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What is Heartworm Disease?

One of the best things you can do for the health of your pet cat or dog is to make sure that he is tested annually for heartworm disease. In addition, the American Heartworm Society is recommending that preventive medication is given regularly.

Heartworm disease is what it sounds like: worms that invade the arteries of the lungs and in the ventricles of the heart, causing illness and even death. These parasitic worms are passed onto our pets from mosquitoes that are found throughout the U.S.

First, a mosquito will bite an animal (dogs, cats, and other mammals such as wolves, foxes, and raccoons) to feed on its blood. If the animal is infected with what’s called microfilariae, or the young produced by adult female roundworms, the mosquito will become infected with the microfilariae.
Passing through the mosquito like this is the only way the heartworm microfilariae can mature into larvae. This is typically a 10- to 14-day process, and longer in colder climates. When a mosquito carrying larvae bites an animal, it releases the larvae, which mature into the dangerous roundworm that can potentially kill an animal.
In dogs, it takes only about six months for the larvae to mature into worms. In cats, it can take a month or two longer. Eventually, the worms can make their way into the arteries of the lungs and heart. Adult heartworms can grow to a length of up to 12 inches and will live up to seven years in dogs and about 3 years in cats.
Dogs are more susceptible to heartworm. Cats seem better able to fight off microfilariae and even larvae. If they get infected with heartworms, the number and longevity of adult worms are smaller in cats than in dogs. If, however, the cat is unable to fight off the infection, it’s bad news because treatment options for cats is limited. And for cats, just a few adult worms can cause sudden death.

What are the Symptoms of Heartworm Infection?

It’s important to know that in the earlier stages of infection, dogs and cats may not exhibit any symptoms. Your pet’s bloodstream can be carrying the microfilariae, which won’t develop into the adult worms until after it goes through the mosquito again for maturation into the larval stage. Even if your pet is carrying adult worms, if it’s a small number of worms, there may not be any obvious symptoms.
In cats, symptoms can be mistaken for asthma or other illnesses. Unfortunately, more obvious symptoms develop after there is a larger number of heartworms inside your pet.
Some symptoms of infected dogs:
  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing
  • lethargy
  • weight loss

Some symptoms of infected cats:

  • difficulty breathing
  • coughing
  • gagging
  • vomiting
  • lethargy
  • weight loss
As the number of worms increase, the severity of symptoms will also increase. When there is a large number of worms disrupting the proper functioning of the lungs and heart, the animal can faint, collapse, and go into shock.

How Can I Prevent Heartworm Disease?

It’s fairly easy and painless for you to take steps to prevent heartworm. First, you should have your veterinarian check to see if your pet has been infected. There is a blood test available to check for the heartworm antigen, which is
produced by a mature female worm that is producing microfilariae. The body recognizes antigens as foreign and fights to rid itself of them.
The test might not pick up the infection if there are only a few worms. Another blood test checks for microfilariae, and a third test checks for antibodies produced by the larvae of the heartworm. This third test can only determine if the pet was exposed to the heartworm larvae at some point in time, but not necessarily that it is currently infected because the antibodies can be detected even after the heartworms have died and the animal is no longer infected.
X-rays, Ultrasonography or echocardiography can also be performed to determine if there are adult worms in the lungs or heart. If there is no infection, preventive medicine is available from the veterinarian. There are several oral, topical, and injectable medications available. Consult with your veterinarian to get your pet tested and then start him on a heartworm preventive plan.

How Can Heartworm be Treated?

If it turns out that your dog has heartworm, there is treatment available. However, the treatment can be harsh and difficult. The medicine used to kill the heartworm is usually a derivative of arsenic and is very hard on the dog. Some doctors will keep the dogs in the hospital so they can most effectively confined them and restrict their movements.
First, the adult worms are killed, then the microfilariae and larvae are killed. The worst side effects come when the adult worms die off and start to decompose, releasing substances that the dog’s body must fight off. This causes inflammation. In addition, the dead worms can block the arteries and veins even more, causing loss of blood flow.
Sometimes the worms can be surgically removed. Unfortunately, the treatment for cats is limited to supportive care and monitoring the cat’s condition. In some cases where the cat is not responding the supportive care, medication aimed at killing the adult worms can be administered, but then the cat suffers side effects of the decomposing worms inside their bodies.
More uncommonly, surgery may be performed to remove the worms. In the end, the best thing you can do for your pets is to make sure you communicate with your veterinarian and provide the most appropriate detection and prevention methods. Also consult with your vet about any new medications and treatment methods that are being used to combat this deadly infection and disease.

Introducing Your Pet and Human Baby

One of the most significant and happy moments in people’s lives are when they bring home a new-born baby. It’s a time of joy and celebration, but it’s also a time of serious contemplation and adjustment, especially if you have pets at home.

With all the things you have to think about as new parents, your pets might not seem like a big deal, and they won’t be as long as you give the situation some time and consideration.

Here are a few tips to consider utilizing for a smooth transition from a home with just you and your pets to one that includes a baby.

While You Are Pregnant

First of all, before you even bring baby home, keep in mind that pregnant women should avoid cleaning the cat litter box. Exposure to cat feces or soil that might be contaminated by parasites can lead to toxoplasmosis, a dangerous disease that can cause serious birth defects.

These parasites can also be found in raw or undercooked meat, and unwashed fruits and vegetables. Outdoor/indoor cats can become infected if they eat birds or mice that carry this parasite.

To avoid this danger, have someone else clean the litter, avoid handling raw meat, and avoid gardening (soil may contain this parasite). Clean any utensils, knives, and cutting boards that have had contact with any raw meat. If you have to clean litter, use rubber gloves and wash hands thoroughly afterward. You can always have a blood test done by your doctor to ensure that you weren’t exposed to this parasite.

Bringing Home Your Baby

When you are ready to bring the baby home from the hospital, remember that you probably treated your pet as the “baby” up until that point. Your pet will have to adjust to the new situation. There are a few things you can do in the weeks before you have your baby to start adjusting your pet to the new family member.

You might want to consider exposing your pet beforehand to baby items and scents, such as a crib, bassinet, stroller, rattles, baby powder, and lotions. You can also use a recording of a baby crying to get them accustomed to the sound.

Since you will most likely have less time to spare for your pet, start decreasing the time you spend with him. If you might have to change any routines post-baby, start changing them well in advance of baby’s arrival. Don’t drastically decrease the time and affection you give your pet. You want your pet to view the new baby as a positive experience, and not associate it with losing your attention and affection.

If your pet hasn’t been exposed to babies or young children before, take the time to do that. Ask relatives or neighbors to visit with children and supervise the visits.

If you have a dog, make sure the dog has had obedience training and will listen to your commands. Your dog should especially respond to basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “no” or “leave it.” If you have a cat, make sure the cat’s claws are neatly trimmed or covered with specialized nail covers or caps.

Before you head home, you might want to have someone bring an item of clothing or a blanket with the baby’s scent on it to get them used to it.

It’s okay for a pet to be curious about the baby, but set clear boundaries. Don’t allow your dog or cat to get too close at first when you bring baby home. Have someone there to make sure you and your baby are safe from an overly-curious pet. Dogs should ideally be on a leash controlled by someone other than the mother during the first introduction.

Reward calm, good behavior with praise and affection. You may want to keep certain areas off-limits to your pet, such as a baby room. Keep soiled diapers securely contained so your pet can’t get into it. You can also set up a pet-only area where baby won’t be allowed.

If you think you may have a problem with your pet, consult a professional trainer or behaviorist to assist you in creating a safe and happy environment for your newly expanded family unit.


Why Does My Cat Go Potty Outside the Box?

As a cat-owner, it’s only a matter of time before you discover that your precious pet has left you an unpleasant surprise somewhere on the floor, usually not too far from his litter box. By surprise, I mean a piece of poop. I asked several cat owners and all have had this happen at one time or another.

The first time I encountered this situation, I wondered if my cat had done it on purpose. But I quickly concluded that it wasn’t a malicious act, but rather just an accident. I thought this because it was just a little bit. It wasn’t as if the cat squatted and left a big pile for me to find.

Plus, my cat has long fur, so I thought maybe it just got stuck on the fur on her rear end and it just fell off outside the box.

To avoid this once-in-a-while event, you can always trim the fur around your cat’s rear end. Be careful and use  clippers that are meant to trim animal fur. If you’re not sure if you can do this yourself, take your cat to a groomer for a trim.

If your cat is leaving you surprises that don’t seem like accidents, you should have the cat checked by your vet to eliminate the possibility of a medical condition. Sometimes an illness will cause a cat to urinate or defecate outside his litter box. And if you have an un-neutered male cat, he might spray urine to mark his territory. For most cats, having them neutered will halt the problem.

If nothing is wrong medically, think about what the cat might be unhappy about. One cat owner I know changed the litter she used for her cat, which the cat hated. She tried meowing about her displeasure for about half a day and when that got no response, she pooped on the lady’s comforter.

At first the owner was angry and disgusted. But after thinking about it, she realized it was her fault. She changed the litter back to the old stuff and the cat went back to using the litter with no problem.

If you haven’t switched kitty litter brands, check to make sure the litter is cleaned often enough. Sometimes cats will balk at using a litter box that is too dirty. And every cat is different. Some cats will use the box even if it’s slightly dirty and others will turn away unless it’s cleaned daily. Also be careful of strong scents. If you use a litter that has too much perfume or use a strong-smelling cleaner to clean out the box, that might turn your cat off and away.

If your box has a cover, try taking it off. Some cats don’t like to feel too enclosed when going to the bathroom. Or maybe the box is too small in the first place. Replace it with a bigger box and see if it makes a difference.

Some cats will avoid using the box if it’s not in a good location. If there is too much foot traffic around the box, the cat might not feel comfortable enough to use it. Just like us, cats like a little privacy. And if you have two or more cats, you might want to consider getting several boxes and putting them in different areas of the house.

Sometimes emotional stress can cause a cat to stop using the litter box. Try to pinpoint what might be stressing your cat and eliminate the cause if you can. Cats like routine. They can get stressed if you just move their litter box, so you can imagine that they might get pretty upset if you move to another house, add a new pet or person to the household, or even if you’re under some stress yourself.

One cat owner I know was worried when she introduced a new cat into the household. She thought her first cat would get angry/stressed and stop using the litter.

So to make the transition easier, she made sure to reassure her first cat constantly, playing with him, giving him extra affection and attention, being more liberal with the treats, and it seemed to work. The cat was annoyed as soon as he saw the new cat, but then adjusted to the situation fairly quickly because he loved the positive attention he was getting while the new cat was in the house.

If your cat is deliberately using other parts of your home as a toilet, he will most likely re-use spots. You can help stop that cycle by making the cat’s favorite spots undesirable. The scent left by the cat will draw it back to the same place over and over, so make sure to clean the area thoroughly and use a good enzymatic cleanser made to eliminate pet odors. Don’t use ammonia-based cleaners because ammonia smells like cat urine, and will draw your cat back to the spot.

You can try different deterrents like placing aluminum foil or wax paper where the cat went (they don’t like the feel of it under their paws). Cats don’t like the smell of citrus, so you might want to place citrus-scented items in the area. You may try double-sided tape, and there are several alarm deterrents, citronella deterrents, and other products that you can try.

As unpleasant as it may be to have our cats eliminate outside of the litter box, remember that punishing your cat by yelling, hitting, making loud noises, or squirting him with water won’t solve the bad bathroom habits. There is sure to be a reason behind your cat’s behavior and it’s up to you to figure out what is wrong and fix the problem.


Pig Ear Dog Chew Recall Due to Salmonella

A new dog chew recall came out today, March 8, 2011.

Jones Natural Chews Co came out with a press release today about a recall for their pig ear dog chews. They are recalling over 2700 boxes of pig ears due to possible contamination with Salmonella. People handling these infected treats can become sick, as well as the dogs that chew them.

People with Salmonella would have nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever, and worse. Dogs with salmonella poisoning would exhibit diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and worse.

The following brands of pig ears are affected.

  • Jones Natural Chews Pig Ears
  • Blain’s Farm and Fleet  Pig Ears
  • Country Butcher Dog Chews Pig Ears

To see a complete list of symptoms of salmonella, a list of states where these pig ears are being recalled from, and the complete list of pig ear brands, visit http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm246319.htm.


Dog Training is Not Yanking the Leash, it’s Commands

How many times are you out with your dog on the leash, and you find yourself just yanking on the leash when you want your dog to do something, or to stop doing something? Maybe, you might say something like “Hey!” or “What are you doing?” or something along those lines. Maybe there are some expletives in there too.

It seems that people have forgotten to talk to their dogs. If your dog has not been through obedience training, then now is the time to start your dog training. But, if your dog has been trained, and if you think your dog isn’t behaving as well as you think they should, then I want you to try something.

The next time you have your dog on the leash, try to remember your dog training. When you want your dog to leave somthing alone, give the command “Leave it!” When you want your dog to wait and sit at the corner, tell them to “Wait” and then tell them to “Sit.” Your exact commands that your dog learned may be different, so use those commands that you taught them.

I just bet that your dog remembers these commands. They may not perform them perfectly, but I bet they do pretty well with them. Don’t forget to praise your dog too. You see, they remember those commands, but it seems most people forget to use them over the months and years they have their dogs.

"dog training commands on leash"

When you get into the habit of not giving commands to your dog, then you find yourself just yanking on the leash whenever you want them to do something. This constant tugging on the leash will get old over time, and you will not enjoy your dog as much as you used to. You will probably begin to think that your dog is misbehaving.

Your dog doesn’t know what you want when you just tug on the leash. They need you to tell them what you want. And you tell them through commands. This is why you learned them, along with your dog. Begin using those commands again, and your dog will probably begin to listen to you.

You may still have to give a little correction with the leash, but you should do this after you give the command. This type of correction shouldn’t be drastic. If you learned clicker training, then you should always have the clicker with you. You should have treats with you for a reward, and you should give your dog lots of praise for a job well done. You should also give yourself praise for a job well done.

Get back to using your commands and using your dog training methods, and you will find that dealing with your dog on the leash is much easier, and you will feel better about your dog again, like it should be.

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Fostering a Pet

Pet ownership is a big responsibility, but it also brings with it a lot of joy. If you have the time, desire, and ability to provide a loving home to a dog, cat, or other animal, but are also willing to let the pet go after a time, you might want to consider fostering a pet.

Many pets that are up for adoption make the transition from a shelter to their forever homes with the help
of people willing to temporarily open their homes and hearts.

Fostering a pet means providing a temporary home for an animal that is on the road to adoption. You give
them all the things they need, such as food, shelter, and love. Sometimes the pet is in need of special
attention (psychological and/or medical), or is very young.

If you decide you’d like to foster a pet, consult with the organization that is putting the pet up for adoption for requirements, training, and special instructions. You should have supplies necessary for the health and well-being of the pet, such as food, toys, litter, beds, etc. Some organizations will take care of medical costs, so be sure to inquire about that.

Fostering a pet is no different than owning a pet, so you have the same responsibilities to care for the every day needs of your guest. In fact, some pets that need fostering will demand more of your time and energy. Some will be recovering from an illness or injury, some might be nursing kittens or puppies, and some might have socialization issues that need a lot of attention and patience.

One of the biggest considerations when fostering a pet is your ability to let the pet go when it gets adopted into a permanent home. It’s natural to get attached to a pet you care for, but you’ll have to be able to say good-bye at some point.

That may be days, months, or even years after you first begin to foster the pet, but it will happen. Of course, if you totally fall in love with the pet, you can always take the necessary steps to adopt him into your own home!

Contact your local humane society or animal shelter to find out if they have fostering programs and how you
can get involved. Requirements to become a foster home for a pet may vary depending on the organization.


Why You Need to Slow Down a Fast Eating Dog

If you have a dog that eats his food too fast, you need to slow down his eating to avoid several potential problems. Eating too fast can cause him to choke, vomit, or have gas. It can cause bloat, especially in breeds that are more susceptible to it, and it can cause digestive problems.

Sometimes my dog Storm wants to eat his food a little too fast. This is because he and the cats get themselves all worked up when it’s feeding time. I do like to feed them together, and I have ever since the cats were little kittens a few years ago. This is a case of anxiety. I took steps to minimize the anxiety, and to calm all of the animals at feeding time.

What caused all the fuss with my dog was food competition. I know my animals, and this was a very mild case of competition. Once I saw that he may eat too fast at times, I took steps to slow down his eating, without separating him from the cats while they eat.

There may be times when you do need to separate your animals when feeding them. This may be true if one dog is very aggressive and the other is very submissive, or if there are two very aggressive dogs or more. You know your animals, and you need to make this judgement.

It’s simple how I did it, really. All I did was put four hard rubber balls (these can be cleaned easily)  into his food bowl so he has to work around them to get his food. He’s a big dog with a big bowl. At first, he took a couple of the balls out himself, but I kept tossing them back in, and after about two feedings like this, he stopped bothering with them and just worked on eating his food. This slows him down a lot.

You can use this technique, or you can place large clean river rocks in their bowl, or you can use a special dog food bowl such as the DoPause dog food bowl, the Eat Slow- Be Healthy dog food bowl, the Brake-fast pet food bowl, or a variety of others on the market. If you use rocks, please watch your dog eat to make sure they will not damage their teeth while eating, and make sure they are large enough. Some dogs are voracious eaters.

Dogs should take from 2 to 5 minutes to eat their food, depending on how much they are fed. One of these techniques will work well for your dog.

You want to prevent your dog from eating too fast to prevent:

  1. Bloat – a case where the stomach becomes filled with excessive gas and becomes overstretched. The stomach may or may not twist along its axis. This can become fatal quickly.
  2. Choking – a case where too much food is entering into the esophagus, causing distention, and ultimately choking.
  3. Vomiting – if a dog eats too fast, the food is not properly chewed up and the lump of food will sit in the stomach and my be regurgitated.
  4. Gas – If a dog eats too fast, the accumulation of food in the stomach can cause excessive gas.

Slowing down your dog’s eating will help ensure that the food is chewed correctly and that they will receive all the nutrients from their food that they can. Eating food too fast robs your dog of getting his proper nutrients. It passes through your dog’s system without  being broken down completely, so your dog’s system does not get the full nutrient value of the food.

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Is a Candidate a Cat Person?

“Maybe in the future we should add one more question to those we ask of presidential candidates – we should ask them where they stand on cats. Better still, we should demand to see the cats these candidates say they have raised, just to make sure we are not having the fur pulled over our eyes.”

– Gilbert Gude


Thank you all so much for donating your old pet items, new pet items, or cash donations for our 2010 Presents 4 Pets  collection drive. The total tally for this past year’s drive came to over $5600. This is all due to those of you who donated.

Pet owners are the best, most caring people, and you have proved why. We were able to hand over these much needed items to local pet shelters and pet rescue organizations. We helped the Ohlone Humane Society, Furry Friends Rescue, Hayward Animal Shelter, Valley Humane Society, and the Tri-Valley Animal Rescue organizations.

They all were very grateful, and plan to put those items to good use, while rescuing and adopting out dogs and cats in need. This was our 3rd annual drive, and we are looking forward to the end of the year when we get to do this again.

Head over to our P4P page  to see the total of items collected.

Thank you all once again!

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