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July 2013

Animal Odd Couples

 by zack on 27 Jul 2013 |
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  The animal kingdom is a funny place. It’s usually a dog eat dog world, but occasionally some very odd couples will end up forming, seemingly out of the blue. Strange bedfellows such as dolphins and dogs, goats and horses, dogs and lions, among many more allow humans to gain interesting insights into the inner workings of animal emotions and relationships. Today, the Petbucket blog will be examining some specific examples of Animal odd couples. Cheetah and Dog   Our first odd animal pairing is one of the most preposterously precious you’re ever likely to lay eyes on. The Labrador retriever, Mtani, has been raised since puppyhood alongside a superior alpha predator, Kasi the cheetah. Not only is Mtani never on the lunch menu, but they are nearly inseparable best buds. Busch Gardens’ animal trainers credit the similar styles of communications between dogs and cheetahs for this successful odd animal couple. Dogs bark and cheetahs chirp, they both growl, and each enjoys a good run around their shared enclosure. Zoologists and optimistic humanists alike point to this pairing as proof that as long as people focus on their commonalities we can overcome our differences. It’s a beautiful thought, but how does this kind of thought play out with two animals on opposite ends of the predator prey spectrum? Lioness and Oryx calf   In 2001, a Kenyan lioness decided it wanted to care for a lost Oryx calf. This is undoubtedly one of the strangest and saddest stories in all of animal kingdom history. The lioness adopted the calf and protected it for the better part of 5 weeks. She cared for the calf as if it was her own, but that wouldn’t quite cut it. The calf quickly deteriorated in health because it could not nurse from the lioness, nor was it allowed to graze out in the open, because the lioness wouldn’t let it out of her sight. Eventually the calf was killed and eaten by a large male lion. The heartbroken lioness looked on, refusing to engage the large male, but clearly distressed by the encounter. She went on to adopt 5 more calves after the first, but all of these relationships ended in a similar fashion. This story is often used to describe the severe effects that loneliness can have on an animal’s psyche, and the extremes that it can drive it to. Tortoise and Goose   Another animal odd couple coming out of Busch Gardens, a female Galapagos tortoise seems to have acquired a long term suitor in the form of a male Brant goose. This variety of goose mates for life, and refuses to leave the shell-bearing reptile’s side. Furthermore, it won’t let anyone else get too close. That means a permanent protector waddling about, warning of any potential danger, and warding off any other competition for the tortoise’s affections. If you’d like to know more about these and other strange animal odd couples, I’d suggest clicking the links in the headings. These are just three examples of the many surprises the animal kingdom has up its sleeves. 

Scaredy Cat: How to Handle a Frightened Feline

 by zack on 19 Jul 2013 |
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Cats have a lot of stereotypes surrounding them. They’re considered curious, mischievous, mystical, and even regal. However, everyone is familiar with a feline that’s been characterized as skittish or easily spooked. Cats are very independent creatures, and can sometimes be mistaken for fearful. But there are occasional cases where a cat is genuinely aghast at whatever is going on around it. They are small and fragile, if not somewhat resourceful, creatures. What can be done in such a scenario, where a scaredy cat is unsociable to the point of concern? Today’s post will discuss some different strategies for dealing with a frightened cat, and making it feel more at home in its own skin. Why is my cat scared? There are many reasons why cats develop a fearful disposition. It can be the result of past trauma at the hands of a human or another animal, a disruption in its regular routine, even pain and illness can have an adverse effect on a feline’s mentality. Cats also don’t like continuous loud noises, and cluttered or dirty environments. An overabundance of accompanying animals can cause a lot of stress-related fear. This can be exacerbated if the cat doesn’t get along well with the other animals. Another reason they could have developed new and abnormal signs of fearfulness is being exposed or moved to a new environment to which they’re unaccustomed. Any number of factors could be contributed to a cat’s fearful demeanor, but what you really need to know is what to do about it. How to Give Cats Courage     Cats feel safe in enclosed spaces. Additionally, elevated areas can also seem like a safe haven. To make a scared cat feel more comfortable, set up a covered cave for them to retreat to. Line it with soft bedding and partially cover the entrance so that the cat will feel safely obscured inside. In the same vein of thought, you can purchase a cat tower for the cat to lie on top of. Giving a scared cat a place to hide is a good strategy for making it feel more comfortable, but the eventual goal is to get it to enjoy your company. So you’ll need to interact with the cat. Though because of their finicky nature and fearful disposition, this can be somewhat complicated. You’ll have to go slowly, and let the cat take the lead on interacting. Try to coax it into playing with a toy, fishing pole toys work great for this. It gives you some distance, while still allowing you to interact. You can also frequently feed your feline with its preferred brand of cat treats. This along with regular meal times will go a long way in building the bond between the two of you. Most of the time when dealing with a scared cat they won’t take the treat directly from you, and you’ll have to leave it sitting for them. However, after some time has passed and you’ve built some trust you can try hand-feeding. The trick is to do this incrementally, try watching the cat eat from a distance, and get a little closer each time. If you can patiently follow these guidelines while still giving your cat the space it needs to adjust, and eliminate any of the outlying stress factors that might be causing a fear response in your cat, then you’ll definitely succeed in socializing your scaredy cat into a fearless feline.   

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

 by zack on 10 Jul 2013 |
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We all know that dogs have certain proclivities in regards to their eating habits. Sometimes that can’t help but snack on the same meal twice. This causes a variety of very awkward problems for pet owners; the first that comes to mind is after a stinky meal they haven’t got a problem with licking your face. But bad breath and the ever present danger of contracting parasites are also concerns. Beyond that, it’s just plain gross, and not at all a desirable quality in a family pet. So why do dogs eat poop? And what can be done about the problem?  Causes of Copraphagy That confusing “C” word in the above heading is the official medical terminology for fecal feasting, and it sounds slightly more sterile, so it’s a more than a little preferable to other popular vernacular: e.g. crap snacking, turd tasting, or wolfing down waste. So we’ll refrain from that sort of language from here on out. Copraphagy in dogs is possibly a evolutionary remnant from their scavenging days as more wolf-like kinds of canines. It can also be a learned behavior. Where would dogs that eat poop pick up such a habit? From you. This is by way of misunderstanding your actions, of course. When a dog sees you cleaning up, it might mistake your intentions. Or perhaps you’ve scolded it in the past for committing a dumping on your duvet. Copraphagy might be their (not so) clever way of removing evidence of the crime.  It could also be that they saw another dog doing the deed and is imitating it. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.    Stop Your Dog From Eating Poop There are a few options for keeping dog breath to a healthier level of stench. You could treat your dog’s food with a chemical to make its stools less palatable. Commercial products such as 4-BID are available for this specific purpose. Or you could cut out the middle man and sprinkle some cayenne pepper on the stool directly. Of course, if you’re going to go to that much trouble, you might as well just pick up the offending fecal matter and throw it away. That, in fact, might be the easiest solution.  If you’ve got cats in the same household, you’ll want to limit your dog’s access to the litter box. This can be tricky if you have a dog the same size as the cats. Try putting in a baby gate, or something like it. So long as the cat can still get through without the dog being able to bypass it so easily. You could also try "Shaming": Whatever you do, don’t scold a dog that eats poop. It may associate the unwanted behavior with your attention. It’s like the old saying, that there’s no such thing as bad press. When it comes to a caretaker’s attention, dog’s may be willing to take a tongue lashing in order to be your focus for a few moments. In the end it will just take some effort, and perhaps a little creativity to break a cacography inclined animal. Until then, invest in breath mints.  

Your Cat may Actually be Driving You Crazy.

 by zack on 07 Jul 2013 |
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Here’s a frightening thought: your housecat is host to a parasite that can infect you, and in so doing affect your brain function, making you more impulsive, promiscuous, less attentive, less intelligent, and possibly suicidal. Sounds like something straight out of science fiction, but unfortunately this parasite is so pervasive that liberal estimates say that over 8 million Australians could be infected, along with upwards of 60 million Americans. Worldwide estimates of infection range into the billions. The disease is called Toxoplasma, and it starts in rats, goes to cats, and ends up inside your freaking brain, in what seems like a very demented spin on the circle of life. When a rat is infected with Toxoplasmosis it loses all aversion to the scent of cat urine, and in fact, becomes sexually aroused by the smell. It then seeks out areas filled with cat odors, and is predictably and promptly eaten by an unsuspecting feline. Cats are then similarly infected though their behavior remains largely unchanged, a whole laundry list of symptoms has been associated with the disease, including: Laziness Sadness High temperature Sudden reduction in weight Trouble breathing Reduced coordination Seizures Weakness Paralysis Nausea Loose bowels Reduced appetite And inflammation However, the really scary part is how often the disease goes unnoticed because of a lack of these symptoms. Humans can catch the disease by being in close contact with cat feces which is where the ocysts, that is to say the toxoplasmosis progeny, are released after reproduction occurs inside the feline’s intestinal tract. It’s also common to catch the disease when in contact with undercooked foods, and is much more prevalent in countries with a tradition of eating such fare, like Brazil for example, which is estimated to have 67% of its total population infected with the parasite. So I know this is supposed to be a pet blog, and we’re mainly concerned with pet issues here, but are you ready to hear some really scary facts about this parasite’s effects on human behavior? Toxoplasmosis affects the human brain’s fear center, causing a disdain for authority, less adherence to social folkways and mores, an increased risk of schizophrenia, an increased risk of dying in a motorcycle accident, higher rates of suicide among the infected, increased levels of sexual promiscuity among women, and higher frequencies of neuroticism in both sexes. Ironically enough, you’re also more likely to be good at Soccer. This psychotic protozoan is a major health concern for all of the above reasons, and is an excellent reminder to wash your hands after changing your cat litter and always before eating. Diagnosis for the disease is very difficult and not often undergone. It includes measuring t cell count in the blood stream as well as tracking the number of liver enzymes. Treatment is likewise not always recommended as the disease is only serious in patients with weak immune systems. This is true for humans and cats alike. When it is treated, there is a long list of drugs used to do so, but there is more available in the way of prevention than actual treatment. So there’s your daily dose of microscopic horror. Just remember, you’re not always in control of your actions. Sometimes nature plants a scary bodysnatching minute monster inside your brain to help you make stupid decisions.   

EPI in Dogs

 by zack on 04 Jul 2013 |
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EPI or Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is a deadly disease that has seen a sharp incline of recorded cases in recent years. The order is related to certain dogs inability to properly breakdown food and absorb nutrition from them. The cause is related to pancreatic health, and it is a terrifyingly debilitating condition. Luckily, the disease is treatable. Unluckily, the symptoms can be difficult to diagnose. So it’s important to be informed and stay on the lookout for any signs of the onset of EPI. EPI Symptoms Symptoms of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency are akin to dysentery. Lots and lots of diarrhea, increased gas, loose yellowish stools, pronounced weight loss along with an increased appetite, eating feces and other out of the ordinary materials, vomiting, in some cases increased aggression or fear responses, loud stomach rumbling, and occasionally there are no visible symptoms whatsoever. As you can see, this disease is particularly frightening because the symptoms can be so variable, and ultimately very common to non-life-threatening conditions. After all, plenty of dogs will eat their own feces, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they all have EPI. The main thing to look out for is consistent and unwavering gastrointestinal problems. To test for EPI you’ll need to have your vet do a blood test EPI Causes Reasons for canines contracting EPI are assumed to be genetic.  In fact, one of the most prominent methods of prevention is to fix the dog as soon as the disorder is identified. This way there are fewer occurrences in the overall gene pool of canines at large. Despite recently learning that the disease is genetic, the specific genes that cause EPI have yet to be fully determined. However, every year further research is being revealed that would eventually suggest all the genetic markers will inevitably be identified. EPI Treatment Treating Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is relatively straightforward. It’s simply putting the enzymes necessary for digestion back into the dog’s system. This can be done intravenously or through taking simple preventative dietary measures. More specifically, the powdered enzymes required for EPI treatment are: Lipase  Protease  Amylase  These enzymes are usually available in one package, and the dosage which can be easily ascertained by a vet visit, is in general a single teaspoon for each cup of dry food.  This is usually administered with a fourth of a cup of warm water. This is to soften the food and keep the acidic enzymes from causing sores to develop in the dog’s mouth. In addition to adding enzymes to the diet, your vet might suggest antibiotics and shots of vitamin B12. Summing up EPI is a very scary disease that often doesn’t show symptoms until the pancreas has been completely ravaged, and if left untreated it usually causes a very painful death due to malnutrition or organ failure. Keeping on top of your dog’s health concerns with a healthy diet and regular vet visits are a good preventative, but even then you should keep a close watch on your dog’s behavior and elimination habits. As always keep checking back for more helpful pet information from the Petbucket blog. 
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