The multi-billion-dollar pet industry continues to grow and expand. So what pet trends are hot this year? And, why? For answers, we turn to one of the top dogs in the pet industry-- the American Pet Products Association. APPA officials identify these popular pet trends to look for this year:
1. Pet travel is on the rise. The days of a dog simply jumping in the back seat and sticking his nose out the window are hopefully diminishing. Untethered dogs can become projectiles in an accident or at least distract the driver. This year, the top pet travel trends include pet-friendly travel apps, focus on keeping dogs in carriers or tethered using seat belt straps, more dog-welcoming restaurants, adventures and hotels. To learn more, check out www.gopetfriendly.com and www.bringfido.com.
2. Pet chow faces greater scrutiny. More people are seeking guidance on what to feed their dogs and cats as more recognize the connection between quality commercial food and the health of their pets. Among the pet food trends are a rise in online ordering of pet foods at websites like www.Chewy.com, more companies producing freeze-dried raw diets, greater attention on grain-free ingredients and more interest in vitamins, minerals and supplements that are designed to address digestive or joint-mobility issues.
3. Expansion of pet businesses. People overwhelmingly lead busy lives and also regard their pets as definite members of their families. Many are looking to companies that can not only meet their pet's needs but provide some pampering as well as enrichment. The APPPA forecasts growth this year for pet sitting, dog training services, mobile pet grooming, pet spa services, pet photography, exclusive pet hotels and pet tracker technology. Look for more people to offer upscale and holistic spa services, such as reiki, pet massage and paw-tinctures.
4. Increase interest in pet insurance policies. Addressing the medical needs of the 21st Century pet comes with a rising price. Although pet insurance has been offered in the United States for the past three decades, industry experts predict more people will buy insurance. The main reasons why are because people regard their pets as family members, more pets are living longer and have complex and extended medical care needs and advances in veterinary medicine have resulted in most expensive medical care.
5. Greater push for natural pet products. With more people conscious about doing their part to improve the health of their pets as well as the planet, look for increases in the sales of holistic pet food, natural cat litter, natural flea and tick repellents, pet toys made with natural fibers (and void of synthetic materials) plus more safe toys and items for senior pets, especially dogs.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Are you thinking of getting your first dog or cat? Becoming a pet owner is a big commitment, but it’s well worth the investment. Companion animals are a source of comfort and can ease anxiety and stress. If you’re ready to bring a pet home, here are six questions you’ll want to answer first.
Which Pet Is Right for You?
Take some time to really think about your answer to this one. Consider your home, your lifestyle, and your new pet’s comfort when making your decision. Love getting outside and have a big backyard? A dog could be your perfect companion. Don’t like walking that much and live in a small apartment? Then a cat may be a better option for you. Once you’ve picked your pet, think about which breed will be best as well. Some breeds are more active than others, and some may require more grooming and upkeep. You can even get a hypoallergenic pet (see www.babble.com/home/12-great-pets-for-people-with-allergies) if you suffer from allergies.
How Should You Prepare Your Home?
Help your new pet feel right at home by taking some time to really prepare your home. If you have houseplants around, check to see if they are safe for animals and remove or reposition those that may be toxic. If you plan on letting your dog out in your yard, check for poisonous plants (see www.thespruce.com/plants-poisonous-to-dogs-2132451) there as well. Be careful when using pesticides and lawn treatments and think about switching out cleaning products for more natural products that won’t cause harm to dogs or cats.
What Supplies Will You Need?
If you’re getting a new pet, you’ll need a few necessities. If you’re leaning toward a large dog, you’ll want to make sure they have a large bed of their own, a leash that’s easy on your hands, and maybe raised food and water bowls. A cat will likely need a good brush that will keep excess hair away, and a couple of scratching posts will save your furniture from scratches. Pick up some basics, like food and litter boxes, as well. Getting the right gear will keep your pet comfortable and you stress free.
How Will You Keep Your Pet Safe?
Your new pet will depend on you for their safety, so take steps to keep them out of harm’s way. Keep dogs on a secure leash and be careful when opening doors if you have a cat. Microchipping is a smart idea for any pet and can improve the chances for a reunion if they do get lost. Be mindful of foods that can be hazardous to your pet’s health. Keep an eye out for these toxic foods in trash and out in public and make sure to keep them out of reach in your own home.
What Kind of Schedule Will Your New Pet Have?
Dogs and cats thrive on routines, so set up a schedule for your new pal. Most vets recommend feedings twice a day and daily time for play. Dogs need walks twice a day and a few trips outside for potty breaks in between. Puppies may need more frequent trips outside. You may need to spend time teaching a new kitten how to use the litter box. Keep time commitments in mind when picking out your pet and then establish their new routine as quickly as possible to help them settle in safely.
How Will You Bond With Your New Pal?
Connecting with your new pet may take some time and effort, so be patient when building the bonds between you and your new buddy. Training and play are wonderful ways to connect with your pet, so set aside a few minutes each day to hang out together. Using positive reinforcement can also help foster a healthy relationship. Rescued animals can be especially nervous in a new home, and you may need to take extra steps to establish trust and encourage affection. Patience and positivity can go a long way in welcoming a new pet into your world.
You should be excited to become a pet owner! It’s quite the commitment, but a little planning and knowledge will keep your new pal healthy and help you enjoy your new life together.
By Jessica Brody
Next to housetraining, one of the biggest challenges — and frustrations — you may face as a pet parent with the arrival of a newly adopted puppy is his insistence on mouthing and nipping your hand, forearm and ankle. It also ranks among the top reasons puppies and young dogs are relinquished to animal shelters.
Sure, your pup is darn cute and full of canine charm – but ouch! His little pointed teeth can hurt and even break skin. And, without being taught the safe and acceptable way to interact with people, your dog’s playful biting behavior can evolve into a more serious issue: play aggression.
“Play aggression is playful behavior, but with over-exuberance and without adequate (bite) inhibition,” notes Pamela Perry, DVM, Ph.D., a veterinary behaviorist at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine’s Animal Behavior Clinic in Ithaca, NY. “Uncontrolled play is dangerous because the dog can knock people down or injure them with their teeth.”
It is important to recognize that playful mouthing and nipping is normal behavior among fast-growing puppies. Play mouthing starts to develop in puppies between 2 and 4 weeks of age and accelerates between 4 and 14 weeks of age as they learn the proper play etiquette with their littermates. When one puppy accidentally bites down too hard on another or jumps on him too hard, the other lets out a painful yelp. This is a signal to the first puppy to tone down his play.
“Puppies learn from their littermates that overly exuberant play (growling, biting and wrestling) is not tolerated,” says Dr. Perry. “This is very important that puppies have adequate socialization with littermates or with other puppies of similar age so that they learn to inhibit their bites.”
But sometimes, a puppy is separated from his littermates before learning the canine rules of bite inhibition. He needs your help in learning how to play politely.
Dr. Perry offers these strategies to help you tone down your dog’s mouthing and nipping actions:
• Head to school. Enroll your young pup (after he has completed his round of puppy vaccinations) in a class taught by a professional dog trainer. During these supervised classes, your puppy gets to learn how to play properly with other puppies of his own age.
• Select the right toys. Your fast-growing puppy is teething and transitioning to permanent adult teeth. His gums may ache. Provide him with appropriate chew toys to satisfy his oral needs.
• Choose your interactive games wisely. Two safe games to engage with your puppy are fetch and tug-of-war. When done properly, these games provide an acceptable outlet for your puppy’s innate urges to grab and pull on things with his mouth. Ideal fetch toys include tennis balls and nylon floppy discs. Fetch provides a safe distance between you and your puppy. For tug-of-war play, choose a tug toy that is at least three feet in length to give a safe distance between your hand and your dog’s mouth. Teach your dog to drop the tug toy on cue so he learns that you start and end all fun games.
• Avoid hand wrestling with your puppy. Never tease your puppy by placing your hand over his muzzle in a friendly game of wrestling. Don’t permit him to nibble or pounce on your toes, either. Unintentionally, you are encouraging his mouthy behavior. • Don’t hit or pin your puppy. Resist smacking your puppy’s muzzle or holding his mouth closed if he nips you as these punitive tactics can backfire and cause him to bite more, and harder.
• Teach your dog to be gentle during play. If your puppy’s teeth contact your skin, make a high-pitched yelp to let him know it hurts. Don’t quickly yank your hand from his mouth because this rapid movement can trigger his play drive. Instead, let your hand go limp as you move it away from his mouth.
• Know when to stand up and end play. Employ time outs to teach your puppy that fun playtime ends when he becomes too mouthy or nippy. Do this by abruptly yet calmly standing up, turning around and walking away. This technique teaches your puppy that gentle interactive play reaps your attention and overly aggressive actions halts playtime. Resume play with your puppy when he is calm.
“As soon as the puppy will calmly sit for the owner, play may resume,” adds Dr. Perry. “In general, puppy mouthing can be prevented or managed by giving the puppy lots of exercise, play dates with other puppies and obedience training to teach appropriate behaviors.”
Start teaching your puppy the proper play rules from Day 1 while he is still young and his bites are not as harmful. Dr. Perry also recommends teaching your puppy to learn to sit on cue before any interactions with people: greeting visitors to the home, engaging in fetch or other games or getting ready to go on a leashed walk.
Be on the lookout for warning signs that over-exuberant play mouthing has evolved into canine aggression that warrants seeking the help of a veterinary behaviorist. Some dogs may start biting out of frustration or fear.
“Things that indicate the play aggression is progressing to something more serious include stiff body postures, staring, or prolonged deep-toned growling,” says Dr. Perry. “Inadvertent reinforcement of mouthing behavior, inconsistent interactions, or use of physical punishment (hitting the puppy) can exacerbate the problem and lead to fear- or conflict-related aggression.”
By Sarah Zumhofe
All the parts of a cat’s anatomy work in unison to accommodate the obligate-carnivore principal and the feline’s prowess as an intrepid predator. However, each individual part, like a thread, weaves a complex tapestry of hunter, communication system and natural survivor.
What do you think of when you look at your sweet, soft fur darling curled up sleeping in your lap? A beautiful creature as graceful, lithe and agile as a dancer? Look again. This time, do you see a full communication system, versed in verbal and nonverbal abilities, from nose to tail? Now look once more. Do you see a stealthy, skillful predator?
The answer to all three of these questions should be “yes.”
Every facet of the feline body fuses form and function to create an obligate carnivore, a fearsome predator designed to hunt and eat prey and utilize the essential nutrients from it. This natural design cannot be undone and cats cannot choose to be vegetarian any more than we can choose our biological parents. The predatory behaviors activate within the first 52 days of life.
For the thousands of years that cats have shared our home and hearts, and with all that we know, we’re still amazed, mystified, and at times, unsure about how the graceful, stealthy, agile and elegant feline design functions.
The Feline Skeleton
The cat’s skeleton is composed of approximately 244 bones, about 40 more than humans. The difference in number primarily comes from how many tail bones an individual cat has. The hard skeleton provides support and protection of soft tissues, like the internal organs, yet is lightweight for springing and is extraordinarily flexible.
In addition to bones, other structures include ligaments, the connective tissue which holds bones together (where two bones meet is called a joint); cartilage, the padding between joints; and tendons, connecting bone to muscle. Together, these elements form a graceful, agile and speedy predator.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the cat’s physical structure is seen in its slinky strut. Watch a cat walk and you’ll see how the shoulders alternatively dip, giving it a beautiful slinky stride. This is because the cat’s small collarbone, or clavicle, is not fused to the skeleton. Rather, it is connected to the chest by muscle. This structure narrows the deep chest and allows the front legs and feet to stay close together while giving speed, long strides, flexibility and the uncanny ability to get into tight spaces. Notably, some cats have no collarbone at all.
The 30 very flexible vertebrae in the supple spine, and the way the spine attaches to the legs, allow felines to stretch out and lengthen during leaps, compress the spine to curl up in a tiny ball, arch the back and rotate, bend and twist the front half of the body independently from the back half. This ability, combined with the keen sense of balance from the fluid-filled cochlea in the inner ear, enables the righting reflex. The righting reflex is an automatic response of the cat’s nervous system that corrects the orientation of its body when it isn’t in its normal, upright position.
This innate righting reflex turn allows a cat to land on its feet when jumping or falling. As soon as the cat senses disorientation, the head rotates first, followed by the front legs. Then the hindquarters rotate around, and the legs extend out for landing, with the flexible joints acting as shock absorbers. Remember, cats do not always land on their feet and can, and do, sustain injuries from falls.
The vertebrae in a cat’s tail, called caudal vertebrae, are as flexible as the spinal vertebrae. The number of vertebrae varies from cat to cat. Bobtailed cats, such as the Manx of Japanese Bobtail, may have three vertebrae in the tail, while long-tailed cats, like the Siamese, may have up to 28 vertebrae.
Limbs and Digits
A cat’s slender limbs differ in structure and purpose. The front legs are more flexible in rotation, allowing the front paw pads to reach the head and face for grooming. The front legs have elbows, which are hinged backward and slightly bent, but can be locked in place by supporting ligaments and muscles.
Cats have flexible wrists that aid in climbing, throwing prey (or toys) in the air, and curling the paws underneath the body during sleeping.
The less flexible rear legs move forward and backward. The structure of the knee, which opposes the elbow, powerfully propels the cat’s spring in pouncing and running. Felines, like Formula One race cars, are built for speed, not distance.
At the base of those slender legs are fleshy, hairless, sensitive pads which support the feline body and act as shock absorbers. The front paws have five toes each and the back paws have four toes each, for a total of 18 toes. Cats with a genetic anomaly that causes them to have up to eight toes per paw are called polydactyl cats.
A cat’s toes have curved, sharp claws used for scratching, fighting, climbing and gripping. We usually think of the claws as retractable. However, the default state is retracted, meaning the claw is hidden away or sheathed. The claws may stay hidden to avoid excessive wear and tear from walking. The claws are connected to the last toe bone and are exposed when your cat is excited or frightened.
Cats, like dogs, are digitigrades, meaning they walk on their toes and what we call the ball of the foot. Humans walk on the sole of the foot, which makes us plantigrade. The digitgrade posture enables the quick, quiet movement necessary for stealthy predators.
A cat’s gait is unusual in the animal kingdom. Cats walk in a “pacing” gait, moving the front and rear legs on one side of the body, and then front and rear legs on the other side. Camels and giraffes are the only other two animals with this “pacing” gait. When a cat breaks into a trot or sprint, they use the “diagonal” gait, with diagonally opposing front and hind legs moving in unison, like when you walk and swing your arms.
Feline Ears and Eyes
Cats’ ears help them to maintain balance and signal emotions. Hearing is also one of the cat’s sharpest senses. They can hear sounds too faint for our ears and hear sounds at a much higher pitch than we, or even dogs, can hear. The cat’s hearing range is from 45 to 64,000 Hz.
Like all four-legged animals, cats have cup-shaped ears. These cup-shaped ears have over 32 muscles, enabling them to swivel 180 degrees, as well as move independently of each other to locate the source of a sound.
Sound is the vibration of air. The outer flap of the ear, or pinna, grabs the sound vibration and funnels it down the external auditory canal, the ear canal, to the eardrum, the tympanic membrane. From the ear drum, the three auditory bones, the ossicles, carry the vibration to the snail-shaped cochlea in the inner ear. The cochlea converts the sound into electrical impulses. The auditory nerves carry the impulses to the brain where they are registered as sound.
Upon hearing a sound, a cat’s whole head turns toward it and the eyes focus in, too. The ears also serve as a mood barometer. Upright, forward ears mean a relaxed cat. Swiveling ears signal an interested, listening cat. Ears turned sideways, back or down express agitation. The flatter the ears, the more agitated the cat.
Cats’ eyes are unusually large relative to their body size. In comparison, if our eyes were as large relative to our body size, each eye would measure approximately eight inches in diameter. The large cornea, the part you see when facing your cat, allows more light into the back of the eye. The elliptical shaped pupil acts like venetian blinds to allow more or less light into the eye.
What about those spooky eyes that glow in the dark? That ability comes from a reflective layer of cells in the back of the retina called the tapetum lucidum. When illuminated, these cells reflect light back into the retina and cause the eyes to shine at night. The large number of rods within the retina gives cats their superior nighttime vision.
Cats have a whopping 200-degree field of vision compared with our 180 degrees, enabling them to see practically in all directions except straight behind. For this enhanced field of vision, the cat cannot see objects close up because the muscles that control eye’s lens are weak, making cats farsighted. The optimum viewing distance is a range between seven and 20 feet.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Hormone Linked to Canine Aggression? University researchers explore the biology behind canine aggression.
For some dog owners, a leisurely walk can turn stressful the moment their canine companion sees another pup walking by. Dogs with what is known as “leash aggression” may bark, growl or lunge at other dogs during walks, setting the scene for a tense and potentially dangerous interaction.
So why do some dogs lash out on the leash while others don’t? Hormones may be partly to blame, according to new research led by the University of Arizona’s Evan MacLean.
Although a number of studies have looked at the role of testosterone and serotonin in aggression in dogs and other mammals, those hormones may be only part of the story, according to MacLean’s findings, which are published in a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
MacLean and his collaborators looked specifically at oxytocin and vasopressin — hormones that are also found in humans -- and found that they may play an important role in shaping dogs’ social behavior.
Better understanding the biology behind canine aggression could help with the development of interventions, said MacLean, an assistant professor of anthropology and director of the Arizona Canine Cognition Center in the UA School of Anthropology.
“Dog aggression is a huge problem. Thousands of people are hospitalized every year for dog bites,” MacLean said. “If there are ways to intervene and affect biological processes that produce aggression - that could have a huge benefit both for people and dogs.”
MacLean was interested in oxytocin and vasopressin — sometimes thought of as “yin and yang” hormones — because of the growing research on their role in the biology of social behavior.
Oxytocin is sometimes called the “love hormone,” as its levels in humans have been shown to increase when we hug or kiss a loved one. Vasopressin is a closely related hormone involved in water retention in the body. In contrast to oxytocin, it has been linked to aggression in humans, with previous research suggesting that people with chronic aggression problems have high levels of vasopressin.
For the study, MacLean and his collaborators recruited pet dogs of varying ages, breeds and sexes, whose owners reported struggles with leash aggression. For each aggressive dog recruited, the researchers found a non-aggressive dog of the same sex, age and breed to serve as a comparison.
During the experiment, each dog was held on a leash by his owner. Across the room, an experimenter played audio of a dog barking behind a curtain, before pulling back the curtain to reveal a lifelike dog model with a human handler. The dogs in the study were presented in the same way with everyday noises and three common objects — a cardboard box, trash bag and an inflated yoga ball.
While none of the dogs in the study reacted aggressively toward the box, bag or ball, many in the leash aggression group had aggressive responses to the model dog, including barking, growling and lunging. The dogs who reacted aggressively showed higher levels of total vasopressin in their systems, suggesting a link between vasopressin and aggression.
The researchers did not observe differences in oxytocin levels between the two groups of dogs. However, when they compared the oxytocin levels of the pet dogs in the study to a group of assistance dogs, which are specifically bred to have non-aggressive temperaments, they found that the assistance dogs had higher levels of oxytocin and higher oxytocin-to-vasopressin ratios. This supports the idea that oxytocin may help inhibit aggression in dogs.
Future research might consider new interventions focused on vasopressin and oxytocin, MacLean said.
A piece of good news for pet owners and their pups: One way to boost dogs’ oxytocin levels and decrease vasopressin is through friendly dog-human interactions.
“Previous work shows dog-human friendly interactions can create a release in oxytocin in dogs, and when dogs interact with people, we see that their vasopressin levels go down over time,” MacLean said. “These are bidirectional effects. It’s not just that when we’re petting a dog, the dog is having this hormonal response — we’re having it, too.”
By Sarah Zumhofe
Forge a Fear-Free Home for Fido; Secure a safe retreat space for your dog to minimize stress and maximize emotional rest.
When your pet is fearful, anxious, stressed or just plain needs extra space, you don’t always have time to figure out how to deal with it. Having an action plan in place is a preventive step you can take to help your dog feel safe, one that can stand alone or be used in tandem with veterinary-led interventional efforts. The feeling of being prepared is empowering for you and reassures your pet that you’re in charge and all is well.
One way to achieve this is to create a safe, secure home retreat where your pet can go when he wants to rest and relax or when he’s feeling a little — or a lot — stressed.
Building A Fear Free Fortress
A Fear Free fortress doesn’t require a moat or high walls. It simply needs to be a place where your pet feels secure, no matter what’s going on around him.
The fortress may be an area your pet has chosen in the past to hide out, such as a bathroom or bathtub. If he hasn’t indicated a preference, you can create such a space. Ideal spots are insulated from outside noise. Such spaces may include an inner room, bathroom, closet or basement.
Keep exit points and doors of the fortress open to allow free movement in and out. Fearful pets may panic if they are trapped or simply feel trapped inside an enclosed space.
When static electricity builds up on a dog’s coat, it can be a shocking experience — literally! Dogs naturally take measures to decrease the static shock that can build up in their coat during storms. They do this by fleeing for spaces like bathrooms or basements where static is naturally lessened. For these dogs, the ideal safe setup may be a space where static is minimized.
Provide Hiding Places
Inside the fortress, your pet should have places where he can take cover. Some popular hideaway options include the following:
• Blankets and bedding that allow the dog to burrow
• A covered space insulated from outside sounds. You can purchase one or make your own using an indoor doghouse, a covered pet bed, or a crate draped with blankets on up to three sides, leaving the door open.
Stock your pet’s fortress with “survival supplies” so he doesn’t feel the need to venture out if he doesn’t want to. These include water, comfortable bedding, toys, food puzzles, comfort items, and a supply of tasty treats.
Make the fortress inviting in other ways as well. For instance, spritz calming species-specific synthetic pheromones on bedding or place a pheromone dispenser near the fortress to provide a chemical sense of comforting calm similar to the serene scent a mother dog or cat provides at birth for nursing pups or kittens.
You can also create comfort through calming scents placed near the fortress. Applying them on specific items of bedding or toys gives pets the choice of moving closer to the scented item or further away. Soothing scents include lavender, chamomile, and worn, unwashed items of clothing belonging to the dog’s favorite people.
Set The Stage
Often, you know in advance which types of events are going to have an effect on your pet. He may be anxious or fearful during thunderstorms, fireworks explosions, or visits from rambunctious relatives. Have practice hangouts in the fortress prior to the frightening event.
Start by laying a Hansel and Gretel-type trail leading into the space. After your pet follows it, reinforce him for being in his fortress, using rewards he appreciates. These might include food treats he doesn’t usually get, or play with a favorite toy.
Food Puzzle Fun
Providing food puzzles in the safe space focuses the dog on something positive rather than potential negatives. Food puzzles increase the amount of time dogs spend eating, channeling their energy into a productive activity.
Provide a variety of food puzzle types in the dog’s Fear Free fortress or select types you know your dog enjoys. Puzzles that are easy to “unpack” are good choices for sedentary dogs or those without much hunting instinct. More complex puzzles call for dogs to use paws or their nose to move the toy to cause it to release food. Stuff a few food puzzles and freeze them so that you have one readily available when needed to occupy your pet. Freezing also helps the treat toy last longer.
Learn more fear-free techniques by visiting www.fearfreepets.com.
By Sarah Zumhofe
A debate among lawmakers-where to obtain pet prescriptions; At a veterinary clinic or pharmacist at a drugstore?
There are bills up for consideration in Congress that would require veterinarians to give written prescriptions for pets that may be filled elsewhere, even if the clients don't ask. This is the most recent legislative attempt to pass in what is known as the Fairness to Pet Owners Act. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has opposed this bill and previous ones.
"We do not believe that this bill will improve patient care," reports Dr. Ashley Morgan, an AVMA assistant director in government relations, in an interview with Veterinary Information Network News Service. "Writing unnecessary prescriptions is a regulatory burden that wastes time and resources that veterinarians and their staff could be using to care for animal patients. If a client wants a prescription, all they have to do is ask."
However, advocates of the Fairness to Pet Owners Act maintain that many pet owners are unaware that they can shop around to fill prescriptions for their pets at places like Costco, Walmart and CVS and potentially save money than if they filled the prescriptions at the veterinary clinic. Leading this viewpoint is a group called Advocacy for Pets and Affordable Wellness, which represents a national coalition of pet owners and 45 retailers that fill pet prescriptions, including those with active lobbyists, including Walmart.
According to the American Pet Products Association, people spent more than $7.6 billion on pet medications in 2013, the most current year available for this information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) completed a 121-page report on this issue in May 2017. The FTC concluded that pet owners should have freedom in choosing where to fill their pets' prescriptions. This agency also acknowledged that the market is more competitive than in the past, but needed improvement. Specifically, the FTC was critical of a longstanding policy by many large veterinary drug manufacturers to sell medications exclusively through veterinary practices.
In the report, FTC wrote, "Many veterinarians favor a distribution model in which they are the exclusive seller for most pet medications and oppose any changes that would make pet medications more readily available through other distribution channels. Some retailers believe that they could more effectively compete with veterinarians if portable prescriptions would be more widely available to consumers and if it were easier for them to obtain pet supplies of pet medications."
The debate continues...
By Sarah Zumhofe
Dogs come in all sizes, breeds and temperaments. But dogs never lie or deceive. Their body languages and vocalizations are consistent. Their “talk” is always clear whether they are communicating with people, each other or even feline housemates.
Dogs deliver messages via their postures, tail positions, tail movements, eyes, actions, sounds and much more. They do their best to deliver their canine cues to us, but sometimes we misinterpret their signals. We may quickly declare a dog who spills his kibble on the kitchen floor to be a finicky, messy eater. But the real reason may be that he is enduring undiagnosed mouth pain because of a broken tooth or infected gums. We fail to distinguish the “bark-bark-bark” that a client’s dog sounds to alert the approach of a delivery work from the “bark-bark-bark” that he uses to convey sheer boredom or his need for purposeful play.
In the book, “What Dogs Want: A Visual Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Every Move,” Arden Moore decodes 100 postures, expressions, sounds and actions. Here are five examples to help you improve your “dog chat” with canines under your care:
What the Dog Wants: Submissive dogs have no qualms about being labeled cowards, but they stop short of sporting signs on their backs that read, “Bite me.” They purposely make themselves small to communicate that they come in peace and pose absolutely no threat. It is the canine version of waving the white flag of surrender.
Some dogs cower because they have been victims of past physical abuse. These dogs sulk in order to protect themselves and to plead the case to leave them alone and unharmed.
Finally, shrinking in size is also a sign of respect conveyed by a young pup toward a confident adult dog.
How to Respond: Dogs who cower need a confidence boost. This can be accomplished by giving them a little time and space during your initial visit with the client and during your first solo visits to care for the dog. When the dog crouches low and perhaps licks his lips and avoids eye contact, this is your cue to sit down quietly on a chair or the floor a few feet away. Speak in a calm, upbeat tone and avoid making fast or exaggerated hand gestures.
Give this dog a chance to download you on his time schedule. Try tossing a treat his way. If he does approach, let him sniff you. Do not reach your hand out over his head because he may perceive this as a threatening gesture and snap or bite you out of fear.
STIFF TAIL WAGGING
What the Dog Wants: Tail-speak is clear and candid, and is never deceptive. The dog is declaring to others to keep their distance when he strikes a tense body pose, stiffens and slows his tail movement to mimic the beat of a metronome. If you or another dog invades his perceived safety zone, he will snarl, lunge and may even lash out.
A confident, alert dog hoists his tail up and makes slow side-to-side sweeps as he focuses on a situation and decides how he is going to act and react. This tail posture signals high-ranking status in the dog world. A dominant dog wags his tail stiffly and slowly when he is being approached or when he confronts another dog. In response, the lower-ranked dog usually avoids direct eye contact and lowers his tail.
Different dog breeds carry their tails at different heights, but in general, dogs who are concerned, focused and ready to go into attack mode keep their tails stiff and parallel to the ground or raised. Some breeds that have curled tails, such as the Basenji, increase the tightness in their tails in these scenarios.
How to Respond: Heed the dog’s message not to engage. Do not rush in to try to pet a dog who is still sizing you – and the situation – up. He is deciding whether to stay and fight or to flee. Do not stare directly into his eyes because he will perceive this action as threatening.
Look at the dog’s entire body posture, especially in dogs with cropped or docked tails, such as Doberman Pinschers, Boxers and Bulldogs. Toss a treat to a weary dog when he makes this posture to try to shift his mood from cautious to calm. Do not attempt to hand-feed this dog or you may get bit.
What the Dog Wants: Yawning is more apt to indicate stress than fatigue. It is one of the primary go-to calming signals that dogs use. The maneuver is employed to diffuse a potentially explosive situation.
Some dogs, especially intelligent ones who catch on to new tricks quickly, grow tired of long, repetitive training sessions. They may start to yawn and scratch their heads with their back paws as a way to relieve stress, take a break from concentrating too much and to re-energize.
Just like people, dogs yawn when they are bored and tired of dull routines. They also yawn when they see another dog or person yawn. For unknown reasons, yawning can be contagious.
How to Respond: Take a break from the intensity and duration of a training session when a dog starts yawning. He is trying to tell you that he needs a rest. Dogs learn best in minisessions. Slowly build, step-by-step, on each success with each training session.
Be clear and concise in communicating with dogs. If you give conflicting signals or confusing commands, the trying-to-please dog may respond by yawning because he is stressed and anxious. To calm an anxious dog, get his attention, lick your lips and make a big yawn yourself.
Do not fall into a rut with the dog’s daily walks. Break up the routine by taking him to a new place to give him new places to sniff and explore.
What the Dog Wants: Young puppies nip when they play. Puppies understand that a nip is part of the sport of tussling with their siblings or another puppy. When they leave the litter and go to a new home, a puppy usually brings this habit with him. Unfortunately, puppies often extend this type of play to people.
Adult dogs use nips as warnings, to send the message that they are dominant or that they want you to stop whatever you are doing because they are hurt or feel afraid. Dogs who nip because they think they make the rules are the most dangerous nippers of all. If you want to move the dog from the couch or bed and he nips at you, he is telling you, “I am in charge and I say back off.”
Some dogs nip because they have an instinct to herd. Dogs who are bred to interact with livestock are naturally nippy because their teeth are a good weapon against stubborn sheep or cattle. For these dogs, nipping is part of their herding styles. Examples are corgis, border collies and Australian shepherds.
How to Respond: Although puppies are being playful when they nip, this action is another one of those unacceptable behaviors that should be strongly discouraged. The best way to do so is to stop interaction with the puppy and even let out a loud, “Ow!” if he gets nippy. He will soon learn that this action means the end of contact with you and the end of a good time with you.
Herding breeds need to be taught from a young age that they are not allowed to nip at people. A consistent and firm “No!” and the termination of the play session should be enough to get the message across.
Finally, you do not want the client’s dog to be calling the shots during your visit. Pushy, bossy dogs need to learn that you are the leader and the keeper of all good resources: food, play and attention.
What the Dog Wants: Some dogs pant when they are too hot, scared or physically exhausted. All of these reasons can raise the dog’s body temperature. A couple degrees above a dog’s normal body temperature (ranging from 100 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit) can signal a health concern. Dogs do not sweat through skin pores like people do, but rather through the pads on their feet. Overheated dogs leave wet paw marks on the floor caused by sweating.
Some dogs pant because they feel scared, anxious or tense — emotions that can raise body temperatures and trigger panting episodes.
How to Respond: If the panting is due to the dog becoming overheated, get him into a ventilated area and cool him down slowly by placing his paws in cool (never ice cold) water and placing cool wet towels on his abdomen area. Do not use ice as the extreme change in temperature can shock a dog’s body.
Never put a dog in a crate in the corner of a room covered with towels. You will block any ventilation and he may start panting because he is overheated. Do not overexercise a dog, especially on a hot day by taking him for a long run. And, it goes without saying, never leave a dog inside a closed car on a warm day. The temperature inside a vehicle quickly spikes and can resemble that of an oven.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Dusty was a black-and-white cat who hissed, swatted and squirmed anytime a veterinarian or veterinary tech tried to restrain her to do an exam or worse, attempt to draw blood or give a necessary vaccine injection.
This same cat, however, transformed into a picture of serenity and calmness when she had tiny needles strategically inserted on her body during acupuncture treatments.
“The big surprise is just how many cats will sit still and accept acupuncture needles,” says Polly Fleckenstein, DVM, MS, a certified veterinary acupuncturist and certified veterinary spinal manipulative therapist at the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York. “Dusty was my cat. She suffered from seizures, but hated being handled. But once we added acupuncture to her care, she stopped having seizures and she never reacted negatively to the acupuncture needles.”
Nick, a 12-year-old mixed breed, is a regular canine patient at Cornell University’s School of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y. Every week to two weeks, his owners bring in Nicky to receive electroacupuncture treatments to address his aches and mobility issues associated with chronic arthritis.
“He develops a spring in his step after each treatment,” notes Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, Ph.D., chief of the Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Service at Cornell who, with Curtis Dewey, DVM, is board-certified in acupuncture and offer this therapy at Cornell.
The field of veterinary acupuncture is drawing the interest of more conventionally-schooled veterinarians – and pet owners. The study – and interest – of acupuncture on pets is on the rise. Acupuncture training programs have steadily experienced increased enrollments since the mid-1990s, according to the American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture. The AAVA was admitted into the American Veterinary Medical Association’s House of Delegates in early 2014.
Dr. Fleckenstein has incorporated acupuncture in her practice for the past two decades. She believes that more pet owners see the benefits of integrative medicine and want the same type of care for their pets.
“More owners are willing to do more for their pets in terms of medicine, pain management and nutrition,” she says. “People see the benefit of acupuncture on themselves. They are looking for that extra little bit that may improve the quality of life for their pets and acupuncture is a viable option.”
Adds Dr. Wakshlag, “Acupuncture is a modality that should be actually mainstreamed. Using the word, complimentary, is now a bit of a misconception.”
Acupuncture is a 2,000-year-old Chinese healing art that is fast-becoming a popular therapy for use on 21st Century pets: dogs, cats, horses and even birds. It can boost blood circulation and spur the release of endorphins (pain-controlling hormones) and cortisol (anti-inflammatory hormones design to regulate stress within the body). The goal of acupuncture is to promote the body to heal and unlike conventional medications, it lacks potential adverse side effects.
A common type of acupuncture performed on cats and dogs involves the use of tiny needles strategically placed so as not to send any pain signals to the brain. On average, 20 to 30 needles are placed, depending on the health needs of that specific pet. These needles are inserted into body tissue where blood vessels and nerve bundles merge.
In fact, many patients relax and even fall asleep during the treatment that can range from a few minutes to up to a half hour.
In her practice, Dr. Fleckenstein incorporates acupuncture in treating cats with kidney failure, heart disease, asthma, diabetes and to some extent, arthritis, stomatitis and gingivitis. Acupuncture can assist in inflammatory conditions and help support immune systems.
“I’ve had some paralyzed cats whose mobility has improved and I treated a cat who had elevated kidney levels for three to five years,” she says. “After steady acupuncture treats, his kidney levels came back to normal. We can’t prove that acupuncture was responsible for the improvement, but we did not change anything else in our treatment.”
Other types of acupuncture include:
• The use of lasers to provide needle-less treatments, an advantage for pets who don’t tolerate needles. Aqua acupuncture involves the injection of needles containing medicinal herbs or vitamins that are injected into the body. Moxabustion applies a warm Chinese herbal compound to the needles to provide added heat to treat joint stiffness and muscle soreness.
• Electroacupuncture involves electrodes hooked up to the needles to deliver a mild, steady electric current to stimulate nerves damaged by injury or trauma.
In general, acupuncture tends to be painless and safe and can be combined with medicines and other treatments with no side effects. Used to stimulate the body to heal itself, acupuncture can benefit cats and dogs facing these conditions:
• Sore muscles and joints
• Muscle spasms
• Degenerative joint disease
• Digestive issues, including constipation, diarrhea and vomiting
• Cushing’s disease (dogs)
• Hypothyroidism (dogs)
• Heart disease
• Kidney disease
• Liver disease
• Ruptured discs
• Dermatologic conditions, including allergic dermatitis and lick granulomas
• Asthma and other respiratory problems
• Epilepsy and seizures
• Weakened immune system
In addition, acupuncture is employed to maintain the health of dogs active in such sports as hunting, agility and fly ball.
“More owners are willing to do more for their pets in terms of medicine, pain management and nutrition,” says Dr. Fleckenstein, who has practiced veterinary acupuncture for two decades. “Pet owners are looking for that extra little bit that may improve the quality of life for their pets and acupuncture is a viable option.”
To maximize the benefit of the acupuncture session, the dog under Dr. Fleckenstein’s care, enters a quiet room with dimmed lighting with their owner present. Dogs relax on blankets or comfortable bedding during the treatment.
“Owners need to relax as much as possible because their dogs read their energies,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “I’ve had some owners fall asleep next to their dogs who also fall asleep.”
Acupuncture is considered quite safe with the biggest precaution in making sure a dog does not lick and swallow an acupuncture needle.
“I’ve inserted 100,000s of needles and only 1 dog has swallowed one needle,” says Dr. Fleckenstein.
The number of acupuncture treatments depends on the dog, but on average, the treatments are weekly with the goal of extending to maintenance visits every month or six weeks.
“People see that they are investing in the quality of the health of their pets with these acupuncture treatments,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “After an acupuncture treatment, we advise that the dog take it easy — no big, long walks — and make sure the dog drinks plenty of fresh water.”
Treatment sessions, on average, range in cost between $50 and $100. Acupuncture may qualify for pet insurance but coverage varies. A check of five pet insurance companies found one company that covers acupuncture if it’s performed by a licensed veterinarian for a covered accident or illness, but excludes acupuncture as preventive or routine care. Another company requires the owner to purchase an additional coverage for acupuncture reimbursement.
Many dogs display an eagerness for acupuncture treatments. Sophie, an eight-year old spayed Labrador retriever, had a lifetime history of urinary incontinence and developed an adverse reaction to medication. Three years ago, her owners took her for regular acupuncture treatments performed by Dr. Fleckenstein.
“Within two months of weekly treatments, there was a significant decrease in her leaking,” says Polly Fleckenstein. “In the past 18 months, Sophie has only leaked three times and she now only needs to come in every six weeks for acupuncture treatments.”
Is acupuncture the answer for a pet’s health?
“With acupuncture, you may not cure the problem, but you can slow it down and make the quality of life better for that pet,” says Dr. Fleckenstein. “I’ve been amazed by how well cats and dogs do.”
Selecting a Veterinary Acupuncturist
If you are considering acupuncture care for your cat or dog, seek a veterinarian certified in this field from one of three associations:
• International Veterinary Acupuncture Society – www.ivas.org. This group has more than 1,800 members.
• American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture – www.aava.org. This group has more than 900 members.
• Chi Institute of Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine – www.tcvm.com.
By Sarah Zumhofe
Sarah Zum Hofe was born in 1987 in St. Louis, MO- and has since then had a love affair with animals!