your baby for at least 48 hours while the insecticide dissipates.

Alternatively there are several tablet preparations that will control fleas and some that also control worms at the same time. 

You are likely to be concerned about the effect of your baby on your pet's behaviour. When you bring your baby home for the first time, your dog and cat are bound to be curious. There are so many pleasant, and some not so pleasant, odours that are associated with babies that your pets will find most inviting. Include the various vocal arrangements that babies practice at random and your necessary distraction away from your pets in favour of the alien usurper and your pets are sure to be curious.

Most pets adapt very well but aggressive pets mixing with infant children are an obvious concern. Sadly, the face and head are the commonest sites of injury when things go wrong.  Allow your pets to gently investigate your baby.  Allow some cautious sniffing but no licking. Speak to your pets in soothing tones and massage their ears and faces to reassure them. Start with brief introductions at first and build up the duration as your pets become acquainted.

Consider walking your dog and baby together. Have your baby in a papoose as managing a boisterous dog and an untrained and disobedient pram at the same time can be difficult and dangerous.

Back in the home, play pens and baby gates can be used to control  interactions. A play pen can confine your baby while your pets are free, or your pets while your baby is free and baby gates are very useful to allow cats and small dogs to escape from the terror toddler!

It is also advisable to get your pets used to spending more time away from you before the baby arrives, as this will be the reality of your pets' future.

For the last month or two of your pregnancy, leave your pets outside more often but do this by giving your pets something rewarding to distract them such as a Kong toy or Roller Treat Ball.

Don't be too concerned. Most pets get on very well with new babies and nothing is more rewarding than seeing a child and pet sharing mutual love but mever leave your dog and your baby unsupervised, under any circumstances. Be extra careful when the baby is crying, screaming or waving its arms and legs. Such actions can bring out a predatory or investigative reaction from the dog. Put the dog in another room or in the down/stay position, several meters away from a crying baby.

Following these simple suggestions will greatly improve the interaction of your pets and your new baby.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Animals with artificial limbs

Dogs with artificial limbs are on the cutting edge of pet health
The recent release of the movie "Dolphin Tale" with Morgan Freedman has renewed many people's interest in the idea of artificial legs for dogs and cats and other animals. The loss of a limb or worse, two, can be devastating for an animal but for those pets lucky enough to have access to veterinary professionals with the ability to attach prosthetic animal limbs  and owners or others willing to foot the expense, a prosthetic limb can mean a long and almost normal life.

We recently heard about both a cat with artificial limbs and a dog with artificial limbs (see below), but there are many examples of pets with prosthetics and also wild animals with artificial limbs.
One of the world leaders in artificial limbs for pets is veterinary surgeon Dr Noel Fitzpatrick and one of the first dogs to receive prosthetic limbs by Dr Fitzpatrick was a Belgian Sheperd called Storm (pictured above). Storm lost his paw after it became infected with a tumor and Dr Fitpatrick fitted him with a replacement paw of laminated carbon fibre.


In the above video clip, you see Oscar,  a cat with two false legs who was fortunate enough to also have  veterinary surgeon  Dr Noel Fitzpatrick's assistance after he lost his two rear legs in an accident with a combine harvester. Dr Fitzpatrick gave Oscar the cat two prosthetic paws which has helped this lucky kitty live a fulfilling life.  While the process was a success, Oscar’s artificial cat paws haven’t yet been perfected for outdoor use and so at this stage he is going to have to be a house cat for the forseeable future.

In 2011  a dog called  Nakio became the first dog in the world to be fitted with a full set of bionic paws from a company called Orthopets. Nakio lost his paws due to severe frostbite after his previous owners abandoned him to fend for himself during a  freezing winter in Nebraska.  The dog's artificial limbs have been so successful that he can now walk, run and swim.

It's not just dogs and cats that have been lucky enough to receive artificial animal limbs but there are other animals including goats, dolphins and even elephants with artificial limbs.

Boonie the goat broke his leg and unfortunately, the break was so bad that his leg had to be amputated. Fortunately, Boonie’s owner cared enough about her to get in touch with Orthopets, the same company that would later help Nakio. Boonie the goat now walks and runs without problems thanks to his artificial leg.

 In Thailand an elephant called Motala lost her foot after stepping on a landmine but Veterinarians were able to fit a prosthetic elephant leg made of fiberglass and silicone.

And don't think bionic limbs for animals are only for land animals. Two Dolphins, Fuji from Okinawa aquarium and Winter from Clearwater Marine Aquarium have had artificial tails attached. In Fuji's case, an unknown disease took her tail meaning it had to be replaced with an artificial dolphin Tail made from rubber by the Bridgestone tire company.

Perhaps the most famous dolphin with a  prosthetic tail, Winter lost her tale when it became caught in a crab fishing line. After Winter received her bionic dolphin tale, a documentary was smade about her called Winter, the Dolphin That Could, and Warner Bros made a fictionalized version of the story starring Morgan Freeman, called  Dolphin Tale.


In Japan, the Sea Turtle Association helped fit artificial turtle flippers on a sea  turtle called Yu Chan.


 While some people criticize the efforts and cost put into artificial limbs for pets and other animals, particularly in species that are not under threat of extinction, it is important to remember that the developments in artificial limbs for pets could in the future help save a critical breeding member of an endangered species  and advances in artificial limb construction and design for animals also helps in the better design of artificial limbs for humans.