Monday, October 21, 2013

Cats are mysterious, even though they are the most popular pet

An interesting article about cats from the Washington Post..

Dogs we understand. Cats are mysterious, even though they are the most popular pet

Cats are the world’s most popular pets, outnumbering dogs by as many as three to one. This popularity is undoubtedly helped by the fact that cats are simultaneously affectionate and self-reliant: They need virtually no training; they groom themselves; they can be left alone without pining for their owners, but most nonetheless greet us affectionately when we get home.
In a word, they are convenient.
Even so, cats remain aloof and inscrutable. Dogs tend to be open, honest and biddable. Cats, on the other hand, demand we accept them on their terms but never quite reveal what those terms might be.
I’ve studied cats for years and shared my home with quite a few, but I don’t feel that this has taught me very much about what they are really like. But science has begun to provide some answers, especially about their relationship to humans. Why are cats so choosy about their objects of affection? And what does it mean when they hold their tail straight up? Read on.

The cat-human connection
Cats and humans go back a long way. DNA evidence identifies the pet cat’s ancestor as the Arabian wildcat Felis silvestris lybica and places its origins between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago in the Middle East.
It is likely that the first people to tame wildcats were the Natu­fians, who inhabited the Levant from about 13,000 to 10,000 years ago and are widely regarded as the inventors of agriculture. As such, they were also the first people to be bedeviled by a new pest: the grain-loving house mouse. Wildcats probably moved in to exploit this new resource. Realizing how useful this was — cats, after all, had no interest in eating grain — people probably encouraged them to hang around.

These were not pet cats as we know them. They would have been more like today’s urban foxes, able to adapt to a human environment while retaining their essential wildness.

Of course, the cat’s other qualities probably did not go unnoticed. Their appealing features, soft fur and ability to learn to become affectionate toward us led to their adoption as pets. Yet cats still have three paws firmly planted in the wild.

In contrast to almost every other domestic animal, cats retain remarkable control over their own lives. Most go where they please and when they please and, crucially, choose their own mates. Unlike dogs, only a small minority of cats has ever been intentionally bred by people. No one has bred cats to guard houses, herd livestock or assist hunters.

Cats can be very affectionate, but they are choosy. This stems from their evolutionary past: Wildcats are largely solitary and regard most other cats as rivals. Domestic cats’ default position on other cats remains one of suspicion, even fear.

However, the demands of domestication — the need to live with other cats, and then the forming of bonds with people — extended cats’ social repertoire.

Social behavior probably started to evolve as soon as cats began to congregate around granaries. Any cat that maintained its antagonism toward other cats would have put itself at a disadvantage when exploiting this resource.

Even today, wherever there is a regular source of food, a colony of feral cats will spring up, assuming local people allow it. Colonies can build up until several hundred cats are living close to one another.
In these colonies, society tends to be based on cooperation between genetically related females. Mothers often drive away their male offspring after a few months to avoid inbreeding, leaving them to lead solitary lives.

Where colonies consist of more than one family, these groups compete with one another. Cats seem to be incapable of sustaining a large number of friendly relationships or of forming alliances between family groups in the way that primates do; negotiation skills this sophisticated lie beyond their capabilities.

The switch to social living required a quantum leap in communication as cats became domesticated. For an animal as well-armored as a cat, a tiff might escalate into a dangerous fight unless a system of signaling evolved that allows cats to assess others’ moods and intentions. And this is precisely what happened.

The straight-up tail
For domestic cats, my research has shown that the key signal is the straight-up tail. In colonies, when two cats are working out whether to approach each other, one usually raises its tail; if the other is happy to approach, it raises its tail, too. The tail-up signal almost certainly evolved during domestication, arising from a posture wildcat kittens use when greeting their mothers. Adult wildcats do not raise their tails to each other.

Once an exchange of tail-ups has been established, one of two things occurs. Either the cats rub heads, flanks and sometimes still-raised tails before separating, or they engage in mutual grooming, which has profound social significance in many animals. Both rubbing and grooming are probably a way of cementing an amicable relationship.

The most important social skill a cat must learn in order to become a pet is, of course, how to interact with people. Even at the earliest stage of domestication, cats needed humans to protect and feed them when mice were in short supply. The cats that thrived were those that were able to reward people with their company. Yet cats are not born attached to people. They are born with an inclination to trust people only during a brief period when they are tiny.

Studies of dogs in the 1950s established the notion of a “primary socialization period,” when puppies are especially sensitive to learning how to interact with people. For dogs, this is between 7 and 14 weeks of age. The concept also applies to cats, but it starts earlier. A kitten that is handled regularly between 4 and 8 weeks generally develops a powerful attraction to people. One that does not meet a human until 10 weeks or later is likely to fear people for the rest of its life.

Do cats exposed early enough to humans have an emotional attachment to their people, as dogs do? We know that they have the capacity to feel affection for other cats, and so it is probable that their attachment to their people is an emotional one.

Most owners would say that their cat displays contentment by purring. Purring clearly does occur when a cat is contented, but a purring cat also may just be hungry, or mildly anxious. Some continue to purr even when their body language indicates they are angry. Occasionally, cats have also been heard purring when they were in distress or even during the moments before death.

Purring, then, does not necessarily reveal a cat’s emotional state. Instead, it seems to be what behavioral ecologists refer to as a manipulative signal, conveying a general request: “Please settle down next to me.”

However, other signals, may be more genuine displays of affection. Relationships between adult cats seem to be sustained mainly through mutual licking and rubbing. Many cats lick their owners regularly, but scientists have not yet investigated whether this represents affection. We know that cats that do not like each other never groom each other.

Cat owners also engage in a tactile ritual with their pets when they stroke them. Most owners stroke their cats simply because it gives them pleasure and because the cat also seems to enjoy it. But stroking may also have symbolic meaning for the cat. Most prefer to be stroked on their heads, the area toward which cats direct their grooming.

Many cats do not simply accept stroking passively; they invite people to stroke them by jumping on their laps or rolling over. They also indicate where they wish to be stroked by offering that part of their body or shifting position. By accepting stroking, cats are engaging in a social ritual that is reinforcing the bond with their owner.

While touch is very important, the upright tail is probably the clearest way cats show their affection for us. A cat approaching its owner with a raised tail will often rub on its owner’s legs. The form that the rub takes seems to vary from cat to cat: Some rub just with the side of their head, others rub down their flank, some make contact with their tail. Many walk past without making any contact or perform their rubs on an object nearby.

Because many cats rub most intensely when they are about to be fed, they have been accused of showing nothing more than cupboard love. However, few cats confine their rubbing to mealtimes, and when two cats rub, they exchange no additional reward. So an exchange of rubs is a declaration of affection.

The sound of mewsic
Another way cats attract our attention, of course, is by meowing. The meow is part of the cat’s natural repertoire, but they rarely use it to communicate with each other. Feral cats are generally rather silent. While all cats are apparently born knowing how to meow, each has to learn how to use this most effectively.

Once cats have learned that their owners respond to meows, many develop a range of sounds that, by trial and error, they find are effective in specific circumstances. In this way, many cats and their owners gradually develop an individual “language” that they both understand but that is not shared by other cats or owners.
So cats demonstrate great flexibility in how they communicate with us, which rather contradicts their reputation for aloofness. We could consider some of this behavior manipulative, but only to the extent that two friends negotiate the details of their relationship. The underlying emotion on both sides is undoubtedly affection.

Bradshaw is the director of the Anthrozoology Institute at the University of Bristol School of Clinical Veterinary Science in Britain. He has studied cat behavior for more than 30 years. This article, published in New Scientist, is based on Bradshaw’s new book, “Cat Sense” (Allen Lane/Basic Books).

Friday, October 11, 2013

Halloween Hazards for Your Pets

Halloween Hazards for Your Pets
Peter S. Sakas DVM
Niles Animal Hospital and Bird Medical Center
7278 N. Milwaukee Ave. Niles, IL 60714
Ph. 847-647-9325 FAX 847-647-8498


Halloween is a holiday that is great fun. Through the years more and more people have really become involved with extensive decorations in and around the house. In addition, there is the candy and trick or treating. Candy is around the house in bowls for the trick or treaters as well as the candy collected by your own kids as they canvas the neighborhood with their own trick or treating. If you have Halloween parties for kids or adults there will be food and drink around as well. With all this food, decorations and activities it can be a time of great danger for your pet. They will be attracted by the tempting smells and may eat what they should not. They may be intrigued by the shimmering, attractive decorations and begin to chew on objects that could cause severe medical problems. In addition, it can also be a stressful time for your pets due to the commotion involved with the holiday. During the holiday you must take steps to be certain that your pets will be safe from potential harm.

Trick or Treaters
It is always fun when trick or treaters come to the door; you admire them in their costumes, and hand out candy. However, your pets do not understand the significance of the holiday and recognize these people dressed in strange costumes as intruders so they want to protect their home against them. The constant ringing of the doorbell and groups of trick or treaters at the door can be quite stressful for your pets. Strangers in strange costumes can lead to a normal friendly pet becoming fearful or overly aggressive. Crating a pet can sometimes lead to them developing diarrhea or injuring themselves when they are confined in this fashion. It may not be a bad idea to keep your pets in a separate, quiet room, away from the door when trick or treaters arrive.

Halloween Treats/Candy
It is important for all family members to recognize that these treats are for people only and are not to be shared with pets. Candy wrappers and lollipop sticks can be hazardous if swallowed. Lollipop sticks and other plastic parts are especially dangerous if ingested by a pet as they can cause intestinal blockage and possibly rupture the intestines, which is life-threatening.

Almost everyone knows that chocolate is toxic for pets. Theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate is the cause of the poisoning, which can be deadly in dogs, especially, and other pets. They actually have an allergic reaction to the theobromine which can be quite severe. Some dogs may not have as severe of a response but it is not worth taking a chance with your pets. Chocolate should be avoided, do not think a little bit is not going to hurt! If your pet is sensitive to the theobromine it does not take much to cause a toxic reaction.

Depending on the amount ingested, chocolate (bakers, semi sweet, milk and dark) can be potentially poisonous to many animals. Theobromine levels are especially high in dark chocolates. In general, the less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it could be. In fact, unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobromine than milk chocolate. Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as 1/4 ounce of baking chocolate by a 10-pound dog. Halloween treats with chocolate are not appropriate for pets.

Artificial Sweeteners
Other chemicals found in certain candies can also be toxic to your pets. Xylitol, a sweetener found in some candies, mints, baked goods, chocolate, and gum can be toxic to pets if taken in large amounts. Ingestion of significant quantities can produce a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, incoordination and seizures. Foods containing Xylitol should be kept well out of reach of your pets. Do not take any chances with you pets. As stated before, do not think that a little bit is not going to hurt. You should have plenty of treats around the house that are appropriate for your pets and use them instead of candies.

Holiday Food
Avoid the temptation to feed your pets leftovers from your holiday meals. Your pet should be kept on its normal diet. Any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals that have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. Many of these foods are rich; especially those that are high in fat, and can often cause severe gastrointestinal disturbances in pets which could prove fatal. Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) is a very common disease of dogs and is frequently caused by the eating of table scraps. The pancreas plays a role in digestion of food but when an animal eats a rich or fatty meal, the pancreas is 'overstimulated' and the organ oversecretes enzymes leading to inflammation of the pancreas and surrounding tissues. Signs of pancreatitis include vomiting and abdominal pain, sometimes quite severe. The condition is very uncomfortable for the pet and sometimes can be fatal. If you notice these type of symptoms seek veterinary care.

Although some people may think it is humorous, never offer or allow your pets access to alcoholic beverages. Due to Halloween parties there may be alcoholic drinks carelessly left in areas where pets may be able to reach them. Place these unattended drinks in a safe location where pets cannot reach them. If enough alcohol is ingested, the animal could become very ill and weak. In severe cases they may go into a coma, possibly resulting in death due to respiratory failure.

Halloween Decorations
Animals are attracted to unusual or shiny objects which may be found around the house during Halloween used for decorations or wrapping. Dogs and cats cannot see in color so it is the shiny, shimmering or unusual appearance that attracts them. Birds can see in color, so color may definitely be a source of attraction to them. Keep aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers away from pets. Pets may swallow such material, leading to gastrointestinal irritation, causing vomiting or may even pass into the intestinal tract producing an intestinal blockage. Cats are quite often attracted to ribbons, bows, strings and other decorations which they may chew, swallow and develop intestinal blockage. In addition, twinkling lights or other interesting electrical decorations may prove attractive to your pets. They may chew on the cords which may lead to severe electrical shocks.

Keep the decorations out of the reach of your pets to avoid potential danger. If you notice that your pet is very interested in the decorations and may be chewing on them, be certain to relocate the objects in a safe place where you pet cannot get to them.

Exercise caution with lit candles around pets, which could easily become a fire hazard if knocked over by a wagging tail, a curious or frightened cat. This includes the candle placed inside the carved pumpkin, as the pumpkin could be toppled and the candle inside become a fire risk.

During Halloween decorative plants, such as pumpkins or decorative foods, such as corn and gourds are placed around the home to provide a festive holiday setting. These plants and foods though considered to be relatively non-toxic, can potentially cause gastrointestinal upset and may even result in intestinal blockage if large pieces are ingested.

Potpourri/Scented Candles
Liquid potpourri, commonly used to add pleasant scent to the home during certain holidays, can be hazardous to pets. Potentially severe damage to the mouth, skin and eyes could result from exposure to both heated and cool liquid products. Birds are especially sensitive to fumes or airborne toxins and caution must be exercised whenever you are using materials that produce fumes or odors. Use them in areas with good ventilation and keep your birds away from them. If you notice your bird is in respiratory distress, move the bird into an area away from the fumes, get good clean air flow in the area and seek veterinary assistance. Airborne toxins can be fatal to birds.

If you suspect your pet may have become exposed to a potentially toxic product or substance, contact your local veterinarian, a veterinary emergency clinic (if it is after hours for your regular veterinarian) or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately for assistance.

Pet Costumes
It has been quite the trend to dress pets up in costumes for Halloween. Although it can be quite entertaining to see pets in costumes, potential dangers do exist so precautions should be taken. Make sure that when the pet is dressed in a costume there is no interference with breathing, and the ability to see, hear, or move. In addition, if you plan to take your pet out trick or treating with you/your family, especially when it is becoming dark, it would be a good idea to have reflective collars or other reflective materials to ease visibility. (This goes for you and the kids as well)

Referenced from an informational flyer provided by the Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, Urbana, IL and the CVMA.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Local Bird Rescue Trying to Keep Shelter Open

Bird-lovers help keep parrot shelter open

By: Irv Leavitt | | @IrvLeavitt

A parrot shelter housed in a home in unincorporated Northbrook, threatened by a lack of legal underpinning for its existence, seems on more solid footing after agreements made during a Sept. 25 public hearing.

Richard and Karen Weiner, owners of Refuge for Saving the Wildlife, on the 1600 block of Central Avenue, made several concessions at the request of Kevin Freeman, acting chairman of the Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals. The Board is expected to make a recommendation on their application for a special use permit as early as its Oct. 28 meeting, with no additional public comment.

The hearing was convened to air the Weiners’ application for a county special use permit to allow keeping the birds, though some members questioned whether the permit was actually necessary. No ordinance directly addresses the Weiners’ operation.

The zoning board is a recommending body, and its decision will be sent to the Cook County Board for a vote.

The application was made after complaints about the home-based operation resulted in five citations, involving general storage of garbage and having more than three pets in a home. Those citations were frozen pending the application.

Richard Weiner, a Glencoe Public Safety lieutenant, agreed to confine the number of birds in the house to 80, and reduce the number of backyard cages from three to one. Only one outdoor cage holds an animal, a red-tailed hawk.

They had already hidden trash receptacles within heavy plastic enclosures.

They also agreed to park their cars inside their garage, instead of on their driveway, in case volunteers or visitors needed some of the six driveway spots.

The small Loop hearing room overflowed with fans of the parrot rescue, but only one neighborhood resident, a next-door neighbor, spoke in favor of the application.

Three residents living on the block opposed it.

The testimony from the opposing sides seemed to come from two different worlds.

Those who have been won over by the Refuge were glowing in their praise, while four neighbors said the refuge was ruining their neighborhood.

Several experts, including appraiser Ronald Brandt, said that there were no outward signs that more than 50 parrots were living inside Weiner’s house.

“You couldn’t hear them outside the house unless you put your ear up against (the door),” Brandt said.

“The home was typical of the neighborhood.”

Next-door neighbor Anne Pfeifer: “I don’t know how anyone would know that there are birds in there. The house is immaculate inside, and the outside is beautifully manicured.”

Attorney Susann MacLachan, called in by the Animal Legal Defense Fund when word got out about citations, said the home, and its circa 2009 parrot shelter expansion, “was spotless ... and the birds were extremely attached to Mrs. Weiner – who was there at the time – which is a very good sign.”

MacLachan said once she left the house, there were no audible bird sounds.

Local bird expert Pete Sakas, DVM, of the Niles Animal Hospital, testified that there was no place else in northern Illinois so capable of taking in unwanted parrots and similar birds as the Weiners’ refuge, which has been operating for about 17 years. He said that the disease testing, quarantines and adoption standards demanded by the operation were unmatched.

Weiner testified that he has numerous state and federal licenses for the shelter work, including for administering drugs. He said that when the house was expanded for the two parrot rooms, County inspectors were aware of the usage, and of the presence of the parrots.

After more than an hour of such testimony by the Weiners and their admirers, Ric Warchol, who lives two doors down, told the panel that “what they’re doing is wonderful, but it doesn’t belong in a residential neighborhood.”

He said the shelter attracted too much traffic and parking, and he could hear the birds. He said the shelter should be closed down.

He handed in 60 petition signatures against the Weiners’ application, but the way he got them was questioned by Freeman and fellow Board member Darryl Holmes.

Their problem with Warchol were the letters he sent throughout the neighborhood – marked in capital letters, “Urgent – save your homes (sic) value” – which maintained that the Weiners were seeking a zoning change.

Such a change would impact the entire neighborhood, they said, unlike a special use, which just affects their home as long as they own it.
“When you say ‘rezone,’ that means something much more permanent,” Freeman said.

“Some people who are here may have been misled if they read that.”

Warchol – owner or part-owner of Judy’s Mailing Service in Northbrook and Jimmy’s Charhouse in Riverwoods – several times said that he never complained about the traffic or the (now-removed) Dumpster until recently, because until the last year or so, there had “only been about 10 birds.”

But Freeman asked for the concessions, as he heard a handful of neighbors complain.

The traffic was so disturbing, Margaret Osadzinski said, “That it feels like a garage sale every week.”

She added, “Strangers around our house make me uncomfortable.”

Warchol said that the Weiners should move the shelter to a commercial area, but Richard Weiner said that would cost $3,700 per month. He said he’d already spent $33,000 unexpectedly to respond to complaints Warchol made about his shelter.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

5 Tips for Destressing Your Cat's Vet Visit

From the American Animal Hospital Association

5 Tips to De-stressing Your Cat's Vet Visit

“Chloe, why do you always hide under the part of the bed I can’t reach? I’ll have to use the broom to get you out and into that darn carrier. We have to be at the veterinarian’s office in 20 minutes!”

You’re not alone if you can identify with the above scenario. Getting your cat to the veterinarian every year (better yet, every six months) is important, even if your cat seems perfectly fine. But doing so can be a challenge. You might feel like the harder you try to get your cat into the carrier or the car, the more resistant your cat gets and the more frustrated you become. Some cat owners might even be so discouraged that they get to the point of avoiding the veterinary practice altogether, which means their cats don’t get the preventive care they need and deserve.

To keep your cat healthy by heading to the veterinarian, you need ways to make the trips less stressful. What can you do? The first step: Think like your cat. Consider what your cat must be feeling after being put into the carrier and then the car. After a stop-and-go trip, your cat arrives at a place where there are lots of strange noises and smells of unfamiliar animals. That’s scary stuff for most cats, especially those that aren’t used to traveling.

While it’s completely normal for cats to translate this fear into biting or scratching, especially when no escape route is available, no one—cats included—wants this kind of behavior to happen. What’s more, when a cat’s arousal escalates to this level, some people think the cat is mean. In reality, there is no such thing as a mean cat—only one that’s scared. So if your cat acts afraid of the carrier, the car, and, hence, the veterinarian, here are some tips to ease that fear—and your frustration.

1. Make the transport carrier your cat’s home away from home.
Use your cat’s carrier as a comfortable resting, feeding, and play location. To do this, keep the carrier out and accessible at all times, not just when you’re getting ready to take your cat somewhere. Line it with a soft blanket, lay favorite toys inside, and drop in treats every now and then. If your cat still doesn’t want to get into its carrier, consider getting a different carrier. It’s best to use a top-loading carrier with a top portion that’s easily removed. This feature lets veterinarians allow cats to stay in the bottom portion of the carrier during most of the visit, which makes cats feel more secure.

2. Train your cat to be a savvy traveler.
Get your cat used to riding in the car, beginning when it’s young for best results. Start by getting your cat into its carrier and carrying it around your house. Then graduate to getting your cat into its carrier and taking short drives around the block. Eventually build up to making a fun trip to the veterinarian for a meet-and-greet play session with no exam. After all these outings—even if you don’t leave your house—give your cat a fun reward, like a treat. Before heading to a veterinary appointment, give yourself plenty of time to get the cat into the carrier. And if you have time to spare, that’s all the better: Letting your cat wait in the carrier before leaving can ease its stress.

3. Let your cat play peek-a-boo.
Create a hiding place for your cat in the carrier by placing a towel or blanket from your home inside. Also, drape a towel or blanket over the outside of part of the carrier. Cats feel more secure when they have a place to hide, and the simple presence of a familiar blanket or towel may comfort your cat during your visit to the veterinary office.

4. Travel on an empty stomach.
Pets often get motion sickness. If you avoid feeding your cat before traveling, you’ll decrease the chance that your cat will get carsick. Plus, if your cat is a little bit hungry when it arrives at the veterinary clinic, it might be more willing to partake in the treats the veterinarian has to offer. This could make the visit more pleasant for your cat, for you, and for your veterinarian.

5. Talk to your veterinarian.
Ask your veterinarian how he or she handles fearful cats. Perhaps there’s someone at the practice who’s particularly tuned in to cats and can work patiently with yours. Keeping the cat in the exam room instead of taking it to the back might prevent further arousal, and many veterinarians and technicians can collect blood and urine samples right in the exam room.

Sometimes veterinarians will recommend giving your cat medications for motion sickness and anxiety before heading to the veterinary office. It’s usually best to avoid giving fearful cats sedatives, because they don’t calm fear but rather dull a cat’s ability to respond. What’s more, the sedative can make it difficult for your veterinarian to gain accurate information regarding your cat’s health. If your cat is extremely fearful, it may be safest and in your cat’s best interest for the veterinarian to administer an anti-anxiety or short-acting anesthetic so the doctor can perform a thorough examination and collect needed samples like urine and blood.

Communicate with your veterinarian to decide together the best way to ease your cat’s fears and provide the care it needs. After all, calming scaredy cats is the best way to keep them healthy, which keeps everyone happy.

Canine Calming
Fear and anxiety aren’t reserved for cats; dogs also can get nervous about visiting the veterinarian. Here are a few tips to help prepare your pooch for a fun trip to the doctor.
  • Keep the feline tips in mind. Many of the same strategies that work with cats also help dogs. Specifically, provide your dog with a crate that it can know and love, and practice traveling.
  • Reward with food. Giving your dog special treats is a great way to condition desirable behaviors. If you want your dog to respond well to new places, start by teaching basic commands and reward your dog with a treat when he obeys them. Graduate to giving the commands as you slowly add in distractions, such as taking your dog to the park to encounter squirrels, other dogs, and kids playing.
  • Tell the doctor. If your dog is shy or fearful, let the veterinary office know before your visit. You may be able to choose an appointment time when there will be few other dogs and cats in the waiting room, and the staff may be able to provide a more calm place for you to wait before your dog’s examination.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Dr. Sakas Appearing on National Catholic Radio 10/7/13

Dr. Sakas will be on the nationally broadcast radio show, "On Call" hosted by Wendy Wiese, on Relevant Radio, Monday, October 7th from 1-2 PM CST. It can be heard on 950 AM, 930 AM, 1270 AM or accessed through your computer at and listened to online. It is a call in show and Dr. Sakas has been a regular guest on the show. Their phone number for call ins is 1-877-766-3777.

Future dates have been set up....all between 1-2 CST. The remaining upcoming date for this year is Tuesday November 26th. We will keep providing updates.

If you cannot listen to it live, go to the "On Call" portion of the Relevant Radio website at, where you can hear this and past shows (7/9/13 and 9/21/13) in the archived shows section (where they are kept for a few months).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

10 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Dog

10 Things You Should Know Before Getting a Dog

Have you been dreaming of getting a dog ever since you saw the reruns of the television classic Lassie as a kid? Or maybe you were fortunate enough to watch the original series. While your dog might not be able to save you week after week from a burning building, a runaway freight train, or the bottom of a well (and in the time it takes to finish a 30-minute episode, too), owning a dog can be a wonderful experience.

Here are 10 things you should know and consider before choosing your canine friend.

1. Dogs take up a lot of time and energy. Yes, they are rewarding. But if you live alone and work twenty hours a day, then perhaps a dog is not the best choice for you. Hey, there are always those super-cool robot dogs.

2. If you are not often at home, and you really want a dog, you probably should invest in a dog walker. You'd probably be wise to choose a dog breed that isn't especially needy, too. Check out PetMD's Breedopedia to select from a wide variety of breeds.

3. Any dog you get should be suitable to not only your lifestyle, but your surroundings. If you live in a shoebox apartment, then a large dog is not a good choice. You don’t want your dog to develop health issues, be bored, or destroy things. Large dogs really belong in big places with lots of outdoor space.

4. Consider which breeds are suitable for your region's climate, especially if you have a yard and want to keep it as an outside dog.

5. Puppies require the most work when it comes to house training. If you: (a) don’t want your things chewed up, or (b) don’t have the time or money to train the puppy, consider adopting an already housebroken, adult dog.

6. Make sure you have lots of chew toys available for your puppy and keep all expensive things (like shoes and clothes) out of its reach; the same goes for chemicals and medicines. Puppies like to investigate and try everything, so make sure there is nothing dangerous around for them to sample.

7. Get your dog vaccinated and spayed or neutered as soon as possible. Oh, and take your dog to the vet for its routine checkups. Your dog will thank you for it and live a much better (and longer) life.

8. Get a proper leash and harness for your dog. A leash too small or too large may hurt it inadvertently during its walking routine, or, worse yet, allow it to hurt others or get loose and run away.

9. Health insurance is a must. Consult your veterinarian as to your best options.

10. Regardless of the dog breed you choose, have fun! They say there is no better friend than a dog. We have to agree.

It's National Pet Wellness Month!

Commit to Your Pet’s Health During National Pet Wellness Month

More than likely you visit the doctor and/or dentist at least once a year. Are you doing the same for your pet? Because cats and dogs age quicker than us, taking them to the veterinary hospital once a year is like you going once in five to seven years!

October is National Pet Wellness Month (NPWM); celebrate by committing to your furry friends’ health with annual wellness exams. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends annual wellness exams at a minimum, and as your pet gets older, AAHA suggests that the frequency of visits should be determined on an individual basis, taking into account the pet’s age, species, breed and environment. Talk to your veterinarian about what is right for you and your pet.

So, why take your pet in for a checkup at least once a year; “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” right? Wrong. It’s all about prevention! Why do you take your car in every 3,000 miles for an oil change, get a physical exam each year at your own doctor’s office or visit the dentist to have your teeth cleaned every six months? You do it to check on your overall health, catch issues before they become problems and prevent future catastrophes. Your pet shouldn’t be any different.

Dr. Jeff Chalkley of Westbury Animal Hospital in Houston, TX, shares Jonathan’s story as an example of just how important regular wellness checks can be.

Jonathan, an eight-year-old male, neutered Collie mix came in to Westbury Animal Hospital for a routine senior checkup and blood work. During the exam, the owner happened to mention that Jonathan had not been eating his breakfast very well for the past couple of days but would eat dinner very well. When I examined him, Jonathan expressed pain in his abdomen and had mild tartar on his teeth; otherwise, everything was normal. The blood work showed a few things that made me want to test further.

Further tests showed that Jonathan had Biliary Mucoecele, which is very much like a gallbladder stone in humans. This can cause the gallbladder to fill up with bile, causing severe pain and possible liver damage. This type of problem requires surgery within a few days; otherwise, there can be irreversible liver damage. Jonathan went home that day with medications and came back the following day to have surgery.

Jonathan was able to return home after three days in critical care. The time from the initial appointment to the surgery time was 48 hours. Jonathan had no other symptoms of disease other than not eating his meals. If his owner had not come in for Jonathan’s senior exam, too much time would have passed and the surgery would have been impossible. If the gallbladder had ruptured or the liver had undergone further damage for much longer, Jonathan may not have recovered so well after surgery.

Commit to Your Pet’s Health During National Pet Wellness Month
Commit to Your Pet’s Health During National Pet Wellness Month
When you go in with your pet for a wellness visit, your veterinarian will request a complete history of your pet’s health. Don’t forget to mention any unusual behavior that you have noticed in your pet, including:
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Excessive drinking of water, panting, scratching or urination
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain or weight loss
Your veterinarian will also want to know about your pet’s daily behavior, including his diet, how much water he drinks and his exercise routine. Your veterinarian may ask:
  • Does your pet have trouble getting up in the morning?
  • Does your pet show signs of weakness or unbalance?
  • Does your pet show an unwillingness to exercise?
Depending on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle and age and other factors, your veterinarian may also ask about your pet’s exposure to fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal parasites. He or she will develop an individualized treatment and/or preventive plan to address these issues.

During a wellness exam, your pet will get a complete “tune-up,” just like you would take your car or bike in for, to be examined from head to toe:
  • Vital statistics
  • Ears
  • Eyes
  • Mouth
  • Heart and lungs
  • Reproductive and other organs
  • Skin
  • Joints and muscles
  • Vaccinations
When is the last time you took the four-legged friends in for a checkup? Celebrate NPWM and schedule an exam today!