Pet Dental Health Month

Cats and dogs need dental care just as people, and February is Pet Dental Health Month – the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual effort to remind pet owners to care for their pets’ teeth.

Periodontal infections have been linked to several major disorders such as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease. It is the most common health problem veterinarians find in pets. By the age of two, an estimated 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats already have some form of periodontal disease.

There are many good products to help keep pets clean, such as dental chews, wipes, gel, and spray. Brushing is still the best thing. Use a toothpaste formulated for pets, and a pet toothbrush. Older pets can be finicky, but start with short periods of time and make it into a routine.

Dogs at sea

Venus, the bulldog at the wheel of HMS VANSITTART
Venus the bulldog steering the HMS Vansittart.
Image source //www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185297
Venus the bulldog steering the HMS Vansittart.
Image source //www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205185297

Cats at sea might not come as a big surprise – they are excellent hunters and good at keeping pest populations at bay. Dogs have also been popular mascots through the ages, and a large number of four-legged marines have served in the United States sea services.

The dogs build morale and provide relief from the monotony of being at sea for months at a time. They have also served a practical function through warning for dangers, and many have led patrols onto foreign shores.

The photo shows Venus, the naval mascot of British Destroyer Vansittart. The photo is from 1941.

In the US, the English Bulldog has been a mascot of the marines since the first world war. It was unofficial until 1922 when a dog named Jiggs got the official duty for the first time.

There were a long row of dogs named Jiggs, but the modern day mascot is called Chesty. It is always a pure bred English bulldog and the name stays the same for generations. A long line of Chestys have gotten their name from legendary Lt Gen Lewis B ‘Chesty’ Puller Jr. who served in World War II and the Korean War. He is thus far the only Marine to be awarded five navy crosses.

If you want to see more dogs at sea, visit the US Naval Institute’s website here.

Dogs around the world – training for the Swedish defense

Dogs perform important jobs all over the world, not just for individuals but also for organizations such as military and police. The website forsvarsmakten.se – the Swedish armed forces – gives a glimpse into breeding and training dogs for the Swedish defense.

Swedish military dogs assist with everything from patrolling to searching for explosives or missing persons. It is a big country area-wise but has a small population, and the same facility breeds and trains dogs for both the military and police.

Every year, selected dogs produce 35 to 40 litters of German Shepherd puppies. This sounds like a lot of dogs, but it is important to note that Sweden doesn’t have the same problem with overpopulation of dogs as for instance the USA.

Sixteen people work full time with planning the breeding, caring for the dogs, finding foster homes, and other tasks involved with the dogs. The most suitable puppies from each litter are chosen and go to foster homes when they’re between eight and ten weeks old. They stay in their foster home until they’re a year and a half.

Don’t worry; the puppies not chosen for service are placed in good homes.

At eighteen months, the dogs are considered old enough to go through a suitability test. This test makes sure the dog is stable and mentally suited to perform at the level needed. Every year around 250 dogs go through the test, and around 60 move on to training.

Most of the dogs that don’t get approved stay with their foster homes, or go to another good home. There are more people wanting dogs than dogs available.

Swedish army dog

Puppies – and some things you might not know about them

Sleeping puppyEvery person has been a child, and every dog has been a puppy. While the species have many interesting similarities, there are differences as well.

When puppies are born, many of their organs aren’t fully formed. This includes the brain, and puppies are very fragile. They spend the first few weeks of their lives developing rapidly.

Puppies are born with their eyelids shut, because their eyes aren’t developed. A newborn puppy’s eyes are extremely fragile. Never attempt to open a puppy’s eyes; they’re sensitive to life and can sustain damage for life.

Newborn puppies are also deaf, and relative silence is crucial for their developing ears. Forcing the puppy’s ears to respond to sound inputs before they’re fully developed could cause great damage.

It usually only takes a couple of weeks before the pup’s eyes open and they hear well. They still shouldn’t be removed from their mother until they’re at least eight weeks old. Some animals are born with the ability to leave thru mothers right away, but dogs are more like humans in this context; they need time with their mom in order to develop and be taught.

Teeth in the animal world

Caring for teeth is important both for humans and pets. We need to brush our teeth twice a day, and brushing is the best way to keep Fido’s teeth clean as well. There are also chews, dental spray, and dental wipes that might assist with the cleaning process.

Human children have 20 baby teeth that fall out. Human adults have 32 teeth. Puppies have 28 teeth and adult dogs have 42.

42 teeth sounds like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to some other animals. A white shark has about 24 exposed teeth on their top and lower jaws respectively, but behind these 48, a white shark can have five more rows of developing teeth. When the shark loses one of the main teeth, a developing tooth rotates in and replaces it.

Alligators have a similar system. An alligator has an average of 80 teeth in the mouth at any one time, and when one falls out another takes its place.

Dolphins also have a surprising amount of teeth. An Atlantic bottlenose dolphin has between 80 and 100 teeth. The short-beaked common dolphin has around 240.

Fun dog facts

Finnish SpitzHere are some random but fun dog facts.

  • The Greyhound is the fastest dog on Earth, and can run 45 miles per hour.
  • 45 is also the percentage of US dogs who sleep in their owner’s bed.
  • The world’s oldest known dog was an Australian cattle dog who lived to the age of 29 years and 5 months.
  • Dalmatians are born white and develop their spots as they grow.
  • Three dogs survived the sinking of the Titanic; two Pomeranians and one Pekingese.
  • The Pekingese was very important in ancient China. The emperor’s last line of defense was a small Pekingese hidden in his sleeve.
  • The smallest dog in the world – according to the Guinness book of world records – was a Yorkshire Terrier who at the age of 2 weighed only 4 ounces.
  • 70% of Americans sign their pet’s name on greeting cards.
  • Hyenas aren’t dogs. They’re more closely related to cats.
  • Spiked dog collars were invented in ancient Greece as a means to protect dogs’ throats from attacks.

Dogs and cats might be able to see in ultraviolet

Light is made up by a wide spectrum of colors. The spectrum humans can see goes from red to violet, like a rainbow. Other animals can see other wavelengths, and we know that bees, birds, fish, some reptiles, mice, and bats can see ultraviolet light. Going back to the rainbow, that would be light below the inner purple band where the human eye not perceives nothing.

What we can see differs between species because of our different needs. A bee, for example, can pick up much more of the short wavelengths than humans, and they need this to see colors or patterns on plants that can lead them to nectar. Reindeer also see ultraviolet, and are believed to have developed this ability to discern polar bears and other threats that would otherwise blend in with the white snow.

Our eyes block out the short-wave light to improve visual acuity. It’s a trade-off where we sacrifice this part of the spectrum for higher resolution vision. We can see details better. The downside with that trade is that we see poorly in low-light situations.

Recently, a group of researchers at City University of London compared sights of a large number of mammals and found that hedgehogs, dogs, cats, and ferrets all see a wider spectrum of ultraviolet wavelengths than we do.

Now the question is; when a cat or dog goes crazy over nothing, do they see something we don’t?

Human and dog brains more alike than previously thought

Hungarian scientists recently performed a new type of study; the first in its kind to compare brain function between humans and a non primate animal. The results might not come as a big surprise to dog lovers, but the findings can shake up the world of science.

Attila Andics of MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group says, “Dogs and humans share a similar social environment. Our findings suggest they also use similar brain mechanisms to process social information.”

In the test, Andics and his colleagues trained eleven dogs to stay motionless in an MRI brain scanner. This made it possible to run the same neuroimaging experiment on the dogs as on the humans participating. The test subjects listened to almost 200 dog and human sounds, ranging from crying to laughing, and the experiment showed striking similarities in the ways dog and human brains process emotionally loaded sounds.

The parallel brain sensitivity to voices and emotions might help explain the unique bond between humans and dogs.

Dogs mirror behavior, just like humans

Humans mirror other’s behavior, usually without being aware of it. If we talk to someone and agree with what they’re saying, we tend to mirror their stance. That is, if one person crosses their legs, the other is bound to follow. If one person rests their chin in their palm or crosses their arms, the other person will probably do the same.

This is why yawns spread too. If one person in a group yawn, the urge to do the same thing is almost impossible to overcome.

Dogs do this too. A 2013 study shows that dogs are likely to “catch” their owner’s yawns. They’re more likely to do it if it’s a real yawn – they don’t care as much about fake yawns, or about strangers doing it.

People who score high on empathy tests are more likely to mirror others’ behavior – and mirror  yawns – than people who aren’t as empathetic. Scientists now think dogs’ mirroring our behavior might prove their ability to empathize with us. Any dog lover might agree on their furry friend’s ability to share our emotions, but society as a whole might soon have evidence.

PlexiDor featured in Sarasota Pet

Sarasota PetThe PlexiDor Extra Large was recently featured in Sarasota Pet, a Florida magazine for pet lovers. 

The extra large PlexiDor dog door accommodates the largest dog breeds, such as Irish Wolfhounds, Newfoundlands, and St Bernards. It is usually difficult to find dog doors large enough for these breeds, and the dog doors must be very sturdy to stand up to a dog this size hitting it at a run.

The PlexiDor dog doors are perfect for very large breeds since the hardened aluminum frame won’t bend, warp, crack, or rust.

The panels are made from the same specially formulated K9 Composit as on the smaller size PlexiDor pet doors, but on the extra large each panel is lined by a chew proof aluminum trim that also provides extra strength to the door.

Silver XL door unit

In the article, sales manager Robert Wollet mentions, “The PlexiDor extra large dog door was one of the most challenging sizes we have ever tackled. First, we have to gain an understanding of the sheer power these extra large dogs can generate.”

The PlexiDor pet doors can be mounted into a standard household door or through a wall. They are available in three frame colors; silver, white, and bronze. Every door comes equipped with a lock and key, and a steel security plate.

Read the entire article here!

Love Your Pet Day

February 20th is Love Your Pet Day. Hopefully all pets are loved on all days of the year, but this is a good reason to pamper them a little extra. When it comes to pets, spending time with them and giving them attention goes a long way.

If you have a dog, take them out for a longer walk. Take a new route and spend some time sniffing the trees and fire hydrants. Good for both humans and pooches.

Special treats are always good. All pets appreciate something new and tasty! A lot of human food is bad for animals, especially chocolate and onions, but there are many good treats available.

Giving and playing with a new toy is a great way to bond.

If you don’t have a pet, this might be a great time to adopt one at a local shelter or rescue, or give a donation. Many grocery stores have bins for local shelters where the public can drop off dog and cat food. Most pet rescues also need everyday items such as blankets and towels.

Dogs can see color

Dogs being color blind is an old myth, but a lot of people still think animals experience the world as gray. They see other colors than we do, but they definitely see colors.

Dogs’ eyes are focused on a spectrum containing yellows, blues, and violets. Red, green, and orange as we see it would appear as yellow or blue.

It’s interesting how many dog toys are yellow, orange, or red, because this lets us see them better. From the dog’s point of view, a blue tennis ball might be much more visible than a yellow one. They find them anyway, because dogs have a great sense of spotting movement.

Image source: //www4.uwsp.edu/psych/dog/la/davis2.htm

An eye contains two types of photoreceptors: rods and cones. A human eye has many types of cones, which allows us to see many different colors. A doggie eye has more rods. Thus, dogs have much better night vision and ability to track movement than the human eye. On the downside, they see fewer colors and less details.

There’s another big difference between a dog’s eyes and a human’s. Their eyes are placed on the sides of the head while ours face forward. This means that they get a visual field of 250 degrees, and humans only have a field of 190 degrees.

Image source: findretrievers.com

They have much better peripheral vision than we do, but we can focus and judge the distance to an object better.

Who invented the pet door?

Plexidor pet door through glassCats and dogs have accompanied humans for millennia. Dog fossil records go back around 40 million years, and cat fossils around 12 million years. To the best of our knowledge, dogs have been domesticated for at least 12,000 years.

This is a long time walking side by side, and it makes sense that our ancestors did their best to accommodate their furry friends just like we do.

In the beginning, the cat door was a hole in the wall meant to invite feral cats to come in and hunt rodents. We know the people of Cyprus had pet cats 9,500 years ago. They might very well have had cat holes too.

In more recent history, 14th century writer Geoffrey Chaucer described a cat hole in his Canterbury Tales, where a servant knocks on a door, no one answers, and he peeks in through the cat hole.

Nowadays, Sir Isaac Newton is most often accredited with inventing the pet door. He allegedly cut two holes in the wall; one for his adult cat and a smaller one for the kittens. It sounds like an urban myth created to show how even an incredibly intelligent person can have moments of stupid and not realize the kitten would follow their mother through the big hole…

Anyway, according to legend, Newton covered the holes with felt to keep excess light from coming in and disturbing his experiments. This would have been a predecessor of the modern cat flap.

Pet Theft Awareness Day

February 14th was the annual pet theft awareness day in the USA. Pets are stolen every day around the year, but there are some easy safety measures to take that will reduce the risk, and some tips that might help with retrieving a lost pet. 

  1. Make sure that your pet is microchipped and that your information is updated. This will aid in returning a lost or stolen pet to you.
  2. Never leave your pet unattended in a car or public area.
  3. Keep an accurate identification file for your pet. This should include a detailed description and several photos.
If your pet is lost or stolen
  1. Visit your local animal shelters at once, and keep checking back with them every day. It is also a good idea to visit veterinarians in the area, contact animal services, and the police.
  2. Search everywhere. Pets can hide in strange places.
  3. Use the power of social media. Post pictures on your Facebook page and ask people to share.
  4. Distribute flyers, talk to neighbors, and chat with delivery men, postal workers, and others that move around your area on a daily basis.

For more tips on what to do if your pet is missing, see this post on the PlexiDor Blog.

Farm Bill to protect animals from fighting schemes

Few things enrages animal lovers as much as dog fights and the events around them. Authorities agree with the public opinion – animal fighting should be stopped – but it has been difficult to do anything about it. It happens that arrangers of dog fighting have been caught and convicted, but up until now this has been an exception.

It has been illegal to host dog fights, cock fights, or any other cruel pitting of beast against beast in the USA. Problem was that the arrangers would slip into the crowd and disappear at first sign of a raid.

Is is now illegal to even attend an event like this.

The new law is a part of the Farm Bill, recently signed by President Obama. It is now a federal crime to attend and/or bring a child to any animal fighting event.

Spectator admission fees and gambling dollars have financed these spectacles of unnecessary violence, but if the profit disappears the incentive to host fighting events will disappear as well. Hopefully, this will lead to a decrease in dog and cock fighting events as well as a decrease of pets being stolen for use as bait dogs.

A pet door can be secure

Attaching dog door security plateSecurity is a common and natural concern amongst pet owners considering a pet door. Many people think the door will make a permanent opening they won’t be able to lock, and that the pet door will compromise the security of their house if they leave for an extended period of time.

A pet door is an opening in the house, just like a window, or a regular door. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an invitation to robbers and bad people.

All PlexiDor pet doors come with lock and key. All models except for the small PlexiDor – which is too small for a person to get through – are delivered with a steel security plate.

The security plate attaches to the inner frame. It’s either screwed to the frame, or attached through a sliding track system with flip lock feature. Getting through the locked door with attach steel plate would require extensive time and tools.

What about the electronic door?

The electronic door will only open for pets with a key. If the door is closed, the composite panel acts as a security door, and it is very difficult to break through.  The composite material won’t shatter if someone hits it or kicks it, and gaining access to the house through the pet door would require time and tenacity.

Canine Good Citizen Degree

Since 1989, the AKC offers a Canine Good Citizen test, and over 600,000 dogs have passed it. The idea is to offer a fun and satisfying way for dogs and owners to work together towards the goal of a well-trained and well-socialized dog.

The CGC is now an official title. Dogs who successfully completed the 10-step test can have the title “CGC” affixed to their name.

 

To make things even better, there’s now an advanced degree as well: AKC Community Canine, or CGCA. In order to earn this title, the dog must have a CGC award or title, and have an AKC number. (All dogs can get an AKC number, it doesn’t matter if it’s a purebred or mixed.)

 

Both tests focus on a dog’s social skills. Evaluators stage a series of ten common situations a dog and owner might encounter, and to pass, the dog must react in a calm and well-mannered way. For the CGC, the tests are simulations of real world skills, but the CGCA performs the test in a natural setting.

 

To pass the test, the dog must be able to:
  1. Stand, sit, or lie down and wait while the owner is busy doing something else.
  2. Walk on a loose leash in a real-life situation.
  3. Walk on a loose leash, without pulling, through a crowd.
  4. Walk, without pulling, past distraction dogs.
  5. Sit and stay in a group of three other dogs and owners.
  6. Allow an approach and petting from a person carrying a backpack or other object.
  7. “Leave it” – be able to ignore food on command.
  8. Down or sit-stay from a distance.
  9. Recall in an environment with distractions.
  10. Sit or stand-stay while owner enters/exists a doorway or a narrow passage.
To read more about these degrees, visit akc.org!

 

Most popular dog and cat names in 2013

The list of most popular puppy and kitten names in 2013 was recently released by vetstreet.com. The list is based on 925,000 puppies and 425,000 kittens.

Bella is the most popular name for female cats and dogs. This is the eight year in a row it tops the puppy list, and the seventh year in a row it is number one for kittens.

For boy dogs, Max is the most popular name, also for the eight year in a row. When it comes to kittens, Max kept the top position for five consecutive years, but was poked down by Oliver.

Here is the top ten list!

 Female puppy names  Male puppy names Female kitten names Male kitten
 Bella  Max  Bella  Oliver
 Daisy  Buddy  Lucy  Max
 Lucy  Charlie  Kitty  Tiger
 Molly  Rocky  Luna  Charlie
 Sadie  Cooper  Chloe  Simba
 Sophie  Duke  Molly  Milo
 Lola  Bear  Lily  Smokey
 Chloe  Jack  Sophie  Leo
 Zoey  Bentley  Nala  Jack
 Maggie  Toby  Daisy  Kitty

How do I train my pet to use a pet door?

Most pets are eager to explore the outside, and once they realize they have the option to go in and out as they please, they will jump on the opportunity. Teaching the pet generally takes somewhere between five seconds and five days.

Using the PlexiDor comes naturally to most dogs and cats, even if they are reluctant to use a traditional rubber flap door. They can see the outside through the clear panel, and the panel swings open easily.

If the pet doesn’t take to the door, try propping one of the panels open and coaxing the pet through with a treat. When it comes to cats, it generally works well to put something they want on the other side of the door.

For the electronic door, it usually works well to put a treat on the bottom lip of the pet door. The dog or cat approaches to get the treat, and the collar key triggers the door to open. It doesn’t take long for the pets to figure out that the door will open when they come close.

Some pets need longer than others. It is important to stay patient and calm, and give praise once they do come through. When the get the hang of it, they’ll be happy to run in and out without having to wait for a human to get the door.