Veterinary Resources

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How Your Cat Has You Trained

Cats are well-known for their independence and resistance to doing as they're told. Training a cat to do most anything is a difficult task, but according to a new study, cats are masters at training their humans. A study in Current Biology found that cats use a unique purr - a sort of cry or meowing sound combined with the purr - to prod humans into feeding them or giving them attention.

Loud meowing might not get a cat what he or she wants, according to Karen McComb of the University of Sussex, one of the study's authors. But insistent purring, which McComb called "solicitation purring," sends a kind of subliminal message that taps into a person's nurturing instincts, McComb said. The solicitation purr contains a high-pitched sound that somewhat resembles an infant's cry, which is part of the reason why humans can't help but rush to meet their feline friend's desires.



McComb's own cat, which wakes her up in the mornings with a prodding purr, inspired the study. After talking with other cat owners, she found that other felines use a similar tactic when craving food or attention. To identify the particular purr that cats use, McComb's study team had cat owners record their cat's cries (the researchers found early on that cats did not use solicitation purring when strangers were present). The cries were then played back and humans were asked to judge the cries based on urgency and pleasantness.

"We found that the crucial factor determining the urgency and pleasantness ratings that purrs received was an unusual high-frequency element - reminiscent of a cry or meow - embedded within the naturally low-pitched purr," McComb said. "Human participants in our experiments judged purrs with high levels of this element to be particularly urgent and unpleasant." When the high-pitched sound was removed from the solicitation purr and played back for the human test subjects, they reported the purr was less urgent.

Not all cats use this purr, according to McComb, yet those that do use it exceedingly well and might "dramatically exaggerate it when it proves effective," she said. Most often, the insistent purr is used in smaller households where a cat is likely to have a close relationship with his or her owner. When other cats or many people are present, McComb believes cats find a regular old meow to be the best way to get noticed.

While the phenomenon of solicitation purring may be news to scientists, cat owners have always known the old saying is true - dogs may have masters, but cats have servants.

Physical Therapy for Pets

The next time you visit your veterinarian, don't be surprised if your pet gets a prescription for some form of physical therapy. Physical therapy and rehabilitation is a rapidly growing area of expertise in veterinary medicine- and it is gaining world-wide acceptance and support. Physical therapy is common in human medicine, and veterinary practitioners of animal therapy say that the benefits for their patients are remarkable. Watch this interesting video.


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Dental Quiz For Dog Owners

Could your dog be suffering from Periodontal Disease? Take our Self Test and find out!

The quiz below will help you see if your dog is at risk. Your dog may be suffering from periodontal disease if you answer "Yes" to three or more of the following questions about risk factors or symptoms:

Answer Yes or No to the following questions:

Is your dog:

1. Three years old or more?

2. A smaller breed (Terrier, Schnauzer)?

3. Plagued with bad breath?

4. Showing a loss of appetite or a reluctance to eat?

5. Suffering from swollen or inflamed gums?

6. Lethargic or continually fatigued?

7. Showing moderate to heavy dental tarter?

8. Salivating excessively?

9. Showing pain when caressed near the mouth?

10. Leaving traces of blood on its chew toys?

11. Missing one or more teeth?

12. Often pawing at its mouth?

13. Losing a significant amount of weight?

If the total in the YES column is:
3 or more - your dog may have periodontal disease.
5 or more - your dog may have an advanced case of periodontal disease.
7 or more - your dog may have a severe case of periodontal disease.

Flying with Your Pet

Flying may not be the ideal way to travel with your pet, but sometimes there are no other options. In fact, over two million pets and other live animals travel by air every year in the United State. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know what the policies are regarding pet air travel as they vary from airline to airline. Furthermore, states in the U.S. and national governments impose different restrictions. Whether you're flying coast-to-coast, cross-Atlantic, or half-way across the world, there will be specific guidelines to follow before you take to the skies.

Here are a few standard regulations that are helpful to know if you’re considering flying with your pet. If you have more questions, contact your airline directly. Most times, the specific policies and procedures are listed on the airline’s website, or you can call the airline’s reservations line and speak with an agent.



Pets in the Passenger Cabin

Policies regarding animals in passenger cabin vary from airline to airline with one exception – service animals. Since service animals are not considered pets and are needed to aid those with disabilities, they are always allowed to stay in the passenger cabin. Service animals do not require health certificates to travel, nor do they need to be in a container or cage.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows each airline to enforce its own individual policy regarding pets in the passenger cabin, but the FAA requires:

  • The pet container must be small enough to fit underneath the seat without blocking any person’s path to the main aisle of the airplane.
  • Your pet container must be stored properly before the last passenger entry door is closed so the airplane can leave the gate.
  • The pet container must remain properly stowed the entire time the plane is moving on the tar mac, as well as during take off and landing.

Despite differing procedures, there are a number of general policies you’ll encounter that allow for all passengers to have a comfortable flight. Some of these policies may include:

  • Restrictions on the different types of animals allowed aboard
  • A limit on the number of pets allowed in the cabin
  • A requirement that your pet is harmless to fellow passengers, including inoffensive and odorless
  • A requirement that you be able to produce a recent health certificate for your pet



Tips for Safe Air Travel with Your Pet

As a pet owner, you are responsible for the welfare of your animal while traveling. In addition to federal regulations and airline policies, here are a few things you can do to help make traveling with your pet easier and safer:

  • Before traveling, it’s best to help your pet get accustomed to its kennel. Also make sure that the door latches securely.
  • Don’t feed your pet solid food at least six hours before the flight. A moderate amount of water and a walk before and after a flight are strongly advised.
  • Ask your veterinarian if it would be best for your pet to be tranquilized for the trip. It’s also a good idea to try a test dose before travelling to gauge how your pet will react.
  • Health certificates must be issued 10 days before travel. Rabies and vaccinations certificates are also required.
  • Reserve a space for your pet in advance with the airline. Also ask about the time and location for drop-off and pick-up for your pet. Because of restrictions on the number of animals permitted, reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Ideally, try to book a non-stop flight. This will help reduce stress and worry for you and your pet. If possible, avoid connections or traveling during the weekend or holidays.
  • For overseas travel, ask about any health requirements including policies pertaining to quarantine.
  • Be sure to write your name, address and phone number on your pet's carrier, and make sure your pet is wearing a tag with the same information. A temporary tag that shows your destination address and phone number is also a good idea, as is bringing a picture of your pet in case it becomes lost.
New Year's Resolution: Ending Pet Obesity

Should old acquaintance be forgot... Hanging onto the friends and memories of the year past isn't a bad thing, but hanging on to old troubles may be. Pet obesity is still believed to be on the rise in the U.S. as 2016 comes to an end. It seems well-intentioned pet owners can’t kick the habit of viewing their chubby pets as adorable rather than at-risk for serious health issues.

A Troubling Trend

An American Animal Hospital Association task force found that for 2014 obesity rates for both dogs and cats had risen from the previous year. They now estimate 16.7 percent of dogs and 27.4 percent of cats are clinically obese. In all, the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) estimates 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight.

Although those numbers don't speak for 2015, it seems the weight problem has not been resolved.



"The 'fat gap' continues to challenge pet owners," said APOP founder Dr. Ernie Ward. "Pet owners think their obese dog or cat is a normal weight, making confronting obesity difficult. No one wants to think their pet is overweight, and overcoming denial is our first battle."

Even with waistlines, diets, and exercise regimens a central focus for a variety of American industries, the obesity rate for humans increased 3 percent from 2011-2012 to 2013-2014. It makes sense that pets' nutritional needs aren't being met when 40 percent of the population is overweight.

With Excess Weight Comes Health Risks

With an increasing trend toward pets being obese rather than just overweight, specialists are concerned. Obesity brings with it a higher risk for Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and even certain forms of cancer.

"It is critical pet owners understand an overweight dog or cat is not a healthy pet," said Dr. Julie Churchill, a veterinary nutritionist at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

For recommendations on proper nutrition, serving size and exercise requirements, contact your veterinarian.