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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Submissive Urination in Dogs

Dogs are some of the most sensitive creatures on this earth and it is just infuriating and heartbreaking how easily their spirits can be crushed by the ignorance, indifference and thoughtlessness of humans.
Once the damage is done it's done and even with the utmost love and care given in a totally safe and nurturing environment, some dogs may always be a bit insecure and have setbacks.

Many or even most animal behavior issues can be attributed to not a problem with the dog but with the behavior of it's human. If people would just take time to understand natural dog behavior and forms of communication, and stop thinking the dog should think as people do, so many problems could be avoided. To punish a creature who just wants to please and is loyal even in the face of total confusion as to what he is doing so wrong, is disturbing on so many levels. 

Here we have Miner, a young lab mix who not only ended up at the shelter but no less in the "watch" section as a potential aggressive dog, a label which too often results in a much less chance for adoption. To see him now, we cannot imagine the anxiety he must have gone through as he got shuffled from his mom and litter mates to a new home, to a shelter, to another new home and again back to the noise and fear of being trapped in a cage. His "crimes" included his first owners having the lack of time to understand puppy behavior, and the next time around an unsupervised toddler stuck his hand in the food bowl. Dogs usually don't start out as actual biters. They communicate first with body language, then perhaps a warning growl, then if that is ignored there may be a snap, but rarely is that snap intended to harm. How his previous owners handled matters will never be known, but the end result is now a young dog who is known as a Submissive Pee-er. Frustrating behavior that could easily have cost him yet another home. But this time Miner was not only lucky, but very blessed. He was adopted by a young couple who were determined to understand their dog rather than just try to dominate him into "proper" behavior through further submission. 

Excitement Urination and Submissive Urination are both involuntary reactions to conditions in the dog's environment. Involuntary means the behavior is not under his control, he is not trying to deliberately soil the house or "get back at you" as people often think. Once a veterinarian has ruled out any medical or physical causes, then the behavior modification can begin.

Excitement Urination is seen as immaturity and common in young dogs who have not yet developed complete neuromuscular control. The best solution is time and patience. Try to greet your pup outside, get him out frequently, don't made a big deal out of it, and reinforce calm rather than getting him more excited upon greeting or in meeting new people. 
Do Not Punish him or you just may create a Submissive Pee-er.

Submissive urination is more common in certain breeds, including Cocker Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, and Dachshunds, but can occur in any dog. Some dogs are just natured to be more submissive and show other behaviors such as lowered body posture, rolling over, licking and avoiding eye contact. Actually, submissive urination is a natural behavior which starts with the mother dog's practice of stimulating reflexive urination by licking the urogenital area. In the canine world, it keeps a lower-ranking member of a group safe from a higher-ranking member. If you observe dog behavior upon greeting other dogs, there are usually signs that send a clear message of "I am not challenging you". When a dog pees at the feet of his owner he may just be acknowledging that he knows that human is his master.

By the age of eight weeks, puppies usually outgrow natural submissive urination. They gain more confidence as they mature and don't perceive so many things as a threat to their safety. But if a puppy is punished for normal housetraining accidents or other normal puppy behavior such as chewing and excited barking, peeing may become associated with expected punishment every time he sees the approach of his owner. This can also happen if there is another dog in the house who is a bully.

Ok, so we know all that, yet here we are now, trying to deal with what we're left with from someone else's mistakes.
I'll let Miner's story be told by his now forever Mom and Dad:

"Submissive Peeing. It's a term my husband and I had never heard until we adopted Miner, our Lab/Shepherd adopted from the Greenbrier Humane Society in Lewisburg, WV, in August 2014.

When he first met us, he peed all over the lobby entryway; the staff said it was because he was excited. He did the same thing when we picked him up to take him home the next day. Then he peed the next day, and the next, and so on. It got worse when my husband would call him over or lean over to pet him. Over time, we realized something was going on, especially when he would hang his head as if he was in trouble. He would also try and lick up his pee before our trusty Seventh Generation wipes could clean it up. Our poor boy could not seem to control his pee, no matter how wonderful we treated him.

Enter a dog trainer and a helpful site called and we had a diagnosis. Submissive peeing, by definition, is done to show social appeasement. When a dog submissively urinates, he or she is trying to convey that they are not a threat. Not all dogs submissively urinate. However, some will urinate when they're exceptionally excited or feeling submissive or intimidated. In Miner's case, his history of being abused led him to think all men would hurt him. When my husband would lean over to pet him, Miner was expecting to be hit on the head. When he would be called over, Miner was expecting punishment. By then licking up the pee, he was getting rid of all evidence that he was scared of his master. It was a vicious cycle, and just when we thought things were going better, my husband would be away for a few days and it would start back up again as soon as he came home.

It has been almost two years since we brought this handsome fella into our lives, and he truly has changed our lives for the better. He does submissively pee on occasions, but it's nowhere near as often as a year ago. My husband can play with him now rather than Miner peeing as soon as my husband would act excited over a game they play together. Patience was the key to where we are today. It may never go away completely, and I certainly wish I could take away any type of mistreatment in his past. 

To others in this situation: Stay strong and hang in there. It can be extremely frustrating to have pee happen anytime, anywhere in the house. Have wipes on hand and remember: Your dog is trying to tell you something. Have patience and don't give up on him, just continue to love. These guys need that more than anything, since you, their master, are their entire world. 
Love them with all you have and I promise you, they'll return the gesture."

Here is Miner today, a much more confident pup

Her advice:

Whenever possible, greet the dog outdoors

Keep the greeting calm. Rapid body movements and loud voices can easily be a trigger. 

Have a calm, soft mannerism when speaking to your dog.

Be sure to take him out frequently so he isn't always holding in a full bladder.

Don't be overbearing when bending down to your dog. Turn your body sideways and kneel down with the upper body straight rather than bending over.

Avoid direct eye contact, let him approach you.

 Rather than him seeing you reach for the top of his head to pet him, scratch him under the chin.

Give visitors treats to give your dog rather than the usual petting of the top of the head. This encourages the dog to increase body height and move forward rather than feel the need to cower.

When accidents do happen, do not react verbally or physically. Calmly clean it up.

Remember that your dog can't help it.

Patience, Patience, will get better.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Home Pet Care Tips and Links

Cut Your Vet Bills with Home Pet Care

We do love our pets and worry constantly about their safety, health and welfare.

The situations they get themselves into never fail to amaze and amuse me.

Veterinary expenses are enough to deter the decision to take on the responsibility of a pet. Unless you can take care of some situations at homes, you may be spending a lot more on vet bills than you anticipated.
Routine care and awareness can nip a lot of potential problems in the bud.

How easy is it to turn a day upside down? Just ask these guys!
If there is an opening of any kind, be it dryer, washer, closet, cabinet, car, freezer, luggage, box, bag.....they are in it. We even have a kitten we suspect got packed up with donations to a local thrift shop! Their curiosity can get them into sooo much trouble!!

At least with cats they don't just eat anything like puppies will. Thankfully, these guys haven't yet required emergency surgery. They just show me what trouble they've gotten into by bringing whatever it was back up.

Belly and bowel upsets can be calmed by offering plain white rice, yogurt, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin in place of the usual kibble. Keep a can of pureed pumpkin on hand in the pantry. It is good for both constipation and diarrhea. Add about two tbsp. pumpkin (not the pie blend) for a medium sized dog. Continue at mealtimes till the problem resolves itself.

If your dog ate something toxic you should call your vet for reassurance that vomiting the substance back up is the right thing to do. Keep a bottle of hydrogen peroxide handy for such emergencies. Give one teaspoon for every five pounds of body weight to induce vomiting and repeat once if necessary.

Pets love touch. When you are brushing, holding or fussing with your pet, be conscious of any lumps, fur mats, odors, hot spots or minor wounds.
Long-haired fur mats easily which unless de-thatched can get tight and painfully pull the skin. Keep pets grooms to removed excess fur which otherwise ends up on your furnishings or ingested. To a certain extent furballs are ok but no one likes to clean up the yellow stain caused by a cat's vomit. A type of pet comb called the "furminator" is so efficient at removing that undercoat we only use it outside. The hair removed is unbelievable.

To help with hairballs in cats, give just a bit of butter (1/2 tsp) for a few days.

Odors and ear scratching may be an overgrowth of yeast. I found two recipes. The first is a mixture of 1/3 white vineger, 1/3 isopropyl alcohol and 1/3 distilled water. The second is 1/2 distilled water and 1/2 white vinegar. Either one is inexpensive and a good preventative for keeping those ears clear. Just wet a cotton square and wipe the outer ear canal once a week. Don't use q-tips. No poking inside the ear canal.

If your pet's ears are already scratched sore, don't use the vinegar or alcohol/vinegar blend as it will be painful for your pet. Add a garlic clove to an ounce of olive oil and keep in a glass dropper bottle. When not in use keep this mixture in the refrigerator since hopefully you won't be needing it that often. When needed warm the bottle by rolling between your hands or sit in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. Do not microwave to avoid the chance of uneven hot spots. Add a small amount onto a cotton round and wipe out the ear canal or add just a small bit into the ear, gently squish a bit to help the ear clean itself and wipe with a cotton round or tissue.

If when you clean your cat's ears you find a black discharge on your cotton round, it is probably because of ear mites. The garlic olive oil can be used as a way to smother the mites but you have to be diligent and apply the oil daily until you don't see signs, which may take up to a month. If you have more than one cat there is a good chance you'll need to do this for each cat. Add a dropper of garlic oil to each ear, gently squish the ear cartilage so it gets down into the canal, wipe out with a cotton round to remove the black discharge and clean the ear. Be sure to do both ears.

Another great natural method of ear cleaning is to wipe out the canal with coconut oil. As an anti-fungal, coconut oil will help keep those yeasties at bay.

Learn more about coconut oil for your pets from this article. Coconut oil is loaded with the good fats our pets need for better digestion, fresher breath, smooth coat, clean teeth and to make life easier your dog will probably take it right off a spoon. Start off with about 1/4 tsp for every 10 pounds of body weight and work up to about a tsp. a day for the average 10 pound cat and 1-2 tbsp. a day for the average dog weight of 50-60 pounds or 1 tsp per 10 pounds.

To help keep those teeth clean and breath fresh, try adding a bit of coconut oil to an ordinary toothbrush and go over your dog or cat's teeth. Your dog will probably just try to chew on the brush but that's ok, he is still getting the antibacterial benefits on his teeth and mix with saliva to do the trick. Now a cat may like it or fight it but it's worth a try.

Pet skin allergies are one of the most common reasons pets need to visit their veterinarian. As frustrating for the doctor as for the pet owner, these conditions are often chronic, meaning all you're doing is offering temporary relief even though you go to the vet hoping the next "fix" will work this time for good. Prednisolone works like a magic pill but long term steroid use is often detrimental for your pet's health.

Be aware of what is in your pet's food. The more inexpensive brands are corn based which is a cheap filler, adds weight gain, often attributes to allergies, and is not the best thing for a naturally carnivorous animal. You will find that the better quality pet foods require less per serving, bringing the overall cost down. Cheaper foods don't offer the nutrition your pet needs, contain fillers and potentially harmful additives and preservatives, eventually evident in the condition of the skin, coat and possible chronic disease. The addition of 1 Tbsp. of flax seed oil added daily to your pet's diet can help with irritated skin. Commercial pet foods are often lacking in the 'good fats' so needed for healthy skin. Flax oil comes bottled in the refrigerated section of most health or natural food stores.

Allergies and anxiety can result in a dog miserable with itchy, twitchy skin resulting in obsessive licking a certain spot, known as hot spots. This mixture of vegetable glycerin and witch hazel (click hereis worth a try to help break the cycle and hopefully the licking will stop. Just spray the affected area and rub in a bit with your fingers.

Urinary blockages in cats is every cat owners nightmare. Blockages can be painfully fatal if not caught in time, so a trip to the vet should not be pushed off. Crystals can block the urethra making it very difficult or impossible for the cat to urinate. Signs of a bladder infection and inflammation include: frequent straining in the litter box, not making it to the litter box, voiding very little urine at a time, constant licking at the back end, lethargy, bloody urine, painful meowing.
Preventative measures include adding a bit of apple cider vinegar to your cat's water bowl to help keep the urine acidic or add some cranberry juice to your cat's diet. These can be given in capsule form or dried cranberry juice powder added to the food. Unsweetened cranberry juice or a cranberry tincture can be added to the water bowl. Ask your vet for the proper dosages. 

Minor wound care can be nursed at home. Keep on hand two 'must haves' from your health food store. Ask for the essential oils Tea Tree and Lavender. They'll come in little 1 oz. amber glass dropper bottles. Essential oils are very potent and NEVER allowed accessible to the possibility of your pet ingesting them. External use only!!

Should you have a wound to deal with, dilute 10 drops tea tree in a cup of warm water and wash the wound to disinfect and clean the area. Once clean and dry apply a good quality healing salve. If the wound is a puncture it needs to heal from the inside out. If it closes over too soon, there is an increase of infection. This is especially true with cat bites. Cat bites very often develop an abscess and antibiotics may be needed but home care of the wound is still necessary. For deeper wounds, keep the wound disinfected with the tea tree wash but wait a few days before applying the salve. Won't harm your pet if he licks at the salve.
This link is for an herbal salve utilizing the healing powers of herbs, Calendula and Comfrey.

click here

Lavender is like a first aid kit in a bottle. Just a drop will help the itch of bug bites. Dilute 10 - 15 drops in a pint of warm water and sponge bathe your pet to relief either sunburn or irritated, inflamed skin.

A great balm to keep on hand utilizes the properties of herbal oils Chickweed, Plantain and Comfrey. Apply to bug bites or inflamed skin conditions and hot spots. Won't harm your pet if he licks at the salve.
click here

Protection from the elements is done very efficiently by a dog's coat, but depending on the breed, they may be a bit more vulnerable to the sun's rays. Not all breeds have the skin protection of thick body fur and are susceptible to sun burn. Over-exposed noses and ears, or the body itself in hairless breeds, can suffer from sunburn just like with our unprotected skin. An herbal salve made up of St. Johnswort, Comfrey and Lavender, this balm not only repairs damaged tissue but calms down the inflammation and pain that follows a burn.
 click here
Some dog breeds just seem to have more of a doggy odor than others, and some dog fur just seems to take forever to dry after getting wet.  Come in from the rain or following a bath, and that wet dog smell can be very distinct.  This deodorant spray is listed as a deodorant spray for people seeking alternatives to aluminum based deodorants, but is also very good for our pets (not cats). Vanilla and Sage are often used in pet odor candles, for they are very good at eliminating odors. Being alcohol based, it dries quickly, leaving behind a really nice smelling pooch. Do not get into the eyes.

Bathing your dog can be a rewarding and bonding experience, especially if you know you are using a gentle shampoo free of potentially harmful additives. Over use of bathing products can dry out and contribute to the imbalance of skin conditions.
The links below are for shampoos based on the gentle, natural ingredients in Bronner's castile soap, Aloe Vera Gel and Apple Cider Vinegar.

General Clean Shampoo

Flea Deterrent Shampoo

Shampoo for irritated skin

A further use for lavender and peppermint is to add about 10 - 15 drops of either oil or a combination of both to an 16 oz. spray bottle of water. Spray your dog and/or pet bedding to freshen as well as repel fleas. If using on a cat the lavender is safe but avoid the peppermint. Also spray your mattress and upholstered furniture.

In addition for the battle with fleas, Diatomaceous Earth is a non-toxic all-natural powdered substance that can be rubbed directly into the fur and/or sprinkled onto the pet bedding. Diatomaceous earth  is not an earth. It is the fossilized remains of microscopic shells created by one celled plants called diatoms. It can also be used as an organic wormer and will kill any worms or parasites the pets may have. Be sure to use pure, food-grade DE. Nature’s Wisdom Diatomaceous Earth contains Perma-guard de. PERMA-GUARD is the trade name known world wide for using a grade and quality of Diatomaceous Earth (DE) that is extremely pure.

To use Diatomaceous Earth for fleas:
Avoid getting the powder into your pet's eyes. Rub about one tbsp. into the fur of dogs over 35 pounds. Use about one tsp. for cats or little dogs. Do this once or twice a week.
To use Diatomaceous Earth for worms:
Add one tbsp a day to your dog's food.
Add one tsp. a day to your cat's food.
Repeat this until you no longer see signs of worms either in the stool or in vomit.

Borax is another option for fleas. Sprinkle it over your carpets and rugs, work it in, wait at least a half hour, and vacuum.

 Rescued pets have no way to actually tell us the origins of their fears and anxieties. We try to help these emotionally based behavioral disorders by offering secure, safe havens free of stress. But past traumas are buried deep and all it takes is the loud bang of gunfire, fireworks or even door slamming, to send a shaking pet under the bed. Or perhaps with your companion it is dealing with separation anxiety, and our dog exhibits inappropriate chewing, either of his own tail or paws or your home furnishings. Before relying on anti-anxiety medication, try the power of herbal remedies. Lavender and chamomile are safe for pets and are great for calming fears.

A remedy great to have on hand though you hope never to have to use it is Bach Flower Rescue Remedy. It is a remedy to give in situations of extreme shock and fear. It is made up of five flower essences known for their calming properties: Impatiens, Clematis, Rock Rose, Cherry Plum and Star of Bethlehem. Found at a health food store, this remedy developed by Dr. Edward Bach, should be in every first aid kit and every car glove compartment. Preventing shock at the time of an emergency definitely can save lives. Give two to four drops on the tongue or gums every 10 - 15 minutes en route to the veterinarian.

Listed below is an essential oil based spray useful for spraying pet bedding or massaging it right into their fur. It will help with fears and anxiety as well as calm down an excited pet in preparation for sleep. This air or linen spray also works great for people who have trouble sleeping and children who need help settling down. Click here

The threat of Lyme disease is always a concern for pets as well as ourselves.  Ticks can be very stubborn to the typical flea and tick sprays. Rather than dousing yourself and loved ones with pesticides and organophosphates, and then worry about the risks of these toxic ingredients, try an approach these buggers naturally detest and don't build up a resistance. The scent of certain essential oils encourages them to flee. Ticks don't like the smell of the oil therefore try to avoid it. Rose Geranium, Pelargonium graveolens, is a necessary part of any effective eco-friendly tick repellent. This spray is ideal for use on your dogs, but don't use on cats. Some essential oils can be dangerous to cats. Cats don't have the enzymes necessary to break down certain components and unless eliminated efficiently their build-up can lead to toxicity.

  click here 

Below is a great gift idea for the dog lover! A nice assortment of care products useful for people and their pets for bath time, times of anxiety, tick prevention, wound care and pet odor.

Your dog will love these handmade, homemade dog treats to help repel fleas.
Click here to take you to a blog post with the recipe.

Last, please remember that when you have a young dog you have to be patient and tolerant. Dogs aim to please and aren't purposely getting on your nerves with their impulsive, destructive behaviors.
Here is a cute, yet so true post about living with a toddler dog

I'm Sorry!

The items shown above can be found within both the Meadow Muffin Gardens shop as well as the Meadow Mutts and Mew Mews shop

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

A Stray Dog Found You, Now What...

Contributing Post by: Aleka Smith

Sandstone Falls, the largest waterfall on the New River Gorge, spans 1500 feet wide and is a huge attraction among local West Virginians and tourists alike. The falls are stunning, the boardwalk walkway suitable for those who want an easy tread, and the atmosphere perfect for a day out. The location, however, is ideal for animal abandonment due to its middle-of-nowhere location.

On Saturday, May 14th, I took one of my best friends there to walk my own dogs and show her some of the beauty in this state I now call home. Upon our arrival, we noticed two female dogs, obviously pregnant or at least recently had given birth, lying in the parking lot chewing on sticks. My first thought was, “those dogs better not have been abandoned.” Well, we soon realized they were.


One, a stunning older black mix, was injured and struggling to walk. The other, a tan possibly Shar Pei, had a severe case of mange, a serious skin condition caused by parasitic mites. Mange is highly contagious to other dogs. It was evident both dogs hadn’t been well cared for in a long time. I had taken my own dogs out of the car and proceeded on our walk, only to realize these two stray dogs were tagging along behind us.  We turned back and put my dogs back into the car, upon which the black dog jumped right along in with them. Not knowing how any of the dogs would react to each other and concerned about exposing my dogs to the mange, we got her back out of the car and began what would become a three hour ordeal to get some help.

Between phone calls to a non-emergency line, the local humane society, park rangers, and an on-call Animal Control Officer (hereby referred to as ACO), both pups were finally rescued on that chilly Saturday and taken to the local no-kill shelter for medical evaluation. Later that day I contacted the humane society and although the dogs required a great deal of medical treatment, they were thankfully safe.

I am grateful for not only an iPhone where I could use the 4G Internet, but also an area where I had service. Not many places in the back woods of West Virginia have cell phone service. I am also fortunate enough to have friends who provided me with important numbers to try and get these dogs saved and a best friend who sat beside me in my car for three hours to keep me calm.

Here a few tips to keep in mind if you come upon a stray animal wandering in an area:
Consider your options to either get involved yourself in handling the animal(s) or to call for assistance.

1) You do not know the temperament or health of the animal you have stumbled upon. If you have pets, have them keep their distance and try to not let them near the stray animal. I was fortunate the two I came across were friendly, but if they weren’t, it could have escalated into a dogfight situation I may not have been able to control. Also, if the dog with mange got in contact with my dogs, I may have ended up with a serious case of mange in my house, costing me my wallet at the vet and constant worry over their health.

2) Keep treats, a leash and gloves in your car AT ALL TIMES. It would be a good idea to keep a cat carrier in the car as well. Not all lost or abandoned animals are dogs.
Thanks to those goodies, I was able to help the ACO lure the dogs into his vehicle for safe traveling. Those two dogs were obviously very wary of men, and without the use of treats to gain their trust it could have taken even longer to get them to safety.

3) Use your resources:
Make a note of contact numbers and non-emergency numbers for the areas you frequently visit, and keep them stored on your phone as well as written on an actual piece of paper and kept in the glove box. Without cell service your phone’s contact list won’t be of much use.

4) Know your county’s rules and regulations:
 I could not have taken those dogs to the local humane society because I was not a resident of that county. I could only take them to my county’s humane society, which I would have done if I didn’t have my dogs in the backseat. Many counties restrict who can drop off animals and time frames to do so.

Rabies regulations have to be enforced and every county has its rules. So unless you are willing to transport the stray back to your own local shelter, you’ll need to find someone who can help. Hopefully, someone from that area can transport the animal to the closest shelter or perhaps even keep them for the night just to get them out of weather.

5) Report a stray animal.
Although the animal may not appear dangerous, don’t assume you can predict how a scared, injured animal will react. You don’t want to put yourself or any pets you may have with you at risk. Should the situation call for a hands off approach, call for assistance and wait for help to come. Don’t just call and leave, try to keep an eye on the animal and use treats to keep it nearby.

6) Know if an ACO (Animal Control Officer) is on duty 24/7 or if only 5 days a week. An on-call ACO came that afternoon due to the dogs being in a public place and possibly being a threat to others. If no one would have deemed the situation an emergency, those dogs would have waited until Monday, where there is the hope a friendly citizen would have sought help.

7) DO NOT ASSUME ANOTHER PERSON IS GOING TO HELP. My friend and I witnessed at least 12 people walk by those dogs without a care in the world. The dogs were following people to their cars and getting doors shut in their faces. It was heartbreaking to witness. If you won’t help, who will?
Please, please don’t let your fears or unwillingness to take the time and get involved, result in your doing nothing in these situations. Animals cannot speak for themselves and to just assume someone else will come upon the animal and help is an assumption that may cost the stray dearly. It’s a very real possibility that a sick, injured or neglected animal that requires immediate medical attention would die if left alone without food or shelter.


8) Please spay and neuter your pets. Local humane societies often have voucher programs where pets can be fixed at a discounted rate. Help keep the population down by decreasing the puppies that are bred every day. Did you know that one female dog can produce up to 100 puppies in her lifetime and a male dog can father thousands? Do you know thousands of individuals who want puppies at any given time due to one male dog? I don’t, but I do know that the 2-4 million dogs who are euthanized in shelters every year will never get the forever homes they deserve.

9) Lastly, adopt, don’t shop. Do your research into puppy mills and the horror of the industry. Realize that puppy auctions do exist and females are bred over and over again just to produce the cute puppies sold in pet stores at a price that could rescue multiple animals at a humane society. An animal is a forever friend, not a possession that can be discarded when it’s no longer wanted.

This article was not meant as a lecture, but rather an informative piece for those who don’t know the animal welfare system. I hope you learned something, and I encourage you to ask questions, get involved in your community (whether that’s a humane society, rescue group, or by adopting your next pet), and stand up for those who need us to be their voice. Thank you.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Feline Pheromones for Fear

Fear of the unknown and the insecurity of one's welfare can be terrifying for anyone, be it animal or human. By the time a cat or dog helplessly watches the cage door close within the confines of a shelter, the fight or flight impulse combined with no means for escape must be paralyzing. Only after any of us can feel safe do we then seek to satisfy other basic needs such as rest and hunger. Only after those needs are met can we rise to the next level and come out of our protective shell in search of trust and desire for love.

Depending on the nature of the animal and the physical or psychological trauma he or she went through, this process may be deep seated and take a lot of patience on the part of the caretakers. When people go to a shelter in search of a new pet up for adoption, they usually notice the ones that put themselves in the "notice me" category. The fearful ones hiding in the back of the cage are often summed up as feral or not the lap cat so desired.

Little Bella was such a case.

Her background was unknown to us and all we knew was that she was pregnant when she was picked up, estimated to be around 4 years of age, and needed to be spayed before she was put up for adoption.

She wasn't feral, rather she was very quiet and timid. She was so quiet during the car ride home that we kept checking on her to make sure she was alright. Some cats go ballistic inside the confines of the cat carrier, cry and even mess themselves. Little Bella just crouched silently.

The use of Rescue Remedy, a blend of five different Bach's Flower Remedies, for shock, stress and fear, did wonders to help with her adjustment to her new home and other pets. But fast forward six months and she still wanted nothing to do with my husband. We'll never know what experiences she had with men, but it was obvious she had some negative association with their size, deep voice and approach.

I discovered Feliway during a veterinarian visit for one of our other cats. The office had just hired a new veterinarian who turned out to be a dream of an animal doctor. Her approach to her new patient was calm and slow, a soft, soothing voice, surrounded by calm music and a hand offering little cat treats. Her methods worked like a charm and my cat melted to her touch. My admiration turned to amazement when she showed me her secret, a bottle of feline pheromone spray called Feliway. 
Pheromones are a type of chemical communication between members of a species. They are produced from glands located around the mouth, nose, forehead and cheeks. Cats mark familiar objects, people and other pets by rubbing their face against these surfaces. It is a way of sending messages. So when your cat rubs against you, take it as a sign that he trusts and adores you and is telling you he feels safe and secure.

Feliway mimics a cat's F3 facial pheromones. These synthetic pheromone products are ideal alternatives for pet owners and veterinarians who would rather not use drugs to treat a stressed animal. The stress of traveling in a car, trips to the veterinarian and meeting new faces, can all be relieved with a spritz of a pheromones spray. Pheromones are also recommended to help with marking or spraying and aggression problems between cats in the same home. Even behavior problems like scratching on furniture can be helped. Anxiety is often the root cause of behavior issues with our pets and a help to relieve that is the place to start. But we also have to understand that when there is more involved with underlying problems, those issues need to be addressed. Behavior modification may still be needed.

Feliway can be used as a periodic spritz onto your hands or clothes when handling a cat or the cat carrier when traveling. Don't spray right onto the animal itself. However, for situations such as tension between the pets in the household or adjusting to a new environment, the diffusor method is best. This is a device that gets plugged into the wall and uses cartridges that stay in 24/7 and get changed monthly. There are no reports of any side effects and is safe to use however long it is needed. The pheromones are species specific, so they don't affect people or other types of pets in the home. If anything, the other cats will benefit as well. The Feliway site has more information and a video on how to use the diffuser.

There is also a pheromone product made for dogs called D.A.P (Dog Appeasing Pheromone). This mimics the pheromone nursing dogs release to comfort their puppies.

Amazing that we have gone from this timid, skittish little cat..... this.....with a little help from Feliway

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Is Your Dog a "LitterLips"?

As disgusting as it is, many dogs are going to be attracted to the treasures found in a cat's litter box.
Two questions pet owners ask are: Why do they do it and How can it be stopped.
There is actually a name for this habit, coprophagia.

The reasons for it vary:
Dogs may have learned this behavior from their mothers.
A mother dog will lick her pup to stimulate bowel and bladder function. Then in order to keep her nesting area sanitary she cleans up after the elimination.
In the wild, wolves and coyotes will eat poop if hungry enough since they do get some nutritional value from it.

Some dogs do it just because they know it'll get them immediate attention, even if it is negative. It's almost like a game to see if they can sneak and get away with it. With their keen sense of smell they may know the cat paid a visit to the litter box before we smell anything.

Our hound dog is notorious for sniffing around the litter boxes. He even earned the nickname "LitterLips" when once he came over to my husband to say hello and a "tootsie roll" fell out of those floppy lips.

Dogs with anxiety may develop coprophagia. Don't yell or hit your dog if you catch him in the act. Make sure your dog knows the "leave it" or "drop it" command and distract them.
To punish him may just make the anxiety ridden behavior worse.

Parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, giardia, coccidia, and whipworm are a risk with ingesting poop. One reason yearly check-ups should always include stool samples for parasites.

A covered litter box is a solution as long as the dog doesn't figure out how to knock the top off. We have a domed litter box in the room our dogs have access too and use a bungee cord to prevent his prying. One hook goes under the lip on one side, then goes under the handle on the top so it doesn't slide off the domed sides, and the other hook catches under the lip on the other side.
Of course, the most obvious solution is to just keep the litter boxes in a room where the dogs aren't allowed to go.

This post is a genius idea from the site,

All steps are included for making your own Dog Proof Cat Litter Box.

You could probably make one of these for under $20.
Materials needed are:

30 gallon storage tub
18 gallon storage tub
(Same type just different sizes so one fits into the other)
11/2 hole saw and drill
Scrap pieces of wood
4 wood screws
small pieces of mat or carpet

two tubs

holes in lid for some light

view inside from the entrance
Notice the gap between the entrance and the actual litter box used? Enough to keep prying noses or paws out of there. It looks like he used those foam puzzle pieces for his entry flooring.
Cleaning looks easy since you just take off the lid for access.

This is definitely a fun weekend DIY project. 
Just shows what a little creativity, imagination and understanding of pet behavior can do. 
Now as long as your cat uses the thing your problems are solved.

This contraption would also work to help keep the curious, prying fingers of toddlers out of there. The litter box is certainly not a sandbox even if the child thinks otherwise.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Coexisting with Skunks

Those of you who have had the unfortunate acquaintance with a skunk can relate to the panic of what to do now right after the terrified creature runs off leaving you standing there in shock. Or you can stand there in shock disbelieving what you're looking at when your dog runs to the door with his latest "gift" for you.

Our daughter and son-in-law are becoming the experts at handling these predicaments without having a total meltdown. Usually these things happen at the most inconvenient times, as if its ever convenient, but skunks are usually out and about around dusk or dawn. That time of day when we're either on our way out the door or tired at the end of a busy day and just can't handle another crisis.

The last thing you want is to have that horrendous smell permeate throughout your home.
Should you get sprayed outside, don't make the mistake of going into the house before stripping down your clothes.
Skunk spray is naturally oily and it'll get onto anything you touch and is hard to remove, so don't touch furniture or anyone else. Also, don't touch your face, you don't want the stuff near your eyes.

Leave your clothes outside for now and take a shower with the hottest water you can stand.

To clean your clothes:
Wash all items twice using hot water and a good detergent.
Don't put the clothes in the dryer! Hang outside to dry.

To clean your house:
Open the windows and turn on a fan. Fresh air is the most effective remedy to air out the house.
Hang the smaller rugs that you can handle outside.
Once the deed is done be sure to change the air filters in your home.
Now for the best tips of all, Apple Cider Vinegar and Baking Soda
Place vinegar is small bowls around the house and it will absorb the odors. Give them a day or two before removing the vinegar.
To remove odor from your carpets, sprinkle baking soda over your rugs and carpets and let sit for a few hours before vacuuming.

You can use bleach to neutralize the smell from any wood or concrete items in your home. Just keep in mind bleach may discolor whatever it is you're cleaning:
1 cup Bleach
1 gallon Water
Put on rubber gloves and use an old rag to dip in the solution.
Be sure to use this mixture in a well ventilated area. Do not mix ammonia with bleach.

To clean your dog:
Tomato juice will work and so does a product called Skunk Off.
But this homemade recipe is a keeper and most likely you'll already have the ingredients on hand:

Mix together in a large bucket:
1 quart Hydrogen Peroxide
1/2 cup Baking Soda
1 tsp. liquid laundry soap or dish washing detergent

The first two ingredients form an alkaline peroxide that chemically changes the skunk spray into an odorless chemical. The soap breaks down the oily skunk essence. This formula is harmless to humans and pets. It is normal that it will bubble and foam. Use immediately after mixing. Don't store it in a closed container as it will expand and burst the container.
Wearing latex or rubber gloves, bathe your dog outside if possible.
Take the time to work the mixture down through the fur, but keep out of the dog's face and eyes.
Let it sit on the fur for ten minutes before rinsing thoroughly with fresh water.

Be sure your dog is up to date on his/her rabies vaccine. See your vet if there is any sign of injury.

Now why do skunks spray in the first place?
Most mammals have anal scent glands or sacs. When stressed, fearful or trying to ward off predators, these scent glands give off pungent aromas as a form of defense.
Skunks have two glands inside the anus. Each gland contains small amounts of an oily, yellow liquid that is secreted through a nipple-like protrusion just outside the anus. The odor is because this secretion contains sulphur compounds such as thiols and their acetate derivatives.

Skunks really are docile, non-aggressive misunderstood animals. What gets them into trouble is that being they are very near-sighted, they spook easily and the only defense they have is their spray, Their limited vision is why they become such easy prey to dogs.

Here is a great, informative article on coexisting with skunks.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Kitty Cat Grass Grazing

Anyone with house cats knows what a challenge it is to enjoy both your love of cats and your love of plants. Personally, I've given up and my plants are either hanging or kept in a room the cats aren't allowed. If the kitties weren't using the plant pots as a litter box they were constantly either nibbling at the leaves or turning the plant itself into a cat bed.

So as a pet owner who tries to understand the whys of their behavior rather than just be yelling at them, the reality is, is that cats love to be close to nature just as humans do. They not only enjoy the taste of nibbling on grass, but simply enjoy the smells and feel of fresh greens.

We have to remember that in the wild the first part of the prey predators eat is the stomach and intestinal contents.  Carnivorous animals receive lots of nutrients  needed for their good health. Grasses not only contain necessary fiber for good digestion, but also the benefits of chlorophyll.

So I think cats eat grass for three reasons. They receive nutrition that may be lacking in their usual diet. Eating grass tends to make them vomit which is their way of dealing with a tummy ache and hairballs. And the fact remains that they just may love the taste.

Grass is mainly fiber and being a cat's stomach doesn't have the enzymes needed to digest it, the body induces regurgitation. Now to think like a cat there is good reason for a way to bring back up undigested stomach contents. If you ever watch a cat eat a bird or a rodent it really has no choice but to simply eat the whole thing, bones, fur, feathers and all. The body has no need for certain parts so to bring bones and hair back up, it is nature's way of preventing intestinal damage from the bones or intestinal blockages from hair balls.

Any cat owner knows how fastidious cats can be with their grooming. Unless you are diligent and periodically use a grooming tool such as a furminator to help with shedding, your cat is going to be swallowing cat hair on a daily basis. If you have a cat in the house you just have to accept the fact that you're going to occasionally be dealing with cat vomit. Of course no one looks forward to cleaning up that wet pile of mystery contents nor the fight against the inevitable yellow stains that could spot your carpet or rugs. But no one wants the risk and cost of an intestinal blockage either. So don't make the mistake of not allowing your cat access to cat grass in trying to prevent any vomiting. With nothing to snack on, your cat will turn to your plants and since so many houseplants can be toxic, that is a risk too.

To grow your own cat grass you will need the following:

1.  Small pots
You should have more than one pot of grass growing so you can rotate. Cat grass isn't seeded once and be expected to grow and last very long. Between the cats' grazing, pulling it out of the ground, trying to lay in it, the grass eventually turns brown and falls over. So have more than one growing so you can rotate the pots and have a continuous supply to offer your kitties.
Don't bother using big trays. It'll look nice for a day but soon become a flattened mess from your cat laying and crushing the grass.

2. Organic potting soil
Get good quality potting soil such as Happy Frog. You don't need the risk of your cat ingesting fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides that may be in ordinary soil.

3. Cat grass seed
Wheat, oat, rye or barley seeds are the usual but wheat and oats are the most common. You can buy the seed already labeled as cat grass seed but to save money go to a natural food store that offers bulk raw seed. As long as you keep the seed dry and out of the sun it should stay viable for a few years.

4. Plastic wrap
Grass needs moisture and warmth to germinate. By lightly covering your pot with plastic wrap it increase and speed up the germination rate of the seed. Once the seeds have sprouted you do have to remove the plastic or your pot will mold.

5. Spray bottle with water
The seed has to be kept lightly moistened until germination so it is handy to daily mist the soil surface until the seeds sprout. To just water the whole thing increases the chance the seed will be too wet and not sprout at all. Once the plastic is removed you can water as you normally would.

Fill your pots with the soil up to 1-2 inches from the top.
Sprinkle a thin, even layer of seed over the surface.
Cover with about 1/4 inch of soil.
Wet the surface but not to drench.
Cover the pot with plastic wrap.
Put the pots in a dark, warm area. The top of a fridge is a good spot.
Check daily for signs of sprouting, mist if the soil appears dry.
After a few days you'll see signs of seed germination.
Keep the plastic on until the grass is an inch or two high.
Remove the plastic and place the pots in a sunny location.
Once the grass reaches 4-6 inches in height and established, you can offer it to your cats.
If you give them access too soon the roots won't be anchored yet and pull out too easily.
Put the pot on a tray or somewhere you won't mind a little mess. There is a good chance you'll find some grass and dirt outside of the pot.

Cleaning up vomit stains:

Remove the solids and blot blot blot the excess moisture. Don't rub, blot!
Sprinkle baking soda on the area to neutralize the acids and absorb any remaining liquid.
Let the baking soda dry, then vacuum it up.
Follow with a splash of club soda if any stains remain and blot it up.
Remember, don't scrub it while it is wet or the stain may be driven deeper into the carpet fibers.

If you notice your cat actually binging on grass there may be something wrong so it may be best to pay a visit to your veterinarian.

If you do let your cats outside try to keep their wandering limited in order to not only keep them off the road but to be sure they aren't snacking on grass areas that had been sprayed with herbicide or pesticide.

The ultimate in cat greens pleasure is catnip. Catnip is in the mint family so doesn't make a very good houseplant but can easily be grown outside during the summer. If just planted it will return wherever it pleases so unless that doesn't matter to you, be sure to plant it in pots. Catnip is easy to cut and dry so  that you'll have plenty to offer your indoor cats. Here is a good post on the subject of catnip.