Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Welcome to Monday Rufferences and Mews!

It may not be practical--or desirable--to get your kids a puppy or kitten for Christmas. But never fear, the hot new trend this year might appease your kids' desire for a pet, while saving a fortune on dog food. Enter this year's must-have holiday toy, Zhu-zhu pets, little robotic hamsters that have their own tracks, balls and play systems. What do you say, Yay or Nay?

A great idea from the Humane society of the United States is to put together a pet's first aid kit. Why not put one together for a great holiday gift for any animal lover?

Has your cat grown finicky, refusing to eat it's food? Or developed an allergy? Here are some tips for switching your cat's food.

Need some help around the house, or just a good laugh? Check out these videos of cats doing windows, dishes, even vacuuming!

There are so many working dogs for people with disabilities, our seniors, and assisting our police forces. Here's another type of working dog. Meet Bailey, a reading therapy dog.

If the dog or cat hair is becoming a problem, help is on the way. Check out this helpful article on the Furminator and other pet grooming tools.

What do you think? Will you be purchasing a zhu-zhu pet this Christmas? What do you keep in your pet's first aid kit? And, if you use the Furnimator or other similar tool, how do you rate it? I look forward to your comments.

Check back next week for more Monday Rufferences and Mews!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Spot the Fat Dog

Since my book is about dieting with my dog, I'm always interested in other pet owners' struggles with keeping their pets slim and trim. Most often, the pet weight gain is simply a case of a few extra pounds due to a few too many doggie cookies or table scraps. Well-intentioned owners (like myself) may overfeed their pet as a misguided way of showing love. Kelly gained about 8 extra pounds, which was substantial on her then 35 pound cocker-spaniel sized frame.

Sometimes, however, the situation truly gets out of control. An interesting post on the blog Dog-Owned Life by Mark Ramirez alerted me to an obese British Dalmatian which topped the scales at 154 pounds. The owner fed the dog chocolate and crisps (potato chips).

This Dalmatian was so fat he could barely move. So sad. Fortunately, last June the dog was taken from its owner and put on a diet. According to officials, "Pet owners have a legal duty to provide proper care under the Animal Welfare Act." Now the dog is a healthy weight and will be taken into a new home. The owner was banned from having pets for ten years.

What worked for Kelly was no table scraps, smaller size dog biscuits, and lots of daily walks. It takes effort, but she's slimmer and happier now. And so am I!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Were there pets on the Mayflower?

When thinking about the first Thanksgiving, the obvious question on everyone's mind is, "Were there pets on the Mayflower?"

Okay, maybe it's not the first question that comes to everyone's mind, but as I was sitting down to write this column today, I couldn't stop myself from wondering.

I was reading an interesting article in Parade magazine called "Be a Pilgrim for a Day," by A.J. Jacobs, who discussed the probable first Thanksgiving menu: venison, lobster, eel, mussels, fish, radishes, turnips and spinach. And some sort of fowl, maybe duck, swan, pigeon...or the ever popular turkey. And maybe thinking about all those animals--albeit some edible--maybe that's when my mind wandered to the question of pets on the Mayflower.

It turns out, there were pets on the Mayflower! The 1622 book Mourt's Relation, (actually titled A Relation or Journal of the Beginning and Proceedings of the English Plantation Settled at Plimouth in New England) describes two dogs; a Mastiff and a Spaniel.

According to the site The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony: 1620 "The first indication of Pilgrim dogs being present comes during the second exploration of discovery....During that exploration the group of men stumbled upon two Indian dwellings. In recounting what they found, we were told they found two or three pieces of venison thrust into a tree, which they thought 'fitter for the dogs than for us.'....This passing remark would seem to indicate John Goodman and his two dogs were with that group of men."

I'm very happy to know there were dogs with the Pilgrims, perhaps lying under the table begging for scraps on the first Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Welcome to Monday's Rufferences and Mews!

*If you have some pig ears or beefhoof treats for your dog, check this pet treat recall before giving theses snacks to your dog.

* Buy in bulk, look for coupons, even shop online. Consumer Reports shares ways to save on pet care. One surprise? Skip health insurance for pets.

*Can't get a real pet for the holidays? Check out this year's hottest fad toy, Zhu Zhu Pets.

*Need a laugh? Check out the Pet Source USA blog for crazy pet hair!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Learning about your pet's personality

I came across an interesting post this week by Dr. Narda Robinson, on one of my favorite blogs, Pet Connection. The article describes ways of better understanding and interacting with our pets.

This brought to mind an interview I did recently with Animal Planet's Joel Silverman, about his book What Color is Your Dog? Joel assigns colors to dog personality traits. The Pet Connection article shares a Chinese system of five "phases."

from Pet Connection:
"The five categories of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water represented changes these ancient naturalists witnessed over the day, the year, and the life cycle as well as interrelationships between organs, emotions, people, and climate. The model embraces, expects, and accepts metamorphosis.

Much like the personality profiles of modern psychology, Five Phases analysis groups people and animals into constitutional categories based on psychological and physical manifestations. While not yet a scientifically validated means of determining Chinese medical treatments for humans or animals, identifying a predominant phase out of balance in an individual seems to provide clues about what a patient needs to restore homeostasis.

For example, a task-oriented metal-type dog needs a job to do, while the earth-type cat needs a warm lap."

I recommend this article to learn more about your pet--are they Wood, Earth, Fire, Metal, or Water?

By the way, I believe Kelly is Wood.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sympathy Cards for Pets

We love them. We take care of them. They take care of us. And because our pets are a part of our family, we grieve when they are gone. (Left: our pal Hudson, who we still miss.)

Recently my friend Sheryl asked me if I knew of an site with sympathy e-cards to encourage someone who had lost a pet. I looked around and turned up a few wonderful sites:

Blue Mountain Cards



American Greetings

Happyday cards

If someone you know is missing that special furry friend in your life, sending one of these e-cards is a great way to show you care. Another friend, Donna, also shared these two helpful pet grief sites: and pet loss support page.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Rufferences and Mews

Welcome to Monday Rufferences and Mews!

* Dogster announces their very first Dogster iPhone Application! It’s called Dog Park, and allows you to stroll through the virtual dog park, chat with friends and meet other dog people on the go. Check it out! Sounds like fun!

* Have you heard about this hero dog? Sabi, a black Australian labrador and American army bomb sniffing dog was separated from her unit and lost in the desert for a year. Happily, she was found and is now reunited with her unit. (From the Syney Morning Herald.)

* I just love this dog trainer's look at obedience school drop outs from Rachel Baum's fun blog Bark: confessions of a dog trainer.

* Gina Spadafori reminds pet owners that ferrets are susceptible to the H1N1 virus.

* Are you thinking of giving a dog as a Christmas gift? Edie from Will My Dog Hate Me suggests you might want to think twice.

What do you think? Is your dog an obedience school dropout? Have you ever given a dog or cat as a Christmas gift? I'd love to hear from you.

Join us again next Monday for more Rufferences and Mews!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Best Welcome Home

One of my favorite things about my dog Kelly is how she greets me when I come home. If my husband Mike happens to walk in the door first, she pushes past him to get to me, and jumps and whines as if my return is the happiest moment of her life. It feels good to be so adored.

Recently I was away for a weekend. Kelly did fine at home with the rest of the family, but when I returned she gave me a welcome of epic proportions. She jumped and rubbed her head against me and made noises that can only be described as cries of joy. Then she sniffed me all over, even my hair. I wondered what kind of information she was picking up from the smells. Could she somehow discern where I'd been? When she was done gathering her olfactory data, she snuggled up beside me, and followed me around the rest of the day.

Here is a touching video of a golden retriever greeting her soldier Dad when he came home. Grab the tissues!

You can see more of these touching videos here at mentalfloss.

How does your dog react when you return home? Is it the same if you've been away for 15 minutes as when you've been away for a week, or do you detect degrees of differences? Does she have a funny little routine when you come home? I'd love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Eat This Not That for Your Pet

Please welcome our special guest blogger, Adrienne Carlson from over at Veterinarian Technician Schools Online. Her blog is full of informative, thorough information for pet owners, and I encourage you to check it out. Today she helps us become aware of foods that may not be healthy for our pets.

Adrienne, take it away...!

25 Common Foods That Can Be Toxic for Your Pet

Your pet’s health is fragile. Sure, pets were once wild animals, but don’t forget that your pet isn’t the same as a human. Although it may think otherwise.

Knowing what can harm your pet is the first step in illness and disease prevention. By avoiding harmful substances and foods, your pet will live a longer, healthier life, and your wallet will thank you too for avoiding veterinary bills that could have been prevented with a little caution and care. These 25 common household foods can be lethal to your furry or feathered buddy. Many of these examples are foods that a typical pet owner would never think twice about giving their dog, cat, hamster or bird, but your pets can suffer greatly from things we humans love to eat on a regular basis. As a pet owner, your best bet is to stick with veterinary approved foods specifically made for your pet.

1. Fatty Meats like Ham - Fatty and greasy meats that people eat like ham or beef can seriously damage a dog’s pancreas and cause pancreatitis. Actually a high fat diet of anything is very bad for dogs and can lead to this serious and costly illness. Most dogs will recover from severe pancreatitis, but other complications can develop like diabetes. Avoid giving your pooch table scraps no matter how sad their eyes may be.

2. Walnuts - Walnuts and their hulls are particularly poisonous to dogs and horses. Even laying on black walnuts can cause respiratory distress, stomach upset and laminitis, or the inability to move around. Dogs are more susceptible to black walnut poisoning after ingesting the hulls or shells of the nut. Dogs poisoned by walnuts will often vomit and have diarrhea.

3. Coffee and Espresso Beans - Coffee and espresso beans, as well as the grounds of both, can have strong side effects on dogs if ingested because of the caffeine in the beans. Dogs can experience excessive hyperactivity, restlessness, difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, seizures and tremors. Too much caffeine can also be fatal. If you suspect that your dog has eaten coffee beans or coffee grounds, look for signs of vomiting or diarrhea.

4. Teas and Sodas - Teas and sodas are also bad for dogs because of the caffeine in them. Don’t let your dog eat the tea leaves either.

5. Salt - Salt can seriously dehydrate dogs and cause gastrointestinal irritation. Depending on how much salt a dog ingests, the symptoms may be more or less severe. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, excessive thirst, sluggishness and disorientation.

6. Potato, Tomato and Rhubarb Leaves, Vines and Stems - The leaves, stems and other green parts of these roots and vegetables are highly toxic to most pets including birds. The leaves, stems and vines of these plants contain oxalates, which can harm the digestive, nervous and urinary tract. Symptoms of oxalate toxicity are dilated pupils, heart arrhythmias, irregular heart beat and tremors.

7. Liver - A diet of too much liver can lead to vitamin A toxicity. Liver flavored pet food and treats are fine to give to your furry friends though.

8. Peaches - Peach pits contain small amounts of cyanide that can be toxic to all pets.

9. Pears - Pear cores also contain trace amounts of cyanide. Avoid giving your pets pears, peaches and plums.

10. Plums - Another pit that contains trace amounts of cyanide. These revelations may almost makes you want to give up the fruits yourself, but the cyanide levels contained in plums, peaches and pears are not harmful to humans.

11. Fruit Pits like Cherry Pits or Apricot Pits and Apple Cores - Other fruit pits and cores like the kinds from cherries, apricots and apples also contain cyanide which is harmful to pets of all kinds. The fruit of apples are fine to give to pets, but be sure to core the fruit thoroughly first.

12. Broccoli - In large amounts, broccoli can possibly be bad for pets. Gastrointestinal upset is common in livestock that are fed broccoli in excess of 10 to 25 percent of the animal’s diet. The same could be true for pets like dogs and cats, but since most people do not give their pets a diet consisting of 25 percent broccoli, the same conditions have not been recorded in great detail. Broccoli contains isothiocyanate, the tummy upset culprit. To be on the safe side, don’t give your pets the green stuff.

13. Milk or Dairy Products - Just like humans, pets especially dogs can be lactose intolerant. Some cats and dogs will be able to digest dairy products with no problem, while others will get bad stomach aches. The ability to digest dairy products depends on a person or pet’s ability to produce an enzyme called lactase, which is used in the break down of lactose. Giving your pet a lick of your ice cream cone won’t kill it, but if your pet happens to be lactose intolerant you may be responsible for your pet’s tummy ache later.

14. Tuna - Tuna seems like a natural choice to give your feline friend, but it can be toxic. Feeding a cat too much canned tuna can result in Steatitis or yellow fat disease, a painful inflammatory condition caused by a diet high in unsaturated fatty acids. Feeding your cat excessive amounts of canned or packaged tuna can also lead to mercury poisoning.

There are others foods on the list, such as chocolate, chicken bones and raisins. For the complete list of 25 foods, please visit Veterinary Technician Schools Online.

For more information on pet health and toxicity, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center .

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to help a stray dog

Last Sunday I saw a beautiful golden retriever on the side of a busy street, lined with businesses and homes. She was at the end of a long driveway, and it was possible that she lived in the house up the drive and had been trained to go no further than she was. But one more step and she would have been in trouble.

For as long as I could see, I watched her standing, not moving, looking at the cars whizzing by. I was so worried for her, but I didn't know what to do. Should I turn around, find a place to pull over, and approach her to search for ID tags? What if approaching her caused her to dart out into the road? If she had no tags, would I then take her into my car and drive off with her? What if the owner was nearby, claiming I was stealing his dog? Or watching from out the window of a house? No, I don't think it's responsible to let your dog loose around a busy street, but maybe the dog was on it's own property. Should I have gone up to the house, rung the bell, and asked if that was their dog standing at the end of the driveway?

I certainly didn't want this dog to get hit by a car, but couldn't decide about the right thing to do.
Have you ever been in this position? What did you do?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Happy Birthday Bo Obama

In honor of Election Day, I'd like to share some information on Bo, the presidential pooch, who just turned 1 year old this fall. The First Dog has made the Portuguese Water Dog a popular breed. The official portrait of Bo Obama. Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

On Tuesday, April 14, First Pooch Bo made his official debut, met the press, and became a new pal for Malia and Sasha Obama. No wonder we all want one now! According to Stu Freemen, president of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, the PWD is “a wonderful family pet,” but also encourages those considering adopting one to "do the proper research to ensure that this breed fits their lifestyle." Here are five things you should know about Portuguese Water Dogs:

1. PWD are very active.
These dogs are classified as Working Dogs, and they love to be on the go. Breeders recommend a minimum of two 20-minute sessions of free running in a fenced yard each day. Puppies that aren’t kept busy can be destructive, trying to work off all that built-up energy.

2. PWD are intelligent and curious.
The breed’s intelligence helps them to respond well to training. Bo has already been through obedience classes and learned to be a Canine Good Citizen. Bored puppies, however, will find some way to entertain themselves!

3. PWD are generally good with children.
As family dogs, Portuguese water dogs are gentle and loyal. Most love kids, but it’s always best to supervise children and dogs whenever they’re together.

4. PWD are hypoallergenic.
According to the American Kennel Club, this dog is considered non-shedding, and his fur is non-allergenic--good news for families with allergies. However, the thick curly coat requires regular brushing and clipping.
5. PWD like the water.
As the name implies, Portuguese water dogs love to swim. With their webbed feet, they were bred to assist fishermen in Portugal. Most PWD will do anything to get to water, so families with pools and ponds need to take this into consideration. One owner even reported their PWD learned how to turn on the Jacuzzi and jump into the tub!

For the right families, Portuguese water dogs make wonderful, loving pets. For more information about this breed, visit the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

This column first ran on, March 2009.