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The Importance of Asking About Behavior at Every Vet Visit

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We often think of the vet as a place to take our furry members of the family for check ups, upset stomachs, and vaccinations. But your veterinarian is a great resource to have throughout your furry pal’s life. Aside from ensuring that your four-legged friend is in good health, your veterinarian is a trained specialist in pet welfare, and he or she is knowledgeable not just in physical health when it comes to your pet, but behavioral as well.

Case in point: when my dog, Juniper, was a few years old, she was very shy around guests and struggled with fear-based aggression when men entered my house. I did research and even worked with a trainer, but the best advice I received was actually from my veterinarian, who told me to plan a dinner party in which I skipped Juniper’s dinner (so she was extra hungry) and then gave a piece of hot dog to every man who entered the house. I then told them, per the vet’s instructions, to give the piece of hot dog to Juniper without making eye contact whenever she approached them. While this seemed like a relatively simple suggestion, it was a huge success and something I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of on my own. Not only did it drastically change Juniper’s behavior (she now assumes men who come into the house are going to give her a delicious treat) From then on, I went to my veterinarian for behavioral tips, and I’ve never been let down.

To start the conversation with your veterinarian, you can begin by asking what he or she feels most knowledgeable about when it comes to behavior. They may say they have a strong grasp on behavior in general for both dogs and cats; they may say they specialize in some areas in particular such as aggression or housebreaking, or they may refer you to a veterinary behaviorist, depending on what issues you’d like to address. Either way, we like to think of the vet as resource to take advantage of throughout our furry pal’s life, through the good and bad!

Living With a Senior Pet

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Like humans, pets experience aging in many different ways. If you have a dog or cat nearing his wiser years, a routine that once suited your furry pal can become harder to follow as your pet adjusts to a more senior lifestyle. While the transition can take time and patience, there are a few ways to make this time special for both you and your four-legged friend…

In their later years, both dogs and cats can experience age-related cognitive decline, and keeping your pet engaged, whether it’s gentle physical activity or environmental stimulation, can be the perfect way to enrich his life. For example, if your cat has always loved a certain perch by the window, making it more accessible with a small stepping ladder or a few boxes will be easier on your furry friend’s joints. Similarly, if your dog has always been a big fan of fetch, he might enjoy laying on a mat and having the ball rolled towards him. Another fun way of engaging your pet? Teach him a new trick. Whether it’s training your cat to walk through a low hoop or teaching your dog to (finally) shake hands, giving daily attention and engaging your furry pal will not only strengthen your bond but engage their brain in a fun way.

In terms of exercise, a slow on-leash walk with your canine can be a great source of stimulation, and for non-mobile dogs, a walk in a carrier (or a ride with the windows down!) can be just as beneficial. For cats, stash away the laser and try puzzles and other games that require less leaping and more inquisitive exploring (like treats in an empty water bottle).

Lastly, being observant and watching for signs of discomfort or disorientation will ensure that your furry member of the family stays happy and pain-free. As always, we recommend taking your pet for frequent veterinary visits as signs of aging can often be subtle.

To read more about this topic, click here.

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Part 2: 6 Tips for Dealing with Very Picky Cats

In our last article, we talked about why our furry felines can be the pickiest of eaters. Today, we’re going to offer a few tips on how to get even the most finicky cats to eat their meals.

To begin, take a step back and look at your cat’s daily routine when it comes to mealtime. Does he have a place to eat where he feels safe and away from busy activity of the house? Something else to consider: if your kitty is being particularly picky and it seems like a sudden change in behavior, something may be disrupting his natural feeding behaviors. Changes in their environment can spook Shadow enough that he may enter a food strike, and it could be as subtle as a new and foreign smell. If, however, you have a feeling it has more to do with his refined taste buds and disinterest in his kibble, we have a few suggestions:

-Add a little tuna water to his food, which is high in protein and appeals to most (if not all) felines.

-Cats are grazers, eating many small meals throughout the day, so cat owners often leave food in their bowls so they can nibble as they please. The problem? Having food readily available may not offer your four-legged friend the mental stimulation needed to trigger appetite – there’s no hunt. Consider offering food only during meal times, as pickiness could be as simple as your cat not working up a big enough appetite in between meals.

-Try slightly warming your cat’s wet food, which brings out the aromas and may trigger hunger (similar to how the smells of a simmering meat sauce trigger feelings of hunger in us humans!). Just make sure it is warm and not hot!

-If you have more than one cat, consider feeding them together (with separate bowls, if necessary) as cats are social eating and feel comfortable eating together. Plus, having company during dinner can encourage a picky cat to eat, especially if he sees his fellow feline chowing down.

-Take out a toy before meals. A stimulating play session is a great way to get your four-legged friend out from under the couch and working up an appetite before dinner.

-Lastly, this trick seems to get a stamp of approval from many pet blogs online: sprinkle a little parmesan (the stuff from the green can is fine) on top of the food.

As always, if your cat has shown a decrease in appetite, we recommend a trip to your veterinarian. Do you have an exceptionally finicky cat? Please feel free to chime in with any tips of your own!

Part 1: Why Are Cats Picky Eaters?

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It’s not just little kids that can be picky eaters – if you have a cat, chances are high that he or she has turned his nose up to his dinner at some point in time. The reason? It’s probably a mix of behavioral as well as evolutionary. In the wild, cats hunt and eat frequently – up to 12 times a day, so they have the privilege of not scarfing down their meals to sustain them for the week. In fact, even in the wild, cats are known to “play” with their food, suggesting that they may even find enjoyment from their meals and less pressure to finish quickly as they are not sharing it with other felines.

While cat’s noses are not as powerful as dogs, aroma still plays an important role in what smells tasty and appetizing to them. Cold food, for example, might be less appealing to a furry feline because it doesn’t smell as strong. It’s also worth considering the way cats eat and how they use their teeth to rip and tear (for example, when eating a mouse). Moist food that offers opportunity to shred may be easier for a cat than dry food, which is often swallowed whole.

We know that cats are hypercarnivores, preferring foods high in protein and even detecting high protein levels in what they eat. When presented with three flavored wet foods in a recent study, cats chose fish out of a sample of rabbit, fish, and orange flavored food. It’s been hypothesized that cats are often unwilling to try a food that is new or different to them because it could lead to an upset stomach.

In the end, food pickiness may be boiled down to DNA. A 2005 study on cat genetics found that their taste receptors are much different than humans – for example, they don’t have receptors to taste sweetness, and their taste receptors for bitterness are much stronger than ours. This could be an underlying reason why food tastes different to them, and why they often appear picky.

Lastly, It’s important to keep in mind that an ideal cat food hits all the nutrition requirements – providing the proper vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to keep your cat at its healthiest.

Yes or No: Dogs in the Bed

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It’s the ultimate pet do or don’t: dogs in the bed. ​Some pet owners love cuddling up with Fido at the end of every day, while others say there is nothing worse than waking up with a paw to the stomach….

The topic makes the rounds every now and again, and this time, the buzz online is about a recent study in which 40 dogs were tracked with a device as they slept in bed with their owners. The study showed that over the course of seven days, both the humans and the dogs slept reasonably well. The dog owners were also required to keep a sleep diary and wear a device that tracked their sleep — they reported sleeping only slightly better with the dogs off the bed, but not by much.

Interestingly, the dogs’ sleep quality stayed the same regardless of where they slept, which is good to know for any owners who are thinking about transitioning their dogs off the bed and worrying that their pooch won’t sleep as well or as happily. For any pet owners concerned that letting their four-legged friend sleep in bed will give the dog the wrong idea about who’s in charge, you needn’t worry. “Dogs can distinguish between the relationship with its human fellows and other dogs, and the ways in which they regulate their interactions with humans in the house is not trying to establish a hierarchy,” says Dr. Siracusa in this article.

So – should dogs sleep on or off the bed? At the end of the day, it’s totally and completely up to you. We say, do what makes you happy. As long as you and your furry pal are waking up rested, we say there is no right or wrong way to do it!

What We Know About Cat Domestication

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We know so much about how dogs were domesticated — there’s enough information and research out there to know exactly how and when it happened. Cats, on the other hand, are a whole other story; our understanding of how they came to cohabitate with humans has always been fuzzy. A recent finding has given scientists a better glimpse of our furry friends’ mysterious past…

A recent study conducted on ancient cat bones found in agricultural villages in China suggests that the relationship between humans and felines began to evolve around 5,300 years ago during an agricultural boom. The findings suggest that cats began their domestication through a mutualistic relationship in which the wild cats ate rodents, thus helping to keep the pesty creatures away from farmers’ crops.

​            The team of scientists were also able to deduct from the decay that these cats, while living closely and among humans, are not believed to have lived in people’s homes until much later. Contrary to popular beliefs, neither cats nor dogs came into domestication intentionally. Rather, both fell into life with humans through similar, unprompted circumstances referred to as a “commensal” process. “Unlike cows or sheep, which evolved from wild animals that humans hunted,” states Rebecca Rosen in this Atlantic article, “Dogs and cats came into a mutually beneficial relationship with humans through food. Nothing about the process was intentional; no human set out to try to domesticate a cat or a dog and make it into a pet, but a chain reaction was set off by a human practice, and one thing led to another, and our pets today are the result.”

Interesting, right? We have the feeling there is still much to learn and discover about the ways in which cats found themselves curled up on couches and under beds. We can’t wait to learn more!

 

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Swimming Pools for Canines Offers Opportunity for Healing and Exercise

In the age of so many technological advances, it’s easy to forget about the basic and most fundamental forms of healing, like moving your body in the water. For dogs, this form of movement offers the same benefits.

In Maryland, a canine aquatic center heated to a comfortable 87 degrees is a great way for dogs old and young to exercise. In fact, even pups that aren’t the wildest fans of swimming are getting strapped up with a life jacket and paired with a swimming coach to maintain or lose weight, and in some instances, work through physical injuries. Similar to humans, swimming can be a wonderful low-impact way for our four-legged pets to build strength and begin to heal ailments and joint-related diseases that make everyday walking or running difficult.

While this is a relatively new field in veterinary care, canine rehabilitation centers are quickly spreading as people realize the restorative nature swimming has on our beloved furry friends, especially our older pets suffering from arthritis or weight gain.

In New York City, Water4Dogs is an aquatic center located in downtown Manhattan. They use rehabilitation techniques like an underwater treadmill to offer controlled water therapy for New York City’s canines, and the center even offers private appointments for people with healthy pets who would enjoy a swim. Another center we love: The Animal Medical Center (AMC) of New York City, which was founded over 100 years ago and offers compassionate care and rehabilitation through innovative clinical research and education. In New Jersey, Aqua Dog Rehabilitation was started by pet owners who wanted a dog-friendly pool to be available for dogs of all walks of life – young, old, healthy and injured.

Swimming is one of life’s greatest joy’s, and with its wonderful healing power, we’re thrilled it’s beginning to be more widely available for our furry friends to experience, without a trip to the beach!

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Food Aggression in Dogs

When you have a dog that’s food aggressive, it can be incredibly stressful and challenging, especially when it’s triggered during every meal time. We like to think of our furry canines as nothing but lovable, affectionate members of the family, so it’s upsetting to see such aggression played out. Here’s what to know if you think you have a pup who’s displaying negative food-related behavior:

  1. Don’t take it personally. We know it can be hard to understand why a pet with a reliable food source (us!) and regular meal times will still act aggressively with their food. Try to remember that our pets, at the end of the day, are also animals with their own instincts. It’s also important to remember that dogs and wolves in the wild exist in a hierarchy in which not everyone sits down for mealtime at the same time. In fact, higher ranking dogs will eat first and will certainly let the other dogs in the pack know if they overstep any lines. The alpha dog in a pack will often snap or bite at a dog that eats when it’s not yet their turn. Of course, we aren’t feeding wild animals, but it can be helpful to keep in mind that their animals instincts — while not always necessary anymore, exist for a reason.
  2. It’s important to assess when exactly the behavior occurs — whether it’s only during meal time or during treats, whether it’s in the presence of other dogs or directed towards you, and if it also happens during other moments of the day — for example, when your pup is playing with toys. We actually recommend jotting it all down so you can see any patterns in behavior.
  3. Like other forms of aggression, food-related aggression isn’t always about dominance. A dog can act aggressively because of anxiety or fearfulness, too. In either case, your response has to match the type of aggression present — and this is where we recommend hiring a skilled dog trainer who can help come up with a plan to make your dog feel more at ease during meal time.
  4. Once you’ve found someone who can help you with your furry friend, you’ll start to feel better, especially once a plan is in place! Depending on the type of aggression, your dog trainer might recommend you do different techniques to re-adjust your furry canine’s association with food, such as feeding him in a crate or incorporating treats during meal time. Whatever the method, stay patient!
  5. At Pampered Pets, we always make sure to take the time to get to know each and every one of our furry clients. Don’t hesitate to let us know exactly what keeps your pup happy when it comes to meal time!