Friday, 20 October 2017

Yes, Dogs Can Be Allergic to Fleas!

Fleas are the tiny vampires of the dog world. Like mosquitoes and other blood-seeking parasites, fleas bite their victims to obtain their blood and then live off the rich nutrients found there. It's also the bite that causes the flea allergy process to begin through an immune response within the dog's body.

Antigens: Basic Cause of Flea Allergies
Canine flea allergies are caused by something called an antigen. In simple terms, an antigen is a substance introduced into the body that the body perceives as dangerous. In this case, the antigen would be chemicals contained within the flea's saliva. It gets into the dog's body through the insect's bite. An antigen-mediated flea skin condition in dogs is called flea dermatitis.

What to Look for
Flea allergy tends to affect younger dogs, meaning those aged five and under and it's more prevalent in the fall. Don't assume that it takes an army of these parasites to cause flea dermatitis because that is not true. Potentially, a few of them is more than enough to initiate the problem. Watch for the following:

•             Episodes of intense scratching
•             Biting at the base of the tail
•             Red, raised bumps and reddened patches of skin
•             Patchy or generalised hair loss
•             Hot spots

Also known as moist dermatitis, hot spots are smaller areas of ultra-inflamed skin. Skin will be moist and hot to the touch. These spots can easily become infected.

Flea dirt
This is flea faeces. It resembles flakes of black pepper and is often concentrated around the base of the tail.

Flea Poop or Just Doggy Dirt?
Now it's true that pets go outside and they get dirty, so how can you tell if it's flea poop or just plain doggy dirt? Easy, just put some of the material on an old white plate and spray lightly with water. If it turns red or pinkish, then it's flea poop.

Prevention is Key!
Flea infestation must be eliminated and if possible, prevented altogether. It really is just that simple: no flea exposure, no flea bites and no antigen exposure means that your pet will not develop flea allergy dermatitis in the first place.

Flea prevention regimens
Ask your vet for a recommendation for a flea-control product to eliminate these parasites for use on or in the body. Some preparations are topical; some are oral. Some need a prescription; some don't. Check online for best prices either way. Make sure you understand how to use the product.

Make sure your pet's environment is clean and free of pests as well. Use a good external environment pest control product, intended for pets, as recommended by your veterinarian. You can treat the pet's bed and carpeting, drapes and household furnishings.

Medical Treatment
Your vet will determine if a dog already afflicted with an antigen-mediated flea allergy needs medical treatment. Sometimes just eliminating the offending antigen by eliminating the parasite is enough. If not, expect that the patient may be treated with short-term steroid therapy with a drug such as prednisone. This will effectively alleviate discomfort and promote healing until the parasites can be eliminated from the body and environment.

Flea control is paramount to your companion's health and comfort. There are many effective products on the market today. With your vet's help, choose one, use it properly and then just watch those fleas flee! Remember, your pet is depending on you!

Paul Haines is the author of “My Life With Pets Blog” where he shares his life experiences involving his family and pets.  In addition to his blog, he is the creator and owner of the website is an educational and fun site dedicated to all types of Pets. You can visit the site at  

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Educated Speculation About Why Cats Are So Finicky

In talking about cat food with cat owners like I do most days, the most common point I hear is that “my cat is so finicky.”  And, cat parents, you say it as if your cat is the only one that’s finicky.  Most every cat is finicky.  They must think they have a license to be.

I read an interesting white paper by Dr. Nancy Rawson, a Ph.D. scientist with AFB International (  The company produces palatants for the pet food industry. 

The purpose of a palatant is to optimize the animal’s response to the food.  Make it pass the sniff test.  Palatants can be wet or dry, applied topically or baked in, and used alone or in concert with fats.  However they’re used, they’re largely responsible for the pet’s acceptance of the food. You usually see the palatant listed as “natural flavors” or “animal digest” in the ingredient panel.

As is the case with many aspects of animal husbandry, know one knows for sure why cats are so finicky, but Dr. Rawson made a number of interesting points…mitigating factors, if you will…to suggest that cats aren’t finicky just to be difficult, which is what most of us lay people think.

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they must get their nutrients from animal flesh, while dogs are carnivores with diets that resemble that of omnivores.  Cats have fewer options.  Rawson also points out anatomical and physiological difference in cats that factor into food acceptability.
She says that the cat’s unique genetic makeup drives distinctive anatomical adaptations, nutritional needs, metabolism and sensory biology.  For instance, they lack a “sweet gene” a protein in their taste receptors that, if they had it, would enable the cat to perceive sweetness.

They also lack the ability to digest lactose and other dietary sugars, and they have no lactase, an enzyme that breaks down starch, in their saliva.  This distinction alone, suggests Rawson, could result in the perception of ‘finickiness’ when compared to our human experience of food.

She also puts forth the possibility that cats aren’t finicky at all, but that we perceive them to be because their food behaviors don’t fit our expectations.  She speculatively points the guilty finger at cat owners who can display a certain “hypocrisy” when it comes to their cats behaviors.

“‘Cat people’ often report appreciation for cats’ independence, including their ability to fend for themselves during owner absence. Yet when this same independence and lack of owner-directed behavior occurs at feeding time, we call it ‘finicky’! Do cat owners secretly wish…their cats acted more like dogs?”  Ouch…them’s fightin’ words in some circles, ain’t they?

Dr. Rawson points out another thing that I often think about and talk to cat owners about; free-feeding.  My first objection to free-feeding is that it can contribute to obesity, although a relative had a free-fed cat that was lean and mean right up to the end, at 19 years.  An exception to the rule, perhaps.

Free-feeding may allow the cat to notice subtle differences it might not note when food availability is limited, like it is in the wild. When food is less available, the cat may be less selective.  They take what they can get.

Thus, attempting to please our cats with varied and plentiful food options, we may actually be setting them up to be finicky.   

Bob Bamberg has been in the pet supply industry for more than a quarter century, including owning his own feed and grain store in Southeastern Massachusetts, USA. He writes a weekly newspaper column on pet health, nutrition and behaviour and his articles appear at

Friday, 6 October 2017

Improve Your Canine Communication Skills With These Top Tips

1. Observe dogs’ body language: You can watch your own dog in the home, when out on walks and during play sessions. See how they interact with you and the world around them. Observe well socialised dogs interacting together and look at the way they communicate too. Video recordings are useful to pick up on subtle body-language and things that you might have missed.

2.Watch how dogs’ use their senses: The dogs’ sense of smell is 10,000 times better than ours. See how they take in information using it. Encourage them to use it with scent games and give them time to have a good sniff when out on walks.

3. Apply up to date methods of communication: It is now well known that trying to act like an alpha dog is an outdated method of training. Alpha rolls and muzzle grabbing only makes your dog think you are unpredictable and someone to fear. This can lead to self-defence aggression. Instead use positive reinforcement alongside quiet, non-threatening body language.

4.Know how to respond if a dog chases or charges towards you in a threatening manner by following these tips:
  • Remain still
  • Remain silent
  • Avoid direct eye contact
  • Present a side-on, closed stance, using your peripheral vision to assess the situation
  • Keep your hands and arms close to your body
  • Quietly and very slowly move away backwards but DO NOT run 

5.Watching dogs’ play is great fun but sometimes things go a bit too far. Knowing when to step in and call a halt to the session is important. Look out for:
  • One dog controlling the play session
  • One dog doing all the chasing with the other trying to escape, crouching or cowering
  • A dog displaying a high body stance – tail held high and ears erect
  • Stiffness in the body and locked eye contact

If you observe any of these signals immediately distract the dogs by calling them away. Reward the recall and put them both under control.

Understanding canine body language is like learning a whole new language so invest time and practice in getting it right.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more canine and dog first aid related information at

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Pet Food Ingredients: Their Bark Is Worse Than Their Bite

You turn that bag of dog food over and look at the ingredient panel.  OMG, WTH, YGBKM.  Those aren’t the ingredients, they’re your response…Oh my goodness, what the heck, you gotta be kidding me (you may be familiar with a slightly different version of this texting shorthand).

But they might as well be the ingredients since you can’t pronounce them, either.  You picture some mad scientist formulating the food with toxic chemicals, knowing that dogs are gonna die…bwahaha.

Some pet food labeling has wording for which there is no legal or regulatory definition as it pertains to pet food.  Think “Holistic,” “Organic,” “Super Premium,” “Large Breed,” “Small Breed,” “Senior,” “Low Fat,” “Indoor Formula,” “Hairball Formula,” and other such designations which mean whatever the manufacturer says they mean.

In the US, the only formulations for which standards have been established are: gestation and lactation (puppy/kitten food), maintenance (adult food), all life stages (must meet the puppy/kitten standards), and large breed puppy (dogs 70 pounds or more at maturity).

Then there are ingredients that have vague, loosely regulated meanings.  Think “Byproducts.”  Some people think they’re beaks, feet, feathers and guts all chopped up.  Those people are mostly wrong.  The guts could be in there.
“Byproducts” means anything but muscle meat.  In pet foods, they’re mostly organs…digestive organs, reproductive organs, brains, and assorted other organs that you’re quite happy to let the dogs and cats have, thank you. 

If it’s any consolation, some byproducts are considered delicacies elsewhere; tripe (stomach), sweetbreads (the thymus gland) and tongue for instance.  And they’re nutritious.  Other byproducts you shell out good money for as treats…bully sticks (what bulls have that cows don’t), moo tubes (cattle trachea), porky pumpers (pig hearts), lammy puffs (sheep lung), to name a few.

Then there are the scary sounding ingredients.  Those have very specific meanings and the scientific names must be used to pinpoint the ingredient.  Think of it this way:  there are several types of foxes: red fox, arctic fox, fennec fox, etc.  If you’re talking about the red fox, the scientific name is Vulpes vulpes.  

Requiring the use of that multi-syllable, toxic sounding name is akin to requiring the use of the name “Vulpes vulpes” instead of just “fox.”  So, in spite of how dangerous the ingredients may sound, they’re simply not.

Remember, also, that everything that is ingested has a threshold for toxicity.  You take one blood thinner and it saves your life; you take five and you bleed to death.  That’s why you shouldn’t freak out when you see propylene glycol in pet food or treats. 

Yes, it’s the active ingredient in pet-safe anti-freeze, but the key words are “pet-safe.”  Propylene glycol has a low freezing point and a high toxicity threshold, making it a safer alternative to ethylene glycol, the highly toxic active ingredient in regular anti-freeze.  And, don’t look now, but it’s in some human foods, too.  It’s usually used as a moistening agent.

By law, to be a “natural” food, there can be no ingredients that were made in a lab.  That’s almost impossible, if a pet food is to be complete and balanced.  A truly “natural” formulation may not be complete and balanced. 

A complete and balanced formulation will contain synthetic vitamins and minerals.  What it cannot contain are synthetic preservatives.  That’s why you see “preserved with mixed tocopherols” following the fat.  Tocopherols are what the mad scientists call Vitamin E.

If you’re feeding a “natural” dog or cat food, look closely at the bag.  You’ll probably see the words “with added vitamins and minerals.”   That puts it in compliance with the law.

Bob Bamberg has been in the pet supply industry for more than a quarter century, including owning his own feed and grain store in Southeastern Massachusetts, USA. He writes a weekly newspaper column on pet health, nutrition and behaviour and his articles appear at 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

My Cat Doesn’t Like Being Hugged- Why?

I’d like to hug my cat but they won’t let me – why?

Here are 10 common reasons why many cats really don’t like too much close and personal handling:

1. Cats prefer choice. This means that if your cat approaches you and wants to get close and have a cuddle, then by all means engage in some mutual loving.

2. Cats do not like to feel trapped and most dislike being restrained especially if they have no option to escape. Try and avoid picking them up and hugging them tightly. If they have all four paws on the ground they will feel happier.

3. Research has shown that if we handle kittens properly they will be more likely to respond to being handled as adults. The crucial time for this is between 3 and 8 weeks. Short, gentle and regular handling sessions throughout the day is recommended. Try and ensure that a range of different people get involved so that they will be socialized to men, women and children (under supervision).

4. Cats generally do not like their tummies being touched. This is a vulnerable area for cats so avoid tickling or stroking them there.

5. A large number of cats have a low threshold for time spent cuddling. Try and have regular but shorter episodes of contact.

6. In cat language, a raised tail in the shape of a question mark is a greeting. If a cat approaches you like this it’s usually an invitation to stroke and pet them.

7. Cats have a number of scent glands on their body. An abundance of these are found on their face. When they rub you, they are exchanging their scent. You can take this as a compliment as they are sharing their scent profile with you.

8. Cats show affiliation to another cat by mutual grooming and licking. If your cat likes to lick you it’s likely that they see you as a member of their social group.

9. Some cats are just not tactile. Many show their affection by choosing to sit close to you. If this describes your cat be content that they are wanting to be around you.

10. A slow blink is another way that a cat will show you affection. Try doing it back – most cats will respond.

So if your cat isn’t the hugging kind, just show them affection in different ways and be grateful that they choose to live with you.
Remember to give them choice and respect their species’ specific behaviours. By doing this your cat is more likely to want to be with you.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Some Interesting Dog Owning Statistics - Check These Out!

Dog owners are in for a bit of a treat with this post (excuse the pun!). I recently came across a set of statistics that threw up some interesting findings.

For example - Did you know?

Walking our Dogs

Worldwide, the most popular time-slot to walk dogs is around 6pm. A leading dog monitor survey also found that afternoon walks tended to be twice as intense as morning walks. No surprise there for some of the early-riser dog owners perhaps?

Europeans Are More Active With Their Dogs

Statistics showed that Switzerland has the most active dogs in the world. Not to be out-done, dogs belonging to European neighbours in Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy and The UK also enjoy a highly active lifestyle compared to dogs in other areas around the world.

These Breeds Are Good Sleepers!

Dogs that scored highly when it came to enjoying a good quality of sleep included Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Siberian Huskies. It seems that larger dog breeds love a snooze!

Phobic About Fireworks

Bigger breeds figured highly here too. Monitored activity showed that bigger dogs seemed to be less disturbed by fireworks than smaller dogs. Beagles and Golden Retrievers showed a higher degree of calmness than many other breeds when it came to celebrations involving fireworks.
On the other end of the spectrum Maltese dogs showed a high degree of discomfort and restlessness when it came to dealing with the noise associated with pyrotechnics.

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Friday, 8 September 2017

Why Is My Cat Weeing Outside Its Litter Tray?

As a behaviour counsellor with a special interest in feline behaviour, one of the most common problems I am called about is inappropriate urinating in the house.
Here are ten reasons why this might be happening:

1.            Aversion to the type of litter used. Sudden changes to the type of litter can put them off using it. Ones that have a very strong scent are often not tolerated.

2.            A negative association with using the litter tray. For example if a cat has a urinary tract infection they will experience pain each time they pass urine. This often results in them linking using the tray with something unpleasant and so they start urinating in other places.

3.            Insufficient litter trays. In multi-cat households each cat requires its own tray (plus another extra). Plenty of space between each of them is important too.

4.            Intimidation by another cat. In multi-cat households, a confident cat may prevent another, more timid individual, from using the tray.

5.            Over- zealous cleaning. This can be very off-putting especially if very strong smelling disinfectants are used.

6.            Stress is often linked to inappropriate urination. Urine can sometimes be used as a self-appeasing behaviour. Identifying conflict and the emotional status of the cat is important

7.            Physical pain. Elderly cats can suffer from arthritic changes, making it difficult for them to climb into the litter tray. Because cats hide pain, inappropriate urination can be the first indication that there is a problem

8.            Lack of privacy. Placing a litter tray in a busy place in the house is not a good idea. Some cats even prefer a covered one. Provide them with an open and closed one to assess their preference.

9.            Urine is used as a marker to advertise territory. If urine is primarily around doors, windows and cat flaps it can indicate that the cat feels threatened from something outside.

10.          Cats do not like to toilet close to where they are fed. Place the litter tray some distance away from their core territory.

If you want to learn more about feline behaviour I run full day courses throughout the year. Or if you are experiencing behaviour problems with your cat I can arrange a home visit or if you are out of my area a skype consultation can be arranged.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling and you can find more information at

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Elephant In The Waiting Room: Vet Bills At An All-Time High

Many pet owners have concerns regarding the rising cost of Vet bills and we asked UK pet insurers Insurancefair for an insight into why this might be and for any tips that may help owners meet the costs.

The shocking cost of veterinary bills can often hit pet-owners with devastating effect. It’s a horror story that we have heard many times before, beloved pets are taken to the vets for a check-up or to investigate a change in behaviour and the animal is diagnosed with a medical condition that requires treatment. A common example of this is hip dysplasia, known to be prevalent in dogs and especially so in certain larger pedigrees. Hip dysplasia in severe (but not uncommon) cases is treated by a full hip replacement. A procedure that comes in at an eye-watering £9,000, depending on your area and vet.  Pet owners now more than ever need to have the correct pet insurance in place to cover themselves against these eventualities.

In 2016, we saw the average cost of veterinary treatment reach £810 and as a country we are set to see it continue to rise this year to new heights. Figures from major insurers show that the most common claims were for joint conditions with an average cost of £452.92. There are of course much higher bills such as ruptured tendons in cats setting owners back up to £4,000 or more.

But why are these costs on the rise? This is a complicated question with several key factors affecting the industry as a whole. The area you live in plays an important part of the overall cost of the treatment, there can be a difference of up to 400% between the North and South of the country. It may not surprise you that prices in London on average at the highest while Scotland and Northern Ireland on average are the cheapest. As technology and medicine develop, alternative treatment options became more viable for our furry companions. More intricate surgeries or advanced medicines may now be available for medical conditions; however, these treatments may have a higher price tag due to their complexity, or the increased price of medication due to their development. There is also a shortage of incoming veterinary students according to the British Veterinary Association, leading to higher costs and wages to attract new professionals and established and qualified international veterinary surgeons. Combine this with the compulsory needs to maintain a 24hour service and specialised equipment all year round and the overheads begin to mount.

With the mounting cost of vet bills continuing to rise it is more important than ever to have some financial security in place in the event that your pet falls ill. Some pet owners may choose to ‘self-insure’ which means that they allocate money aside each month into a fund to be used in the event that their pet falls ill, the benefit of this is that if your pet does not get ill then the money is still your own. However, if your pet falls ill early on, you may not have had the opportunity to build up a big enough pot to cover the bills or if your pet requires lots of treatments in a short period of time or several expensive procedures, this pot may not be sufficient to cover it. Now for the majority of UK pet owners (some 52%) this security is provided by pet insurance paid through either a monthly or annual premium. It cannot be stressed enough that if you are purchasing insurance for your pet that you fully understand the cover available, some insurers or policies may exclude conditions that your pet is prone to and this can mean a nasty surprise waiting for you down the line. If you are in any doubt, research the most common medical conditions or treatments that your pet is prone to. Then ensure that your policy will adequately cover this condition for the rest of the pet’s life should they receive a diagnosis, this means both the cover and the financial limit. 

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Saturday, 26 August 2017

Dogs Get Diabetes Too!

It’s fairly well-known that Diabetes is a disease that affects people but did you know that dogs get diabetes too? In fact Diabetes Mellitus (to give it its full name) is one of the most common endocrine conditions seen in dogs. The term endocrine relates to glands whose secretions (hormones) flow directly into the blood stream.

This is not a definitive guide but provides an overview of Diabetes Mellitus, helping the reader gain a better understanding of what causes the disease, the effect it has on a dog and how to manage it.

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

Diabetes Mellitus is a complex condition caused by resistance to, a deficiency or a complete lack of a hormone called Insulin. This hormone is normally released from the Pancreas, a gland that lies close to the stomach. Insulin is responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, fats and proteins and is important for maintaining glucose levels in the blood stream.

If a dog is unable to produce insulin or cannot utilise it properly, its blood sugar level increases and this leads to Hyperglycaemia, a term used to describe excessive glucose in the blood.  If left untreated hyperglycaemia can lead to a number of serious health problems.

The actual cause of Diabetes is still not known although auto-immune disease, obesity, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), tumours and the long term administration of a drug called glucocorticoids can all play a role in its development.

Which dogs are most prone to Diabetes?

It’s more usual to see Diabetes in middle-aged dogs and certain breeds including Poodles, Terriers, Schnauzers and Dachshunds seem to be over represented.  Bitches that haven’t been spayed are at greater risk because of the presence of the female hormone progesterone. However, the condition can occur at any age and in any breed or sex of dog.

Classification of Diabetes Mellitus and what type do most dogs get?

As in man, this condition can be divided into two types. Type I (lack of insulin production) and Type II (insulin resistance).

Type I (insulin dependent diabetes) is the most common form in dogs and ultimately, in order to survive, they require insulin therapy.

Signs and symptoms

Evidence of any of the following symptoms should be reported to your veterinary surgeon immediately.

•             Excessive thirst
•             Increased urination
•             Changes to normal eating patterns (increased hunger or lack of appetite)
•             Lethargy and lack of energy
•             Changes in weight
•             Urinary tract infection
•             Development of cataracts
•             Vomiting and dehydration
•             A sweet smelling breath (Ketoacidosis)

How is Diabetes diagnosed?

The diagnosis is based on evidence of the clinical symptoms and includes the following veterinary investigations:

•             Urinalysis (checking for the presence of glucose in the urine)
•             Fasting blood tests showing a persistently elevated blood glucose level
•             Assessing water intake over a 24 hour period

Treatment and home management

It is extremely unusual for a dog to respond to oral medication and most cases require a combination of injectable insulin and strict dietary management. Most dogs require one insulin injection per day although some benefit from twice daily injections.

The aim of the treatment is to address and correct any of the symptoms and restore the blood glucose level to as near normal as possible. The main objective is to prevent the blood glucose levels swinging too high or too low. Dogs that are seriously ill will be hospitalised and receive intensive care until they have been stabilised. Entire bitches should be spayed.

Once a dog’s individual insulin dose has been established they will be allowed home and owners will be taught how to administer injections and given detailed management instructions.

Owners will usually be asked to keep a note of their dog’s daily routine and to carry out the following tasks regularly:

•             Take urine glucose values each day and/or measure and record blood glucose levels (using simple home test kits)
•             Record the amount of insulin injected
•             Record the amount and time of feeding
•             Assess bodyweight
•             Pre-printed assessment sheets are usually provided by the veterinary surgeon to help owners.


Dietary management plays an essential role in the treatment of Diabetes Mellitus. It is important that the main meal coincides with peak circulating insulin levels so feeding the exact amounts in conjunction with insulin injections is crucial. A high fibre diet with complex carbohydrates helps to prevent fluctuations in blood glucose levels and controls obesity. Feeding the correct composition of fats and proteins is also important.  For these reasons a prescription diet, specifically designed for diabetics should be used rather than a general proprietary brand. Avoid treats, especially those that are high in glucose.

Diabetics should have free access to a fresh supply of clean water at all times.


 Exercise is important in maintaining blood glucose levels and helps with weight loss. It also enhances the mobilisation of insulin. However, the amount and timing of exercise should be consistent and must not vary from day to day.

What is hypoglycaemia?

If too high a dose of insulin is given or if the dog fails to eat after its injection, then there is a risk of it becoming hypoglycaemic. This is when the level of glucose in the bloodstream is too low.
The signs of hypoglycaemia include:

•             Lethargy
•             Muscle tremors
•             Weakness
•             Collapse
•             Diabetic coma and death

What is the first aid treatment for hypoglycaemia?

•             At the first signs administer a glucose rich solution such as honey or glucose and water by mouth. If using a syringe ensure that you do this slowly, giving the dog time to swallow
•             DO NOT administer any oral solutions if the dog is collapsed or unconscious
•             In the above circumstances the dog must be taken to the veterinary surgery as soon as possible where it will be placed on an intravenous infusion of glucose and closely monitored

Do dogs with Diabetes Mellitus have a good quality of life?

The good news is that, provided the condition is quickly diagnosed and the dog has been stabilised, the majority of dogs respond well to treatment. With the appropriate care and management most go on to have a good quality of life.

Caroline Clark is a consultant in animal behaviour counselling. If you’d like to learn about how to deal with other life- saving canine emergencies visit

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Five Quirky Things About Black Cats

Black cats are often associated with good or bad luck and there are many articles written that refer to the superstitions and folklore that surrounds them. Less well known characteristics of black cats are often overlooked and below are five things that you may not have known about them.

Golden Eye Factor

A black cat's eyes are typically golden, or yellow, in colour and this is because the over-production of melanin that makes their fur so black often causes the cat's irises to reflect this melanism and produce the pigment that gives this golden or yellow colouring.

Gene Factor

To be a true black cat both of the parents need to carry the black colour gene. Though this sounds a fairly simple equation, what you may not know is that the dominant cat fur gene is actually tabby and it is only the added presence of a recessive gene known as a non-agouti that suppresses these tabby markings.

In a cat where this gene is not fully suppressed you may notice that close up, or more especially in bright sunlight, you can make out the faint tabby stripes on the animal's tail or legs and also perhaps see the M marking on the cat's head that is more often characteristic of a tabby cat.

There are said to be around twenty breeds of cat that can produce a black offspring but the only breed of cat that is all black is the Bombay cat and they are often referred to as miniature panthers.

Appearing To Rust

A high degree of exposure to sunlight can lead to a black cat's fur to temporarily take on a rusty reddish- brown appearance. This rusty appearance can also be seen when the cat has an absence of an enzyme called tyrosine.

Interesting Immune System Quirk

Early studies have indicated that black cats may very likely be more resistant to certain diseases than other cats such as Feline HIV and that their genetic makeup may well be of benefit to their immune system

Worldwide Appreciation

There is a growing appreciation of black cats around the globe and this is shown in the fact that there are days designated to the celebration of the dark furred feline. What may be less known is that some of the better-known celebration days actually have different dates and this has caused some confusion on social media amongst the black cat loving fraternity.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Can Cats And Dogs See Spirits?

Thought I'd have a break from the norm and write about the potential supernatural powers of cats and dogs.

A lot has been written about about pets in relation to a kind of 'sixth sense' that they are thought to possess. I read an excellent book recently entitled 'Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home And Other Unexplained Powers Of Animals' by Rupert Sheldrake which covers many of the topics around this suggested sixth sense such as premonitions, telepathy etc and it inspired me to study the less well known capabilities of the pets that we share our lives with.

A study carried out by Biologists at City University London found that, contrary to previous opinion, cats and dogs seem to see in UV light. It has long been theorized by some in the the ghost hunting fraternity that spirits are more readily seen in UV light and Ultra Violet lighting tools are sometimes used on ghost hunting expeditions.

A lot of my research has led me to some interesting finds that, although offering no hard evidence, certainly seem to suggest that our pets may see things that we don't on a supernatural level.

Take the story of Del Johnsen a woman who passed away leaving seven dogs and six cats. Witnesses reported her pets acting in a way post-death that suggested that the owner was visiting her pets daily and interacting with them as written about here

Cats and dogs have long been associated with being guides to the spirit world. Cats were allegedly prized by witches as it was thought that cats could be trained to be alert to both good and bad spirits as written about here

I have had personal conversations with pet owners that are convinced that their cat or dog interacts with a playmate that has passed on and many of the conversations relate in detail about the pets only behaving in this way when their pet pals that have passed away were around.

I think it's fair to say that cats and dogs show a lot of intuitive unexplained behaviours and their inability to communicate what they see will always leave us wondering. What I do know is that there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests that cats and dogs react and interact with things that we cannot comprehend which may include spirits.

Friday, 4 August 2017

A Few Hidden Gems About Cats That You Might Enjoy

I've been trawling the net lately looking for a selection of interesting cat related gems. Below are a few feline related things that may be of interest to cat owners.

Cats working for the UK government

Believe it or not, the British government feeds around one hundred thousand cats that help to keep down the mice population at it's various properties!

Cats actually do 'claim' us

An interesting study in America showed that only 25% of cat owners actually went out with the intention of acquiring a cat. In the remaining 75% of the cat owning population the cats were spontaneously acquired.

Cats falling from buildings

Studies have shown that cats have a higher chance of survival falling from a higher storey of a building than a lower one. Cats were determined to have a non-fatal terminal velocity of around 60 miles per hour. There are documented cases of cats surviving falls from as high as 30 storeys. The cats ability to orient themselves mid-air was considered the main factor in high survival rates when falling from buildings.

Cats are master predators

It is estimated that cats in the United States kill around 5 billion rodents and 1 billion birds every year!

Cats have whiskers on their legs

Cat owners may be forgiven for not noticing this but cats have whiskers on the rear inside of their front legs around the dew claw area. The reason for this is up for debate but it's thought that the sensory nature of these added whiskers may be an added bonus for the cat to determine the nature of caught prey as their short distance vision is not so sharp.

The whiskers referred to above are known as carpal whiskers or to give them their fancier term carpal vibrissae.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Pet Food Storage And Serving Tips For Cat And Dog Owners

Many of us are much more informed and interested in our pet's dietary needs these days and I'm often asked for tips regarding pet food storage. Below are some good practices that will help pet owners keep their pet's food and water in a good condition.

Make sure that your pet's dry food is sealed after opening.  

Exposing food to air leaves it vulnerable to airborne bacteria such as Salmonella and also leads to rapid degradation of the food itself.

A good tip is to store kibble in its original packaging in a food safe air-tight container which ensures a lower risk of your pet's food degrading. Another good reason to keep the kibble in its original packing is in the unlikely event of a recall you have the batch number available.

Be mindful of how long your pet's food is left out at feeding time.

Although many dry foods are mixed with natural and artificial preservatives to delay degradation, if the food becomes damp there can be an increased risk of degradation and exposure to airborne contaminants. 

A regular feeding time with a planned exposure time can decrease this risk.Wet food should be left out no longer than four hours when the temperature is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and above. The unused food should be sealed and placed in a refrigerator.

Which type of bowl should I use?

As a rule, the 'harder' the bowl that you use the safer it is. Plastic bowls can get scratched and harbour germs more easily than ceramic ones. I personally advocate using stainless steel bowls when feeding and watering cats and dogs as ceramic ones can crack and go on to harbour bacteria that can be dangerous to pets.

How often should bowls be cleaned?

Unless there is a more obvious reason to clean a bowl, daily washing of food bowls in hot soapy water and a weekly disinfect with a bleach solution followed by thorough rinsing and drying is a good routine.

Water bowls washed every couple of days in hot soapy water unless containing an obvious contaminate such as food or insects is quite adequate. Weekly disinfecting followed by a thorough rinse and dry as above is a good idea.

Don't overlook the simple act of washing your hands before and after feeding a pet to minimise cross-infection.

You may be surprised to learn that soap and those inexpensive antibacterial hand sanitizers that seem to be sold everywhere are designed to kill only mild to moderate bacteria that live on the surface of our skin. Sanitizers like this are only effective for a short period and do not target the more major bacteria and viruses that can exist within our bodies therefore it's a great idea to wash your hands literally just before and just after feeding pets.

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Saturday, 22 July 2017

An Interesting Way To Assess Your Dog's Personality

Many dog owners that I meet often enthuse as to why they like or chose a particular breed and the words temperament and personality are very commonly used terms when describing their choices.

Whilst it is certainly true that dogs do have breed-related qualities that can contribute to their personalities, I just wanted to highlight a factor that often strongly influences a dog's personality - the owner!

As with people, the full potential of a dog's character and personality can only truly be judged when the dog is provided with the right environment and conditions that actually match their real personality.

Fearful, stressed and aggressive dogs are nearly always created and often mask the true personality of the dog involved.

A good owner will choose an appropriate dog for their lifestyle and educate themselves about their particular dog as well as the dog's breed.

The first part of the word personality is personal which literally means pertaining to that particular person, or in the context of this post, particular dog.

An interesting tool was developed by the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas. It gives owners who give honest answers, when submitting an appraisal of their dog, an objective view of their dog's personality traits. You can try it out here

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Own A Cat? You Could Be Luckier Than You Think!

The most enjoyable part of writing about cats and dogs is being able to promote the positive aspects of pet ownership. It saddens me greatly to read about animal abuse and I often think how lucky we are that our pets offer us a never changing face in an ever changing world.

Much has been written about 'man's best friend' and to redress the balance I thought I might share with you some of the less commonly heard of benefits of owning a cat.

Lucky in love

A UK survey asking women about potential partners showed that although both cat and dog owners scored highly in the desirability stakes a huge 90% of ladies polled said that men who own cats are 'nicer'.

Environmentally friendly compared to dogs

The more environmentally aware amongst you may be interested to know that a study in 2009 highlighted that the resources needed to feed a cat over its lifetime left a significantly lower carbon footprint than that of our canine friends. Interestingly,over a lifetime, dogs were described as creating the same carbon footprint as a Land Cruiser and our feline friends created the same carbon footprint as a small hatchback car.

Keeping us healthy

A study showed that cat owners, over a 10 year period were 30% less likely to die of a heart attack or a stroke than people that didn't own a cat.

In 2002 a study was released by NIH in Maryland, USA that showed that children under a year old that were exposed to a cat were not only less likely to develop pet allergies but also a host of other allergies such as dust mites and grass.

So there we have it, our feline friends are not just cats, they're love-bringing, environmentally-friendly little creatures that are good for our health!

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Saturday, 8 July 2017

The Number One Reason That Dogs Pull On The Lead/Leash.

One of the most common queries I have received when talking to dog owners is "How do I stop my dog from pulling me on a walk?"

I have found with our canine friends that a good step in dealing with any behavioural issue is to understand why it is happening before trying to solve the problem.

The number one reason why your dog is pulling is less technical than many owners realise. If we replace 'He/she is difficult to walk!' with 'He/she is excited and full of pent up energy', then the answer may become more apparent. Stick with me on this one.......

When we walk our dogs we are giving them exercise at our pace. Our pace may suit the little dog or more senior dog but with a significant amount of dogs is simply not enough. Add to that the pure excitement of getting outside into  a world full of sights and smells that dogs love and you have the ingredients for a lively encounter!

Simply put, walking on a lead is not exercise for all dogs all of the time. Walking for all dogs is great for their mental well-being. So what do we do about the majority of the more lively hounds that really aren't misbehaving but are simply more excited or under-exercised.

Having given you the reason why some of our four-legged friends pull the answer lies with the dog and the owner.

Some dogs will pull less on a walk if they are exercised pre-walk. Maybe throw a stick in the garden/yard and potentially feel the benefits of a dog that is calmer, less pent-up and more amenable to walking at our pace.

Some dogs show improvement with a little impulse control training. Teaching a dog to perform functions such as sit and wait are great ways to give a dog a little self control and this method is often used on dogs that run and jump at visitors or at the sound of a doorbell.

My preferred method when I ran a dog-walking business when dealing with a livelier dog was to use a comfortable dog-friendly training collar. There are some great training collars out there that are very well designed, kind to dogs and extremely effective in encouraging a dog to walk well on a lead.

In the majority of cases my advice to owners with a dog that pulls is to first understand the reason he/she is pulling and use a comfortable and well-constructed training collar to overcome the walking difficulties. This may be all an owner needs to do and if not a little impulse control training and pre-walk exercise can be added to aid the walking routine.

A little understanding of and working with 'mans best friend' helps both owner and dog and promotes the view that I've always held...there are less 'difficult' dogs than some people believe but sadly more misunderstood ones.

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Saturday, 1 July 2017

A Quirky Food Factor That May Interest Cat Owners....

I often read that cats can be finicky eaters and whilst this may be true of some of our feline friends anybody who has spent time observing the feeding habits of feral cats may beg to differ.

Cats left to their own devices are known to scavenge and live on a less regal diet than their more spoilt family-owned cousins but you may be surprised to know that a study has shown that cats actually have an in-built sense of the nutritional value of the food they eat.

A study conducted at the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition threw up some interesting findings that concluded that although cats are initially drawn to food by its aroma and flavour they tended to consume the more nutritional foods if the option was available.

Fish was shown to be the subject cats favourite flavour but believe it or not the cats gravitated toward consuming the more nutritional food regardless of flavour.

Interestingly Orange flavoured food was a popular choice for the cats in the study because of it's nutritional composition.

Should you be changing your cat's diet? Well no, many commercial cat foods today are composed with the nutritional content catered for but there is some great advice on what to consider when feeding your cat on at the bottom of a well written summary article of the pet nutrition study mentioned above here

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Saturday, 24 June 2017

Check Out Your Dog's Stress Levels With This Free Online Tool!

Dogs are not man's best friend for nothing. Domesticated and living closely with us, our loyal friends are subject to the daily effects of our lifestyle and we can sadly and sometimes unwittingly increase their stress levels without perhaps realising it.

Maintaining the healthy mental equilibrium of our four-legged friends is an important part of responsible dog ownership and increased stress levels in dogs can lead to our pets becoming ill. If we found our dogs choking on an object then I think many of us would agree that removing the object from the dog's environment would be a primary objective in helping to ensure our dog's safety in the future.

Ignored and untreated stress-related behaviours in our dogs may lead to side effects such as -

Increased aggression.
Digestive disorders.
Increased sleeping.
Decreased appetite.

Ideally we should be checking our dog's environment regularly for external factors that may leave them stressed. To this end I have included a link to a Canine Stress Calculator that may help you identify the level of stress that your dog may be exposed to...check it out here

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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Some Interesting Factors That Help Pets Get Adopted

I recently read an interesting study that revolved around the facial expressions of dogs and cats and whether or not pet's actually changed their facial expressions to gain approval from humans in a Rescue Centre environment.

Looking further into how cats and dogs modify their behaviour to gain approval from humans, a few interesting behaviours were thrown up that indicate that our pets may be even smarter than we realised when it comes to manipulating us.

I thought my cat and dog loving readership may be interested in a few things that I found out.

Dogs in Rescue Centres that raise their brows around twenty times are about twice as likely to get adopted as dogs that only did this around five times. Evolutionary Psychologists concluded that this effect takes place as the brow-raising action made even more senior dogs appear more puppy-like and appealing to a prospective new owner. (source)

Cat owners may be interested to learn that the impact of a cat's facial expressions were also studied and it was concluded that no correlation could be made. What researchers have found though is that cats that frequently rubbed their bodies against toys and furniture in a Rescue Centre environment were adopted around 30% more quickly than those that didn't exhibit the behaviour. (source)

Canines are no strangers to adapting their behaviours to mix with us. One hypothesis is that wolves went through a period of self-domestication during the agricultural revolution as the tamer wolves were known to have scavenged from human settlements.

Cat owners may be familiar with the fact that  adult cats have evolved to generally only meow to communicate with us humans to gain attention/food etc. from us but studies have also shown that not only do they use this to communicate but also to mimic the sound of human babies as they have learned that we pay attention to this.

Another interesting thing about adoption centres - dogs that wag their tails a lot were not linked to being more quickly adopted, in fact maybe surprisingly dogs that wagged their tails were shown to spend longer periods in rescue before being re-homed.

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Saturday, 10 June 2017

Five Quirky Things About Our Feline Friends

The cat research archives have been raided again to bring you a few cat-related bits and bobs that I hope you will find interesting.

Miss Greeny... 

A kitten born in Denmark in 1995 was born green! Maybe lacking a bit of creativity the cat was aptly named Miss Greeny. The unusual green colouring was thought to be caused by the high copper content in a local water source. The 'copper theory' was backed up the fact that Miss Greeny's more normal fur colour grew after changing her water source.

What Do Cats, Giraffes And Camels Have In Common?...

I know right? Not an easy link to make! They all walk by moving both of their right feet first and then both of their left feet and are thought to be the only mammals that do this.

Cats Are Allogroomers...

Allogrooming is the term given to the social grooming that cats (and other species) partake in when they groom their counterparts.

A Hissing Cat...

A study showed that a cat that is hissing during a fight is said to be the most vulnerable one. This is borne out of the fact that the hissing is defensive not antagonistic and the hissing cat is trying it's best not to be in the fight.

We Know Cats Are Smart But...

Did you know that a cat is credited with co-authoring a published physics paper?

True story....a physicist by the name of Jack H. Hetherington upon realising that he had used the pronouns of "we" and "us" throughout his paper about atoms decided to name his cat Chester as co-author under the pseudonym F.D.C Willard! Check it out here where you can also see how Chester cheekily became F.D.C Willard!

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Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Truth About Dog Owners - A Fascinating Survey

Never a day seems to go by when I'm not amazed at a story promoting the loyalty of dogs toward their owners and vice versa.

Surveys often indicate the changing relationship between us and 'mans best friend' and many of us love to 'check out' if it's just US that 'does that' or 'feels that way' about our canines.

People answering questions about their relationship with their dogs don't seem to mind admitting/confessing to some pretty revealing things that show just how much their pets mean to them.

A survey that I came across recently highlighted some interesting stuff such as:

  • 51% of dog people sing to their dog...if this is you then you're not alone!
  • 56% of people celebrate their dog's birthday. I'm sure that this figure would be even higher if a larger percentage knew when their canine buddy's birthday was.
  • 65% of dog owners take more photos of their dogs than of their friends or partners.
  • 47% of dog owners admitted that they actually found it harder to leave their dog for a week than their significant other!
  • 37% of owners have confessed to shedding a tear when they have had to leave their dog at home.
You can find a link to the survey here enjoy!

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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Calculate Your Cat's Stress Levels With This Free Online Tool!

Many owners will know that cats can be easily stressed and external factors such as moving house, change of diet and routine etc. can have a dramatic effect on our feline friends.

Recently I read an article that linked stress to Feline Idiopathic Cystitis  (that's the technical name for a lower urinary tract disorder) which in itself highlights the need to ensure our feline friends maintain a calm equilibrium.

I have written previously about how we can help our cats, by offering a regular routine and giving them the resources to fulfil their daily needs but even with these practical needs met a stressful environment will undo these measures.

Cats that are stressed are likely to withdraw, reduce their food intake and are known to be more likely to run away.

I recently came across a nifty FREE resource that may help owners ascertain whether their cats may be feeling stressed and invite you to try out the Feline Stress Calculator here

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Sunday, 21 May 2017

Some Interesting Cat And Dog Related Phrases And Words That You May Not Know

My regular readers will know that I am always on the lookout for strange and interesting cat and dog related 'stuff' to share and this weeks offering is a collection of a few of the more interesting words and phrases that I have stumbled across over the years relating to our canine and feline friends.



A cumlin is a word derived from comeling and is used to describe cats that comfortably and suddenly attach themselves to new owners, commonly to secure a sneaky second feed supply or when they consider a better deal is available!


This term is an old Scottish term that is used to describe the sound of a purring cat.


This is a word used by some in the 17th century and means the whiskers of a cat..


Although most cat lovers are familiar with the term "tabby" to describe a domestic cat with a striped or mottled coat, what many may not know is that the term was coined by European traders in relation to the silks created by weavers in Baghdad, Iraq that were inspired by the varied colours and markings of cats.

To get one's back up

Whenever someone gets your 'back up', that phrase used to describe when we are angered or annoyed by someone or something you may be surprised to learn that the phrase relates to cats. When our feline friends make themselves big by arching their backs they are literally getting their backs up in relation to a threat or confrontation and this is how the term originally came about.



This is another old Scottish word that was used as a nickname in the early 19th century to describe a dog that was greedy or lazy.


A grumble is a collective name used to describe a group of pugs.

Dog eat dog

This term was originally derived from an old latin proverb Canin caninam non est which actually translates as dog will not eat dog. The term evolved in the 1930's to reflect a more selfish society in which a dog is now capable and more prone to eat another dog.

Hair of the dog

Now often described in relation to having another drink as an antidote to the aftermath of a heavy nights drinking, it may surprise you to know that the original phrase is actually dog-related.

It was considered at one time that it would aid recovery in the case of a rabid dog bite if you placed the hair of the dog that bit you upon the wound or drank a potion containing it!

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Although this is a commonly used term to describe a situation where things should be left alone what you may not know is that the origin of the term can be traced back to the Bible, Book of Proverbs (26:17).

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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Dog Breeds That Bark The Most...And The Least

I was asked recently my opinion on which dog breeds bark the most and gave the answer that, in my experience, smaller breeds were the most likely to bark randomly.

It set me thinking that maybe my own experiences as a dog walker, trainer and behaviourist were just own experiences and studies maybe showed that in the big canine picture most dogs were given to bark randomly at around the same level.

My research lead me to a book by Benjamin and Lynette Hart The Perfect Puppy: How To Choose Your Dog By It's Behaviour in which the authors had listed the dogs that were most and least likely to bark randomly without justification.

According to the book...

The least likely breeds to bark randomly were...
  • Akita
  • Bloodhound
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Rottweiler
And the most likely breed to bark randomly...
  • Beagle
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Fox Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • West Highland White Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier
I also noted that many of the bigger breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Great Danes and Malamutes ranked highly as least likely to bark randomly whilst the smaller breeds such as Chihuahua, Pekinese and small Poodle breeds were rated more likely to be 'random barkers'.

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