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PET POWER Tales and tips on dogs, cats and everything in-between


FERRETS AND PARROTS AND FISH, OH MY! A PARADE OF PETS JOINS DOGS AND CATS AS DEMOGRAPHICS AND INCOME FEED RISING TREND IN PET OWNERSHIP. Pampering pets is becoming big business. In this special magazine supplement featuring content from Tribune Content Agency and Tribune News Service contributors, get advice from some of the country’s leading pet columnists and experts, read about animals making news and utilize tips on everything from pet photography to cool gadgets pets and owners can appreciate.


MATCH.COM New dog-adoption service makes matches by personality.


GRAY DAYS Older pets make wonderful companions.


A BIRD’S BRAIN Your feathered friend may be hiding illness.


11 BIG READS This animal book roundup stars cats, horses, birds, elephants and guinea pigs.


6 PHOTO TIPS Capture candid and posed moments with confidence.


ROOMMATE W/ PET You’re moving in and it turns out your new roomie already has a housemate — the 4-legged variety.


PET NEWBIES What first-time owners need to know.


CATS: THE VIDEO STARS Must. Make. Cat. Videos. But why?


WHADDUP, BIG DOG? The importance of preventing pet obesity.


GOURMET PET FOOD Lucky dogs: Chef-owners are creating meals to drool over. And you can, too.


THE NEW ARRIVAL Preparing Rover to be a good dog with baby.


EMERGENCY 411 How to know when to seek out urgent care.


5 COOL GADGETS Pets and owners alike will like these items.


DOG DAY CARE 12 tips for finding the best fit for your pup or old pooch.


HEALING POWER OF PETS The amazing health benefits of pet ownership.


What might Grumpy Cat think of our pet-spending nation? Coren says human history is full of pets that have been treated as well as — or better — than members of the family by those who had the means to do so. This includes Frederick the Great of Prussia, who had a wing of his Sanssouci palace designed for his beloved Italian greyhounds. “When the dogs destroyed the furniture or the drapes,” says Coren, “he simply had it all replaced. This was for his dogs, yet he never let his wife come and visit the palace. She had to stay in Vienna.” The big difference, Coren says, “is that nowadays we do have more disposable income — or are willing to take on more debt — to pamper our (pets).” He says that the willingness to spend dovetails with a need to nurture in a changing family demographic. “Nowadays, we no longer have the extended family all living within a half hour’s drive from us ... and furthermore, we’re living a hell of a lot longer. So there’s a whole lot of people who live well into an era of life where the kids have gone away and they have empty-nest syndrome.” Megan Mueller, associate director of the newly formed Tufts Institute for Human-Animal Interaction, which focuses on human-pet relationships, says, “If you look at the statistics, yes, people have more animals that they consider pets than they used to.

The United States buys the most pet food Japan


Source: Nielsen Graphic: TNS



United States


% 9.8

Even in times of economic strife, worldwide pet food sales have been steadily growing over time. From a geographical perspective, North America and Europe account for more than half of the world’s pet food sales.

United Kingdom


“And, yes, a lot of people talk about their animals as being members of their family, but we simply don’t have a lot of (scientific) research about what people’s relationships were like with their companion animals 50 years ago.” On the other hand, she adds, “The increase in this area of research is certainly indicative of these relationships becoming important.” Here’s one thing about the relationship that’s crystal clear: We’ll do just about anything to make our animal companions happy. n — Adam Tschorn, Los Angeles Times

France Germany Russia

5.9% 5% 4.3 3.7 % %


hat with Grumpy Cat and therapy goats, $150 granite cat food bowls and $2,600 Gucci dog carriers, it’s easy to think that a society that has dedicated pet bakeries, canine-only cable channels and a cat with more Twitter followers than the Dalai Lama has (forgive us) seriously gone to the dogs in recent years. Even a cursory look at the statistics would indicate that something is afoot: According to an annual survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 65 percent of American households are home to a pet (up from 56 percent in 1988), and annual spending on care and feeding hit about $60 billion in 2015. Has our relationship with domestic animals fundamentally changed in the last few years? “The answer is yes and no,” says Stanley Coren, psychology professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia and author of several books about dogs, including “The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events.” “They’ve found a grave from the Natufian era — about 11,000 years ago — on the border between Israel and Syria in which an elderly man was buried with his hand resting on what appears to be the skeleton of a 9-week-old puppy. Obviously that dog was precious.”

Italy All others

% 4 . 28

ABOUT THAT DOG Dog’s a chewing machine. Help! Q: What can we do about our 14-month-old golden retriever that bites and chews anything and everything — from shoes to furniture to our outside deck? We keep her well supplied with chew toys and marrow bones, and she also will chew through most toys she has. She gets plenty of exercise and playtime with us. A: The problem here is that you have a 14-month-old dog that has been allowed to pick and choose whatever she wants to play with and chew on. If there is a dog toy that you bought for her on the floor and a shoe that you bought for yourself on the floor next to the toy, then how is she supposed to tell the difference? To her, both things are just there for her amusement. She cannot differentiate when you chastise her for chewing one thing and not the other. That being said, if you correct her every time she chews on the shoe, she will get the idea this is not a thing she can play with. Since she does not get corrected when she plays with a dog toy, then she will get the idea that this thing is OK to play with. You never said if she was crated as a puppy, but the fact that she is chewing on everything in the house indicates she is not crated now. So this is what you must do for a while. When she is not being watched, she must stay in a crate with some toys she can chew on. That way, she gets in the habit of only chewing on those particular items when she is free to roam about and you are watching her and correcting her every time she chews on a household object. Since she no longer has the opportunity to chew on non-toys, she no longer thinks of them as one of life’s options. She sounds like a smart dog, and it should take only a few weeks of this close confinement for her to get the idea. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

Joshua C. Cruey

Marianna Benko (from left), Elizabeth Holmes and Coleen Johnston, are co-founders of PawsLikeMe, a canine matching service.

MATCH.COM for the perfect pet


re you looking for a special someone for long runs moving to Florida, she ran a dog-rescue group in Ohio. on the beach — or for snuggling together on the “Oftentimes, people would return a pet because they had sofa, watching a movie? Do you prefer the strong, made a bad decision,” she says. “Seventy percent of pets assertive type — or shy and deferential? (change families) more than once in their lifetime. We knew Your answers could help you find the there had to be a better way” — espeDog-adoption service cially with an estimated 3.5 million pets perfect match … in a dog. A pet-adoption website, still being euthanized each year in the makes matches by, uses a series of United States. personality questions about your personality, Holmes joined forces 18 months ago lifestyle, likes and dislikes to find your with her sister, Marianna Benko, 33, of ideal pooch from adoption listings across the country. It’s the Orlando, a clinical social worker; and Dr. Coleen Johnston, for would-be pet parents. 38, a Palm Bay, Fla., veterinarian. They came up with an algo“We realized that people had a lot of difficulty finding the rithm that finds suitable matches among dogs at government right pet,” says Elizabeth Holmes, 41, the company’s CEO shelters, rescue groups and nonprofit organizations in your and co-founder, who lives in Cocoa, Fla. For years before desired ZIP code.

“I was their vet,” Johnston says, nodding toward three of Holmes’ four dogs. “One day she and I were talking, and she said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could match people and pets based on personality?’ I said, ‘That would be awesome.’” Johnston, a self-described numbers geek, and Benko, with a background in psychology, tinkered with an initial formula, testing and refining it on more than 3,000 people and their pets. The accuracy rate, they say, is now above 90 percent. Listing a dog is free. By attending pet-rescue conventions, the three woman forged partnerships with groups across the country, creating a database of 150,000 dogs. Among the various pet-adoption platforms already online — Petfinder and Petango, for instance — the founders say PawsLikeMe is unique. “We look at compatibility and people’s environment,” says Benko, who has also volunteered for dog-rescue groups and led pet-therapy sessions with patients in long-term care facilities. “We also really look at how people relate to their pets.” Do you care whether your dog messes up your house? Gets fur on your clothes? Is a slow learner? Do you want an independent dog — or one that always wants to be at your side? “A lot of people — especially first-time pet owners — don’t think about those things,” Johnston says. Though the company is just starting out, initial reaction is positive. “The bottom line is, if this service helps gets dogs adopted, I’m for it,” says Sean Hawkins, vice president of the nonprofit Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando. “We believe it’s important to take a lot of time in making sure the animal is going to a home that fits, which is why we do a personal interview that can take from 10 minutes to an hour. Our system is really driven by a lot of gut feeling and the vibe that’s transmitted in a one-on-one interview.”

But Hawkins says he’s particularly intrigued by the opportunity for individuals to re-home their pets — an often-agonizing process for many pet owners or the relatives of pet owners who die. Others agreed. “I really like that they’re giving people another option to find a new home prior to coming to us,” says Carolina Devine, marketing and public-relations coordinator for Orange County Animal Services. “A lot of times people come to us as a first option for finding their pets a new home. It should be their last.” That’s because Orange County, like many government shelters, euthanizes pets for whom it can’t find homes, something the new site’s founders are trying to prevent. Under PawsLikeMe rules, adoptive animals must be spayed or neutered, which helps fight pet overpopulation, and the site may dissuade people from listing animals on Craigslist, where they can fall prey to abuse and exploitation. The website doesn’t charge anyone to list a pet for adoption, nor does it take any percentage of the adoption fee charged by nonprofit groups. For individuals looking to find a new home for their own dog, the company collects a $180 fee, which includes pet insurance, product discounts and guidance for the new owner. In addition, up to half is donated to local shelters or adoption groups. In the coming months, Holmes says, plans call for reincorporating as a B-corporation, a for-profit venture with an altruistic goal. The trio also will add cats, perhaps next year. “There’s a lot of work in looking at cats,” Holmes said. “The considerations are totally different. But I will say there’s a ton of interest.” n — Kate Santich, Orlando Sentinel

‘Seventy percent of pets (change families) more than once in their lifetime. We knew there had to be a better way.’

ABOUT THAT CAT One cat meows. One’s purr-fect. Q: We have two cats that are brothers and were raised together. One meows all the time at us and seems normal in all respects. The other one hardly ever meows, yet seems to be purring loudly all the time. Is there a reason for this and should we be worried? A: Meowing by cats is done only by kittens to their mothers and by adult cats to their human keepers. Adult cats view us as their “parents” and express their needs to us in this manner. Among themselves, cats growl, hiss and make other sounds, but they rarely meow to each other. There is a lot of debate on purring among domestic cats, but scientists do agree that there are two different purring styles, one that expresses contentment and another type, measured by recording and comparing the sound waves, called a “solicitation purr.” In this type of purring, cats are expressing a need for something with a purr in the same manner they express the need with a meow. So perhaps your meowless cat has discovered his purring gets him the same things from you that a meow would. Only the cat knows for sure. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

The cost of a pet

Here’s a look at the average annual cost of taking care of a pet Food Litter

Medical costs Toys







Guinea pig





Health insurance License


415 40 235


225 175

55 15

165 25


415 30

85 25

20 0



First year cost



Spay / neuter / other medical Collar / leash Litter box / cage / aquarium / carrying bag / crate

Rabbit Dog

270 30


275 10 70










200 0


Source: ASPCA Graphic: Tribune News Service




Training class



Guinea pig



ABOUT THAT BIRD What are the best munchies for macaws? Q: I’ve added a new member to my family and his name is Maxwell, a 5-month-old blue and gold macaw. My question revolves mainly around his diet and what would be best to feed him. A: Your new family member is truly a spectacular creature. Macaws are natives of Central and South America but thankfully are no longer imported to the United States after being taken from their homes. They are, however, readily available as pets thanks to breeders who are able to raise and breed these birds in captivity. These birds are highly intelligent and do require a tremendous amount of interaction with their caretakers. I’ve often heard of these birds being compared to a 5-year-old child in both intelligence and habit. Owing to their intelligence, they can be very manipulating if allowed. Obviously, these birds can be a challenge as companions; however, with the right “upbringing” they can make unbelievably wonderful family members. The best diet for a macaw is one that addresses their omnivorous needs. I recommend a diet based 80 percent in pellets. From this base, add vegetables of almost infinite variety, fruits to a much lesser degree, grainbased foods such as pasta and rice and small amounts of meat. Brazil nuts work quite well for this purpose allowing the macaws to work a bit to get at the nut and then providing the extra fat in a high quality that they require. Does this mean your bird should never have seeds? Absolutely not; seeds can be given as a treat once or twice a week for a couple of hours. Again, back to the 5-year-old, it’s OK to eat the ice cream once in a while. — Jeff Kahler, Modesto Bee

Exotic options Kevin R. Wexler/The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)/TNS



et store owner Joe Averso has found a niche in downtown Lodi, N.J., that he believes will set him apart from the big-box pet store competition. His shop, NJ Exotic Pets, sells creatures you might see on the Discovery Channel, but not necessarily at Petco or PetSmart, the industry’s 800-pound gorillas. Not all animal lovers want cats, dogs or fish. So Averso has made his 1,200-square-foot shop the go-to place for people who want the pricier writhing reptiles, gliding marsupials or hairless rats to be a part of their lives. “You’ll never find a coatimundi in a Petco,” said Averso, who had three of the long-snouted South American cousins to the raccoon in his shop one day recently, acquired from a Florida breeder and priced at $2,000 each. Petco did not respond to a request for comment. The largest pet store chain, PetSmart Inc., sells hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, fish, birds and reptiles, but its main business is selling pet food, supplies and grooming services for dogs and cats. U.S. pet-related spending will top $60 billion this year, up from about $48 billion in 2010, according to the American Pet Products Association. Americans, who own about 54 million dogs and 43 million cats, also own about 9.3 million reptiles and 12.4 million other small animals, the trade group said. Averso, 44, who has been in the retail pet business for 15 years, opened NJ Exotic Pets a little more than a year ago. In recent years, he’s noticed that customers, especially younger

ones, are more interested in reptiles and other exotic pets, and they are willing to pay higher prices for the more exotic creatures. His top sellers are so-called pocket pets — sugar gliders and hedgehogs, small enough to fit in a pocket. Sugar gliders, named for their love of sweet nectars and an ability to glide like flying squirrels, are 5-inch-long marsupials from the South Pacific. Averso recommends that customers buy two — at $400 a pair — because of their need for social contact. African pygmy hedgehogs, priced at $350 each, are spiny mammals. Like sugar gliders, they can be held in the palm of one hand. Averso also has what he described as a “super rare” striped possum, a larger South Pacific marsupial, about the size of a gray squirrel with black and white stripes, priced at $2,500. These he also he gets from his Florida breeder. Averso, who declined to disclose sales figures, said he expects “a modest profit” this year. Earlier this year, he received a hard-to-get license from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to sell captive-bred skunks, a native North American species. “We’ve already sold 35 of them,” he said. The price ranges from $650 to $950, depending on color and markings. It is illegal to keep a skunk in New Jersey unless it is acquired from a licensed dealer, and Averso is the only dealer in the state authorized to sell them, said Susan Predl, chief biologist at the Division of Fish and Wildlife. As such, he can issue a

temporary permit to skunk buyers, who must then pay $12 a year for a captive-game permit. NJ Exotic Pets works closely with veterinarian Christopher Stancel of the Dog, Cat & Bird Clinic of Nutley, N.J., an exotic-pets specialist, who de-scents and neuters the baby skunks before they are sold, Averso said. “Is there high demand for pet skunks? No,” said Joe Ricciuti, owner of 88 Pet World in Brick, N.J., who stopped selling them a number of years ago. “Are there people out there who want them? Yes,” Ricciuti said. And because they do, store manager Megan Zayatz, 29, has the unenviable task of cleaning the skunk cages. “People think it’s a cool job because you get to play with animals,” said Zayatz, who started working in pet stores at age 16. “But you don’t have time to play with them, and you touch poop with your hands.” On a recent Monday morning Zayatz was cleaning a skunk cage, and at the same time was on the phone advising a customer to add some blended banana to the milk the customer was trying to feed to a young coatimundi. Zayatz continued the conversation while signing off on a delivery of live crickets and wax worms. Customer Chelsee Firestone, 18, said she and her friend

drove to the store just to admire the snakes. “I first came here looking for ferrets and ended up falling in love with reptiles,” said Firestone, gazing at the leucistic rat snake coiled around her wrist and forearm. When asked if she owned any reptiles, she produced a pencil-thin corn snake from a pocket in her skirt. It eats “frozen pinkies” — hairless, newborn mice. “This store is fantastic,” said Vicki Stout, who brought her teenage son Matthew to pick up Peaches, his Brazilian short-tailed possum, after boarding it at the shop while away on vacation. Boarding of reptiles and small animals is a “very small” part of the business, Averso said, and is offered as a convenience. Customer Hevin Shepstone is one lizard-owning customer who admits having a mild case of buyer’s remorse. The bearded dragon she bought in October for her 10-yearold son has cost her about $500, all told, since then, after adding the cage, lighting, food and other supplies for the lizard, known also as a pogona. “And you get to hold these things in your hand,” she said, displaying what would be her latest purchase, a bag of dragon food containing live crickets. — Richard Newman, The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

Exotic pets

States that ban private ownership of exotic animals

The term “exotic animal” does not have an exact legal definition, but it often refers to the ownership of strange or wild animals as pets. Here’s a look at the laws governing exotic animal ownership.

States that require owners of exotic animals to get a license or permit






States that ban private ownership of some exotic animals but not others

States that have no statute ownership of exotic animals


















Source: Born Free USA

Graphic: Tribune News Service

ABOUT THAT FERRET Why is our ferret no longer squirrely? Q: Petal is our 4-year-old ferret. Recently Petal has begun to slow down. She is sleeping much more than she used to and her play time is greatly subdued. There are episodes in which she will begin to explore almost normally then suddenly stop and almost fall asleep. These episodes have become more frequent. A: There are many possible causes for the symptoms Petal is showing. However, Petal likely is afflicted with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) caused by a tumor or multiple tumors in her pancreas called insulinoma(s). Sugar in the blood stream is the energy source that is used to power Petal’s body. When that energy source gets too low (hypoglycemia) her body becomes weak. Hypoglycemia in ferrets is most commonly caused by single or multiple insulin-secreting tumors. This condition left unchecked is fatal. Definitive diagnosis of insulinoma is accomplished with blood samples tested for blood sugar and insulin levels. Treatment for insulinoma can be surgical. Removal of this mass will cure the disease. If Petal has a case of multiple insulinomas within the pancreas, surgical intervention is less likely to cure the problem. If surgery is not a option, medical management of the hypoglycemia can often be achieved using corticosteroids that counteract insulin, thus reducing hypoglycemia. There is also a drug called diazoxide that directly inhibits insulin and it, too, can be used in ferrets with insulinoma. For Petal, the first step will be a veterinary encounter, hopefully then leading to a definitive diagnosis followed by appropriate therapy to bring her back to her old “ferreting” self. — Jeff Kahler, Modesto Bee


ABOUT THAT NEWT They brought home what? Q: My children came back from camp in the Catskills in New York with five little red salamanders that they found in the woods. We went to the pet store and were sold a plastic tank to keep them in and some moss that we were told to keep wet. We also bought Newt and Salamander Bites to feed them, but they are not eating these pellets. Is there anything else we could feed them? A: Those salamanders are the larval form of the Eastern Newt, and they are called Red Eft. Adult Eastern Newts are olive green and totally aquatic. They live in ponds and lakes and never come out of the water, and they will very rarely eat those pellets that you bought. For the first year of their lives, they are bright red and live in the forest under wet leaf litter, where they eat termites and other tiny creatures. They will only eat live foods and, in captivity, they will eat wingless fruit flies and live blackworms or tubifex worms that are sometimes sold as food for aquarium fish. However, in New York State (and many parts of the country) it’s not legal (or, in my opinion, moral or ethical) to keep wild-caught native amphibians. That’s because the habitat of these animals is shrinking yearly, and they are not as common as they used to be. Many native amphibians are now endangered. So, even if you could get the live foods that Red Efts need to eat, you would be doing them a better service and performing a life lesson for your children by making a day trip of returning them to the area where the kids found them. Since they are not native to Long Island, turning them loose in a park near you would not work, and they would just die there. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

This animal book roundup stars cats, horses, birds, elephants and guinea pigs


he majority of animal-related books that cross our desk are dog-related. This month we give equal time to the non-canine crowd: cats, horses, elephants, birds and guinea pigs. Still waiting to hear from the goldfish and ferret lobbies. “The Old Man and the Cat: A Love Story” by Nils Uddenberg (Thomas Dunne Books): Uddenberg, a retired psychology professor, never had a pet until he was adopted by a stray cat that showed up at his home one cold winter day. Translated from the original Swedish, “The Old Man and the Cat” describes the bond that developed between the two — much to the author’s amazement. “Unspoken Messages: Spiritual Lessons I Learned From Horses and Other Earthbound Souls” (Balboa Press) by Richard D. Rowland: Rowland spent 28 years as a state police officer before retiring and running an equine boarding facility in Kentucky. Diagnosed with terminal multiple myeloma, he writes about the lessons of hope and positivity he has learned from horses.

“A Guinea Pig Pride & Prejudice” by Jane Austen, Tess Gammell and Alex Goodwin (Bloomsbury): It has been more than 200 years since Austen penned her novel, but we finally have a version of the book that substitutes guinea pigs for humans. Guinea pig trainers and miniature set designers have teamed up on the project, which is a lot of fun.

“Women Who Still Love Cats Too Much” by Allia Zobel Nolan (Health Publishing): With cartoons by Nicole Hollander (“Sylvia”), this humorous little book will help women recognize and accept their cat codependency. “Owls: Our Most Charming Bird” by Matt Sewell (Ten Speed Press): Who doesn’t love owls? Ornithologist and artist Sewell obviously does, as evidenced in his latest book. He looks at some four dozen species of owls, writing a paragraph or two about each and illustrating it with one of his drawings. He doesn’t get overly technical or scientific, making “Owls” attractive for younger readers, too.

ABOUT THAT CAT Is there an equation for cat vs. human ages? Q: My father says that every year of a cat’s life is equal to seven years of a human’s life. So if my cat is 3 years old now, then is he equal to a 21-year-old human?


“Birding for the Curious: The Easiest Way for Anyone to Explore the Incredible World of Birds” by Nate Swick (Page Street Publishing): If you’ve considered getting into birding, this book is for you. Swick, a 20-year aficionado, is the editor of the American Birding Association’s blog, and over 10 chapters he presents a thorough explanation of how to get involved.

“The Cat’s Out of the Bag: Truth and Lies About Cats” by Max Cryer (Exisle Publishing): One need not be an ailurophile to enjoy Cryer’s examination of all things cat — the origins of phrases such as “it’s raining cats and dogs,” a look at felines’ sense of hearing and eating habits, cat fables and cats in music. And an ailurophile? A person who loves cats.

“Elephant House” by Dick Blau and Nigel Rothfels (Pennsylvania State University Press): Photographer Blau and historian Rothfels document the lives of the animals living in the Oregon Zoo’s Asian Elephant Building, as well as the building itself, which was demolished in this year to make way for the new Elephant Lands habitat. It’s a nice scrapbook of lovely stories and photos.

“Stallside: My Life With Horses & Other Characters” by Matthew Eliott (River Horse Press): Of the 72 students who graduated in his class from veterinary school, Eliott was the only one who chose to work just with horses. Over his career, he kept track of some of his more interesting patients and their stories, and he has turned it into a very enjoyable book.

“A Gift From Bob” by James Bowen (Thomas Dunne Books): In a follow-up to “A Street Cat Named Bob” and “The World According to Bob,” Bowen tells the story of how Bob, a cat he rescued from the streets of London, taught him the meaning of Christmas.

“Men & Cats” by Marie-Eva Gatuingt and Alice Chaygneaud (Perigee): Take photos of hot guys posing, many of them shirtless, and pair them with photos of cats in similar poses. As simple as that, you have a book. — William Hageman, Chicago Tribune

A: I have heard that all my life, and actually it is not true either for cats or dogs. Just think about it for a moment. A cat can breed at 6 months of age so with this estimate a 6-month-old cat is equal to a 3.5 -year-old human, and that obviously is not the case. Plus a cat at 2 years old has achieved its full size and weight, and that is not comparable to a 14-year-old human either. Most cats these days live to 17 or so and 17 times 7 equals 119 and a 17-year-old cat is much more youthful than a 119-year-old human would be. This timeline is a bit more realistic: Think of a year-old cat as comparable to a 15- or 16-year-old human and 2-year-old cat as comparable to a 24-year-old human, then after that figure each cat year is equal to four human years. This would make a 17-year-old cat equivalent to an 84-year-old human. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

ABOUT THAT RABBIT Rascally tooth issue for rabbit Q: Paula has a rabbit named Oscar. He is an indoor bunny with free roam of the house, as he is litter-box trained. He is 3 years old and is on an excellent diet. Recently, Paula has noticed swelling on Oscar’s left lower jaw. It does not seem to have changed his attitude about life, though recently he acted like the area was painful when touched by Paula. This increased Paula’s concern. A: The first thing that comes to mind is a tooth root abscess. Rabbits have incredibly long teeth for their size and these teeth grow as long as the rabbit is alive. Rabbits eating a normal diet consisting primarily of hay and grasses naturally wear their teeth down appropriate to the growth rate of those teeth, thus keeping a balance. Sometimes one or more of these teeth can develop pockets of bacterial infection between the root and the bone and an abscess can develop. This is most common in the premolar and molar teeth along the upper and lower jaw lines as opposed to the front teeth, called incisors. A tooth root abscess left alone in a rabbit can lead to bone destruction and can be very painful. Eventually, the rabbit will usually stop eating because of the pain and soon after will die. Oscar needs a thorough evaluation with his veterinarian to determine if he has developed a tooth root abscess. This will involve a physical exam and probably some radiographs of the jaw in the area of the mass. It is also very important to culture the material from the mass for bacteria to determine what bacteria, if any, is involved and what antibiotic is appropriate. Unfortunately, if Oscar is dealing with a tooth root abscess, antibiotics alone are highly unlikely to cure the problem. In fact, tooth root abscesses in rabbits can be very difficult to resolve. — Jeff Kahler, Modesto Bee

It’s going to be hard to say no, so … Fotolia




nexpected costs. Time commitments. Added responsibilities. Buying a pet is a big decision that shouldn’t be made without prior consideration. From the costs of food and pet supplies to vet bills to the time it takes to train a dog, becoming a first-time pet owner can have a big impact on one’s life. Veterinarian Carol Hagen, owner of Petcetera Animal Clinic in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and Fiona Korst, assistant store manager of the Grand Forks Petco, have some advice for first-time pet owners and broke down the basics of pet care. “I think the best kind of pet owner is the type that does research and figures out what kind of (pet) is going to work for them,” Korst said. Someone who is away from home for several hours during the workweek should consider an adult cat or an

adult dog and make plans to hire a dog walker. Play time with your dog or cat also is important, and a busy lifestyle is no excuse to ignore your pet. Dog breeds vary wildly and it’s important to find the right breed for your lifestyle. For instance, a family with young children may want to avoid active breeds such as border collies that require a lot of attention. Many websites offer dog-matching quizzes to help potential pet owners determine which breed will best suit their personalities and lifestyles. The quizzes ask questions such as “How much time will you be able to devote to exercising with your dog?” “What size is your yard?” and “What age children do you have in the home?” Once the decision is made on the type of pet, Hagen and Korst emphasized that new owners need to understand that it’s a big commitment.

“You have to realize that you have to take it for shots, you have to get it spayed or neutered,” unless the animal came from a shelter that provides these services, Korst said. Potential pet owners also should consider the costs of pet supplies, both initial and recurring costs. Korst said the cost of starting supplies for a small breed dog is about $250 to $300. She said large breed dog supplies are about $100 more. Those price estimates include food, training treats, food and water bowls, chew toys, a crate, a brush, nail clippers, a collar and a leash. Korst said dog owners should get their puppies used to being brushed and having their nails clipped right from the start, otherwise it can be a nightmare later. Another item to think about is puppy stain remover because house training takes time and puppies will urinate in the house until they learn to control their bladders. Teething rings also are important, “unless you want to be the chew toy. When puppies are teething, their teeth are like little needles,” Korst said. With all of those items, the bill can become expensive, but owners can save a little money by skipping a puppy mat or dog bed and using an old blanket or sweat shirt in the crate instead. “You just want something that’s easy to wash,” Korst said. For those who are considering a kitten rather than a puppy, costs are significantly less, with starting supplies running about $100 to $150. After getting a new puppy or kitten, owners should bring the pet to the veterinarian as soon as possible to get the first checkup and vaccinations, if the pet hasn’t already had them. Hagen said the ideal time is when the animal is about 6 to 8 weeks old. At the time of the first visit, Hagen said she gives the

pet owner a starter packet with recommendations for the timing of each additional vaccine, as well as spaying and neutering information. The main vaccination is a DA2PP, which protects against common canine illnesses and infections. An additional vaccine is recommended to protect against Bordetella, or kennel cough. There also is a rabies vaccine, the frequency of which can vary. On top of that, Hagen recommends spaying or neutering after the six-month mark. Many animal shelters spay or neuter their animals before they can be adopted. Aside from the costs involved with owning a pet, there also is the time factor. “They take a lot more exercise and (work) than some people are prepared to give,” Hagen said. “They get into a lot less trouble if you actively spend time training them and exercising them.” Korst said dogs should be walked every day, even when it’s cold outside. She said people often bring their pets into Petco to walk them around, which also helps with socialization. “Socialization is huge,” she said. “You don’t want to have an animal that could potentially bite people because they’ve never been in contact with other people before.” Dogs can be socialized by taking them to dog parks, obedience classes, pet stores and inviting people over to interact with them. Dogs that aren’t socialized might be more timid and show fear aggression, Hagen said. Keep in mind that this choice is one that should last for years. “The biggest thing they need to realize is that it’s a lifelong pet,” Korst said. “They’re not disposable when they’re not so cute anymore. You can’t just get rid of them. It’s a commitment.” n — Jasmine Maki, Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald

‘I think the best kind of pet owner is the type that does research and figures out what kind of (pet) is going to work for them.’

ABOUT THAT BIRD Cagey move to nab parakeet Q: There’s a parakeet in my yard — of course, by the bird feeders and baths. I saw a lost-and-found ad and called. It may be theirs, but I have no way to catch it. Any ideas? A: Since the bird obviously is a pet and is familiar with cages, you need to get a cage and attach some fishing line to the door in a way that you can pull the line and close the door. Load the cage with seed and place it where the feeders are with a door in the open position. Then take the seed out of the feeders. The parakeet will fly down to the feeding area, see the cage full of seed with the door open and then should go right into it. If all goes well, you then pull the string and close the door and you have the bird. I remember when I was a kid, there was a loose parakeet in my backyard, being bullied by the local sparrows. Finally, I timed the situation perfectly and the bird went into the cage and started to eat as I was sitting about 30 feet away, holding the string. When I pulled the string, it got tangled on a bush and the part leading from the bush to my hand broke off. The part leading from the bush to the cage was still holding the door open, and, since I could no longer close the door, there was no point approaching the cage, as I was sure the bird would fly right out of it. As the parakeet was eating, a gang of sparrows landed on the cage, glaring angrily at the parakeet. Instinctively, it went to the door of the cage and tugged at it hard enough so the string leading from the cage door to the bush came off and the door then slid closed. He then calmly went back to his meal. This was one of the few times in my life I actually saw an animal use a cognitive thought process. I kept that little bird and named him Pete and had him as a cherished pet for another six years, but he never showed off his cognitive skills like that again. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

ABOUT THAT DOG Health issues with retrievers Q: We have owned and loved a husky-golden retriever mix, a golden retriever and a yellow labgolden retriever mix. All of them succumbed to cancer at an early age. Why is it so prevalent in these breeds of dog? A: I am very sorry for your losses — I have been there. Unlike in a wild-animal population, where only the best and strongest members will breed and pass their genes to the next generation, domesticated animals have the ability to pass on less-than-perfect genes. This applies to both purebred and mixed-breed dogs. The list of genetic defects is vast and too long to list here, but it seems like every pet-keeper I know has had a dog or two that suffered from one or more at some point in their lives. Only a very few breeds of dog are free of genetic health issues, and they are not breeds that are commonly kept as pets. For example, Alaskan huskies suffer from only a couple of genetic problems, as this is a breed in which only the best and strongest dogs were bred together, no matter what the male or female looked or acted like. Some dog breeders do genetic testing on the prospective parents, and if a dog does test positive for some kind of genetic issue, they will not breed that dog, no matter how good the dog looks or how well it may place in a show ring. However, responsible breeders like this don’t usually have many puppies for sale, and they will place you on a waiting list. But so many of us have acquired dogs through chance or circumstances, and if the mixing of the dog’s genes in utero has carried a genetic defect, then it is always a possibility that the defect will show up. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

Care for your pets should be an important part of estate planning.



FOR PETS Providing for ‘family’ after you’re gone


our years ago, Pam Miller went to the home of a woman who was dying of cancer. The woman had lived a full life and was in home hospice care. She was no longer aware of her surroundings, which meant it was time for Miller to come for her cats. The cats were nervously hiding under couches, and Miller admits she felt sad taking them from the house before their owner passed. (Two days later, the woman died.) Miller took the cats to SAFE Haven For Cats, a Raleigh, N.C., nonprofit, non-euthanasia cat shelter and adoption agency she founded 23 years ago and has run since. Eight weeks after removing the cats, Miller reports with satisfaction, they were in new homes. Miller doesn’t want to think about what would have happened to the animals otherwise. “In a (traditional) animal

shelter, the older cats, any cat with a medical issue, a cat that may not be quite perfect … most of the time they end up dying,” she says. One way pet owners can prevent that is to take the steps those cats’ first owner did: She included her pets in her estate planning, and Miller was simply fulfilling her wishes. Taking in and finding new homes for the pets of the recently departed is something SAFE Haven does relatively often — granted there’s a plan and funds set aside. It takes preparation, and it isn’t necessarily cheap, but more and more people are making assurances that their animals will be taken care of after the owners die. It’s a sacred trust, says Miller, and she is honored to take it on.

“It comes up every week,” she says. “There are a lot of people who don’t have kids. There are people whose kids are all over the country or are overseas. There are people whose kids are allergic to cats.” In the fallout from a loved one’s death, too, there are so many things to take care of — the funeral, the house, and all the usual arrangements that come along with the grief — that it’s easy to forget that something needs to be done with the pets. To that end, Miller says, put a card in your wallet. It should say how many pets you have and where they are, and it should include the numbers of a vet, a pet-sitter and a trusted friend to whom you’ve spoken about caring for your pets in case the worst happens. Anyone can do this. If you have the means to leave a trust for your pets, talk to a lawyer with experience in pet trusts. Shirley Diefenbach, a member attorney at the Durham, N.C., law firm Walker Lambe, works with SAFE Haven regularly and holds two information sessions annually on estate planning for pets. “When I talk in a group setting, inevitably people who don’t have pets will chuckle a little bit when you introduce the concept,” says Diefenbach. But she says she works with a few people monthly who want to leave a trust fund for their pets. Pets, being animals, can’t legally inherit money as a child, niece or nephew could. Diefenbach explains it in terms of beach houses. If you have a vacation home you want taken care of for the next 30 years, she says, you put your money in a trust to pay for the expenditures of that property. A pet trust is similar, but the money goes to the care and feeding of the pet. After the animal dies, the remainder can go to a person or to a nonprofit, though some pets live longer than others (Diefenbach recalls one trust she did for a parakeet with a 100-year life expectancy). Finding an attorney who knows how to include pets in

an estate plan isn’t the hardest part, says Claudia Mangel of Chapel Hill, N.C., though finding the right lawyer can take a little effort. Mangel wants to be sure her two dogs, older mixed breeds with chronic medical needs, are provided for and kept together. It’s essential, then, that she work with a lawyer who understands and is responsive to this need. “I had asked our estate planning attorney if he had a dog, and he recounted in detail how his dog had just emerged from two weeks in the ICU of their veterinary hospital and was finally doing better,” Mengel says. “So I knew our attorney would understand why we wanted to plan for the long-term care and well-being of our dogs after we could no longer care for them.” In Mengel’s trust, it’s her veterinary hospital that’s the trustee. There’s enough money in the trust to provide for boarding and medication until the two can be adopted together. If anything remains in the trust after her dogs pass, that amount goes to help homeless dogs get adopted. But this isn’t just an end-of-life decision. Couples of all ages, Miller says, ask about providing for their pets. James Smith and his wife, Irena, are in their early 50s, and they travel often. What would happen to their five cats, the Durham couple wondered, if their plane goes down? They have no children and no relatives live nearby. “It’s a morbid thing to think of,” Smith admits, but he and Irena feel better with a plan in place. The Smiths have been SAFE Haven volunteers and annual donors since 2007, so it made sense to approach Miller about it. She helped them work out a plan. If anything happens, their animals go to SAFE Haven, where the average stay between intake and adoption is two months. “I like to say that when they come here, all their troubles are over,” Miller says. “It’s good things from here on out.” n — Corbie Hill, News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

‘When I talk in a group setting, inevitably people who don’t have pets will chuckle a little bit when you introduce the concept.’

Ready to provide for your pet? Here are tips on getting started The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a good primer online for setting up a trust. The highlights: • Consult an attorney who specializes in estate planning to make sure pet trusts are allowed where you live. • It’s recommended that your trust cover all pets in your life, rather than setting up separate trusts for each pet. • Be detailed about the type of care required for your pet, and require that the new caregiver will provide regular veterinary care. • Determine the amount of money needed to cover your pet’s needs and the amount of money needed to administer the trust. • Choose a beneficiary for funds not used by the pet trust. On choosing a custodian: Mondy Lamb at the SPCA of Wake County, N.C., gives this advice: “The people named in your pet trust should know that they have been named and should be someone you would trust to love your furry one the same way you would.” Talk to friends or family members who may be interested, but you may also want to reach out to local rescue groups or your veterinarian.

Harry Lynch/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS)

Mystique, a 13-year old calico female, is carried from her cat condo by Safe Haven for Cats adoption counselor Ginger Rice. Mystique’s owner passed away this year but provided for Mystique in her estate planning to have her cared for while she is up for adoption.



any pet owners know that traveling can take a bite out of their wallets because their cat or dog has to be boarded at a kennel, which can get pricey for extended stays. Of the $55.7 billion Americans spent on their pets in 2013, boarding and grooming accounted for nearly $5 billion, according to the American Pet Products Association. The main thing to know about boarding kennels is that they can vary dramatically in price and quality and it’s not always an example of “you get what you pay for.” So the wise choice for your beloved pet isn’t necessarily pricey boarding, which the American Kennel Club has described as “bed-and-biscuit” resorts with grooming and aromatherapy. “There’s really no relation between price and quality when it comes to kennels,” said Robert Krughoff, founder of rating service Consumers’ Checkbook, which rates kennels in several markets across the country. The cost of boarding a medium-size dog with basic care ranged from about $125 to nearly $400 per week when Consumers’ Checkbook conducted its undercover price checks. And many of the reasonably priced kennels provided top-quality service, according to pet-owner reviews.

Make T the skies friendly for you and your pet

Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS

Maltese brothers Rudy and Smoky share the presidential suite at the Posh Pet Hotel in West Palm Beach, Fla. The 5-star hotel offers pick-ups in Bentleys and Maseratis, facials and massages for cats and dogs.

raveling safely and happily with your pet is possible. The American Kennel Club offers tips and advice for flying safely with your dog: What to bring • Each airline has its own regulations surrounding pet travel, so it’s important to check with the carrier about what you will need. Generally speaking, you’ll likely have to present a health certification and proof of vaccination for your dog. • An airline-approved crate that is large enough for your dog to stand, turn around and lie down. The crate should be clearly labeled with your name and contact information, and if your dog is traveling in cargo, you’ll need to affix a “Live Animal” label with arrows pointing upward.

• Food, bottled water and medication, labeled with dosage in case you and your pet are separated. • A recent photo of your pet in case you are separated. • Your pet’s identification with your contact information. (If your pet has a microchip, ensure that your address and phone number are up to date.) • A secure harness or collar and leash. Contact information for a veterinarian near your final destination in case of an emergency. What not to do • Don’t schedule a flight with a lot of transfers. If airlines can lose luggage, assume they can also lose your pet, and the likelihood of that happening can increase with multiple transfers.

• Don’t give your dog a sedative before flying (without instruction from your veterinarian). This can create respiratory or cardiovascular issues and can cause your pet to lose his balance and potentially get injured. • Don’t forget to let your dog do his business before you board. — American Kennel Club

With smart research, you’re likely to be able to find a kennel that’s both affordable and topnotch. Here’s advice on getting good value when you board your pet: Size up the candidates: You can ask local friends and relatives for kennel recommendations, but realize that’s a small sample size. Your vet might have a more informed recommendation. For a broader overview, consider using Consumers’ Checkbook ( if it’s available in your area, or Angie’s List (AngiesList. com). Both require subscriptions. has free consumer reviews, but you should take the comments with a grain of salt, as with many free review sites. Be your own watchdog: Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints at, but also consider touring the kennels in person. Use your hound senses: Check for excessive odors. “A well-run kennel should not stink of doggy odors,” the American Kennel Club says. Note the overall condition and safety of the kennel and cages, along with the friendliness of staff members and how they interact with boarded pets. The kennel should require proof of immunization and ask about policies regarding flea and tick control. “All responsible kennel owners and operators will ask you about your dog’s vaccinations and will require proof of certain shots,” the AKC says. Operating hours: Kennel hours, particularly on weekends, are a common complaint. If the kennel is closed on Sundays, for example, you would have to pay for a Sunday-night stay even though you are back in town on Sunday morn-

Family travel 5: Places that sit up and take notice of your pets

ing. “Sometimes, you can be kind of surprised at that,” Krughoff said. Ask about extras: Find out the basics — if the kennel requires you to bring food or whether it will provide food, for example — and ask about extra services. Many kennels will charge more for administering medications to an animal or, in the case of dogs, providing outdoor exercise, which can cost an extra $8 or more per day. Get it in writing: Get a written contract, Angie’s List advises. The contract should state the price and who is responsible for vet bills if your pet is injured or becomes ill. Test run: It’s a good idea to accustom your pet to longer kennel stays by first boarding the pet during a short trip, such as a weekend getaway, the American Humane Society suggests. That allows you to work out problems before boarding your pet for an extended period. Kennel alternatives: Pet sitting can be a good choice, especially if you can swap care services with a fellow pet owner. You also can check with a trusted friend who doesn’t have a pet but might enjoy staying at your home. Settle on a fee before your trip ($30-$50 per day is reasonable, depending on how much work is involved). Introduce your pet to your pal before you leave on your trip to ensure they get along. Make sure your friend has a working set of keys (be sure to test them on your doors); instructions for feeding, medication and dog walking; and your vet’s name and location. It’s also nice to stock the fridge with your sitter’s favorite foods to help ensure the stay is pleasant. n — Gregory Karp, Chicago Tribune

1. Chicago

Loews Hotels and Resorts were among the first chains to throw open their doors to pet-loving guests. Offering dog treats, puppy beds and a special Yappy Hour, guests and their four-legged friends feel welcome at the 22 properties dotting the U.S. and Canada. With a hotel that serves drinks like Snooptinis and puppyccinos, why leave Fido behind?

2. Scottsdale, Ariz.

You’ve heard of yoga’s downward facing dog? Now you and Spot can get your om on together during the W Scottsdale resort’s free monthly yoga classes. Salute the sun in class and then head for nearby hiking trails.

Of the $55.7 billion Americans spent on their pets in 2013, boarding and grooming accounted for nearly $5 billion, according to the American Pet Products Association.

3. Minneapolis

Whether you are checking out the university options, popping in for a game at Target Field or want to preview the new Viking stadium, your pup will stay in style — argyle style — at Commons Hotel. Designer patterned beds and bowls will be delivered by the Bark Butler, along with menu selections sure to please. Later, strap on the leash and stroll the many paths along the city’s scenic riverfront.

4. Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

No doubt your dog deserves a room with a view. Check into the W’s Doggie Suite, and the proper amenities will be waiting, including a Tinkle Turf pad on the balcony. The Bark Box delivered

to your room promises healthy doggie snacks, toys and a special menu. Knock on the door? It’s likely a dog walker offering to take Fido for a stroll.

5. New York

Two Gansevoort hotels in New York give premium treats from the Barking Zoo, a comfy pet bed, Fiji water, toys and tasteful food and water bowls. Your pet will feel extra special when she settles in next to her own monogrammed welcome mat. — Lynn O’Rourke Hayes, Dallas Morning News

ABOUT THAT BIRD Does my parrot really hate me? Q: My African grey parrot is 12 years old, and I notice that for the last year he does not want me to pet him anymore. I got him when he was only 4 weeks old, and we have been best friends all this time. I could cuddle him and kiss him, and he always liked me better than other members of my family. However, now he will step up on my finger just fine, and he will put his head down for me to scratch it, but if I try to pet him he will back away. If I keep trying, then he will bite me hard. Is there any way to make him love me again like he used to? A: Well, none of us can go back in time, no matter how much we may want to, and all our relationships change as the years go on. First of all, he still loves you. The fact that he bows his head to you to be scratched proves that. (The back of a bird’s head is the most vulnerable spot, and he would not expose that part of himself to you unless he trusted you.) He just does not want your hands on his body and feathers. When my kids were small, they would happily walk hand in hand with me through the mall. Now that they are teenagers, I am only allowed to walk six feet behind them; otherwise they might not look cool. However, they still love me. The parrot is telling you politely that he no longer feels comfortable with your hand on his body, and when you push the issue, he gets upset that you are not respecting his feelings. If you insist on trying to pet him, I suggest that you stop trying at all for a few weeks. Just let him step on your finger and spend quality time with him on his own terms. Then, when everything is cool again, you can try to see if his behavior has changed. If not, please do not take it personally as it is not a reflection of his feelings of friendship toward you. — Marc Morrone, Newsday




gourmet C

hef Bryant Ng’s chicken rice recipe calls for jasmine rice cooked in a ginger broth and poached free-range chicken. It’s a minimalist dish, without any of the Singaporean-Vietnamese flavors, the fermented shrimp paste and sambal sauces that Ng used at Spice Table in Los Angeles or that will load the menu at his new restaurant, Cassia, in Santa Monica. This is because Ng cooks his chicken rice dish not for his legion of devoted diners but for his dog, Teddy, a Yorkshire terrier. If you’re a chef, you cook for your customers, your family and your friends — and if your family includes a rescued mutt or your kid’s golden retriever, it stands to reason that you might cook for them, too. Most of us who cook and also have pets are used to sharing. We give our dogs leftovers, hand them marrow bones, watch as our kids slip them meatballs or make bacon cakes for their birthdays. But with growing concern about the safety of the food chain — for people and for animals — chefs are cooking more than treats for their pets. Some might say it’s over-indulgence, but if you’re worried about the ingredients in your own dinner, you may very well be worried about what’s in that can of pet food as well. Over at Red Bread in Los Angeles, Rose Lawrence initially just made baked crackers for her two rescued pit bulls, Blue and Honey. Then she skipped the baking, since she had enough of that to do for her own bakery, and started making hand-rolled batches of mint and parsley pasta, shaping them into bows or making large batches of lasagna with roasted sweet potato or beet puree, ground beef and Parmesan.

Pastry chef Sherry Yard has made peanut butter wholewheat dog biscuits for years, giving them away at Spago Christmas parties. And at McCall’s Meat & Fish Co. in Los Feliz, Calif., co-owner Karen Yoo, a former Sona pastry chef, bakes dog biscuits in the shop’s bakery. She says that the shop also sells 10 to 15 pounds of bones a week just for dogs, as well as chicken, salmon and beef, to customers who buy meat from the butcher shop not only for themselves but for their pets. But the chef who might have them all beat is Debbie Lee, author of “Seoultown Kitchen” and an alum of “The Next Food Network Star.” Lee cooks for her dog, Jackie, a lab-shepherd mix, every day. Lee says that she started cooking all her dog’s meals at the recommendation of her vet, to help nurse her back to health after she was rescued. For breakfast, Lee makes her oatmeal with bananas and peanut butter; for dinner a mix of brown rice and chicken, beef, lamb and chicken liver with sweet potatoes and berries. Lee, whose specialty — for people — is Korean street food, also gives her dog bone broth. “Definitely the chef in me plays into how I cook for her,” Lee says. “If I won’t eat it, I don’t expect her to.” Lee says that she’s become so interested in cooking for Jackie that she’s even been thinking of developing a “farm fresh” dog food line. “The next phase of my chef career,” she says. And maybe the next phase in all our cooking. n — Amy Scattergood, Los Angeles Times

Fancy feast: 3 gourmet recipes you can make for poochy



Cooking/prep time: 50 minutes Makes: 3 dozen 3-inch cookies

Cooking/prep time: 1 hour Makes: Scant quart chicken rice

• 4 eggs, divided • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil • 1 tablespoon honey • 1 cup chicken broth • 2 1/4 cups (10 ounces) whole wheat flour • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (5 ounces) allpurpose flour • About 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) cornmeal • 1 cup peanut butter

• 1 cup jasmine rice (rinsed with cold water until water runs clear) • 1 1/2 cups water • About 1/2 ounce ginger, peeled and sliced thick so that you can easily remove it later (ginger gives the rice a nice aroma and is great for a dog's digestive system)

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together two eggs, the oil and honey. Whisk in the chicken broth. 2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour and cornmeal. With the mixer on medium speed, slowly pour in the chicken broth mixture, then add the peanut butter. Mix until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. 3. Divide the dough in half. Roll out each ball of dough approximately 1/2-inch thick. Cut into desired shapes using small (3- to 4-inch) cookie cutters. Place on baking sheets sprayed with cooking oil. 4. Whisk the remaining two eggs, and brush the egg wash lightly over the cookies. Allow to dry for 10 minutes, and brush with the egg wash a second time (the second wash is optional but gives the cookies a darker brown color). Bake until firm and a rich golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating halfway for even baking. Baking time will vary depending on size of cookies.

To cook rice: In a saucepan, combine the rice, water and ginger. Cook over high heat just until the water comes to a boil. Stir the rice, cover with a lid and reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cook for 15 minutes (do not remove the lid or stir), then remove from heat and set aside to rest for 5 minutes. Fluff the rice and remove the ginger. This makes a generous pint of rice; cover and chill until needed. • 1 boneless chicken breast To cook chicken: In a small saucepan, add the chicken breast and enough water to cover chicken by 2 inches. Cook over high heat until the water comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the chicken and refrigerate until chilled. The dish: Tear cooked, cooled chicken into bite-sized pieces, then mix with cooked rice.

TURKEY AND WHOLE WHEAT MACARONI Cooking/prep time: 45 minutes Makes: About 6 pounds

• 2 1/2 pounds ground turkey (20 percent fat) • 1 1/4 ounces turkey or chicken liver • 2 1/2 ounces carrots, finely chopped • 2 1/2 ounces zucchini, finely chopped • 2 1/2 ounces broccoli, finely chopped • 1 1/4 ounces cranberries, fresh or frozen • 1 1/4 pound whole wheat macaroni • 2 1/2 teaspoons omega plus fish oil supplement • 4 teaspoons Just Food for Dogs Turkey and Whole Wheat Macaroni DIY Proprietary Nutrient Blend 1. In a nonstick skillet, brown the ground turkey and turkey or chicken liver over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add the carrots, zucchini, broccoli and cranberries while the turkey is still slightly pink. Continue to cook until the turkey is fully cooked and the vegetables are soft. Do not drain. Set the mixture aside until it is cool to the touch. 2. Meanwhile, cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Set aside to cool. 3. In a large bowl, combine the turkey mixture with the macaroni, along with the oil supplement. Slowly sprinkle in the nutrient powder blend until fully incorporated. Portion into individual serving sizes and refrigerate or freeze. The product will keep, refrigerated, up to six days.

ABOUT THAT PIG Just remember that cute potbelly is going to get big Q: My daughter wants to get a baby potbellied pig for a pet. We do have a large house with two friendly dogs. These pigs seem very cute and smart. However, I have never actually seen one kept as a house pet. What advice could you give us about them before we actually get one? You seem to have kept every single kind of animal. A: Yes, I was one of the first to keep potbellied pigs when they were initially imported into the United States in the late ’70s, and I have kept many as pets. However, they can only be considered good pets for people who can provide what is needed for the pigs’ natural life. First, be sure that keeping a pig is legal in your town. Second, pigs need regular veterinary care. You have to vaccinate them and have their hooves trimmed regularly. Seek out a vet who can do this in your area before you get the animal. Also, when you go on vacation, it is not easy to find a place to board a pig. Your vehicle must be large enough for a giant-size dog carrier to move the pig about in. Few pigs can climb into a car and sit on the backseat as a dog can. Pigs are, indeed, very smart. Many scientists consider them to be the smartest domesticated animal. By the way, their reputation for being dirty is only because we keep pigs destined to be eaten in such horrible conditions that they have no choice but to be dirty. Too many people buy baby pigs as pets only to give them up when they get big. There are only so many sanctuaries for pet pigs, and they are all overflowing with grown pigs that once belonged to well-intentioned families. — Marc Morrone, Newsday


FEARS Fotolia



hen a relative’s 4-year-old son, Evan, came to a family party at Susan Willett’s home in Bridgewater, N.J., he was too afraid of her three dogs to leave his mother. Still, he was intrigued by Willett’s terrier, Tucker, and the dog’s insatiable appetite for retrieving balls. So Willett asked the boy to throw Tucker’s ball. Tucker waited obediently until he threw it again. And again. “By the end of the picnic, Tucker was tired and (the boy) was no longer afraid,” Willett said. Willett helped the child overcome his fear by putting him in charge of the game, said Pia Salk, a psychologist in Irvington, N.Y., and a spokeswoman for “People are afraid when they don’t feel in control.” Evan is hardly alone. A great many people of all ages are afraid of dogs and cats, and it’s a hard fear to avoid. The percentage of households with at least one pet (usually a cat or dog) rose to 62.4 percent in 2011 (the last year tallied), reports the American Veterinary Medical Association. This creates logistical problems for the pet-wary as well as pet owners who love their pooch or kitty.

Salk and other experts as well as pet owners offered some advice on handling the situation:

For pet owners

Understand that your guest’s fears “are not necessarily rational,” Salk said. “It could be that he just associates the animal with a scary place in his past. Or he may have been raised by parents who also were afraid of pets.” Before guests arrive at your home, walk your dog or give him a play date with his buddies, suggested Mychelle Blake, CEO of The Association of Professional Dog Trainers. “Just like people, dogs are more relaxed after they exercise,” Blake said. “Then he’ll be happy to take a nap while you enjoy time with your company.” Dana Watt takes her Labrador, Po, to off-leash parks near her St. Louis home, where he expends excess energy. When guests arrive, Watt uses a baby gate to corral Po, but it still allows the dog to see and hear everyone, she said. By the time she lets him out, he’s less likely to jump on visitors. As for cats, find a comfortable room with access to water and a litter box while your nervous guests are visiting. Remind guests, too, that dogs will reflect their own level of activity, said Patricia McConnell, certified animal behaviorist and zoology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Ramp up the excitement, and the dogs will get excited,” she said. “Settle down, and they’ll settle down.” Teach your cat-averse friends to “look at the cat, then slowly shut your eyes while turning your head away,” McConnell said. “He’ll come to you if he wants to play, but some cats are slow to make friends.” Teaching dogs a few basic commands, such as “sit” and “down,” will also help them make friends easier, Blake said. And don’t be shy about telling strangers or new guests to refrain from petting your dog or cat if either tends to be skittish. Capitalize on kids’ natural empathy with animals. Be sure to relay things your dog likes, such as being scratched on his back or fetching toys. “Kids are sick of being told what they should not do,” McConnell said. “Tell them what they should do, and they’ll listen. Kids, especially, understand when you explain that when pets bite, it’s usually because they’re afraid.”

For the pet-averse

Meet the pet owner you’re visiting halfway. First, understand that your host probably considers his dog or cat part of the family. But don’t hesitate to speak up if the pet scares you. “Most people will put the cat away or the dog on a leash until everyone is settled,” Blake said. Do understand that your fears may be putting friends and neighbors in an awkward position. “Love me, love my pet” may be the unwritten rule at their households. You may want to discuss the situation prior to your visit. Is it time to overcome your fears? If it is affecting your ability or your child’s to function in social situations or if you’re worried about passing on your fear to your kids, the experts suggested looking for places that may offer an age-appropriate introduction to animals. Animal shelters, Scout troops, 4-H and zoos are a few of the organizations you might investigate. Decoding animal behavior may help you feel in control. Two places to start include an ASPCA guide to canine behavior on its website ( and a article on interpreting cat language. Depending on the extent of your fear, you may also want to consider professional help. Whatever you do, don’t try to dispel your fear by adopting a pet before you’re ready, Salk said. It’s a choice that can backfire on everyone. “Adopting a pet is a wonderful thing if you’re giving him a forever home,” she said. “But relinquishing him (when it doesn’t work out) is not honoring the lifelong commitment you made to him.” A year after Willett’s family picnic, Evan returned, much less afraid of her dogs, Willett reported. It didn’t hurt that Willett sent Evan a framed picture of him playing with Tucker with a note “from Tucker” saying he looked forward to seeing him again. “His mom said he talked about Tucker all year,” Willett said. n — Leslie Mann, Chicago Tribune

ABOUT THAT DOG First the ‘cone of shame’ — and now hidden pills? Q: It has been a long time since I needed to care for a dog recuperating from surgery, but that is currently the situation at my house. The wearing of an Elizabethan (aka “Cone of Shame”) collar to prevent licking and chewing, and daily doses of a variety of medications remind me of a few tricks that I haven’t needed to utilize in a while. A: For some dogs, medicating them can become a game of sniff-out-the-pill-inthe-cookie. Once they figure out that there may be a pill lurking in the goodie, they tend to deconstruct every cookie offered, and it becomes increasingly difficult to hide the pill. But there is a nearly sure-fire way to get around this: Use your dog’s tendency to be a greedy little cookie pig to your advantage. Select a type of goodie that your dog really enjoys, also making sure it is moist and soft. I use string cheese, hot dogs or soft jerky. Carefully conceal a pill in one treat, and then add at least four “unstuffed” treats to the pile. I offer my dog the first treat, allowing him plenty of time to check it for the presence of the pill. When he has decided it’s “clean” and safe to eat, I offer him the second treat. As soon as I do, I show him the third “loaded” treat and place that one right at his nose. He will likely gulp the second treat in order to grab the third. Then I rapidly follow up the third treat with the fourth, so the dog will gulp the pill-laden third treat in order to get the fourth, and presto! I have successfully pilled the dog without arousing any suspicion. Another approach is to utilize other dogs in the house in a competitive manner. You can give a treat to the dogs one at a time, and chances are each dog will be more focused on you and who gets the next cookie over what they are actually swallowing. Everybody wins as long as I am certain to give the treat with the pill to the right dog! Having the dog wear an Elizabethan, or “cone” collar is a necessary evil, but one must remember that its function is to prevent the dog from licking or chewing when unsupervised. It is impossible for my dog to lick or chew at his incision when we are walking the neighborhood, so the cone is off, making the walk much more pleasant and stimulating. I can also give him some time without the cone by providing him with a chewing project, but I must be there to supervise. When my focus is elsewhere, or I need to leave the dog alone, the cone goes back on. There are numerous cone options available, and many do the job of preventing your dog from licking and chewing while being much less cumbersome than the standard plastic, rigid cone. Kong makes an inflatable tube collar that can be very effective, depending on the area the dog needs to avoid. My new favorite is the Comfy Cone, made of a soft and flexible material, easy to clean, doesn’t bruise my leg when the dog is moving around, and seems to be much less stressful for the dog to wear. — Lisa Moore, Modesto Bee


What’s up with popcorn pig? Q: We got a guinea pig two months ago for our children. He is a very sweet pet. For the first few weeks, he did not do much more than hide in his igloo all day, but now he seems to know us and will squeak at us when we come over to the cage. He runs to the front of the cage rather than running away as he used to do. Sometimes, he will run around the cage, then jump up and turn around in mid air, coming down in the opposite direction. We worry he may have mites or lice or some other kind of parasite and wonder what we should do. I looked through his fur with our dog’s flea comb and did not see anything, but we wanted your opinion. A: Your guinea pig would really need to be checked by a vet who knows small animals to be sure if it has parasites, but, based on your description, I do not think that is the case. When you first got your guinea pig, it was terrified that you were going to eat it, and that is why it was hiding all the time. However, now that he has come to the conclusion you are not going to eat him and that all his experiences with you are pleasurable, he is relaxed enough to allow you to see his true personality. Guinea pigs are playful animals that enjoy life. A scientist would call that jumping you see “acrobatic play behavior,” but guinea pig enthusiasts call it “popcorning.” It is just his way of telling the world how happy he is, and it’s a way for him to work off the excess energy he was forced to keep hidden in the early part of his life, when he was not comfortable enough to show off his true nature. It reminds me of when I was a kid on the first day of school. I always sat in the back and did not draw any attention to myself until I was able to figure out my new teacher. Then, after I felt comfortable, my teachers could never shut me up. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

5 D

Cool gadgets pets and owners can appreciate

og and cat owners take note — new products have come on the pet market to make your life easier — and cater to your favorite pet.

Paw Boss It’s a portable paw-washing device that cleans each foot in fresh water, rather than using the same bucket and having each paw “washed” in progressively grungy water. It’s a simple idea: A clean-water reservoir is filled with water and soap. A tilt of the device transfers water into a cleaning compartment. A paw is dipped into the cleaning solution through a hole in Paw Boss — with practice, little Mr. Flapdoodle should master that part himself — and is rubbed against a cleaning pad. The foot is withdrawn and dried. Bingo. There’s no need to empty dirty water between paws, and an independent lab has verified that Paw Boss eliminates 99.5 percent of bacteria. Made in the U.S., it comes in basic black and gray, but there are 10 “skins” with different colors and designs that can be added. Paw Boss sells for $29.99 and can be ordered at There’s also a nifty video of it in action.

Houdini-Proof fence Keeping a dog or cat contained can be a challenge. The Dog-Proofer fence extension system attaches to an existing fence — aluminum, steel, chain link, wood or brick — to stop would-be escapees. There are various degrees of deterrent, from a standard extension to the Houdini-Proof Kit, made of heavy-duty welded wire fence material combined with an extension that arches inward over a fence for a climb- and jump-proof enclosure. Some DogProofer setups will also work with cats, but there are also cat-specific kits. Prices range from $395 to $569. To find your best defense against a fence-jumper, go to

Doggy Bag


Dry that wet dog quickly with this absorbent towel that’s in the form of a bag. Just put the dog in and zip up, then rub strenuously to soak up water, slobber, sand and dirt. The bags, which come in basic brown, travel well, dry quickly and can be shaken clean (or machine washed in extreme cases). Comes in sizes from teacup to extra large, prices range from $69 to $119. Available at

Conure too hot on the patio?

Mason Cash pet bowls Mason Cash, the venerable British pottery company, is bringing its classic pet bowls to the U.S. market. Designed for cats, dogs, rabbits and other small critters, the bowls are made of heavy stoneware, making them difficult to tip over. One cool design element: a non-tip bowl with angled sides that prevent long-eared dogs from getting food on their ears. Other bowls are colorful or with unique designs. Accompanying place mats are also available. Prices range from $5.99 to $79.99. Go to for the full range of products. To locate the nearest dealer, email

Catty Whack From OurPets comes an interactive electronic cat toy that should keep little Kit-Kat occupied for hours. The Catty Whack, which runs on four D batteries, is placed on a floor or table and switched on. A feather wand darts in and out of each of five faux mouse holes in the toy. The random movement — and an electronic mouse sound — will stimulate any cat. There’s also a carpet pad on top of the Catty Whack, where cats can stretch their paws and claw. Available in toy specialty stores, priced at $39.99.

— William Hasgeman, Chicago Tribune

Q: We have a sun conure that is 6 months old. His wing feathers are trimmed, and he enjoys coming into our backyard with us. On a recent Sunday, we had him on our patio and we noticed he had his mouth open and his tongue was moving up and down and he was standing straight up like a soldier. We did not know what to do. Do birds pant like dogs and could he have been too hot? It was only 80 degrees out at the time, and we know that these birds come from tropical places that are hotter than that. If our bird was too hot, how do we know what temperature is OK for him? We have been afraid to take him outside again since this episode. A: Your bird was indeed too hot. The panting you noticed was just as a dog would do, and he was standing up straight like that so that his feathers would not hold any heat. (Conversely, when a bird is cold, it will fluff up its feathers to trap pockets of air to hold in body heat.) A temperature of 80 degrees really is not too hot for a bird as long as it is not in the sunlight. Although you did not say if your patio was sunny, I am assuming it was. A little bird like a sun conure sitting in the sunlight on a summer day, unable to get out of the sun because its wing feathers are trimmed, will quickly overheat, as you saw. The conures you saw in Costa Rica could fly and were able to get out of the sunlight if they got too uncomfortable. They can tolerate very warm temperatures as long as they are not in the sun and have access to clean water to drink. Taking your parrot outdoors is very good for the bird if its wing feathers are trimmed. You should not be afraid to take yours outside now that you are aware of this situation. Just be sure to keep him in the shade and have a plant mister filled with water nearby that you can spray him with periodically to keep him cool. — Marc Morrone, Newsday




erhaps Moses and Harry realize how fortunate they are. But if they do, they’re not talking. Moses and Harry are cats, 11 and 13, respectively, who are living comfortably in the New York apartment of Maria Pfeiffer. What’s special about these two felines is that they were seniors when they were adopted by Pfeiffer and her boyfriend. Senior cats and older dogs — typically animals past age 6 or 7, say the animal welfare experts we talked to — are often deemed unadoptable simply because of age. So they are left to languish in shelters. But older pets can be a joy, Pfeiffer says. “They’re still youthful. Lovable. It’s not like they get old and grouchy. They might have an attitude, but it’s the same attitude they had as a kitten,” she says. People have misconceptions about older animals. Bunny Hofberg hears it all the time. Hofberg founded Frankie’s Feline Fund (, a New York-based not-for-profit that rescues, fosters and finds homes for senior cats. To that end, she does a lot of adoption events.

“People must think I’m deaf because they say things out loud that they must think I can’t hear,” Hofberg says. “’Oh, you can’t bond with older cats.’ ‘You have to get a kitten.’ All these ridiculous things. That’s so not true.” The story is the same with dogs. Jennifer Kachnic is president of The Grey Muzzle Organization (, a North Carolina charity that provides grants and resources to rescues, shelters and other nonprofits that aid with adoptions, medical screening or hospice care, among other programs, for older dogs. “We’re trying to educate people on the benefits of adopting senior dogs,” she says. “Often times a senior dog is a much better fit than a puppy.” There’s no need for housebreaking, and owners bypass the constant supervision that a kitten or puppy requires. Conversely, though, if someone is looking for an exercise companion, a senior dog may not be a good fit. Petfinder (, an online adoption site

that works with 13,000 shelters, has nearly 340,000 pets available for adoption, says Sara Kent, the organization’s director of shelter outreach. Of that number, 17,500, about 5 percent, are senior animals. “I would say the seniors are definitely the most difficult to find homes for,” Kent says. “We just recently completed a survey of members and asked what is the hardest type of pet to re-home. The largest percentage, 28, said seniors were the hardest.” What’s more, a lot of senior dogs and cats never get as far as the adoption listings, because many shelters stop trying to find homes for them. A big focus of people considering a senior pet revolves around the issues that accompany advanced age. An older dog or cat may be halfway through its life span, and that means an owner will probably have to say goodbye sooner. “I hate to use a cliche,” Hofberg says, “but it’s the glass half-empty versus half-full idea. Instead of looking at the negative side, look at it as how much you can give each other in the time you have together.”

Tips for bringing your dog to work Do an office check. Check with management and co-workers to see if anyone is allergic, afraid of or opposed to you bringing your dog to work. Be respectful of those you work with and plan an alternate course, if necessary. Puppy-proof your work space. If you plan on working with your dog, make sure your office environment is safe. Remove poisonous plants (go to for a list of toxic plants), hide electrical cords and wires, and secure toxic items such as correction fluid and permanent markers. If your office has received any pest control/extermination services, ensure there are no hazardous products accessible by your dog. Is Fido fit for work? Be sure your dog’s shots are current. Also, make plans to have him bathed and groomed. Be mindful of your dog’s “work-readiness.” If he is aggressive or shy, it’s best to leave him at home. Prepare a doggie bag. Include food, treats, bowls, toys, leash, paper towels, cleanup bags and pet-safe disinfectant. If you are routinely in and out of your work space, consider bringing a baby gate or kennel.

Plan his feeding and, um, his business. Plan your dog’s feeding time and subsequent potty break around your work schedule. Choose an appropriate area for your dog to relieve himself. Don’t force co-workers to interact with your dog. Be mindful of fellow employees’ time and space. Dog lovers will make themselves known. Keep tabs on the treats. To avoid pet accidents, monitor the treats your pet is given from co-workers. Remember that chocolate, candy and other people food should not be shared with dogs. Some non-dog owners won’t know that these items can be toxic to pets. — Image and story, Chicago Tribune

Top dogs The American Kennel Club annual rankings of the most popular dog breeds of 2014. The French bulldog entered the top 10 for the first time since the 1910s (the breed was ranked 11th in 2013). The dachshund dropped out; it was number 10 in 2013.


1 retriever

2 German shepherd 3 Golden retriever

4 Bulldog

5 Beagle Yorkshire

6 terrier

7 Poodle Joyce Paschall, of Palatine, Illinois, agrees; she is currently fostering Tootsie, a 7-year-old beagle, her 32nd foster pet. “When you adopt a senior, you know they have less time,” Paschall says. “For us, we keep track of our former foster dogs. ... When we hear that one of them has passed on, yes, it’s sad. But then, they had a good last few years.” Older animals obviously face the illnesses of advanced age sooner than puppies or kittens, so prospective owners have to be prepared for that. But, as Pfeiffer notes, “You can adopt a cat at age 1, and they could have a serious problem and be gone in a year.” Petfinder’s Kent adds that vet bills are a reality for any owner, whatever the animal’s age. “Those costs may come sooner with a senior pet,” she acknowledges, “but any pet is likely to have those costs at some time in their life.” There’s an adjustment period when you bring any pet into your home. Older animals that have a history of living with a family may settle in more quickly than a puppy or kitten.

“There’s so little aggravation,” Kent says. Pfeiffer has had four senior cats and says they all made a smooth transition. “When you bring any cat in, you ... generally keep them in a smaller space at first so they can get used to the new surroundings,” she says. “Once they’re there and using their box, eating the food you leave out, there’s really no adjustment.” If you think a senior pet might be a good match, talk to your vet or the professionals at a local shelter. Consider fostering an animal before adopting it. Grey Muzzle has extensive and outstanding resources regarding older dogs on its website. You can also sign up for the group’s newsletter. “Try not to think about age,” Hofberg says. “Just meet the (pet). If it’s the personality you are looking for, just adopt it. I’d rather have a little time with a great animal than years and years with one that’s not what I wanted.” n — William Hageman, Chicago Tribune

8 Boxer

9 French bulldog

10 Rottweiler

Source: AP, AKC Graphic: Tribune News Service



ou’ve just added a new puppy or dog to your family and you may wonder, “Do I really need a dog trainer? Can’t I teach my dog to sit, stay and come when called?” Most of us are eager to teach our dogs their first words, which is often their name and then “sit.” But without consistent training, a dog may eventually exploit perfectly normal canine behaviors, like jumping on guests, pulling on leashes and bolting out open doors. If a dog doesn’t learn some manners quickly, pet parents may get frustrated and rehome their pet. “What may seem like a unique problem to you may actually be an issue that a dog trainer handles all the time – and they will have more knowledge and skills to help,” says Robin Bennett, Chairwoman of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. That’s because dog training is more than teaching your dog

a command and hoping it sticks. It’s about learning how to communicate with your dog to shape behaviors that will lead to a well-adjusted and well-behaved pet. A dog trainer is basically an interpreter that helps you better understand your pet. But finding the right dog trainer might be the first trick you, as the pet parent, have to master. There are no regulations in the industry, so anyone can create a website and claim to be a dog trainer. So how do you find the right dog trainer for you and your dog? Start with referrals: Ask your veterinarian, family, friends or neighbor with a well-behaved dog about their experiences with dog trainers in your community. Search online: Websites often outline a trainer’s philosophy, education and the type of training they do. Some trainers may offer basic obedience; some specialize in aggressive behavior. Online reviews from past clients can provide even more insights. Examine the trainer’s qualifications: Your best choice is a dog trainer with formal dog training and certification. Dog trainers should be eager to continue their education, building on their knowledge and skills. But don’t discount a highly experienced dog trainer with little to no formal education. This is where positive referrals from family and friends and one-on-one interviews with the trainer can guide you. Interview the trainer: Listen for buzzwords like “clicker training” or “reward-based techniques” (food or praise) that suggest positive dog training approaches. Watch out for negative catchphrases, like “dominance training,” “pack leadership,” and “shock collars,” which are outdated training methods that rely on intimidation and fear. Observe a training class: Personality counts. Look for trainers who connect with people and their dogs and who use only positive dog training techniques. Do not sign up for classes where a trainer yells, shakes or punishes a dog physically in any way. Determine if you need group or private lessons: Group lessons work best for basic obedience and social skill building. Private lessons give you more time to focus on a particular issue. Find out what support is available after class: The trainer should provide handouts for skill building and be available for questions outside the training session. Finally, trust your gut: If you or your dog don’t click with a trainer, it’s okay to move on and look for another one. Your extra effort in finding the right trainer will create the foundation for a lifetime of understanding between you and your dog. n — Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency



PHOTO SHOOT 6 tips for capturing candid & posed moments


our pet is doing that thing again. It’s the cutest thing ever, and it must be snapped, shared and forever immortalized on social media. Cats and Dogs of Instagram, here we come. But what happens? Just as you reach for the camera to compose the killer shot, your subject bolts. The moment is gone forever, as are your dreams of Instagram stardom. We get it. Taking memorable photos of your pets is challenging. But it’s not impossible. The tips:


Harmony Von Kwok, in squirrel huntress mode. Taking memorable photos of your pets is challenging. But it’s not impossible.

Instead of trying to get your pets to stare squarely into the camera, consider photographing them in their natural state, where their quirkiness and personality emerge. Sleeping, playing, hunting, bathing or even getting caught in the act of chewing up your favorite pair of running shoes can make for truthful and infinitely better photos.


Moments happen in the blink of an eye, so be prepared and anticipate. Whether it’s an iPhone or a point-and-shoot camera, be familiar with its settings and ready to shoot when cuteness strikes.


Good photography is all about light. Soft, even light outdoors works best; morning and late afternoon are the best times to shoot. Indoors, turn the flash off and use available light. The flash produces a harsh effect as well as red eye, and some pets are spooked by it. Try posing your pet by a large window or open door.


Explore all angles and try the unexpected. Crouch down to their level and shoot from their perspective. Zoom in for visual impact so their face fills the frame. Isolate a particular detail, like that big floppy tongue or those gorgeous green eyes. And don’t forget to pay attention to the backgrounds — you’ll want them to be clean and free of clutter.


Bribery usually works. For dogs, try squeaky toys, treats or that clicking sound you make with your tongue. For cats, use treats or a little bit of catnip sprinkled on the floor. A piece of yarn or a feather teaser will work, too.

When photographing your pet, bribery usually works. For dogs, try squeaky toys, treats, and that clicking sound you make with your tongue. For cats, use treats or a little bit of catnip sprinkled on the floor. A piece of yarn or a feather teaser will work, too.


Finally, take lots of photos, and be patient. It’s all a numbers game, and in the Digital Age, the duds can easily be erased. If you can get one or two winners from each session, the shoot will have been a success. n — Ken Kwok, Los Angeles Times

Ken Kwok/ Los Angeles Times/ TNS


MEOW POWER Must. Make. Cat. Videos. But why?


o member of the animal kingdom has conquered the Internet like Felis catus, the humble house cat. YouTube is home to an estimated 10 million cat videos, which, to put it in perspective, works out to an upload rate of roughly two cat-related pieces of content every minute over the last decade. There’s a blue-shirted keyboard-playing cat (“Charlie Schmidt’s Keyboard Cat! — The Original!” has more than 40 million views since 2007), a kitten raising its paws in surprise (“Surprised Kitty,” 75.6 million views) and a very angry shelter cat from across the pond that’s managed to rack up more than 88 million hits since 2006 (“Very Angry Cat”). The phenomenon has made household names of Grumpy Cat (real name Tardar Sauce), whose endorsement deals, media appearances, 2014 movie and upcoming comic book have generated a reported six figures, and Lil Bub, a talk-show-hosting special-needs rescue cat that’s helped raise more than $200,000 for the ASPCA since 2012. How did the cats-on-the-Internet meme become so entrenched in pop culture that the phenomenon was recently footnoted in congressional testimony on the use of Internet bandwidth and referenced in the CIA’s official Twitter feed? To help answer that question, we turned to someone who may have watched more of those 10 million YouTube videos than anyone else on the planet — Scott Stulen, the curator of audience experiences at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and organizer of the first Internet Cat Video Festival at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 2012. Here’s a Q&A with Stulen: Q: What is it about cats that make them such popular video subjects? A: They have their own personalities, they act like they don’t need us and they operate very independently. So there’s a sense that they’re not performing for us. Within that, we start to project very human personas, traits and characteristics onto them. There’s also the practical thing of them being in the home all the time and everybody has a video camera now, so that helps fuel the relationship. Q: Why don’t dog videos seem to capture our collective attention in the same way? A: While dog owners have a lot of social spaces that exist — going out to the dog park or going out for a walk — cat owners are primarily (interacting from)

Mike Kane/Los Angeles Times/TNS

William Braden of Seattle films Henry the cat, with help from an assistant.

home and don’t have the same options. So in a lot of ways the Internet — and cat videos — became the cat park, a place where cat owners interact with one another and share things. Q: What would you consider the Golden Age of Internet cat videos? Are we there now? A: To me the Golden Age was probably like the Golden Age of YouTube, when the monetary piece wasn’t such a part of it. I’d say 2008 to 2012 was probably the sweet spot, bookended by the “Keyboard Cat” video that was posted in 2007, and the Henri (LeChatNoir) videos from 2012 and a little after. That’s the window: pre-Grumpy Cat, pre-Lil Bub, where

things shifted a bit. I’m not saying it’s good or it’s bad; it’s just changed. Q: Can you think of anything that could ever dislodge the cat video meme’s place in our collective conscience? A: I would have thought it would have already happened by now because the life span of a typical meme is so short and this has lived on now for a solid four or five years at full speed and doesn’t show any signs of weakening yet. But I think the platforms it lives on will change — I’m sure there are already Periscope channels that are streaming cats everywhere. n — Adam Tschorn, Los Angeles Times



Cat complexities Easing carrier terrors; encouraging litter box use Q: I adopted a 3-year-old cat from a local shelter. I have been unsuccessful with transporting her to a veterinarian for a well visit. She refuses to be coaxed into a pet carrier. An at-home visit by a veterinarian was also futile. After each prospective attempt, she becomes terrified and will hide for a few days. I think early experiences in her life trigger these fears. I would appreciate any advice. A: You can never coax a cat into doing anything, as the cat has to feel that all is OK with the situation. Most carriers break down into a top, a bottom and a wire door. So break it down into these three parts and just leave the open bottom piece in the kitchen where the cat eats. Place the cat’s food bowl in the middle of the bottom of the carrier that is on the floor and forget about the situation for a couple of weeks. The cat is most likely going to climb into the bottom half of the carrier to eat every day and will quickly lose any hesitation about it. Then put the top on the bottom but leave the door off and keep putting the cat’s food dish inside the carrier. After a day or two of hesitation, the cat will crawl right inside to eat. Then, when the cat is totally comfortable, you put the door on but tie it open with a bit of string so that it is not swinging wildly when the cat touches it. Then keep feeding the cat inside as you have been doing. When the cat is going in and out of the carrier of its own free will, periodically close the door and carry the cat around the house or in the yard. Then casually put the carrier back down, open the door and act as if this were the most natural thing in the world. Gradually, you can start to put the carrier with the cat in it in the car for short trips and thus you now have a cat that will willingly go inside a carrier and then for a ride in the car. You have to keep feeding the cat in the box and acting as if all is well. You then can make the trip to the vet. You have to look at the world from the animal’s point of view in these things: When the unfamiliar becomes familiar, then fear is no longer an issue.

Q: There are several cats that use my yard as their litter box. The odor is strong and unbearable. I have tried applying ammonia and bleach to the area, but no luck. Any tips you can give me would be appreciated. A: One smell that cats hate is that of coffee grounds. I just get a big can of cheap coffee and spread the granules all over the ground in that area. Even when they get wet, the trick seems to work well. Of course, there may be a cat here and there that grew up in a Starbucks and likes the smell of coffee, but that would be the exception rather than the rule. Q: We have a Siamese cat, about 9 years old, who recently has chosen to mostly ignore the litter box and instead use the floor as her personal toilet. We have tried no fewer than 10 brands of litter, including the same one that we have used for many years. We have even tried using the litter that is supposedly “guaranteed” to work, but it failed as well. The box is downstairs in a quiet, warm, dimly lit basement, where it has been for almost 10 years. A: You did not say if the cat is using the floor next to the litter box or just going randomly throughout the house. If the cat is using the floor next to the litter box, then that may be due to a urinary tract infection. (If the cat’s private parts are sensitive due to an infection then squatting in a box full of litter is not comfortable and thus the cat will use the floor instead of the box.) You need to take the cat to the vet to determine if this is the case. If the cat is going in other parts of the house, then it may be because she does not feel comfortable going all the way downstairs anymore and wants a more convenient choice of locations. So a few boxes placed upstairs may help. Or it could be that she feels that at this point in her life she no longer needs to explain why she does what she does nor apologize for it, and if this is the case then the best advice I can offer is to just wave the white flag of defeat and put wee wee pads down on the floor where she likes to go. n — Marc Morrone, Newsday

Connecting with a world of canine lovers, resources NAME: Dog Land AVAILABLE FOR: iPhone, iPad, iPod touch. Requires iOS 7.1 or later COST: Free WHAT IT DOES: The app links you to dog lovers as well as canine resources nearby and all over the world. Included are dog parks, pet stores and services, vets, animal shelters and rescues, the great outdoors, food and dining, cafes, shops and services, and travel and hotels. WHAT’S HOT: I went in for the resources, but I stayed to look at cute dog photos and add my own. Unlike other apps that require you to be “friends” with someone first, I liked that I could connect, follow and message other dog owners I saw in the Newsfeed. You can also vote on whether a place is dog-friendly, get directions to a park or store you find through the app, and add your own dog tips. It’s nice to have one place where you can share doggie photos and find pet services in a friendly community. An Android version is in the works. Some of my favorite dog-loving friends don’t have iPhones. I’ll wait. WHAT’S NOT: A couple of times, it took me a few tries to get results when searching a new city. Sometimes, it would revert to the previous city I had looked at. What worked best for me was going to “Explore Places,” adding a destination search in “Everything” and then using the back arrow to click on a category such as “Dog Parks” or “Pet Stores.” It could use more dog-friendly votes in the travel and hotel section, so add your favorites. — Jen Leo, Los Angeles Times


NEW ARRIVAL Preparing Rover to be a good dog with baby Dear Mr. Dad: I’m pregnant with our first child and I’m due in about four months. One of the things I’m worried about is our dog, a 150-pound male mastiff, who is truly a part of our family and not just a pet. Some friends of ours say that it’s dangerous to have a giant dog around a newborn and that we should start looking for a new home for him. Is it? And is there some way to prepare our dog and keep our baby safe? A: There’s no way to predict with 100 percent accuracy how animals are going to react in any given situation, but you can get some hints by asking yourself these questions: What is the dog’s personality? Is he aggressive or territorial? Does he growl or bite? Does he jump on you, the furniture or guests? Has he spent time with children? Does he like children? How protective is he of his toys? Could he possibly confuse a neatly wrapped up baby with a chewable toy? Does he bark when he wants attention? Does he understand and obey basic commands? I’m sure you can figure out which questions need a “yes” answer and which need a “no.” But no matter how wonderful your dog is, there’s always some risk. According to Michael Wombacher, author of “Good Dog, Happy Baby,” of the 4.7 million people who get bitten by dogs in the U.S. every year, 80 percent are children under five. Eighty percent of those bites are to the face and happen during feeding, petting or playing. Most of those dogs live in the victim’s home and have no history of biting. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are ways to reduce those risks. And the time to start is right now, long before the baby arrives. The goal is to get the dog acclimated to the changes that are going to happen — some of which he may not be thrilled with. That way, he won’t blame the new baby for ruining his life (exactly what most first-born human pups think when confronted with a baby who knocks them out of the center of the universe). Some of the changes will be fairly easy. For example, you can download some baby cries from the Internet and play them every few hours to get the dog used to the sound. If you’ve got friends or relatives with infants or small children who are willing to help you out, start inviting them over so the dog can check out what a baby looks like, acts like, sounds like and smells like.

Next, set up the baby’s room now, and let the dog check out the crib, changing table, diapers, wipes, etc. If you’ve already got a stroller, take it with you when you’re walking the dog. You want to get him used to walking beside it without trying to drag it into the middle of the street. While you’re doing all this, you’ll also want to be getting your dog used to the new rules of the house — again, long before the baby arrives. For example, if he sleeps on your bed, you’ll probably want to break that habit. Same goes for barking indoors, jumping on the furniture or jumping on people. If you’re able to do the re-educating, great. If not, you may want to hire a dog trainer who’s got experience preparing dogs for babies. Wombacher’s book is a great resource, as is “Please Don’t Bite the Baby,” by Lisa Edwards. And for the pure entertainment value, check out the “Good Dog, Carl” books by Alexandra Day. n — Armin Brott, Tribune News Service


Feline friends How to introduce your new cat to your resident one


ou’ve decided to add a second cat to the family. Now it’s time to introduce the new feline to the resident cat already living happily in your home. You can’t just bring the two cats together and hope for the best. Early hostilities can set the stage for constant fighting and unhappiness for the rest of their lives. With cats, first impressions are crucial and proper introductions are essential to ensure both cats get along. While it can take days, sometimes weeks to make proper introductions, depending on the age and disposition of the felines, the good news is, cats of all ages can successfully be introduced if pet parents are patient and follow some simple protocols. Set up a safe room for your new cat: Include a litter box, food and water bowls, a scratching post and a few toys. Leave the cat’s carrier in the room, fully open so your cat can retreat to it, if needed. The cats won’t see each other, but they will be able to hear and smell each other through the closed door.

Feed your cats at the same time: Place their food bowls on each side and a few feet away from the closed door. As their comfort increases, move the bowls closer to the door each day. If you see stress, move the bowls away from the door. Exchange scents: Rub a washcloth or sock around your resident cat’s face to pick up the scent, then leave that item near your new cat’s food dish for him or her to check out. Repeat the process with the new cat, leaving the item near your resident cat’s food dish. This gives the cats a chance to smell each other without physically meeting. Introduce play time behind closed doors: Sit in the safe room and use a toy under the door to play with your resident cat. Then, sit outside the door and do the same thing with your new cat. Eventually, they will stick their paws under the door to play with each other. Plan a switcheroo: Once your new cat is calm, eating regularly and using the litter box, put the resident

cat in the safe room and let your new cat explore the house. This gives them a chance to check out each other’s territories. Play peek-a-boo: Before they’re ready to meet faceto-face, use a door stop or temporary latch on the door to prop it open just enough so they can peek through the door, but can’t squeeze through it. You can also use a baby gate in front of a slightly propped open door. Give them a safe space to meet: Once they stop hissing and spitting through the peek-a-boo doorway, let them meet face-to-face in closed carriers set a few feet apart or at the far ends of a large room or long hallway. They may hiss and spit, flatten their ears and even growl at each other. Distract them with some toys. If things get too intense, return the new cat to the safe room before they fight and reintroduce them again later or the next day. Always supervise their time together until you’re comfortable with how well they get along. n — Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency

Just remember, your cats don’t have to become best friends, they just have to learn to respect and tolerate each other. If you don’t rush things, though, chances are they will love having a new feline friend in the family.



12 tips for finding the best fit for your pup or older dog


og trainer and behavior consultant Jonathan Klein says day care can be very beneficial, especially for dogs with separation anxieties or home-alone issues. “Day care can provide stimulation and activities for a dog when it would otherwise be alone and stressed or bored,” Klein said. “It’s for balanced, socialized dogs.” Doing your research is key, said Stephen Zowistowski, science adviser emeritus for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, because day care is not heavily regulated. “Some places are better than others. … Between the Internet and the

Better Business Bureau, look at facilities to see how well they’ve been functioning.” Finding day care for your dog takes time and commitment. And for some pet owners and their pooches, it’s the best solution. 1. Assess your dog. Klein, also principal of I Said Sit! in Los Angeles, recommends hiring a trainer or dog behavior consultant. A session can range from $60 to $250, depending on the market. “They would have a better notion of what might be really good for a given dog,” Klein said, adding that they also can recommend local, reputable day-care centers.

When visiting a dog day care center, look for cleanliness, enough space for dogs to run and play, and ample toys and nap spots. Also ask about the staff-to-dog ratio.

2. Two places to start a search. The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. 3. Tour the facilities. New York-based pet behaviorist Carolyn Georgariou suggests making an unscheduled visit. “See what goes on,” she said. “The place should be very clean — especially to the nose!” Look for space where dogs can run and play. Become skeptical of facilities only offering scheduled tours during off-hours. And per the ASPCA, look for toys, nap spots and excellent customer service. Staff should be courteous to humans as well as their canines. 4. Expect behavioral evaluations. Many facilities evaluate dogs before enrolling them. Centers often ask questions regarding interaction with other dogs, such as going to a dog park and if you have additional dogs at home, Zowistowski said. “You shouldn’t drive up, hand the leash to the owner of the day care center and walk away,” he said. Typically, centers also observe dogs to determine how to best manage them. 5. Ask how dogs are grouped. “Dogs should be grouped not only by size but also by compatible play style or temperament,” Klein said. He recommends checking out the size of each room and asking how the center determines a safe ratio of dogs to staff. “Some cities are instituting regulations of no more than 15 dogs per person in cage-free play,” Klein added. 6. Stay current with vaccinations. The ASCPA advises asking your veterinarian which vaccinations are right for your dog. “Dog owners should always consult with their vet for medical advice; however, sometimes the facility may require something that their vet doesn’t,” said veterinarian David Gonsky of Chicago. “Some centers require the influenza vaccine, but every veterinarian doesn’t require it.” Overall, Gonsky said that the day care centers should “definitely ask for proof of vaccination. If they don’t ask, that’s a red flag.” That said, many facilities will require paperwork to establish a dog’s credentials. In Gonsky’s practice, an email is sent to the day care center regarding the wellness and preventive testing conducted on the dog. Alternatively, he said, centers may call veterinarians to request confirmation of the most recent vaccinations, heartworm testing and intestinal parasite screening results. 7. Watch for canine flu symptom. The recent epidemic of canine flu cannot be ignored. Gonsky feels “the worst is over” but still recommends that pet parents “pay attention to their dog much like a parent would to their child.” If you notice lethargy — not just fatigue from playing with other dogs at day care but also if your dog seems “off ” — keep your pet at home and consult a veterinarian. “If it’s canine influenzalike symptoms — fever, cough and potentially runny nose, the dog is contagious for three weeks.”

8. Evaluate costs. “One cannot get good day care cheap,” Georgariou said. “The cheaper the rate, the more crowded the day care will be.” The average cost in major cities we checked ranges from approximately $27 per day to $543 per month. 9. Ask about worst-case scenarios and certifications. The ASPCA recommends asking if employees are trained in animal first aid and CPR as well as what the protocol is in the event of emergency illness or injury. Zowistowski advises looking for certificates indicating employees have been professionally trained as animal caretakers and confirming that the facility is appropriately licensed. Paperwork should indicate the facility has been inspected by the health department and has obtained a legal permit to operate its business. “There’s also training through a certification program for pet dog trainers, CPTs (certified professional trainers),” he said. “This training and certification indicates they’ve actually had some really good professional training and understanding of dog behavior. That’s a good thing to look for as well.” 10. Watch your dog. Once your pup is enrolled in day care, assess his overall health and happiness. “If your dog comes home and he’s ‘good-tired’ — he’s had a good day over there, that’s great,” Zowistowski said. “If he comes home and he looks like he’s been scared or (acts) lethargic, that’s not a good sign.” 11. Pursue other options. Day care may not be appropriate if your pet is a frail, senior dog or anxious, fearful or rambunctious. “Sometimes we think that every dog needs the same thing,” Zowistowski said. “There are quite a few dogs who enjoy just chilling out all day.” His advice? Consider other available options, asking yourself, “What is good for the dog as opposed to what is good for me? What would the dog really like as opposed to what would I really like?” Consider a dog walker or dog sitter. The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters provides training and “at that point, you’re looking for someone who is bonded and has appropriate insurance,” Zowistowski said. Be sure to check references: “Are they willing to give you the name of someone they’ve worked for for a while? You’re basically giving them a key to your house. They have access to your dog and your television set.” 12. Mix it up. Day care doesn’t have to be an allor-nothing approach. Peter Franz of New York takes his puppy, Franklin, to Biscuits & Bath one day a week to play with puppy pals; the day care center also provides dog walking services, and a dog walker visits his apartment the other four days — he pays $500 for a monthly package. “With a puppy, socialization is crucial, and daily exercise is a must,” Franz said, “so a combination of walks and day care made the most sense.” n — Vicki Salemi, Chicago Tribune

Pet lovers

Many Americans are obsessed with pets. Here’s a breakdown:

By the numbers


74.8 million

U.S. households that own a pet

Owned dogs in the U.S.


Households that own at least one dog



Dog owners that own 3 or more


Adopted a dog from an animal shelter

Average spent annually by dog owners on vet

88.3 million


Owned cats in Households that the U.S. own at least one cat


Own more than one cat

$175 Average spent annually by cat owners on vet Source: statisticbrain Graphic: TNS


While you’re busy planting petunias, Rex is digging under the fence and getting lost. Make sure your perimeter has a barrier that extends below the bottom of the fence about a foot.

Diggin’ in Chew on these ideas for successful gardening with pets


afe, friendly gardening with a pet in your household can be a difficult pastime if your yard isn’t set up to handle the wear and tear from a four-footed animal who doesn’t know the difference between your prized petunias and the potty. In Hampton, Va., gardener Wendy Iles preaches the dos and don’ts of gardening with pets. “Dogs love to dig, so giving them a place to do that may save them from

digging in your garden,” says Iles, founder of the nonprofit community gardening effort, Hampton Grows in southeastern Virginia. Her husband manages the area’s newest pet shelter, where she’s planting pet-friendly demonstration gardens and giving workshops on the topic. “You can also lay down chicken wire to make digging less inviting. A low fence — not picket or chain link — may deter dogs from disturbing your vegetable garden. Netting plants can deter cats.”

For dog-friendly plants, Iles suggests perennials such as alyssum, pincushion flowers, bachelor buttons, nasturtiums, marigolds, calendula and celosia. Daylilies are good, too, and pampas grass can be used as a barrier. For cats, safe herbs include basil, chamomile, chervil, catmint, catnip, dill, lavender, lemon balm, lemon verbena, mint, oregano, parsley and thyme (all good for dogs, too). “Catnip, a member of the mint family, can be used to stuff cat toys, easily grown from seed and will self-seed,” she says. “For ‘cat grass,’ consider young grass species of oat, barley, flax, wheat and others, a favorite for kitties to snack on. It grows well in containers, too,” she continues. “Tall, ornamental grasses, sunflowers and bean tee-pees provides shade and privacy, as well as visual interest from birds and insects. I have never had the cat try to attack the birds on my sunflowers. “Ripe tomatoes are fine, but any green part of a tomato plant is toxic,” she adds. In Richmond, Va., Grace Chapman gardens with a 16-month-old, 55-pound female boxer named Timber. “I learned quickly that my boxer loves to chew and swallow plastic, so I have to be very careful to store plastic nursery pots in a shed or enclosure that she can’t access,” says Chapman, director of horticulture at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, also in Richmond. “Patience is very important. Puppies have natural tendencies to chew and dig, so you might want to wait to plant new seedlings until the puppy grows out of those habits,” she says. “I’m a beekeeper, so I had the added challenge of keeping my puppy’s nose out of the beehives. I had to build a fence around my backyard apiary to keep her away from harm. “I have a six-foot wooden privacy fence around my yard, so I installed a ‘pet peek’ window to allow Timber to see what is going on in the alley. She loves watching the garbage truck, people taking walks and the dogs in the neighboring yards. We call her the neighborhood sheriff because she is always on top of what is going on.” Here are tips from the Hampton Clean City Commission in southeastern Virginia and other sources on making your pet, your yard and your environment all work together, according to Debbie Blanton, clean city commission director: Plan a designated toilet area for your dog and train her to use it. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has information about how to train your pet at Does it allow your pet some privacy — maybe partially surrounded by low-growing decorative grasses or flowers — yet allows you to follow the recommended training program? Is it paw friendly? That means the surface is relatively smooth, without jagged gravel or other sharp substances. Some sources recommend an area of tallish grass (about 5 inches) because some dogs prefer that. Others recommend flagstones, pea gravel, bricks and small mulch chips. Beware of a pooch digging under the fence and getting lost. Prevent that by making sure your perimeter has a barrier that extends below the bottom of the fence about a foot. Search for information on the proper technique at If escape isn’t an issue but digging up your petunias is, create a designated area. Use a sandbox idea, making a nice digging spot for Pooch, and encourage him to use it by burying a bone or a toy in it and then showing him it’s OK to dig it out of that spot. Cats generally aren’t inclined to stay in a fenced area, and once they get out, they are subject to lots of potential dangers, including cars, other cats, dogs and wild animals. They also are deadly to birds and our diminishing populations of amphibians, whether in back yards or beyond. Some cat people have devised wire “breezeways” for their cats that allow them onto a deck while remaining safe and enclosed. Some train their cats to walk on leashes. “Please, don’t let your cat roam freely, though, for the good of the cat and its prey,” Blanton says. n — Kathy Van Mullekom, Daily Press (Hampton, VA)

ABOUT THAT DOG Let heart, vet determine when to put down pet Q: My Yorkie is now 17 years old and family members are putting pressure on me to have her put down. They say it is a pity to see her bump into walls as she cannot see very well now and that I am only keeping her alive to satisfy my own needs and not hers. She seems happy enough to me. She still eats and goes to the bathroom to poop on her Wee-Wee Pad, but she does leave puddles here and there on the floor. But we have tiles and not rugs so it is not an issue for me to clean up after her. At what point do you say goodbye to a pet? A: This is an issue that I have gone through myself time and time again with all my pets for many decades. Only a handful of my assorted pets died peacefully in their sleep. Otherwise, I have been in the same situation as you. First of all, do not let family members pressure or guilt you into doing it. The only person who is qualified to say your pet is suffering physically is the vet who has been caring for it and knows it intimately. Older animals like yours that can eat on their own and still keep themselves clean, recognize you, enjoy your company and walk about without pain are not suffering. Yes, there may be issues like bodily functions and vision, but these are not problems animals worry about, as they live for the moment. You can only put your pet down once, so do not make the choice to do it unless your vet advises it if you do not want to feel any guilt. Wheezer, my last Siamese cat, is now 19. He is frail and skinny and suffers from irritable bowel syndrome, despite a raw food diet and drugs such as Prednisone prescribed by my vet. However, he still toddles about the house and keeps himself clean and at night always finds me and falls asleep on my chest. He could sleep anywhere in the house, but the fact that he feels safe with me at this time in his life touches my heart. I do not mind cleaning up the messes he makes, as I know the problem will resolve itself sooner than I would like, and I will never have another Wheezer again after that.

A real beat-the-heat beagle treat Q: Is it bad to give ice cubes to my dog? My beagle will do backflips to get an ice cube from me when she sees me open the freezer. She licks them and crunches them and seems very happy, but I wondered if dogs can get “brain freeze” like we do and if I should limit them. A: If crunching an ice cube is bad for a dog, I have not been able to find any scientific research on the subject. All my dogs used to go crazy for ice cubes. My cat would bat them across the floor. My parrots all enjoy playing with them, and even our bunny will nose one along a bit and then lay on top of it until it melts. I assume that he is using it to cool off. However, if any readers have uncovered research on whether eating or playing with ice cubes is harmful to pets, I would eagerly review it and share it in a future column. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

ABOUT THAT DOG So many dog breeds to choose from! Q: My kids finally broke me down, and I agreed to get a dog, the first either my husband or I ever had. We are confused as to which we should get. Should we get a pure breed or a mixed breed, contact a breeder or rescue a dog from a shelter? A: All dogs make good pets, but some have physical and mental abilities that make them easier to raise. If you do not have time to comb a dog daily, do not get a dog with long hair unless you are prepared to take it to a groomer regularly. Better to get a short-haired dog to begin with. If you do not have time to take a dog outside to be exercised two or three times a day and cannot afford a dog walker, do not get a breed that needs lots of outdoor time. Instead, get a small dog that can tire itself out by chasing a ball around the living room. If you are a control freak and need a dog that pays attention to your every command, do not get a breed of dog selectively bred to think for itself and make its own decisions. These are the things that you should be doing research on. The dog does not have to be a puppy, either. An older dog that is down on its luck and in a shelter for whatever reason is such a good option. After you adopt the dog, you just take it home and walk in the door with it and feed it and let it pick out a place to sleep and, presto, you have a dog. The best dog I ever had was Barney, a 5- or 6-yearold mixed-breed that I found in a shelter. He was dumped there because he had chronic gingivitis that even my vets could not fix. He had horrible and expensive dental problems for the 10 years I had him. However, there was just something about him that appealed to me. Our connection was instantaneous, and he always went out of his way to help me. — Marc Morrone, Newsday Fotolia

Get inside your bird’s brain Feathered friends often hide illnesses


t seems that birds as companions have developed a reputation as delicate little creatures that are very weak and frail and easily overcome by disease. I assure you nothing could be further from the truth. Birds are not truly a domesticated species, though there are many species that are bred in captivity for the companion bird business. These birds are just a step or two away from their wild counterparts and as a result share many of the same instincts and abilities. It is one of these instincts that demonstrates their toughness and at the same time greatly contributes to their reputation as weak and frail creatures. It is their instinct to hide their symptoms when they are battling disease. Why would birds do such a thing? Birds are most often flock creatures spending their time in groups of like species. This lifestyle has many advantages, one of which is to thwart predators. If an individual bird becomes ill and as a result shows signs of weakness, they become an easily spotted target within the flock, attracting unwanted attention. The rest of the flock will then aggressively attack the weakened bird and try to eliminate its presence within the group, thus eliminating the unwanted attention from the predator. It is for this reason that an individual bird fighting disease or injury will do all it can to mask symptoms. Companion birds will present this exact same behavior when challenged with disease. Unfortunately, as a result, caretakers are ignorant of the fact their bird is ill and these birds can become

severely ill before they finally are unable to hide their symptoms. Even when symptoms begin to appear, they can be subtle and thus not easily recognized. Oftentimes by this point, these patients are a step away from dying and are presented to me with a verbal description that might include, “I just noticed him down on the bottom of the cage this morning.” While this is often true, the bird can have been ill for weeks. The best advice I can give people who are lucky enough to have birds as companions is to pay close attention to them. Learn their behaviors and routines as you interact with them. Learn their vocalizations as they respond to the noises and sights in their environments. Armed with this information, realize that when anything encompassing your bird’s lifestyle changes, there is always a reason. That reason needs to be discovered as it may be a sign of illness. With the goal of preventing problems before they happen with our bird companions, it is important, as it is with all species we take care of, to have them routinely examined and, especially with birds, tested to make sure there are no underlying issues that might lead to illness. The testing I like to recommend for birds includes blood testing, respiratory bacterial cultures and identification of gastrointestinal bacterial populations. With normal results, especially in a bird that is on an excellent diet regimen, we can be confident the bird is in excellent health. n — Jeff Kahler, Modesto Bee

ABOUT THAT FISH Fish tank’s clear water doesn’t mean it’s clean Q: We have a 29-gallon fresh water fish tank with parrot fish, rose line sharks and angelfish. It has been running for two years now, and we have not lost any fish. We just bought four glofish and added them to the tank to give it some color, and they all died within two days. We took a sample of water to the pet store and the guy there tested it and told us that the pH was low and we needed to raise the pH and change at least 25 percent of the water. To keep the tank in perfect condition, he said, we need to change 10 percent of the water once a week. We have a very expensive canister filter for the tank that keeps the water crystal clear, and we add more water as it evaporates. We do not understand why we need to change the water if the filter is keeping it so clear. Plus, why do the fish that we have in the tank now seem so perfect if the water is supposedly so bad? A: Just because the water in your tank is crystal clear does not mean that it is in perfect condition. The filter that you have forces the tank water through layers of fiber and carbon and other media that catch all the free-floating debris and thus hold it in one place — the filter. It is all still in the aquarium but just not in the part of it where the fish live. The fish, however, are still exposed to it as the water flows from the tank to the filter and back again. All this organic debris that is sitting in the filter will affect certain aspects of the water chemistry such as the pH as the person who tested your water discovered. There are invisible chemicals that the fish give off regularly — such as the ammonia in their urine — that cannot be filtered out. Bacteria that live in the filter media will break down the ammonia into nitrite, which then breaks down into a chemical called nitrate that is harmless to fish in small amounts. But since the nitrate does not break down any further in your average home aquarium, it builds up through time into amounts that can stress fish out. The only way to reduce the level of nitrate in the water is to physically remove it by taking out some of the water and replacing it with new water. Adding water after evaporation doesn’t help because evaporation leaves all the harmful toxins in the water. This is why frequent partial water changes are so important to keeping your home aquarium in top condition. Fish are like humans in that they can adapt over time to less-than-perfect living conditions. Your fish that have been in the tank have become used to these conditions as the changes happened gradually. However, when you moved the glofish from the perfect water that was in the pet store to your home aquarium, they could not handle the change to a water of low pH and most likely a high nitrate level, and that is why they succumbed so quickly. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

You’re movin’ in? Move it on over, this is Rover!

So you’re moving in with someone, and it turns out he or she already has a roommate — one that is sometimes smelly and at times quite charming.


Roommate, pet included hat happens when your new roommate — whether a friend, significant other or family member — has a pet? Navigating someone else’s adoration for an animal can add a thorn to communication in the kingdom of living together. Tread carefully, experts advise, whether Fluffy belongs to a platonic roommate or a romantic interest. People can have emotional attachments to a cat or dog that rival similar feelings toward kids, said Dr. Jeremy Martinez, a Los Angeles-based psychiatrist.

“Some people will see their pets like children and may tie a lot of importance to that pet, more than you might realize,” Martinez said. “You might see the pet as just an animal, but they might see it as a family member.” Cat Warren, the Durham, N.C.-based author of “What the Dog Knows” (Touchstone), has been both the one moving in and the one with an at-times rascally pet. When she moved in with her husband while they were dating, her asthma compelled him to find another home for his two cats. But years later, when they took in her parents’ dog, an Irish setter named Megan, he adopted her as his own, albeit reluctantly. “She really was a complete pill,” Warren said. But when Megan died 12 years later, she recalled, “we actually both cried.” If you’re moving in with someone who expects you to be a pet parent — or if you are deciding how much of a role you want to play in the pet’s life — experts offer some guidelines: Communicate. An animal, which should be a spirit lifter, can, in fact, become a wedge. Before moving boxes in, make sure to sit and speak. Just as you would talk about bills, discuss who will care for the pet and where it is allowed. “Dogs are really good at invading space,” Warren said. “Are you going to allow the dog to be in the bedroom when you have sex, much less on the bed?” And when issues arise — cats urinating outside their litter box, dogs chewing favorite shoes — instead of blaming or attacking the pet or person, use “I” statements, Martinez suggested: “‘This is how I feel about the animal.’ Instead of placing the blame on the other person, this technique allows people to really redirect those strong emotions toward those feelings and toward more rational discussion.” Take care of your own pet. At least in the beginning, the responsibilities of pet ownership — feeding, walking, trips to the vet, purchasing food and other supplies — should be the primary pet owner’s responsibility, said Charlotte Reed, a self-described “petrendologist” who offers pet etiquette advice. “Don’t expect your new boyfriend to want to walk your dog,” she said. And if your pet briefly turns into a monster, “You should expect to pay for anything that your pet destroys,” she added. “If your cat pees on your roommate’s bed, expect to buy your roommate a new bed.” Consider investing in a dog trainer to scope potential problems. “We never truly understand what our own bad habits are and what we tolerate versus what somebody coming into this relationship might tolerate,” Warren noted. Don’t force someone to love your pet. If you were coming into a relationship in which a significant other had

a child, you would need to let that relationship develop naturally, Martinez said. The same is true where a pet is concerned. The first meeting can be key. “Kneel down; let the pet smell your hand,” Reed said. “Don’t come looming over.” Pet owners need to give their new roommate as much time as needed to get to know their pet. “Try to remember back to when that dog came into your life and what you did to bond with that dog,” Warren said. Be open to change. “Very often in new relationships, the person who has the pet is loath to give over any control,” Warren noted. “They have to be willing to give over some control.” Understand that your routines might change. For starters, let the new person feed the dog, if he’s willing. Have him set the food down, then quietly stand behind the animal, Warren advised. (Unlike standing in front of the dog and its food, this reassures the pet that the new person won’t be taking the food away.) Realize that your pet might love the new addition more than you expect. Sure, one fear is a dog growling at the new roommate, boyfriend or girlfriend. But what happens if the pet actually likes the new person more? “That can be very discouraging, and we see that happen with actual children, too,” Martinez said. “Oftentimes that does require a discussion of those feelings between the two individuals, so that they don’t harbor resentment.” Recognize that this doesn’t have to turn into a negative situation. Warren and Reed both said that when their significant others embraced their pet equally, it became another member of the family. On the other hand … Be prepared to walk away. Sometimes, living with someone who has a pet reveals a different side of the pet owner. What if the person doesn’t take good care of the pet? What if she thinks having a roommate means she can abdicate some responsibility? “You have a date and don’t want to come home? Either get home to make sure you can feed your cat or say to your roommate, ‘Do you mind feeding my cat?’” Reed said. “Don’t assume anyone is going to take care of your responsibility.” Reed had a friend who lived in an apartment where her roommate’s cat cried all the time and was often left by itself for days. “She had to move,” Reed said. Life lessons: Whatever happens, experts say, cohabitating with a pet will lend lessons about the strength of a friendship or relationship. “Sometimes, dogs are great sort of barometers,” Warren said. n — Alison Bowen, Chicago Tribune

‘Oh, were these towels from your grammy? My bad.’


Unbearable grief over cat. What to do? Q: My cat, whom I have had for the last 17 years, just died. Her death was peaceful but it is still tearing me apart. My friends at work think I am crazy when they see me crying at my desk. I just cannot imagine how my life can feel whole again and yet I feel guilty in a way that I am grieving so much over an animal. Everyone says to get another cat and I will feel better, but I feel that by doing so I am not being loyal to the memory of her. Is there anything you can tell me to make me feel better, and should I get another cat right away? A: The void in you will always be there, and non-pet keepers will always think you are crazy. That is just the way it is. People think I am nuts for weeping over a rabbit. However, the ability to endure grief and go on with life is universal among us, and, in time, you will deal with the situation better than you are doing now. Finding a support group — or even just one kind shoulder to cry on — helps. One thing I can say with certainty: Get another cat ASAP. You will definitely feel better. Part of the void in your life is not having a pet to care for, and the new cat will fix that right away. Please do not feel guilty or unfaithful about the new cat taking the place of your old one. Your lost cat is not looking down on you enjoying the fact that you are sad about her absence. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

Cat scratch fever Declawing is painful and deprives your cat of vital behavior


irst-time cat adopters often ask whether it’s acceptable to declaw their kitten and whether the kitten should be kept indoors at all times. First, declawing. Many people wouldn’t dream of taking their new kitten to the veterinarian to have this painful procedure done. This procedure is akin to 10 amputations of the first joint of the toes on their front paws. Still, there are some who don’t understand the reasons why — both physically and emotionally — a cat needs to keep its claws. It’s important to keep in mind that scratching is a normal, essential behavior. In addition to providing a way to exercise and stretch out their back and shoulder muscles, there are emotional aspects to scratching. Scratching allows cats to properly mark their territory (via the scent glands in their paw pads), relieve stress/ frustration or to show excitement. Scratcher posts and cat trees should be covered in a material your pet prefers. Most cats are naturally attracted to scratching surfaces, and kittens will catch on very easily with a little positive (treat-rewarded) training. Some kitties like a choice of both carpeting and sisal rope. If the scratcher is vertical, it should be both sturdy enough to support your cat without being wobbly and tall enough to get a full stretch. Others prefer a horizontal or wedgeshaped corrugated cardboard type of scratcher. These can be purchased at a reasonable cost from any pet supply store and many come with the added benefit of catnip.

Now to the question of keeping cats indoors

Even though indoor cats can live an average of 10 years longer than outdoor cats (outdoor cats face dangers like predators, poisoning and cars), many cat guardians want their cats to be able to enjoy the sun and the grass. The only way to make sure that your kitty will be safe outside is to provide him or her with an enclosed outdoor “catio” or an area in the yard with shrubbery and perches surrounded by a fencing product like Purrfect Fencing (, which is made of flexible material that is unpleasant to climb. There is an endless supply of online instructions for easy-to-build catios — some of my favorites can be found at and Most work with access from a cat door and some are made simply with 2-by-4 wood planks or PVC piping and chicken wire fencing. Another option is to train your cat to wear a harness and leash and take him or her for nature walks. Most importantly, make sure to have cats who will spend time outside microchipped, protected from parasites and up to date on their vaccines. n — Miss Kitty, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)


It’s important to keep in mind that scratching is a normal, essential behavior. In addition to providing a way to exercise and stretch out their back and shoulder muscles, there are emotional aspects to scratching.


Place a big cat tree in the room. The idea is that the cat has to think the tree is a better scratch place than your furniture.

Training dogs to come when called Q: Can you give me some tips on teaching my shepherd mix Zeus to come when I call him? So far, what I’m doing isn’t working.


Train that clawing cat T

here are simple methods to avoid declawing your cat and still keep your furniture in good condition. First, it is important to understand that a cat has no idea that a chair or couch has any value. Rather, they are just part of its environment and are there for the cat’s own use. Therefore, you cannot teach a cat not to use his or her claws on your furniture, but you can trick the cat into thinking there is something better to scratch. Cats are sensitive to texture, so you must make the furniture feel unattractive to them. The best way to do this is with double-sided tape. Place strips of it on the ends of the couch, the tops of chairs and wherever else the cat likes to use his or her claws. When guests are coming over, simply pull off the tape and replace it afterward. You also should place a big cat tree in the room that has shelves covered with carpet and sisal rope. The cat tree has to be big and sturdy; a little scratching post that gets knocked over when the cat tries to use it will not work. The idea is that the cat has to think the tree is a better place than your furniture. In addition, trim the nails of your cat once a month or so to get the sharp tip off the nails in case a little furniture scratching does happen. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

A: You didn’t mention what you’ve been doing with Zeus, so I’ll list some general concepts here for you and readers in general to consider. I describe the recall, or teaching the come cue, as a valuable behavior well worth the investment. It’s one that is really important to have from the dog owner’s perspective, and to have an excellent recall relies, in part, on lots of practice. In my mind, the perfect recall looks like this: My dog is off leash, at a distance from me, not looking in my direction, and is interested in something in the environment (a squirrel, another dog, a smelly bush, etc.). When I say “Come!” the dog immediately and joyfully turns and runs directly to me, ignoring everything else in the environment. That’s my goal behavior, not a training scenario. First and probably most important is to recognize that in order to be reliable, the act of coming to you must be a pleasurable experience for Zeus, both when teaching it and maintaining it. So it’s important to know what your dog finds highly rewarding. In my opinion, the very best reward for a recall is an active one, so I engage my dog in a game of Tug each time he comes when called. For some dogs, hand play is just as rewarding, as is high-in-value food, access to a squeaky toy, etc. You’ve got to figure out at least two ways to highly reward your dog when he comes to you, and that may require some experimentation on your part. The word “Come” is not nearly as important as how you say it. If you are quiet, monotone, scolding or demanding in tone, it makes sense that your dog would want to avoid you. So make sure your tone of voice is positive and encouraging. Dogs are attracted to motion, so you can use movement as an incentive to come to you by calling your dog and running away from him, encouraging him as you go. Most importantly, when he responds and comes to you, the reward should be massive and prolonged — a true celebration each and every time! Remember, having a reliable off-leash recall is the goal behavior, but it should be taught in increments. First on a short leash and without distractions, so it is easy for the dog to successfully come to you. Next on a long leash, so you can work at a greater distance. Finally, working on a long leash in a variety of distracting environments to continue with the concept that coming to you will always be more rewarding than whatever your dog can find in the environment. Keep in mind that every time you call Zeus and reward him for coming to you, you’re investing in his response the next time you call him. So practice it often, and make it fun and rewarding. Getting hooked up with a trainer who teaches positively, without punishment, is of particular value in obtaining a beautiful and reliable recall. — Lisa Moore, Modesto Bee


Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Vet tech Lauren Nickerson weighs Sammy, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, at DTLAvets in Los Angeles. According to the latest study from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 50 percent of the nation’s dogs and cats are overweight.

How much does he weigh? G

The importance of preventing pet obesity

arfield is not the only fat cat around. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 50 percent of the nation’s cats and dogs are overweight. And just as concerning, more than 90 percent of their owners don’t recognize that their pet is carrying around extra pounds. “People automatically think a fat cat is a happy cat,” says Ernie Ward, owner of Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C. “But it’s not cute. It’s killing.” Ward founded the organization in 2005 after realizing that many veterinarians were not talking to pet owners about obesity. Ten years later, he says, vets are finally having those necessary conversations. “It’s an emotional land mine,” Ward says. “You don’t know when you’re go-

ing to step on the wrong button because people inherently have a problem with questions (about how they’re) feeding pets because we equate love with food and treats.” Not unlike humans, pets can face obesity because of too much food and too little exercise, says Eve Flores, a veterinarian and co-owner of DTLAvets with Leia Castaneda. Overweight animals are more prone to a host of health conditions, including arthritis, high blood pressure and blindness. Here are suggestions from Ward, Flores and Castaneda for pet owners looking to improve pets’ health:

something is wrong. “We can’t practice preventive medicine if we’re not seeing the pets,” Flores says. Pets should be seen by the veterinarian at least once a year for the doctor to evaluate the animals — and educate the owners.

says, adding that owners should be aware that treats have calories too. She also says that diet food and pet foods that are grain free or raw have become marketing tools more than healthful alternatives.

Read labels

Annual checkups

Calories count

Ward uses a simple equation to get through to his clients: “Fat equals inflammation, which equals disease which equals early death.” To avoid that, exercise is a must, he says. “It is as simple as walking your dog 30 minutes a day, interacting with your cat for five minutes three times a day.” Flores adds that extending normal walking or play times by 10 minutes can do the trick. n

Many pet owners do not take their dogs or cats to the veterinarian until

“The most important decision a pet owner makes every day is what they feed their pet,” Ward says. Flores encourages pet owners to look at the ingredients listed on food packages. If any of the first three items is unpronounceable or hard to understand, don’t buy it. “Pay attention to the amount you’re actually feeding your dog,” Castaneda


— Tre’vell Anderson, Los Angeles Times


Hound carrying too much weight around? Q: Kyle expresses some frustration as he attempts to get some pounds off his dog, AJ. AJ is an 8-year-old basset hound who has become quite overweight. Kyle had AJ neutered about 18 months ago, and it seems AJ has gotten heavier ever since. Even with the use of a “lite” formula diet, AJ has continued to put on weight, and Kyle is concerned. A: I’d like to commend Kyle for his concern over AJ’s weight. Indeed obesity, as we have discussed before, is a huge problem in our companions — one that can have very serious health consequences. I also would like to address an issue brought up by Kyle concerning neutering and weight gain. Neutering, the term given for the sexual altering of a male or female animal, does not cause weight gain and obesity. This misconception is common, and its source is quite logical.

When a companion is neutered, their metabolic rate will gradually drop, in some individuals as much as 25 percent over time. With this drop in metabolic rate, there is a corresponding drop in the amount of food necessary to maintain body weight and condition. Unfortunately this is not always taken into consideration, and these companions continue to be fed the same amount of food after neutering as before. This excessive caloric intake can lead to weight gain and often obesity. To alleviate this potential health problem, I advise caretakers to begin to reduce the amount of food they give their companions after having them neutered. I shoot for a 25 percent decrease in the volume of food fed over two to three weeks. This will completely eliminate the weight gain potential due to the drop in metabolism brought on by the surgery. AJ is already obese, and he needs to drop some pounds. Kyle reports he has tried “lite” formula foods without results, which, I must say, is a common scenario. “Lite” diets do indeed contain fewer calories per unit volume when compared to the regular formula of the same food. However, the difference is often not enough to truly engage the weight loss cascade within the pet’s body. When we think about it, it is really quite simple to initiate weight loss in our companions. Simply reducing the amount of any diet fed to below the daily requirement for maintaining body weight will, over time, lead to weight loss. The problem with this method is the compliance of the caretaker and the insistence from the companion that he or she is starving. I have personally been through this process and can sympathize. A better method for producing consistent weight loss involves the use of a prescription diet formula designed to provide your companion with that feeling of fullness after eating without providing excess calories. Prescription diet foods are available through your veterinarian. Your veterinarian, after establishing that your companion has no underlying problems that may be causing obesity, can establish an ideal body weight. Then, with the exclusive use of a diet formula in a specified volume on a daily basis, the weight loss program can begin. The length of time needed to reach the ideal body weight targeted by your veterinarian will vary primarily based on how much weight needs to be lost, but also on each individual’s metabolism. As is the case in people, each companion is unique in their metabolism, and some require more calories than others to maintain the same body weight. This can be dealt with by starting with a specific amount of diet formula as established at the beginning of a weight loss program and then weighing the companion on a monthly basis and adjusting the amount of food accordingly. If the weight loss is too rapid, the food volume will be increased; and if the weight loss is too slow, the amount will be reduced. These adjustments are determined by your veterinarian and over time will assure successful weight loss. Once your companion reaches the targeted body weight, a maintenance diet and amount can be established assuring a healthy body weight for your companion’s long, happy life. — Jeff Kahler, Modesto Bee


Is this an


How to know when your pet needs urgent care


our pet has a medical condition. It’s 4 a.m. Is it serious enough to take him to the veterinary emergency hospital now, or can it wait until your pet’s doctor is available in a few hours? For some conditions, such as crying out in pain, blood in the stool or urine and open wounds, the answer might seem obvious. But based on the phone calls I get at my practice, the answer isn’t apparent. So, let’s start with medical needs that require immediate, even middle-of-the-night emergency room attention: Open wounds, especially if there is active bleeding: Have someone hold steady pressure on the wound(s) while you drive to the emergency vet. Incessant vomiting: Vomiting is miserable enough, but if your pet is experiencing multiple episodes of vomiting in an hour, has vomited three or more times in a day, or vomits even a small amount of blood, it can’t wait and your pet needs to be seen within two hours. Watery or bloody diarrhea: Any case of diarrhea from more than one bowel movement means your pet needs to be seen within six hours. Less-loose diarrhea with no blood could wait until the next day, but no more than 24 hours. Seizures: Few things terrify a pet owner more. While a single episode of a mild seizure could wait a

few hours, more than one seizure is sufficient reason for emergency care. Status epilepticus, or non-stop seizuring can cause brain damage in a short amount of time. Airway obstruction: If your pet has a pink color to his gums and tongue, he’s inhaling enough oxygen. However, an obstruction in the trachea (windpipe) could restrict air movement enough to be fatal. If the tongue or gums are blue, this condition needs immediate attention. Uncontrollable itchiness: This is not a rash or itchiness that has been going on for a week; these are allergic reactions that are driving your pet up the wall, often accompanied by hives. Such a level of itchiness needs to be seen within two hours. Eye damage: Prolapse of the globe is a condition in which the eyeball (globe) is no longer in the socket. Prolapse is most commonly caused by trauma, but in short-faced breeds of dogs just pulling the skin of the face tight may cause one or both eyes to pop out. Don’t push it back in. Call the doctor. Foreign objects penetrating the eye carry the same level of urgency. Broken bones: These are extremely painful and need to be seen within an hour. Compound fractures, those which cause an open wound to the outside of the body, need special care to prevent contamination and infection.

Straining to urinate: This one can be really tricky. Don’t take chances. If the urinary bladder is inflamed and the pet is able to empty it, he can wait a few hours or even overnight. But, if your pet is straining and the bladder is full because of an obstruction to outflow, bladder rupture could be imminent and time is crucial. Unless you can tell the difference by palpating the abdomen accurately, make the phone call and get her in right away. Straining to defecate: While this sign is sometimes associated with constipation or other forms of obstruction, more commonly it is caused by inflammation of the colon. Get your pet to the doctor soon, and certainly no longer than 12 hours from when it is first observed. Here’s an important consideration about these last two items. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether a pet is straining to pass stool or urine. If you are unsure and it is possible that the urinary bladder is full, your pet needs to see the vet immediately. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of emergencies, but a listing of some of the most urgent conditions you might see. If you are unsure, see your veterinarian. Ask your pet’s doctor if he or she has additional emergency tips for you. n — Dr. Jim Randolph (for McClatchy Newspapers) is a veterinarian at Animal General Hospital in Long Beach, Miss.

ABOUT THAT CAT The adventures of crazy tabby Q: We do not know what to do with our kitty. She is a rescue and we have had her for almost nine months. She is wild and runs all over the house from room to room, sliding over rugs, up and down furniture. She loves to play, but is always climbing on something she shouldn’t — window screens, kitchen counter, windowsills, etc. We have tried scolding and spraying with water, but neither works. Does anyone “obedience train”’ cats?

You may think you have to have a Havanese because you sneeze, but …

No such thing as a hypoallergenic dog W

hen the Obamas first got a Portuguese water dog, there was a lot of talk about Bo being an allergy-free pet. But, sorry, that isn’t grounded in reality. Here’s the scoop for those with allergies who are interested in getting a dog:

The size of the dog and the ability of the owner to bathe the dog often are important factors to reduce the amount of allergens. Dogs with double coats, such as German Shepherds, should be out of the question for people with allergies.

It’s the dander

Outgrowing it?

A truly hypoallergenic dog is a myth, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. It’s a common misconception that people are allergic to dog’s hair; allergies to pets actually are caused by pet dander (skin flakes) and protein found in the animal’s saliva and skin glands that get deposited on the hair. Because all dogs secrete these proteins, there is no allergy-free dog. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America reports that about 15 to 30 percent of people with allergies have allergic reactions to cats and dogs.

Best breeds

Some breeds are considered less allergenic. They include poodles, schnauzers, certain terriers and poodle hybrids, largely because they do not shed as much as other breeds, reducing the amount of dander in the home.

Studies have shown that allergic children can coexist with dogs if they are exposed to them very early in life. But once they move away to college and live in dorms without dogs, they will lose that tolerance and their allergy symptoms could resurface when they are exposed again to dogs.


To minimize allergy symptoms, the AAAI says to keep pets out of the allergic person’s bedroom. Animal dander collects on pillows, which can worsen symptoms during the night. Bathe animals weekly to reduce the amount of dander. Replace carpeting with hardwood or other solid surfaces for easier cleanups. Air filters (HEPA) may help clean the air. It may also be helpful to wash bedding and clothing in hot water. — Jodi Mailander Farrell, Miami Herald

A: You need to get the idea that the cat is doing something wrong out of your head. Cats have no idea of right and wrong behavior. There is not a thing in the world that a cat would think of as something that should not be climbed on except perhaps an electric fence. Otherwise, the world is theirs for the taking, and spraying it with water just reinforces the cat’s idea of how ridiculous and random your actions are. You have to get the cat a couple of those big cat trees that have shelves and tunnels on them and put them in her favorite rooms. Make the cat tree even more attractive by rubbing catnip all over it. This is more fun for her to play on than your couch. Get a big cardboard box and tape the top closed and then cut a few holes in the sides so that she can crawl in the holes and explore the inside of the box; something like this can keep her busy for a long time and thus tire her out and divert her attention away from the other household objects that she is knocking over. To keep her from jumping on the kitchen countertops, you can put a few strips of double-sided tape on them so that when she does jump on the counter she will feel the sticky tape touching her paws and thus decide for herself that this is not a nice place to be. If she likes to jump on the windowsills, install a couple of those cat window seats in front of her favorite windows so she can lie there and look out the window as long as she wants, thus leaving the curtains alone. Only by looking at the situation from the animal’s point of view can you understand why it is doing what it is doing, and when you understand that, you can trick it into making your choices its choices. — Marc Morrone, Newsday



HAVE DOG, WILL TRAVEL Vet care on the road; addressing aggression Q: I do a lot of traveling for work and usually bring my dog with me. She’s an 11-year-old Yorkie, and in pretty good health, but I worry about finding a vet while I’m away. Do you have any suggestions for locating one if you’re in an unfamiliar city? I do not trust Yelp reviews. A: You’re right, it is hard to find a good vet when you’re in an unfamiliar city. However, there is a group called the American Animal Hospital Association and it has a hospital locator that will help you. All you do is type in a ZIP code or city, and a list of accredited general and emergency hospitals will pop up. I have talked with many of the local vets who belong to this association and they have told me of the work and dedication it took to be sure that their hospital meets the association’s high standards. This would be a great place to start looking, not only if you’re traveling but if you need a new vet as well. For more information check out

Q: We have a year-old male schnoodle (schnauzer poodle) that bites. We do not hit him. We got him at age 8 weeks from a family breeder. We can’t remove anything from his mouth or groom him without concern. If we pet him he can snap. He growls and attacks at times. He also barks in an attack stance at dogs and people walking by. I think it is the breed mixture of the dog and my husband thinks he was traumatized. What’s your thought? A: You had him since he was 8 weeks old so he was obviously not traumatized. He is just not quite right in the head. I never can understand how one individual dog will never, ever bite no matter what the circumstances and yet another will bite without any hesitation and then expect you to forget all about it. I have had both kinds of dogs. The problem here is that you can change the way the dog acts, but you cannot change the way it thinks. If you want to teach a dog like yours not to be possessive about things in his mouth then you have to show him that when you ask him to drop an object it will be replaced with something better. Go to the fridge and take out a piece of deli chicken or cheese and offer it to the dog while giving it some kind of command such as “trade.” In most cases the dog will drop whatever it is carrying and run to you for the treat. You then tell the dog to sit and give it the treat from your hand. Pick up the object in question and in no time he will be bringing you all sorts of items to trade with you willingly. Even though you may have changed the dog’s behavior, you have not changed the way he thinks. He would still bite you if he thought it was justified or to his advantage. However, if you work on using positive reinforcement/ reward training with him as I described briefly here then things will be a lot better. n — Marc Morrone, Newsday



ADOLESCENT BAD BOY How to deal with bulldog who acts out; when to be a heel Q: My once-sweet, 10-month-old English bulldog Max has turned into a little devil. Things that used to be easy to do — putting him in his crate, making him go outside, getting him into the tub for a bath — are now becoming real battles that include him barking at me and running away when I try to catch him. I think he’s trying to be dominant. How do I fix this? A: Be dominant? No. Typical adolescent behavior? You bet. Max is simply maturing. Your best approach to addressing these issues is to be non-confrontational, and to outthink your young dog. First, recognize that when your dog begins to bark at you, you don’t have to address it directly; ignoring the behavior is a better approach. Entering into conflict with Max gives him more practice at being combative, so don’t fall for that. Next, the three scenarios you describe can all be addressed in the same manner. Your dog should have a light 4- to 6-foot leash attached to his collar at all times when you are home with him. Just let the leash drag, and pay no attention to it unless you need to put your dog in his crate, in the tub or outside. When you decide to do one of those three things, don’t ask the dog to comply, and don’t negotiate. Avoid directly interacting with him, and just pick up the leash. Then, turn your back on him and begin to move in the direction you want him to go; he will have no choice but to follow. Praise him as he moves along with you, but don’t turn to face him, and don’t stop. When you have succeeded in getting him to the desired destination, offer more praise or any other reward you choose — treats, petting, etc. To make this process even more successful, I suggest practicing even if you have no intention of really needing to place him in the crate, the tub or outside. Throughout the day get a few repetitions in of ignoring Max, picking up the leash, turning your back on him, and walking him out the back door or to the crate or tub. Once he’s where you want him, praise him and release him to hang out with you inside again. This way your dog is not likely to resist going with you, because it usually results in praise and freedom once again.

Q: I’m confused about what I should allow my dog to do on a walk. Should I let him stop and sniff at every bush and tree or follow the advice of my trainer and make him walk only at my side? A: There are no absolutes here; you get to decide what you prefer, and then your job is to teach your dog what you want. I teach my dogs to walk at my side on a loose leash, and put it on cue (“Let’s go”). We pass by all sorts of distractions, including bushes, trees, kids, cats, etc., and yet my dog’s job is to ignore those things and continue to walk with me. When I decide, I give my dogs a different cue (“Get busy”) when we get to an area where I’ve determined it’s OK for them to stop walking at my side and enjoy a good sniff around, and take a potty break if they’d like. The important concept to note here is that it is my decision, not the dog’s. So figure out what you want your dog to do on walks, the cues you will want to teach him, and then begin by teaching each concept independently. Combine the two only when your dog understands each behavior separately. n — Lisa Moore, Modesto Bee

GOOD FOR YOU, GOOD FOR DOG Get out there and walk, but know your pet’s limitations


anted: A perfect exercise partner. One who improves physical capabilities and mental outlook, lowers blood pressure and raises morale, has no qualms going out at any hour of any day, is always happy to be with you, and who will never call to cancel your workout. Plus, face licks when you’re finished. Studies abound about the benefits of dog walking. People who walk their dogs are more likely to engage in additional forms of exercise, according to Michigan State University research. A University of Western Australia study found that seven of 10 adult dog owners get 150 minutes of exercise weekly, compared with four out of 10 nonowners. A study published in Preventative Medicine reported that people who walk their dogs are 25 percent less likely to be obese than people who don’t own dogs. “I have many clients who come in and say, ‘My dog and I are going on an exercise program together. We’re going to walk every day,’” says veterinarian Lynda Van Antwerp, owner of Carrollton West Pet Hospital in Texas. “Diet and exercise is a huge portion of all our (pets’) health problems like it is with people,” she says. When people call the pet hospital and are put on hold, they hear, not elevator music, but information about the health benefits of owning a pet. Alexandria Williams is the co-founder of Sporty Afros (, an organization that encourages exercise, especially for black women. At community events, she touts the benefits of exercising with dogs. “I say, ‘You have a pet? Walk.’” says Williams. “Fifteen, 30 minutes a day, four to five days a week. You could lose a pound every other week doing that without changing anything else. Plus, psychologically your pet enjoys it, and you’re getting out of the house, letting your mind flow.” Angela Turnage and Michael Friedhoff adopted their dogs, Shasta and Nevada, from the SPCA within a few weeks of each other. The couple first walked the

dogs, teaching them not to pull ahead, then began running with them. Turnage tends to run with Nevada, who weighs 45 pounds, and Friedhoff with 75-pound Shasta. “Nevada and I run really well together,” says Turnage, 51, a former teacher. “She’s skittish, though. She tends to sidle up to me when a big truck goes by. I have fallen down. She got underfoot and wasn’t looking where she was going.” That’s one reason Turnage doesn’t take the dogs to group runs or to races, a courtesy that Lewis George, owner of Mellew Productions, appreciates. His company produces runs and doesn’t allow dogs at any races. When people ask why, he tells them, “You’re involving a dog with a (leash) attached to where people aren’t looking. That’s why I have liability insurance.” In addition to the danger issue for people, he also knows that many dogs aren’t ready or cut out for a race. During one of his 5Ks, a dog collapsed at the finish line. “It was an overweight dog with a big thick coat,” George says. “There were people ready to beat the woman who was running with him. People just don’t take responsibility. I don’t blame the dogs. I blame the people with the dogs.” Ron Billmyre of Dallas runs with his Weimaraner. He says if a dog cannot hold a pace faster than yours, you shouldn’t be running with it. “Unfortunately, most people assume since it’s a dog, it can run, when in fact most are not bred for distance.” After you get the OK from your doctor about starting an exercise program, take your pet in for a vet checkup, says James Bias, president of the SPCA of Texas. “It’s not rocket science,” he says. “Like people, you need to build up. If you’re going to participate in a 5K with your dog, build up your dog’s capacity prior to the event.” n — Leslie Barker Garcia, Dallas Morning News

ROVER RX The health benefits of pet ownership


umans are the complete social being. Like many animals, humans live in our own packs and strive to form a connection with other living things. In 10,000 B.C., dogs, thought to be the first domesticated animal, were found buried cradled in the arms of their owners. In 7,500 B.C., the first evidence of domesticated cats was found in Egyptian burials. “Pets continue to be an optional part of our modern lives. Research shows that our desire to connect with our pets can be a valuable asset for those struggling with physical and emotional pain; mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety; and environmental factors, such as loneliness,” says Jennifer Wickham, licensed professional counselor at Mayo Clinic Health System. The potential benefits of pet ownership and pet therapy were first explored in research in the 1980s. This research found that the companionship of pets may be important in fostering positive mental health and well-being in people (McNicols, 2005). In July 2011, the American Psychological Association reported on a study that found pets serve as an important social and emotional support

for “everyday people” and for those with “significant health challenges.” This study examined the outcomes of those individuals who owned a pet and those who did not. The results show that “pet owners fared better in terms of well-being outcomes.” “Though not a replacement for social interaction with people, pets do provide social support and stress reduction,” adds Wickham. “We know, through medical research, that increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol slows immune response to injury sites. When this occurs, the healing process can be delayed, causing increased recovery times. Developing strategies for reducing stress in everyday life and in health crisis situations has been a recent focus for all.” Many hospitals and clinics now have policies allowing pets to be present to provide emotional support and companionship to ease the stress of illness and pain. “So if you own a pet, take good care of them, because they take care of you. Their unconditional love for us bestows many wellness benefits,” says Wickham. n — Mayo Clinic News Network

ABOUT THAT DOG Sometimes, dogs just don’t like each other Q: We have two dogs. One is a pug who weighs about 20 pounds. The other is a Brussels Griffon, also about 20 pounds. Quick history: My son got the Brussels Griffon at his house, and it got along with the cat that was already there. Then came a pug puppy and everything was good between the dogs. Then a new baby arrived. The dogs were good with the baby until the pug snapped at him one day. So my son gave us the pug to watch until he could figure out what to do. We already have a rescue dog. The rescue dog and the pug became best of friends. We decided to keep the pug. Even though the pug and the Brussels got along fine before this moving around of the dogs, the Brussels and the pug now hate each other. (We have since converted our home to a two-family and we all live there.) Although we have a gate that separates the two units, the dogs will charge at each other and then fight at the gate. The fights that happen when someone leaves the gate open are quite fierce. Can you give us any clues or advice? A: A question like this is a brutal reminder that no matter how much we love our dogs and are fascinated by them and their ways, they are still animals and some just do not like each other. In a state of nature, two such animals would go their separate ways. A professional dog behaviorist may be able to help out here by putting muzzles on the dogs and allowing them to interact doing fun things in a neutral setting over a long course of time. However, the situation will always be rather delicate, and you and your family will always be walking on eggshells around the dogs. There may be those who disagree with me, but you just may have to either resign yourself to the situation and keep the dogs apart or do your best to re-home one of them. — Marc Morrone, Newsday

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