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I’m a dog person.

But only because I’m horribly allergic to cats.  There have been several cats over the years I would have loved to open up my home to, but then I wouldn’t have been able to breathe. 

Cats are fascinating because they maintain so much ‘wildness’ in their actions.  Even highly social, affiliative cats can have times they appear disengaged or aloof.  It’s all an act of course, they probably scrutinize us more than our dogs do.  Dogs are willing to ‘give it up’ for your attention, while most cats want to make YOU work for THEM.

Cats are now our most popular pet because they seem so self-sufficient and self-contained. These low maintainance qualities work against them if they get sick.  So many times I only see a cat patient when something has gone ‘cat’astrophically wrong with them. 

Because of these cat characteristics, it is critically important that a cat owner have a relationship with a veterinarian they trust.  A good physical exam every year and a discussion about how to recognize normal versus abnormal behavior is key.  Your veterinarian should take the time to answer your questions.  When we work together we are able to keep our purring friends happy and healthy for their lifetime. 

More later………………………………

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Oxyceptional Feelings of Love

Oxytocin, or the “love” hormone, is our way of bonding to each other.  Mothers produce it when nursing, family members feel it when experiencing happy events.  It surges in us when we gaze at our pets. 


This opinion article states that a Japanese researcher has discovered another way that dogs actively influence us.  We know this on an emotional level of course, who can resist petting their kitty when she bumps us for attention.  And we know this on a physical level as well.  How many times does the dog start letting you know its’ time for the nightly walk?  This study gives some evidence that dogs influence us on a biochemical level too.

The longer a dog gazes at you, the longer you gaze at your dog, the more likely both species are to release oxytocin.  Oxytocin release=love. bonding. affection. care.

Good for all.

While cats have many, many special qualities too, it is the dog that have evolved to be as close to us as possible.  Dogs are either the smartest non-primate species on the planet, the most manipulative, or both.

More later……………………………………dogsit

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Cat-a-gorically Funny

Summer flowers and Luca09 012http://news.discovery.com/animals/pets/cats-do-not-ignore-humans-130625.htm

Today I met a great new client who brought in her two rescued sibling cats.  The male cat was very outgoing and friendly, the female much more reserved and nervous.  Even though they shared the same mother and therefore many genes, they were very different cats.

The woman who brought them in joked that her fiance thinks the female cat is out to get him.  She is hesitant in his presence and slow to warm to him.  He is unnerved because he feels she watches him surreptitiously, with unknown intent. 

We had a good laugh over this and I told her not to worry because I have never read of a case of homicide by the family cat.  But it did get me thinking again about cats and their behavior. 

Dogs wear their hearts on their sleeves. You probably know exactly what your dog is thinking.  While cats, even bold ones, are elusive, more watchful than demonstrative.

The article above nicely outlines that our house cats mimic their wild counterparts by maintaining stoicism.  It also states that they manipulate us.  What an interesting dichotomy! They watch us with reserve and an almost noble manner. Until feeding time that is, then all that cultivated pride goes right out the window in the name of dinner.

More later………………………………………..


Of What Value is the Human-Animal Bond?

mylovesWhat a dumb question, right?

Of course there is true, concrete value in loving a pet. Scientific studies show that pets reduce stress and result in better cardiovascular and mental health for their owners. Pet owners are more likely to be physically active if they have a dog. Plus, oxytocin release (the love hormone) through a good hug or rub just makes you feel better.

So the emotional and health value of pets is unquestioned.  What about the monetary value?


In this country, pets are legally considered property.  They do not have rights.  So if your pet is harmed or killed due to the negligence of others, and you decided to sue, you would only be entitled to the cost of purchase.  At face value this seems crazy.  Your pet is worth more than $150 isn’t it? I couldn’t even put a price on what  Bubba and Gunner meant to me.

Veterinarians are stuck between and rock and a hard place on this one.  We want to elevate the human-animal bond and make animals more important in society.  We advocate for animal well-being and medical care.  But by improving the status of pets in this country we might be changing the definition of what a pet-owner relationship is.  If we elevate a cat’s status in the US are we obligated to imbue it with its own rights?  If we see it as a sentient being, capable of feeling emotions like fear, pain, or joy shouldn’t it be worth more than the cost of a tune up?

If animals have rights, then we better have laws to protect them. Since this is America we sure should have the right to sue if they are harmed. 

Here’s the rub, making animals more valuable in society makes them less affordable to society in general.  Like kids, you might then be prosecuted if you ignore their medical needs.  Someone could be given authority to decide if you are suitable or not for pet ownership. 

 If people can’t afford pets, they won’t have them. More will end up in shelters, more will be euthanized, fewer will get veterinary care (especially preventative care), more will suffer. 

We’ll suffer too, having a pet teaches you daily about love and compassion, they make us more human, more humane. Is there a legitimate way to argue for more responsibility for our pets without changing their rights?  Is there a way to improve their quality of life while preserving ours? What do you think?

More later………………………………………………

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Jog Your Dog




Canus Familiarus


Ethology is the study of animal behavior.  I pulled out my old ethology notes from undergrad this week trying to find the correct term or idea behind Lamo’s ‘domestication’.  Because I think that is what his “owner” did, she took a sheep and made a dog.

There could be several ways this happened.

Imprinting is life stage sensitive learning, where an individual (animal or human) learns characteristic behavior from another.  Think of the juvenile cranes in Wisconsin who fly behind the ultralight with its crane costumed pilot all the way to Florida.

Imitation is where an animal mimics or replicates the behavior of another.  A mother and baby playing peek-a-boo comes to mind.

Stimulus enhancement is learning interest in an object after observing the interest of another. Perhaps Lamo observed how the family dogs interacted with their owner (in this case the object) and wanted to involve himself too.

Associative learning is essentially putting two and two together.  Does your pet know that you get out of bed AFTER the alarm goes off? From the article it sounds like Lamo can figure out when he gets a car ride.

Perhaps Lamo was born with a higher ‘sociability’ tendency, that is, willingness to interact in social groupings.  This is a key in dog domestication, as most live for interaction with others.  But cats are semi-domesticated at best.  Yes, many can’t live with out their humans but there are some cats (usually feral) that have no desire for human or other cat relationship.

I can’t find the right term for taking one species of animal and making it think it’s another. Species subversion? Aberrant mimicry? Humane rescue?dogassquirrelMore later…………………………………………………………….


A Fool and His Money


For $5.99 a month you can subscribe to DogTV guilt ridden pet owners! No longer feel bad for having to work to keep you dog in the comfort to which it is accustomed!

This seems to me to be a way for DirecTV to part you from your money.  In school I learned that dogs cannot visually process television images. They don’t see colors and perception as we do and therefore can’t “see” what’s onscreen. I’m not sure this is true. I have had many clients over the years give me very specific behaviors their dogs display when the tv is on.

One dog attacks the tv screen when he sees cats, another dog barks when it hears engine sounds from a car or truck ad.  One owner told me his dog whines only when the tv shows leaves.  Why leaves? That seems like a pretty small and specific trigger in a species that isn’t supposed to see things on tv.

Like others things in life, you sometimes find that what you were taught is not always accurate.  I won’t judge someone for trying to feel better about the dog’s home life and ordering DogTV. I do worry though that they may be anthropomorphizing.  We know that dogs get bored, but I’m not sure tv is better than a really vigorous walk.  Or a session of fetch.  And it’s free.

More later……………………………………..bubba