Kitten Update

I have wonderful news from Myka’s new family.  Little Myka is thriving!  At first, his feline brother and sister weren’t too sure about having a baby in the house.  They hissed and played “hard to get” for a few days.  Now they are all one big happy family.  Myka is a people cat, he likes to be with his human parents.  After a few nights in his safe room, Myka wanted to sleep in bed with everyone else.  He curled up and stayed there all night.  Here are two pictures of Myka in his new home.  I wish they were less fuzzy but isn’t it great to see him so happy.  It is what all foster parents hope for.      

In this picture, Myka curled up under a chair.  He played so hard that he fell asleep right on the spot!

Kitten Update – Two Found Homes!

Great news!  Yesterday, the buff kitten was a adopted by a very nice woman who lives in Phoenix.  The little guy will be an only child in his new home.  Although he will miss his brothers, I think he will thrive as an only cat.  He loves attention.  His new owner promised to send me updates.  I will pass on the information when I receive it.  Until then, enjoy the last video of him taken right before his adoption.

Watching the little buff and tabby go has been difficult for me.  I am very attached to all of them.  Even though I know they are in wonderful homes with people who love them, I still worry.  I want to commend all of you foster parents out there who take in these wayward orphans during their time of need.  It is a mixed blessing to be a foster.  But I know deep down it’s a wonderful gift to the animals even if sending them off is so hard.    


Brown Tabby Male Kitten

  The Explorer

This little guy was the most athletic kitten of the litter.  He loved to climb anything and everything he saw.  Scratches still cover my legs from his sharp little claws.  Because of him, I kept my feet up on a stool when he was loose.  One night, he stared at my legs, gathered himself, jumped and missed.  With his ability, it wouldn’t be long before my legs were in danger again.

When I called the kittens, this tabby came running.  As you can see from the milk on his fur, he was not the neatest eater in the world.  Milk usually spilled out the sides of his mouth when he suckled.  After a meal, I bathed his face, neck and chin with warm water and toweled him off.  His favorite part came next.  I would hold him in a towel and rub his chin.  He loved attention! 

I keep using past tense because of the following wonderful news:  On September 11th, my little ‘explorer’ went to his new, permanent home.  Besides human parents, he now has an older feline brother and sister to chase around.  When I learn more, I will post an update on him.  Until then, please enjoy the video of him playing with his brothers a few days before his adoption.  The other three kittens continue to grow beautifully.  They still need homes.  Again, if you know of anyone in Arizona who wants a kitten please contact me.   


Aggression Between Your Dogs – How To Stop It

Aggression between dogs in the same household is a difficult problem.  Often, the dominant dog turns on the submissive one for no apparent reason.  Unfortunately, the episodes will escalate in severity over time.  Here are my recommendations for dealing with this challenge.  Sadly, some dogs will never get along.  Finding a new home for one of them might be your only option.  Please note, these recommendations are for dogs with dominant type personalities.  They are not for dogs that are motivated by fear.  If you are unsure what is motivating your dog, please consult with a veterinary behavioral specialist. 
1) Keep the dogs separated at all times unless under direct supervision.  Consider using a head collar or basket muzzle when the dogs are allowed to interact to make sure the dominant dog cannot injure the submissive one.
2) Identify the cause of the aggression and avoid it.  In veterinary medicine, we call these triggers.  Common triggers include control of resources such as toys, food or treats, access to humans, excitement and human attention.  Basically, a trigger may be anything the dog considers valuable.  The front door was a trigger for one of my patients because that is where the family entered the house.  The dog would not let any other pet in the family approach this area.  

Once the trigger is identified, avoid it.  In the above situation, I had the family enter through the back door until the dog was deconditioned to the area.  Another common trigger is food.  Feed the dogs in separate rooms and pull up the food bowls before allowing them to leave.  Also avoid excited greetings, throwing one ball for two dogs and situations where the dogs become over stimulated.  One of my patients was bitten by the other dog in the family when they were riding in a car.  Both dogs started barking at a pedestrian.  When the dominant dog could not jump out of the window, it turned and attacked the submissive one.  

3)  Give both dogs an obedience refresher.  Focus on the basics as well as the “settle” command. 
4)  Exercise, exercise, exercise!  As I was taught in veterinary school, a tired dog rarely gets into trouble.  Give the dogs, especially the dominant one, a great deal of exercise.  This is the best treatment I know for controlling a mischievous personality (and as an added bonus, it works for children too!)

5)  Institute a new policy for the dominant dog, nothing in life is free.  Make them work for everything they want.  If they want to eat, make them sit first.  If they want a cookie, make them settle first.  Do not allow them to demand attention.  If they want to jump into your lap, make them wait until invited.  Teach them to work for what they want (this works for husbands too!)

6) Make sure all humans support the established hierarchy of the house.  That means, interact with the dominant dog first and then the submissive one.  Some fights occur when we humans ignore the established order.  Here is an example from this spring:  A family with an adult dog adopted a new puppy.  When they returned from work, the people greeted the puppy first, then the dog.  The adult dog felt the puppy was being disrespectful.  On the second day, the dog bite the puppy. 

CAUTION:  This recommendation comes with two important caveats.  First, do not over do!  I do not want to turn the dominant dog into a bully.  Second, this only works if both dogs understand proper canine etiquette.  Let me demonstrate this point with an example.  Let’s say a dominant dog has a toy that the submissive dog wants.  When the submissive dog approaches, the dominant dog raises its lip and growls.  In normal dog interaction, the submissive dog understands the signal, backs away and no fight ensues.  In one form of abnormal behavior, the dominant dog attacks even though the submissive dog has retreated.  The cause of this behavior is often rooted in anxiety.  On the other side of the coin, some submissive dogs miss the signal to retreat.  This often occurs with age when hearing and eyesight diminish.

7) Consider drug therapy for six to eight months in conjunction with other behavioral therapy.

8) If the basics aren’t helping, consult with a board certified veterinary behaviorist (yes, veterinary medicine has shrinks too).    

9)  I have written here about two dogs who live together.  Some of it also applies where two dogs come together in other settings.  An example might be relatives who come to stay over the holidays and bring their pet  along.  So be on the lookout for clues the dogs are sending and remember to think about the hierarchy from their point of view. 
As you can tell from the above, dealing with aggression between family dogs is a difficult problem.  Watch your dogs closely for subtle signs that might signal a problem.  Look for staring, hesitation to enter a room and other abnormal behaviors.  If observed, seek help immediately.                 

Labrador Retrievers – Name A Genetic Disease Associated With Exercise

This beautiful girl is Daisy, a Labrador Retriever.  Daisy likes to spend her days chasing balls and dumbbells in the backyard.  She races after toys with the unbridled joy common to hunting dogs.  Her energy knows no bounds.  Unfortunately, not all labs share Daisy’s endurance.  During strenuous activity, some will suffer from a neurolgic condition that affects their rear legs.  Name the disease?  Your knowledge of labs is superior if you can name the gene that causes it.


Diagnosis:  Exercise-Induced Collapse (E.I.C.)

E.I.C. is caused by a mutation in a gene called dynamin 1 or DNM1.  This gene is thought to impact nerve function during exercise.  In affected dogs, exercise coupled with excitement causes hind limb weakness that progress to collapse.  In rare causes, the condition might progress to the front legs.  Most dogs return to normal with rest.      

Before breeding or using a dog for water work, I recommend testing all Labrador, Curly-Coated and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers for this condition.  Blood, cheek swabs, dew claws or semen may be submitted to The University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Lab for analysis.  According to the U of M, up to thirty percent of labs may carry the recessive gene. Five percent of the population is thought to display clinical signs.  So far there is no cure for this condition.  Prevention through limitation of exercise and excitement (good luck with a lab) is the only option in affected dogs. 
Sources:  Patterson E.E., et al, A canine DNM1 mutation is highly associated with the syndrome of exercise-induced collapse, Nat Genet. 2008 Act;40 (10)1235-9.  

University of Minnesota, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, Genetic Test for Exercise-Induced Collapse (E.I.C.)  pamphlet.            

The Buff Kitten

  The Teddy Bear

This little fellow reminds me of Baloo, the character in Disney’s Jungle Book.   When he nurses, he likes to lie on his back.  He closes his eyes and massages the air with both front feet.  His actions remind me of Baloo singing about the ‘Bare (or is it Bear) Necessities’ while scratching his back on a tree.  This kitten is definitely a live and let live kind of guy.  As long as he can eat and play with his brothers, he is happy.   

His color is most unusual.  At first I thought he was a lilac point, but now I am unsure.  As he grows, more and more stripes appear on his head and legs.  The hair on his body is a lovely tan color.  The one thing that hasn’t changed are his beautiful blue eyes.  When he is tired of playing, he crawls into my lap, looks into my eyes and purrs . . . unconditional trust . . .  unconditional love. 

When he crawls up, he is ready to nap.  I swaddle him in a towel and he falls asleep in my arms.  Like all of his brothers, he is a special gift.  If you have an opinion about his coloring, please write a comment.  Perhaps collectively, we will solve the mystery.  Enjoy the picture below!         


Video of Long Haired Black Kitten

          The Thinker

The second kitten of the litter is a long haired black male.  This little guy watches the other kittens, thinks about it and then decides whether to join them or not.  Of the four kittens, he is the most laid back and is very intelligent.  He was the first kitten to use the litter box!  (Look, they haven’t been alive that long so the list of accomplishments is not lengthy but this was a notable achievement).  His fur feels like velvet.  It tends to stick up in a multitude of directions, especially on his head.  Faint stripes of darker black are beginning to appear in his coat.  As you can see from the pictures, his eyes are blue-gray in color.  At first, they were bright blue.  Over the last week, they are becoming less blue and are likely to turn more green in color.  

This little guy loves to play with shoe laces.  Yesterday, when I was shooting pictures of his brothers, he crawled into my lap and played with the camera strap.  I quickly turned the camera on him and shot the attached video.  

Unfortunately, none of these kittens have permanent homes yet.  Please keep them in you thoughts and if you know of anyone in Arizona who wants an adorable kitten have them contact me.     


Introducing Your New Baby To The Family Cat

Welcoming a new human baby into the family is a joyous time for everyone . . . except the pets.  Why?  Because the attention once lavished on them is now given to the infant.  They are confused, upset and sometimes even jealous of the new addition.  Here are my recommendations for making this a more pleasant experience for the feline members of your family.

Before The Birth
1)  Make sure your cat is up-to-date on their vaccinations and parasite control.  Recheck a fecal sample within thirty days of your due date just to be safe.
2)  Allow the cat to explore all the baby items you acquire.  Let them sit in the crib, stroller, etc., until the novelty has worn off, then clean the items before the baby arrives.
3)  Decondition the cat to the sound of a crying baby.  Buy a CD or record a friend or family member’s child and play it for the cat regularly.  Start with the volume low and slowly increase.  To make this even more real, carry a doll in your arms when the CD is playing.
4)  If changes will be made in sleeping arrangements, furniture placement, etc., make them before the baby comes home.  For example, many cats sleep in bed with their owners (or more accurately, the cats allow the people to sleep in their bed!)  Once baby arrives, many poor cats are suddenly kicked-out of the bedroom to protect the baby.  So, it is only natural that the cat associates the baby with getting kicked out!  It is far better to make changes before the baby arrives to prevent this negative association.
5)  Consider a crib tent to keep the cat out of the crib once the baby has arrived.
6)  Consider installing a screen door on the nursery which allows the cat to see, hear and smell the baby without access.
7)  Right before your child’s birth, trim the cat’s nails.

When Mom And Child Are At The Hospital
1)  Bring home blankets or other items with the baby’s scent on it.
2)  Dad should spend one-on-one time with the cat in the same clothes used to hold the baby.
3)  Exercise the cat as much as possible before the baby comes home.  It will make the introduction better.

Bringing Your Baby Home
1)  Note that this is very important – Mom should go in alone while someone else stays outside with the baby.  Greet your cat and shower them with affection.  Since you have been gone for a day or two, it is important to re-establish the bond with your cat.  Let them know that they are still your ‘baby’ even though you now have another one.  Spend at least fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time together before you bring the child inside.  It is vitally important for your cat to focus on you without the distraction of a baby crying or the commotion of visitors in the household.   
2)  Number two is a repeat of number one.  I cannot stress enough how important this step is.  Do not let an impatient dad come into the house with the baby too early!  Make it clear that the baby stays outside until the mother calls them in.
3)  After re-bonding with your pet, introduce them to the baby.  Keep the child wrapped in a blanket for protection during the cat’s inspection.  If the cat is calm, pull the blanket away to expose a foot or hand.  Slowly and calmly, let them sniff the child until they get bored.  Clean milk off the child’s face and clothes before the introduction so the cat doesn’t try to lick it off. 
4)  For the remainder of the day, spend as much time with your cat as possible.  Try to do the things your cat loves to let them know that everything is okay.  Spoil them with a few treats and lots of chin rubs.  Let them know that they will always be your ‘baby’ too. 

A Word Of Caution
I never recommend leaving a baby or young child alone with a pet of any kind.  It is too easy for an accident to occur.  Allow supervised access only until the child is old enough to understand the proper way to interact with a pet.  Most of all, count yourself blessed.  The miracle of life is wonderful in both it’s human and animal forms!