Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Your Cat's Body Language Says About Her Mood

FRIENDLY- A friendly cat's eyes will be alert and blinking, and her ears will be pointed forward while she holds her head up and fans out her whiskers. Aside from looking at her body language, you can also listen to a cat for signs of friendliness. If you hear meowing, she may be looking to interact. Keep in mind that how you interact should be based on the personality of the cat and the context of the situation.

You may have to look closely for indications of fear in your cat, because while her posture may appear calm, a closer look at her face and tail may show distress. A fearful cat may have dilated pupils and flattened ears, and her tail may be held downward, close to her body, while she flattens her whiskers and presses them against her face. Try to minimize sudden or rapid movements when your cat seems fearful, as they may amplify her discomfort.

When a cat is standing with her tail curled, rolling side-to-side or belly up, she's likely looking for contact and play. Her ears may be pointed forward, as well. Just make sure not to touch her on the stomach, as you would a dog, because this will elicit reflexive, defensive or predatory behaviors that might make her claw or bite your hand.

You can tell if your cat is relaxed by looking at a combination of cues. Make sure you examine her facial expression and body language, as a crouched, relaxed position can look similar to fear. Her ears will be pointed forward, and her tail will be visible, rather than tucked or curled, while her whiskers will remain slightly fanned out, rather than pulled back against her face.

When a cat is showing negative body language, she is most likely not open to contact. It's probably best not to try to approach or pick her up, especially if the cat is hissing or growling. Her pupils may be dilated, and her ears will be flattened against her head. She may arch her back, and the hair on both her back and her tail may be raised.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Allergy, Intolerance, or Irritation?

Horses experience a variety of situations related to plants, insects and chemicals that can be the source of discomfort or a variety of clinical symptoms.
These reactions can be broken down into several areas:
  • A feed or a food allergy is an abnormal immune system reaction, generally to a specific protein in a specific ingredient in the feed or the food.
    • This may result in what we call uticaria (welts), plaque, bumps or hives that we see on the skin. Sometimes called protein bumps, these are not a reaction to too much protein, but are a reaction to a very specific protein. (Equine Clinical Nutrition, Dr. Lon D. Lewis, Williams & Wilkins, 1995 p 20.)
    • This protein may come from a feed ingredient, but also may come from ingestion or inhalation of other material or something like insect bites.
    • One horse in a herd may develop an allergic reaction while other horses are not affected.  Identifying the specific allergen may require exclusion feeding or highly specific allergy testing.
    • In humans, the extreme example is something like a peanut allergy where a very small quantity can create a life threatening situation.
  • A feed or food intolerance is not the same as an allergy, although there may be some similar symptoms.
    • An individual is not able to properly digest a specific ingredient, which can result in digestive disturbances.
    • Human examples may include such things as lactose intolerance or gluten intolerance.  This has not been well identified in horses, but may be possible.
  • An irritation may be caused when the horse comes in contact with specific substances that cause tissue irritation.
    • A horse that is sensitive to the chemicals in a particular grooming product or fly spray may break out or experience skin irritation and loss of hair.
    • Insect bites may cause both an allergic response and a surface irritation.
    • Chemical irritants from plant, insect or synthetic sources may cause skin surface reactions.
Unusual skin symptoms or digestive disturbances may require careful observation (and sometimes a bit of luck) to determine the underlying cause.  It may be very useful to work with your veterinarian to determine the exact condition and search for potential causes.

 Posted on April 30, 2013 by Roy J. from www.horsefeedblog.com   

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Getting the Best Nutritional Value for Your Money Karen E. Davison, Ph.D., Equine Nutritionist and Sales Support Manager, Purina Animal Nutrition

Diesel, groceries, fertilizer, grain and hay are all on the price escalator going up, up, up.
There are a number of reasons for this run in prices, including pressure on crops from ethanol production, poor climate conditions in some areas and the declining value of the dollar. Of course none of these reasons lessen the impact on our pocketbooks and horse owners are feeling the financial strain. This has caused many horse owners to become more focused on getting the most value for their dollar when it comes to feeding their horses. 
Finding the best value horse feed means looking past price per bag and calculating the actual cost per day to feed. Divide the price per bag by 50 lbs to determine price per pound. Then, multiply the price per pound by the pounds fed per day. Horse owners are often surprised to find the feed that is cheaper by the bag may be more expensive per day because it must be fed at a larger amount per day or requires added expensive supplements to meet nutrient requirements. For example, compare oats that cost $14 per bag to Purina® Strategy® Professional Formula GXhorse feed that costs approximately $17 per bag. If a horse eats 6 pounds of oats per day to maintain good condition, that same horse would only need 4.8 pounds of Strategy® horse feed to support the same body condition because Strategy® Professional Formula GX horse feed contains 25–30% more calories per pound than oats. Oats priced at $14 per bag, $0.28/lb, fed at 6 pounds per day calculates to $1.68 per day to feed. Strategy® Professional Formula GX horse feed priced at $17 per bag, $0.34/lb, fed at 4.8 pounds per day costs $1.63 per day to feed. Not only does Strategy ® Professional Formula GX horse feed cost less per day to feed, it also contains the proper balance of protein, vitamins and minerals the horse needs, whereas oats must be supplemented to provide all the nutritional needs of the horse. If you feed a daily protein, vitamin and mineral supplement, you want to figure the cost and add that to your grain cost. Basic supplements will usually add $0.50 to-$1.00 per day more to the cost of feeding your horse. 
In many areas of the country hay prices have gone up faster than grain prices. Forage quality and weight per bale both factor into finding the best value for hay. Quality is impacted by variety of forage, the maturity of the plant at time of harvest and the conditions at harvest. The assumption that alfalfa is better quality than grass and therefore justifies a higher price isn’t always the case. Moderate quality alfalfa, 16% or less protein, actually may be a lower feed value than good quality grass, 11% or more protein. The moderate quality alfalfa is usually very mature and lower in digestibility whereas the higher quality grass hay is more digestible and palatable to the horse.
Most people are not very accurate when estimating amounts of hay and grain being fed. For example, a three-pound coffee can holds three pounds of coffee, but it will hold four pounds of Purina® Strategy®horse feed. The weight of oats can vary quite a bit
depending on the quality of the oats, ranging from 2.5 to 4.25 pounds per three-pound coffee can. Hay weight can vary quit a bit as well so, when possible, hay should be purchased by the ton instead of by the bale. Hay that costs $10 per bale and weighs 65
pounds per bale is a better value than hay that costs $8 per bale but weighs only 45 pounds per bale. If you are feeding 20 pounds of hay per day, the hay that costs $10 per bale calculates out to $3.08 per day while 20 pounds from the $8 bale of hay ends up
costing $3.54 per day. Also, two flakes from the heavier bale will often weigh more than two flakes from the lighter bale so your actual feeding rates may vary as well. Weighing a few representative flakes from hay when you first buy it can help keep your feeding
rates more consistent and your hay costs more under control. 
The cost of owning horses has certainly gone up over the last few years and there doesn’t appear to be a change in that trend in the forecast. However, using a scale and a calculator to do a little figuring can reveal possible ways to save money without compromising the health and well being of your horses.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Helping Your Dog Overcome His Fear of Thunderstorms By Jennifer Nicole Cox

Many dogs are fearful of thunder and suffer great anxiety whenever bad weather rolls in. Some dogs will shake and cry uncontrollably, while others will wander off and hide. Many dogs will overcome their fear of thunder, but some won't. My dog is eight years old and he still becomes a nervous wreck during thunderstorms.

If your dog can't seem to overcome his fear of thunderstorms, don't worry. There are some things you can do to help him be less fearful.

By following these 10 tips, you'll be helping your dog deal with the stress that thunderstorms bring.

1. Distract your dog by playing with him. Doing this will keep his mind off the thunderstorm. Chews or toys can be really helpful during a stressful situation like this.

2. Because thunderstorms will make your dog anxious, you shouldn't react to it. Dogs can sense fear and if they see you're fearful of the thunderstorm, their anxiety level will increase. During a thunderstorm, remember to behave as usual.
3. Turn on some soothing music for your dog to listen to during a thunderstorm. Soothing music can help calm his nerves.

4. You should never reward your dog during a thunderstorm in an attempt to calm his fears. These rewards can be anything from cuddles, hugs, treats, etc. If you reward a dog for shaking and whining, you'll only be reinforcing his fears - which is the last thing you'll want to do.

5. Try conditioning your dog when the weather is sunny. The way to go about doing this is to play a recording of a thunderstorm on a low volume setting. If your dog reacts negatively to the recording, turn it down to a level that doesn't upset him. You'll need to play this recording multiple times throughout the day. After several days have passed, you'll want to start increasing the volume. By gradually conditioning your dog to the sound of thunder, you'll be helping him overcome his fear.

6. Create a safe place that your dog can go to when stormy noises frighten him. If you notice that your dog prefers a certain spot during stormy weather, make the area as comfortable as possible for him. If your dog feels safe under the covers, give him his own blanket to help him feel less fearful.

7. Make sure your dog has shelter during stormy weather. If your dog normally stays outdoors, make sure he has a dog house or pen to stay in. If you'll allow your dog to stay in the garage or basement during stormy weather, that's a much better option.

8. Give your dog one of these two products: The Anxiety Wrap or Thundershirt. These two products will fit your dog like a piece of tight clothing and use pressure to relieve your pet's stress during thunderstorms. If your dog doesn't mind wearing clothing, one of these two products may work great for him.

 9. Give your dog over-the-counter medication (sedatives) to help relieve his stress. Remember, even though most over-the-counter medications are safe for your dog to take, please consult with your veterinarian before administering them to your pet.

10. You should never punish your dog for being afraid. Doing this will only make him more fearful. If your dog does well during a thunderstorm, don't forget to reward him when it's over.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

How to Provide Optimal Nutrition for Your Dog

If we love our dogs, then we naturally want to see them as happy and healthy as possible. Many of us simply trust that any store-bought bag of dog food will provide all the nutrition that their dog needs. This, however, can be misguided faith. The various canned and dry foods available offer varying amounts of the different nutrients that our dogs need. What’s more, you need to be wary of marketing tactics that can add to the confusion by making inflated claims.

How to Provide Optimal Nutrition for Your Dog

There are many good dog foods on the market, but in order to find them you have to read the ingredients carefully before you buy. Buying the cheapest brand is not the way to go, either. You’ll typically get what you pay for. You may have to feed your dog twice as much of a cheap dog food to provide him with the same nutrition that a slightly more expensive brand would provide. Consider how much you’re really saving in the long run.

Dogs have been domesticated for a long time now, and their systems have adapted to life with humans. Providing your dog with optimal nutrition is similar to planning healthy meals for yourself. Protein should make up a significant portion of your dog’s diet. The rest should include vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fat. Make sure your dog always has fresh water as well.

Good protein sources for your dog include fish, chicken, beef and lamb; try to avoid meat by-products. Quality meat will supply much of your dog’s fat requirement, but you might consider supplementing this with a little fish oil, safflower oil or olive oil. Good sources of fat help your dog maintain healthy and shiny fur and skin.

The majority of vitamins and minerals can be provided by whole grains. Barley, oats and brown rice are ideal, and preferable to corn and soy. Some vegetables and fruits will give your dog added nutrients as well as digestive enzymes. Broccoli, cauliflower, apples and bananas are all good sources. Avoid onions, grapes and raisins. Once you’ve covered your dog’s basic needs, you can supplement his diet by occasionally offering leftover portions of meat (be sure to rinse any added pepper and salt off of it); yogurt provides various bacterial cultures that aid digestion.

Puppies differ from adult dogs in that they require a higher protein diet. This applies to your pet until he’s eight months or older. Good puppy food will contain about 38 percent protein whereas a quality adult dog food provides 25 percent or less.

© Copyright 2013, Sears Brands, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Seven Tips to Help You Bond with Your Cat

Most dogs are quite easy to win over, but cat psychology is rather complex. If you want to experience the full extent of the love and companionship cats can provide, take these seven tips into consideration.

1. Pet your cat frequently, but monitor its body language. Cats love to be stroked, and common favorite spots include the back, under the chin and behind the ears. If your cat is arching its back or purring while you pet it, this means your attention is appreciated. However, if your cat starts swatting its tail or ducks out of your way, leave your pet alone for a while and try again later. If you try to force your cat to be stroked, it will grow to resent you and attempt to avoid you.
Seven Tips to Help You Bond with Your Cat
2. Avoid looming over your cat. If your cat seems unsure or skittish, it’s important not to chase it in order to try and have contact with it. Instead, go down to the cat’s level by sitting on the floor, and try to coax it to come over to your area by extending your hand or offering a treat. This method is much less threatening.

3. Take charge of feeding. Feeding a cat helps the bonding process, as your pet will come to associate the person who feeds her with nourishment and care. By feeding your cat at regular, predictable intervals, you teach it that it can rely on you for the nutrients it needs. However, it’s important not to give cats human food in order to win them over, as many ingredients in our foods can cause illness or digestive discomfort in our feline friends.

4. Never spank or yell at your cat. Cats do not learn from being punished in this way. If you raise your voice or are physically violent, this will only terrify your cat and make it very difficult to bond with in the future. Refusing to pay attention to your cat or moving it to a different room are more effective responses to bad behavior.

5. Find your cat’s favorite toy. Experiment with lots of different toys in order to figure out what gets your cat excited. Most cats love “teasers” that have feathers on the end of a stick, or long snakes of fabric attached to a pole (though these toys should be kept out of reach when you’re not in the room). Some cats like to chase ping pong balls thrown by their owners. Spending at least an hour per day actively playing with your pet will help to strengthen your bond.

6. Encourage your cat to sit on your lap. It’s extremely pleasurable for both cats and their owners to spend time relaxing in close proximity. If your cat seems sleepy or affectionate and you’re sitting down to read a book or watch television, gently place the cat on your lap and stroke its back. If you’re lucky, it will take a nap on your lap, indicating that it feels safe with you.

7. Do not prolong eye contact. Finally, if you find that you have made direct eye contact with your cat, try to blink slowly or look down. This communicates trust and friendliness, while engaging in a staring match will make your cat feel like you’re trying to be dominant.

© Copyright 2013, Sears Brands, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Military working dogs today have long history of heroism by Laura Sesana

WASHINGTON, January 10, 2013 - Working dogs form an important part of today’s military.

Dogs have been used in warfare by ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Slavs, and Britons.  During the Roman Empire dogs were arranged in columns and wore armor and spiked collars.  Dogs were also used by Attila the Hun and Frederick the Great.  Napoleon chained dogs to the walls of Alexandria to warn of enemy attacks.  Dalmatians were used on the borders of Dalmatia to warn of Turkish attacks from Croatia.
By the early 1900s, France, Belgium, Russia, and especially Germany used military dogs for scout duty, to warn of enemy attacks, find the injured, and to carry supplies and messages during combat.  Even though dogs were used in the Spanish-American War and Civil war, the US officially began training dogs for the US army in 1942.   During WWII, 15 war dog platoons served overseas as part of the army’s K-9 Corps.  Dogs have served in Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and Iraq with bravery and distinction.  Today, military working dogs are trained at Joint Base San Antonio- Lackland for all branches of the military.

Dogs & Soldiers
Like members of the military, working dogs go through battle training and face combat, explosions, and gunfire.  Often dogs are sent into dangerous situations to protect the lives of their handlers and other soldiers.  Military working dogs are invaluable in detecting explosives and chasing down an enemy on foot.  According to some estimates a military dog saves around 150 soldier lives throughout its service.
There is also much to be said about the bond that forms between war dogs and soldiers.  They spend 24 hours a day together; they train, eat, sleep, and fight together.  Many handlers consider working dogs their buddies and fellow soldiers.  Many soldiers credit these dogs for saving their lives on the battlefield and providing much needed companionship.

Current Status
There are currently between 2,500 and 2,600 dogs deployed with American troops overseas.  About 400 military dogs are retired from service yearly; 430 military dogs were adopted in 2011.  There is usually a waiting list of about 300 to 400 potential adoptive owners.
There are several misconceptions about the fate and treatment of retired military working dogs.  Perhaps this is because historically, the military’s treatment of these animals in the past has not been exactly stellar.  Nearly 5,000 dogs were sent to Vietnam, and only around 200 returned to the US.  The rest were given to the South Vietnamese army, abandoned, or euthanized.
Tech. Sgt. Joseph Null, the Military Working Dog adoptions coordinator at Lackland explains that even though this was not a proud moment for many involved, the sacrifices made by these dogs paved the way for the much improved humane treatment and respect that these animals get today.  It was because of the dogs that were left behind and the impact that leaving them behind had on their handlers, who later became lobbyists and advocates, that Robby’s Law (10 U.S.C. 2583) was passed.
Signed in 2000 by President Clinton, Robby’s Law allowed for the adoption of military working dogs (and horses owned by the DoD) by their handlers, law enforcement agencies, and civilians capable of caring for them.  Additionally, under this law, the Secretary of Defense must submit an annual report to Congress accounting for all of the dogs adopted under the program, those awaiting adoption, and those euthanized.  For dogs that are euthanized, the report must specify the reason for euthanasia instead of adoption.  All 11 reports can be found here.
Contrary to popular belief, the military no longer euthanizes an animal simply because it cannot find a home for it.  The only reasons for euthanasia, according to Tech. Sgt. Null, and appearing on the reports, are (1) to prevent suffering and (2) because the dog is too dangerous/aggressive.  While it is true that many adoptable dogs were euthanized prior to 2000, thanks to Robby’s law, this is no longer a practice.  Today, a dog that is suitable for adoption is not euthanized by the military under any circumstances.
Neither are dogs left in combat zones, as many believe.  Like their human handlers, some military dogs are deployed to combat zones, and like their handlers, they are always brought back to their duty stations.  However, once the dog is at the duty station, transportation from the station to the adoptive home is not paid for by the military.
A lot has been made of this fact.  Many advocates claim that dogs are not being brought back from overseas because even though many in the US would like to adopt them, they simply cannot afford the transport cost, which can run up to $2,000.
Colleen McGee, Public Affairs Chief at Lackland, and Tech. Sgt. Null both agree that this is simply not the case.  While it is true that the military does not pay for the transport once the animal has been adopted, 95% of dogs are adopted by their handlers.  If a handler is on active duty and relocating from an overseas base, they are allowed one pet as part of their moving costs, so transportation is generally not an issue.  When transportation of the animal does become an issue, which happens extremely rarely (four times in the last 2 ½ years), adoptions coordinators at Lackland have been able to take advantage of their network of supporters to find an adoptive owner willing to pay for transportation costs.
So while maybe the military should pay for the transportation costs, no dogs are being euthanized or abandoned because adoptive owners cannot pay for their transportation back to the US, as many recent reports, including my own, stated.
Another misconception is that adopting a military working dog is a deliberately long and complicated process.  This is also untrue.  A process that once took seven to eight months currently takes about nine days, according to Tech. Sgt. Null.  The only reason potential adoptive owners may face a delay is because there is a long waiting list of people who want to adopt a military dog. 
While Robby’s law went very far in making sure that military working animals are treated humanely and with respect, even after they retire, many advocates say that the law does not go far enough and are currently lobbying for an amendment that would reclassify dogs as manpower, provide for the animals’ transport to the US, and allow military veterinarians to treat the retired animals after they have been adopted.
Republican Congressman Walter Jones has currently submitted to the Congressional Budget Office a bill that would reclassify military working dogs as “K-9 members of the armed forces” and make them eligible for official medals.  The cost-analysis response from the Budget Office is expected in mid- February of next year.
Even though several organizations are involved in helping these animals both while they serve and after they retire, only Lackland handles military working dog adoptions.  Operation Military K-9 sends care packages to military working dogs and their handlers.  People who want to donate may send money or put together their own care package from a list of needed items.  Other organizations, like US War Dogs Association help injured military dogs and their handlers heal and grow together once they have returned home.  Yet others like Military Working Dog Adoptions and Save A Vet lobby and raise awareness of issues related to military working dogs.