Friday, April 25, 2014

Your Pet's Tail Tells a Tale

Do you know how to decode your pet's tail twitches? It’s our job as pet owners to recognize when our dog or cat is feeling happy, uncomfortable or scared. Our pets give us numerous signs of their feelings through their body language. They give signals that we can learn to decode with the right information. Catster and the ASPCA give us tips for learning the tale of the tail – or what your pet’s tail movements mean for their mood.

A cat’s tail is an incredible tool of self expression. If you are unable to read the expression on your cat’s face, always look to their tail. Catster tells us that you can tell a lot about your cat’s mood from the height and movement of their tail.

-          A Tall Tail held straight up in the air is a sign of a happy cat. Your cat may be saying, “I’m happy to see you!”
-          A Question Mark Tail where the tail is straight up in the air but hooked forward at the tip indicates a curious but unsure cat. Give your cat a little encouragement and assure them that the situation is okay if you see this tail.
-          Tip Twitch is a relaxed tail that starts to twitch back and forth at its tip and is an early sign of over stimulation. Your cat may have had enough with the current situation and is ready to move on.
-          Tail Flip is when your cat whips their full tail once in a single direction. They may be giving you a little bit of ‘tude. You may see this twitch if you need to scold your cat for bad behavior; it’s a “yeah, whatever” from your cat.
-          Tail Hug is if you are lucky enough to have a cat tail wrapped around your wrist. Consider it an affectionate hug!
-          Exclamation Point Tail is a startled vertical tail position and is often accompanied with an arched back and fur standing on end. Your cat may have been caught by surprise by something. A soothing voice and slow petting will help them to calm down.

-         Hunting Tail is when a cat is stalking prey, whether it’s a mouse or a favorite toy. They will hunker down low to the ground and stretch out their tail behind them, where it may twitch slightly. This cat is full of adrenaline and ready to pounce!

A dog’s tail can, surprisingly, be more complicated to decode. Although a wagging tail does often mean a happy dog, this movement does not always mean your dog is pleased and ready to play. The ASPCA tells us a bit about decoding a dog’s tail, noting that one of the most important things is to know your dog’s resting tail position.

While most dogs have a relaxed tail that hangs low to the ground, certain breeds have a tail that hangs naturally in more intense positions, like a pug’s curly tail or a greyhound’s naturally tucked-under tail. Knowing your dog’s natural tail position will help you to decode their emotions.

-          Relaxed Tail in its natural position means that your dog is at ease.
-          Gentle Wag is a tail that wags slowly side to side and indicates a happy dog.
-          Forceful Wag is when your dog’s tail wags enthusiastically back and forth or even in a circular pattern and it indicates that they are excited to see you!
-          Low Wag or Tucked Tail is if your dog’s tail is held lower than normal or curled underneath them just between their back legs. This means they are feeling nervous or submissive. The may still wag their tail side to side in a rapid manner, but if the tail is low, this is a nervous wag.

-         High, Stiff Tail is when your dog is alert. You may see them hold their tail higher than usual in a stiff position without any movement.
-         Flagging Tail is if your dog is alert with a high tail and starts to “flag,” or rigidly move his tail back and forth. This is a sign that your dog is standing their ground. It may look like a tail wag at first, but the rigid movement actually indicates a more threatening behavior.

Once you learn the way pets talk with their tails, you can learn the best ways to communicate with your pet!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring Pet Safety Outdoors

With beautiful weather finally calling our names to get outside, pet owners should take steps to make sure enjoying the outdoors is safe for you and your pet. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) offers tips on what to watch for while enjoying the great outdoors.

No grazing – If your dog likes to do more than just smell the flowers, consider putting up netting or fencing temporarily to prevent your pet from chomping on plants. Many common flowers and plants can actually be toxic to pets, including bulb tulips, azaleas, chrysanthemums and lilacs. If you enjoy hiking or going for trail walks with your pet, discourage them from grazing along the sides of trails.

Bug bites bite! – The best way to prevent bugs from affecting your pet is a year-round flea and tick prevention program, but pet owners should still always be on the lookout for a stray insect. Always check your pet thoroughly after a woodsy walk or a long time spent outdoors for any bugs that may be carried inside. Buzzing bees could be problematic for curious dogs, too, as these low-flying bugs can prove tempting to snap out of the air. Discourage your dog from playing a game of “bite the bee”, and if your pet does chomp on a stinger, call your vet right away.

Creature discomforts – You and your pet aren’t the only ones out and about this time of year. A range of wild creatures come out to play, and they may be of interest to dogs. Though it may look cute for your pet to check out that rabbit hole, a dog investigating another animal’s territory could lead to confrontation or injury. It’s important to be mindful of skunk sprays, snake bites and protective animal mothers. It’s best to prevent face to face encounters between wild animals and your pet altogether.

Training comes in handy – A well-trained dog is a good companion year round, and training certain commands can help your pet stay safe outside in spring and summer, too. While a standard “sit” command is always useful to put your dog’s attention back on you, some of the most important commands are “come” and “leave it.” A dog that is well trained in these commands will be less likely to pursue a potentially dangerous situation.

Visit the APDT website for more outdoor tips!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cats & Water: Is Your Cat Getting Enough?

Historically, cats and water have been seen as a bad combination. Although your kitty might not be too keen on bath time, water is still an important part of your cat’s health. How can you make sure your cat is getting enough to drink?

First, it’s important to learn how much water your cat needs to intake. According to the ASPCA, cat should digest approximately the same amount of water and food by volume each day. Your cat’s food, especially canned food, can have a fairly high water content. Dry food contains between 7-12 percent water, while canned food can measure as high as 80 percent. Regardless, your cat should have access to a clean bowl of water to supplement their meal.

The next question, then, is how to encourage your cat to drink. While dogs will head straight for the water bowl after a vigorous walk or play session, cats are less likely to lap up water frequently. You can include more water in your cat’s diet by sprinkling some water on top of their daily food. Catster also recommends using glass or stainless steel water bowls, as plastic may cause water to taste funny. Refreshing the water bowl regularly can help, as can using filtered water instead of water straight from the tap. Tap water can be heavily chlorinated or have an overly high mineral concentration.

Once you’ve done all you can to lead your cat to water, how can you tell if they are truly getting enough? Signs of good hydration include a shiny coat without dry flakes and good skin elasticity, meaning your cat’s scruff springs back quickly if you gently pull at the skin and release. A cat that shows normal levels of physical activity and is urinating two to three times a day is likely getting all the water they need.

If you are concerned that your cat may be dehydrated, consult with your vet immediately. Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, dry mouth, decreased skin elasticity and panting. A dehydrated cat will also show signs of lethargy, an elevated heart rate and a loss of appetite. Your vet will be able to administer fluids to re-hydrate your cat, and to run tests to determine if there is any underlying problem that could have caused their dehydration.

Wondering if your cat is prone to dehydration? Any cat that is ill runs a higher risk. Some cats, however, seem to enjoy water as more than just a beverage. Check out Cattime’s list of the Top 10 Cats Who Love Water! Is your cat’s breed on the list?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Preparing Pets for Spring

April showers bring May flowers, so the saying goes. But all the extra moisture in the ground from March rains and melting winter snow could mean for a wet and buggy spring, even well after the flowers start to grow. Our pets will without a doubt be excited to get back outdoors as the weather warms up, but as pet owners, it is our responsibility to make sure they stay healthy with the increased outdoor exposure. Consider these tips for getting your pet, especially a dog or outdoor cat, ready for spring!

Inspect your yard. As the east coast finally begins to thaw after a harsh winter, you could find a good amount of debris strewn around your yard or outdoor areas. Winter may have taken its toll on trees, fences, cable lines, and even wildlife. Check outdoor areas that your pet could explore for fallen branches, trash, broken wires or, sadly, animal carcasses to prevent your pet from ingesting anything unfamiliar.

Watch for seasonal allergies. A wet winter means that many humans are already seeing early signs of spring allergies. Pets are not immune to these symptoms, and may show signs of allergies as well. As explained by VETdispatch Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Lauren Connolly in a recent post on spring pet preparations, pet’s allergies are manifested through their skin, so watch for excessive itching in your pet. Although pet allergies cannot be prevented, should symptoms show up, speak with your veterinarian about treatments.

Increase exercise slowly. Your pet may be raring to go as soon as they set foot outdoors, but encourage them to take things slow. Less activity during winter may have allowed your pet to gain some weight or have decreased energy levels. Quickly jumping back into strenuous exercise or activity could lead to injuries. If you are also starting exercising this time of year, include your pet and help them to slowly work off the winter weight.

Flea, Tick & Heartworm prevention. Although fleas and ticks can survive the winter, as the weather gets warmer, they will come out in full force. Heartworm, which can be carried through mosquitoes, also becomes more prevalent this time of year. If you are not already treating your pet with preventive flea, tick and heartworm medications, now is the time to start.

Have a ball! It’s time to get outside with your pet! Enjoy the warmer weather with plenty of walks and playtimes outdoors. What are you looking forward to doing most with your pet this spring?