Pet Advice

How to Help A Cat That is Aggressive Towards Humans

 

Cats are natural predators and it is normal for them to chase, play and attack (in fun) other cats, you or other members of your family.  A playful inadvertent scratch or a little nip at your toes is not a cause for worry.  However, if your cat or cats become aggressive towards humans and/or your family members, it can be problematic.   There are different kinds of aggression and ways to resolve them.

Reasons a cat might be aggressive

Aggression is not a diagnosis of illness but an emotional condition.  Once it has been established as a problem for you, the owner, each individual case needs to be assessed by taking a thorough history of the cat, his or her environment, how the problem first started and how it has progressed.

Aggression in cats is usually motivated by, or related to:

Social pressures
Fear or anxiety
Frustration
Inappropriate play
Illness or pain

Of course, at the first signs of aggressions, the cat’s health should be checked to ensure it is not motivated by pain or illness. Therefore a visit to your vet will help determine if there is an underlying medical condition.

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Warning signs of aggression to your or anyone else

There are often signs to look out for that alert you that your cat (or any cat you approach) is ready to be aggressive towards you:

Dilated pupils, direct staring

Thrashing/twitching tail

Hissing, growling or spitting

Your cat’s ears flatten against the side of the head or rotate backwards

Your kitty’s body posture often becomes crouched or tense

If you see any of these signs then it is best to turn away and not pursue any physical contact. The cat doesn’t want to attack you unless you absolutely force it to do so by ignoring its signals and continuing your approach.

Cat fighting and biting is common form of aggression

Kittens fight each other when they are young and engage in enthusiastic rough and tumble fights. These are always interrupted if they become a little too violent so that the kittens learn to inhibit their biting when playing.  However, when humans attempt the same kind of games, using their hands, they often reinforce the excitable behavior and encourage kittens to grow up, biting and scratching in the name of play with an intensity that can cause injury. The cat’s preferred target of hands then becomes feet and, as an adult, the cat will pounce on hands and feet at every opportunity.

Play aggression can be easily prevented by making sure that human body parts never form part of any games with your cat. There are numerous toys on the market, most of which are attached to rods or sticks to enable easy manipulation from a distance. Your hands should be associated with gentle stroking, holding and feeding rather than aggressive play. Don’t be tempted to shout or tap your cat’s nose or any other form of intended punishment as this will either be seen as part of the game or as a threatening gesture. This will not teach your kitten new, acceptable ways to play.

Some cats will bite when stroked or pet in certain areas

Many cats love being pet since it is like being groomed by their mothers when they were kittens. However the adult cat has a strong instinctive survival mechanism and they can feel vulnerable to attack if they allow themselves to become too relaxed and comfortable. They develop a sense of conflict between pleasure and potential danger and this can result in a sudden aggressive gesture to escape from the situation. Cats can often be seen running away a few steps and then stopping to groom their paw quickly as if they are rather embarrassed by what they just did.

Any cat that displays this behavior will provide strong warning signs. For example, your cat will stop purring, visibly stiffen, start to thrash its tail from side to side and may even make a hissing sound. If you stop stroking at the first sign you will probably not get bitten.  (My cat, Sammy, to this day, always bites me when I scratch his behind.  Therefore, I don’t scratch it!)

If you have just adopted an aggressive cat, watch what makes him upset or provoked

If your cat is already aggressive, you should allow your cat to initiate contact and keep your responding physical contact brief, concentrating on your kitty’s forehead, cheeks and chin – at least until you know the cat well enough to appreciate what level of attention he or she will tolerate and enjoy.  Let your cat to determine the quality and quantity of interaction that takes place.

If your cat is wary when someone approaches or nervous of people in general, always allow your cat to escape from any situation, when your kitty feels threatened. It is a natural instinct to flee from danger and if you block your cat’s escape (or hiding place)  then it could result in a fearful cat becoming aggressive.

There are ways and methods to learn what makes your cat tick, upsets him or her or even scares your kitty.  Once you have found out why your cat is aggressive, it is easier to determine your approach.  If you have tried all of the above and there are not any underlying medical issues that might cause your cat to be aggressive, you should try to consult a specialist in animal behavior.

 

 

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Why Do Dogs Throw Up? Not Pretty, But Important!

Our dogs love to gobble down their food and sometimes they eat something that doesn’t sit just right and you know the outcome. They vomit all over the house.  Not the prettiest subject matter, but it’s important to understand the different reasons your dog might vomit.  If it is just a one-time occurrence, there is nothing to worry about as your dog probably just gobbled his food too quickly.

If your dog vomits yellow foam, it’s probably a digestion issue

If your dog may vomits yellow foam, it usually is because his stomach is empty and the bile can be irritating. If your dog is otherwise healthy and he's eating normally, it may help to reduce the time in between meals. But this doesn’t mean that your dog should be fed more. Instead, one meal can be divided into two or three smaller but more frequent feedings.

If your dog vomits more than once, take your dog to the vet

If your dog vomits more than once, it can be associated with some sort of gastrointestinal disorder. An occasional, isolated bout of vomiting may not be of concern. However, frequent or chronic vomiting can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as colitis, intestinal obstruction or parvovirus. If your dog’s vomiting is not an isolated incident, please bring him to the vet right away for a complete examination and diagnostic testing.

why does my dog vomit

Below are some things you should watch out for when taking your dog to the vet

The causes of vomiting are so varied that sometimes your vet might have difficulty making a diagnosis, so it’s important to give your veterinarian as much information as possible and indicate if other signs are also occurring. What to watch for:

Frequency of vomiting. If your dog vomits once and proceeds to eat regularly and have a normal bowel movement, the vomiting was most likely an isolated incident.

What to expect at the vet

Depending on your pet’s age, medical history, physical examination findings and your dog’s particular symptoms, your veterinarian may choose to perform various diagnostic tests (bloodwork, radiographs, ultrasound, fecal examination, endoscopy, biopsy or even exploratory surgery) in order to make a diagnosis. 

Below are some reasons why your dog might start vomiting

Bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract, diet-related causes (diet change, food intolerance, ingestion of garbage), foreign bodies (i.e. toys, bones,) in the gastrointestinal tract, intestinal parasites, acute kidney failure, acute liver failure or gall bladder inflammation, pancreatitis, post-operative nausea, ingestion of toxic substances, viral infections, certain medications, heat stroke, car sickness, or infections.

Vomiting that occurs sporadically or irregularly over a longer period of time can be due to stomach or intestinal inflammation, severe constipation, cancer, kidney dysfunction, liver disease or systemic illness.

How to treat your dog that vomits

If your dog has vomited and you want to try to treat him or her yourself, you can treat your dog as you would a baby or sick child.  Give your do some soft bland foods such as boiled potatoes, rice and well-cooked, skinless chicken. It’s very important that your dog stays hydrated and drinks lots of water.  You can try this first if you think your dog just ate something that didn’t agree with him.

In certain situations, your dog may need fluid therapy, antibiotics, a change of diet, a prescription to help control vomiting or other medication.  As always, it’s best to follow your veterinarian’s recommendations regarding appropriate treatment.

 

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Does Your Dog Have Bad Breath?

 

We love getting those wet, mushy kisses from our dogs all over our faces.  And while they are the best way that our dogs express their love, it can become a bit unbearable if they have bad doggy breath!  Dog halitosis is very common among dogs.  Bad doggy breath can sometimes be a sign of a more serious illness, but usually a little extra dental care and change in diet can help make your dog’s breath minty clean (or at least back to normal).

Bad breath is caused by an increase in bacteria

Bad breath is caused by an increase of the bacteria that produces odors in your dog’s mouth and stomach. There are many factors that can cause this increase and bad breath in canines. The main factor tends to be poor dental health. Tartar buildup, plaque, and gum disease will all enhance bad breath in dogs.

A poor diet can also be a factor in your dog's bad breath, especially if you feed your pup canned or table food. If your dog has a habit of eating trash, other pets' food, and anything that he or she can find, it can also contribute to its breath issues.

bad breath with my pet

In more serious cases, bad breath can indicate larger medical issues, like diabetes or kidney disease. If you see symptoms of other diseases or if bad breath persists after adjusting diet and oral health regimens, make sure to take your dog to your veterinarian.

Treating bad breath

If your veterinarian has ruled out any sort of medical issue, then below are some ways to help curb your dog’s bad breath:

Your dog’s breath can be minimized by starting a cleaning routine

Fighting plaque and tartar buildup is the first step in keeping your dogs' teeth healthy and clean, and in turn will reduce bad breath. Dogs' teeth should be brushed at least twice a week. Use toothpaste formulated for dogs and whichever doggie toothbrush works best for you and your pup. While you clean your dog's teeth, check for foreign objects that could be lodged in your dog's teeth or gums.

Many vets also recommend that dogs have their teeth professionally cleaned once every year. Veterinarians will thoroughly clean your dog's teeth, take x-rays, check for cavities, and remove diseased teeth. Talk to your vet about dental checkups and cleanings.

Your dog’s diet can be contributing to the bad breath

Your dog’s diet can influence his oral health and can also contribute to stinking up their breath. Make sure to feed your dog high quality food that is easy to digest. Canned food and table food can be factors in bad breath, so unless your veterinarian directs you to use canned food, stick solely to the dried variety. If possible, don't moisten dried kibble as the added crunch will help fight tartar. Also make sure your dog isn't eating cat or other pet food, trash and make sure that these items are not within your dog's reach.

Try adding parsley slowly to your dog’s diet

As in humans, Parsley is a natural breath freshener that is safe for dogs to ingest unless their stomachs are sensitive to it. Experiment with this fresh herb by adding it to your dog's food.  Do so slowly and see how your dog takes to it.  Raw carrots, in moderation are also known to help minimize the bad breath.

Purchase some dogs chews that help make the breath and teeth clean

Some dog chews and treats are available on the market that help clean your dog’s teeth and keep breath fresh. Hard, dried dog treats work like kibble to reduce plaque with chewing. Just make sure these biscuits aren't healthy and not packed with sugar which will only add to tooth issues and require more cleaning. Other chews have anti-microbial and other ingredients that promote tooth health and fresh breath.

Buy some chew toys for your dogs

Chewing is instinctual to dogs and is their natural way of cleaning teeth. There are a variety of chew toys designed specifically to help keep your dog’s teeth clean. Chewing materials that are great for dog dental care include rawhide, durable rubber, some tough plastics, and strong bones that are safe for dogs. Make sure to stock your pet up with a few toys that are appropriate for their size and let them start gnawing away to healthier teeth.

If your dog is not sick, the above program of brushing your dog’s teeth, finding a health dog food and adding a little parsley to your dog’s diet should help you get rid of your dog’s bad breath.

 

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Is Your Cat Overweight?

Our cats come in all shapes and sizes with all their different funny and quirky personalities.  Some cats love to eat and can gorge all day long while some cats are dainty eaters or don’t like to eat at all.  While we love our cats to eat wholeheartedly, it can sometimes lead to an overweight cat.  Of course, overweight kitties and/or cats can lead to further health issues so it’s better to get your cat on a diet right away.

How can you tell if your cat is overweight?

Look down at your cat. You should be able to see a waist when you look down at your kitty from the top, or when you run your hands from its ribs to its hips. Run your hand along your cat’s abdomen from his or her ribs to his pelvis and it should be indented.  If you put your hands on the side of your cat’s chest, you should be able to feel his or her ribs without a thick layer of fat over them.  There are also charts at your veterinarian’s office that show how to evaluate where your cat falls.

Is Your Cat Overweigh

Take your cat to your veterinarian to rule out a medical condition

It’s always better to take your cat to your veterinarian first to see if your kitty has a thyroid or medical condition contributing to the overweight condition. Your veterinarian can also give you some recommendations as to what type of food that your cat should to eat to lose weight.

Find a high quality food wet food and monitor the portions

Wet food is generally recommended for an overweight cat as they tend to be higher in protein and have more water.  It’s important to keep your cat hydrated and make sure they drink plenty of water.   There are many high protein, healthy wet cat food on the market that are designed for chunky kitties.  If you have to give your kitty dry food, monitor the portions and only leave a little out each day.

Cats don’t like change.  Therefore, it is important to change your kitties’ food slowly and mix the new food into the old food and eventually transition the old food out.  If you change the food too quickly, your cat won’t eat it and you will be forced to go back to the old food and start over.

Your cat could be overweight due to his surroundings

Sometimes our cats are overweight because of his or her surroundings.  Is your cat bored because there’s nothing to do in the house so he just sits around and eats? If that’s the case, then changing his diet or the amount of food he eats won’t help his weight problem. So the issue then is making your home a happier place for your cat. They need windows they can look out. If there is something in your house that is scary to them, they won’t come out to exercise. If your cat’s happier and more active, then he’ll probably lose weight.

Make sure your cat gets exercise

Overweight cats (or any cats) need to get exercise.  Make sure to have toys like mice on sticks and balls and encourage your kitty to climb by placing climbing structures around your home. Try to play with your cat and get him moving for at least ten minutes a day. If your cat is very old or very obese, you may have to build up to ten minutes.

Use healthy cat treats as incentive to move around

Hide edible treats for your cat around the house and hide them at different levels so he or she has to climb to find them. If your cat can’t find the treats, help him out the first few times you hide them. Also, only buy healthy cat treats and always check the treat labels and ingredients list.

If you gradually change your cat’s diet, provide plenty of exercise and an enriched environment, he or she should be able to lose weight over time. 

 

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Tips to Stop Your Puppy from Barking Excessively

As our puppies learn to use their voices and want to communicate with us, they will bark, bite, nip and tug.  They are learning to find their voice and tend to use it a lot!  Puppies bark for many reasons. They want to greet you and/or defend you against anything scary to them and you.

Barking can be a good defense tool and shouldn’t be discouraged.  However, if the barking becomes excessive, there are some things you can do to help encourage your puppy to only bark when appropriate.

Discourage excessive barking by giving your puppy a limit

Try to give your puppy a barking limit. You could allow your puppy to bark three or four times until you acknowledge a warning so your puppy knows that is enough.  You heard him! After the designated number of barks, praise your puppy with something similar to good dog, now ‘sshhh’ and give him a treat as you praise. It’s hard for dogs to bark while chewing so this actual serves a dual purpose.

Talk to your puppy in a calm tone and don’t yell

Talk to your puppy with a calm tone of voice and body language—not just the words—to make sure your puppy understands that you aren’t angry with him.  Barking is also a joyful expression. Use a calm voice to make sure that your puppy doesn’t bark any louder.

Try to figure out why and when your puppy is barking

One of the best ways to get your puppy to stop barking is to understand why he is barking in the first place. Take note of the times he is barking. Is your puppy barking for attention, from excitement, or due to separation anxiety? Usually puppies tend to bark in a sequence and for a specific reason, therefore it should be fairly easy to detect.

Praise your dog when she stops barking

If your puppy barks and you come running every time, then you reward the behavior. Instead, thank your puppy for the warning and then then say, “shhh.” When your puppy stops barking, praise and give her a treat. If he keeps barking, turn your back and leave the room. Most dogs want company, so leaving the room tells your puppy that he is doing something wrong. He will learn to be quiet if she wants you to stay and give her attention.

Practice ringing the doorbell and arrivals to get your puppy used to them

Ringing the bell, knocking on the door, and arrivals or departures excite puppies so associate the location and sounds with good things for the puppy.  With your happy voice, tell your puppy to stop barking after your limit and encourage him with a treat or toy.  He will then associate the ringing of the doorbell to a positive experience.

Giver your puppy lots of toys to keep him busy

Many pups bark because they’re lonely or bored. Even if your puppy has nothing to bark about, talking to himself may be better than listening to lonely silence. Chew toys that reward the puppy’s attention with tasty treats also fill up the mouth and your puppy can’t bark and chew at the same time. Puzzles toys like the Kong can be stuffed with peanut butter or kibble treats that keep your puppy busy biting until he finds the prize.

Try to block out the scary sounds that cause your puppy to bark

Puppies hear a lot of new sound and noises that may inspire barking. When barking arises from fear, there are white noise machines available to help mask the sounds or simply turn the radio to a normal volume or a television with the sound on low.

Every puppy and situation is different and if your puppy continues to bark after trying some of the above, you might want to enlist a professional trainer who can give you additional tips and recommendations. It is best to hire someone while your puppy is young so that you can stop the excessive barking before it becomes problematic in his adult life.

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