Pet Advice

Why Is Your Dog Shaking?

We know how our dogs love to shake to have a release of energy or just to get attention.  Shaking is a way for dogs to let out some adrenaline, dry themselves off, and get moving after they have awakened from a nap. Not all shakes are happy and there are many reason which might cause a dog to shiver or tremble.  Therefore, it is important for you to understand and recognize the difference.

Below are some reasons why your dog might be shaking and what to do about it.

Your dog is shaking after exercise or getting wet… the good shakes!

If you have a dog, you’re familiar with the wet dog shake. That wild body twitching, jowl flapping, post-bath dance is actually a healthy reflex for furry animals, allowing them to quickly dry themselves and prevent hypothermia. Another healthy behavior is the excited shake. When dogs are playing with you or other dogs they might occasionally shudder while jumping, licking, or nuzzling. It’s how they show emotion and let out their pent up energy.

Dog Shaking

This is the ‘happy’ shake!

Your dog might shake from stress or fear

Your dog might shake out of fear or some other anxiety.  New people or scary animals, thunderstorms, a visit to the vet, fireworks you are some of the common triggers that can spark anxiety. Unlike the happy shakes, this automatic response to stress may be accompanied by panting, chewing on furniture, and other anxious behavior. Your dog may hide, growl, or display signs of aggression as well. Some breeds are more prone to anxiety, but disposition and circumstances also play a large part in a dog’s reaction to stress. If chronic anxiety is a problem and a medical condition has been ruled out, you might want to see an animal behaviorist.

White Dog Shaker Syndrome is a treatable illness that could cause your dog to shake

White Dog Shaker Syndrome is a serious illness that could cause your dog to shake or tremble. These movements are very different from the happy shakes and can usually be ruled out as anxiety-related since they’re not a reaction to specific stressors. White dog shaker syndrome (also known as Generalized Tremor Syndrome and responsive tremor syndrome) is one of these disorders, causing full body tremors in young dogs. While first discovered in small breeds, it can occur in any dog, regardless of size or breed. Treated with steroids, such as prednisone, your dog should start to improve within a couple weeks.

Muscle Fatigue and/or exhaustion

In the same way your legs might be shaky after a long run, a dog’s legs might shake after exertion. This type of trembling is often confined to the legs and resolves after a period of rest.  If this happens often, the trembling is severe or it happens with no apparent cause and happens too often after a walk or a form of exercise, it could be something other than muscle exhaustion and you should take your dog to the vet.

Your dog might shake because he has eaten or swallowed something toxic. 

A number of toxins cause shaking in dogs. Some of these include the following:

Snail bait and other insecticides, chocolate, certain medications, bacteria in spoiled food, poisonous plants, salt, detergent or anything under your sink, salt, xylitol.

If your dog is shaking and you have reason to suspect that the animal could possibly have been exposed to any type of toxin, take the pet to the nearest emergency clinic immediately. If your pet has been poisoned, early treatment might save the dog’s life.

Canine Distemper can cause your dog to shake

This virus, marked by fever, coughing, and nasal discharge, can also cause seizures and tremors. Puppies that haven’t been fully vaccinated are at greatest risk. You should see your vet immediately if you notice symptoms or suspect your dog has been exposed to distemper. There’s no cure, but your vet can manage symptoms and help prevent secondary infections with intravenous fluids and antibiotics until your dog’s immune system fights off the virus.

Chronic kidney disease or Addison’s disease

Pets with chronic kidney disease or renal failure can be symptom-free for a very long time; then suddenly you might notice that your dog seems to drink and urinate more frequently. Other signs, including shaking, might follow as the damage progresses rapidly. While you can’t cure it, you can manage renal disease with therapy and treatments allowing you to offer your dog the best quality of life possible.

Dogs with Addison’s disease lack sufficient cortisol. Signs of Addison’s include loss of energy and strength, gastrointestinal problems, and little or no appetite. Trembling is another symptom. Addison’s is often misdiagnosed, which can lead to more severe problems. If your dog seems chronically ill and undernourished, talk to your doctor about all the possible causes to ensure that, if it is Addison’s, treatment can be given as soon as possible.

Senior dogs can shake just from old age

Unfortunately, aging dogs are at increased risk for disorders that cause trembling and cognitive deterioration. You can’t reverse the decline, but you can work with your vet to find therapies and treatments\that will help reduce discomfort and support your pet during the senior years.

 

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How to Help Our Senior Cats Age Gracefully

As our cats enter their senior years, we pet owners need to help them with the transition by recognizing their special needs and changes.  It is important for our cats to have the correct food, plenty of water, a litterbox they can easily access and a nice bed to relax.  Jumping up and running around is no longer an option (for some senior cats) so we need to make sure they have easy access to whatever they need to function on a day-to-day basis.

Cats have a very long life span

For the most part, cats that are older than eleven are considered senior and this is the time when you can expect to see some changing.  Each cat is different, but you will notice that your cat isn’t as spry as he used to be and might have some age-related medical issues that could affect them.  Indoor cats, for the most part, tend to live longer than outdoor cats.  However, if you make sure to feed your cats a healthy diet and keep up with their vet visits, a cat can live up to his or her twenties!

 

Senior Cats Age Gracefully

Take good care of me!

 

As our cats age, there are some physical issues that you can expect

Arthritis is a common physical problem in older cats as you will see that your kitties’ won’t jump on the high places they used to. But the change is subtle and can take place over time.  Some cats may also have problems jumping into and out of the litter box. When cats get older, you don’t want a tall litter box that’s hard for them to get in and out of but purchase one with lower sides and easy access.

Our older cats tend to have more kidney- related issues

Some of the common medical issues in older cats are overactive thyroid, intestinal problems, sometimes cancer, pancreatitis, diabetes, and renal disease.  Most are a result of changes in the kidney itself or result from the dysfunction of other organs such as the heart, which if not functioning properly, will decrease blood flow to the kidneys. Kidney function can be measured through blood tests and a urinalysis. These tests can identify a kidney problem well before there are any physical signs of disease. The most frequent sign of kidney disease is usually an increase in water consumption and urination.

As cats age, they sometimes cry in the middle of the night or at unusual times

As cats age, you will sometimes here them cry in the middle of the night but it’s usually not due to pain, just a yelp.  It’s their way of releasing.  Sometimes your kitty will act confused or won't relate to family members in the usual way. These also can be signs of aging. But they can also be signs of arthritis or dental disease or kidney disease, so you don’t want to write them off as just old age and have your cat checked out.

As our cats enter their senior years, try to take them to the vet twice a year

As our cats are known for hiding their feelings, you should be on top of anything new that might occur by seeing your vet twice a year. If you catch any change early on, it’s usually less expensive to deal with and the treatment is much more successful. Your vet will conduct routine tests, such as blood tests or urinalysis and they can pick up the very earliest signs of kidney problems, diabetes, hyperthyroid in its early stages, or an elevated white blood cell count and let you know the required treatment sooner rather than later.

Wet food is more preferable than dry in a kitty’s older age and water is key

Make sure that your aging cat (or cats of any age) gets plenty of water. If they won’t drink water regularly or if you’ve been on dry food, you may have to go to canned or semi-moist food. If your cat has trouble chewing as they can in older age, wet food can also be digested much more readily.

Make sure to stay on top of your cat’s dental appointments

Dental disease is one of the most common changes we see in older cats. Routine dental care including brushing your cat’s teeth can help minimize dental disease. Cats who have not received proper dental care can develop significant dental disease as they age and may develop life-threatening complications. A dental care program should consist of regular dental checkups and professional cleaning as needed.  It is not fun for our kitties but often necessary.

Many of our older cats lose their hearing

Some cats will experience hearing loss as they age. Slight hearing loss is hard to determine in cats. Often hearing loss is severe before an owner becomes aware of the problem. The first sign could be that your cat has seemingly become more aggressive when it really is that your kitty was caught off guard, became startled when touched (due to loss of hearing your approach), and instinctively reacted.  Therefore, be kind to them and approach them gently.

If you watch out for the signs of aging and schedule bi-annual vet visits, your cat can live a long, healthy life.

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Hamsters are Cute but Not Low Maintenance Pets!

If you are looking to add a pet to your family, a hamster can be an excellent choice as a starter pet.  However, hamsters, like cats and dogs, do require maintenance, love, care and a big home (habitat) of their own. They are fun, furry creatures but do require a bit of an investment and care to keep them happy and healthy.

Before you decide to take the plunge, below are some things you should consider:

Hamsters are nocturnal and are their noisiest at night

Hamsters are nocturnal which means they will be most active at night. If you're a light sleeper who is disturbed by the smallest of sounds, a squeaky wheel at 1 a.m. might drive you to distraction. If you work a graveyard shift and are looking for furry companionship during the day, hamsters are bound to frustrate your expectations. But if you're a night owl, a hamster could be the perfect companion when you’re working or staying up late at night.

Hamsters will need to be watched if you have children under seven years of age.

Because of their small size, hamsters are often purchased as pets for children who want to play with them during the day. However, just when it's time for your child to go to sleep, it's time for a hamster to wake up. A hamster awakened suddenly from a nap during the day may bite. Therefore, hamsters need to be handled only with adult supervision by children under 7 years old.

Hamster pet for you

I’m cute but need care and love!

Hamsters require a gentle touch and may be easily startled by sudden movement and loud noises. The motor skills of children under 7 are usually not refined enough to make a hamster feel comfortable being handled. Young children who lack fine motor control and self-restraint may inadvertently drop a hamster, squeeze him, or scare him into biting. 

The cost of adopting a hamster is minimal but the supplies also need to be considered

The adoption fee or purchase price for a hamster is typically small, but there are startup costs and ongoing needs to anticipate. The initial purchase of equipment and supplies is likely to include the following: a wire cage, aquarium, or modular habitat, bedding and nesting materials, nesting box, exercise wheel, a food dish, water bottle, hamster food and hay, treats and toys.

Hamsters need daily ‘love’ and a cleaning of the cage

Hamsters are fairly independent and can entertain themselves for extended periods of time, provided their housing is properly enriched with toys, bedding, and opportunities for burrowing and climbing. Still, to be happy and well-adjusted, your hamster should receive daily handling and interaction. Keep in mind that you'll need to thoroughly clean your hamster's cage every week.

The lifespan of a hamster is not very long

The average lifespan for a hamster is 2.5 to 3 years with slight variations among hamster breeds. If you can't make a long commitment to a pet, this characteristic may be appealing. But if you have young children and aren't prepared for them to experience the death of a pet, you may prefer a longer-lived animal.

Below are some other items to be considered:

Don’t forget your housekeeping duties such as removing droppings, uneaten food and soiled bedding every day. Every week, remove and replace all the bedding, and scrub the bottom of the cage with hot, soapy water.

A hamster’s teeth grow continuously, so your pet will need to chew to keep his teeth in tip-top condition. Make sure he always has a piece of wood or twig that has not been treated with pesticides, other chemicals or paints. Pieces of dog biscuit will work well, too, or even a carrot.

It’s important to get your little hamster used to you, and used to being handled. Start by feeding your hamster treats; once he’s comfortable accepting treats from your hand, you can gently and securely pick him up. Hold him for a short time at first and then gradually increase your time with him.

Once you’ve hand-tamed your hamster, you should let him play outside of the cage, in a secure, enclosed area, while you supervise. Be sure to remove any electrical wires from the area, and anything else your curious pet could, but shouldn’t, gnaw on.  Hamsters need to run their legs a little bit and get their daily exercise.

Hamsters need to have annual vet visits just like dog and cats

If you think your hamster is sick, it is important to get medical attention immediately. Common signs that something isn’t right with your hamster may include dull-looking eyes, matted fur, weight loss, shaking, runny nose and diarrhea. Also hamsters are more susceptible to respiratory problems, especially the common cold, which they can catch from their human pet parents.

Hamsters are great pets but do require love, care, daily cleaning of the cages and vet visits. They will thrive and make you happy if you care for them properly.

 

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Can You Teach a Cat To Do Tricks? Yes, you can!

As much as our feline favorites have a mind of their own, cats can be trained to perform certain tricks and/or behaviors.  There are some differences between the way cats and dogs are trained as cats aren’t as likely to be as motivated by praise as dogs. Cats are also less instinctively driven to work in partnership with their human ‘slaves’ but only when they feel like it or are ready.  However, with the right methods, patience and repetition, your cat can be taught tricks.

Training your cat also has important health and mental benefits. You’re stimulating your kitty’s his body and his mind, which helps keep him healthy. And spending time together means you’re strengthening the bond you share. In addition to teaching fun tricks like wave and fetch, you can also teach him a range of useful behaviors like sit, stay and to come when called.  Always start with simple tricks before moving onto the next.

Always train cats (and dogs) with positive reinforcement

Cats should only be taught new behaviors with positive, reward-based training. Punishment and and/or yelling at are cats are not only destructive but not effective. Punishment creates stress, and stress is one of the most common causes for problem behaviors in cats, including eliminating outside of the litter box and compulsive grooming and should never be used under any circumstance.

Cats Do Tricks

Your cat’s favorite treats will be the prime motivator in training your cat

The first step to train your cat is to find a treat that your cat goes crazy for. Fresh chicken diced in tiny cubes, bits of tuna, meat-flavored baby food, and commercial cat treats are all good choices. Once you’ve identified treats your cat likes, follow the basic steps of positive reward-based training to teach him the behavior you want.

For instance, if you’d like your cat to sit and stay on a chair while you prepare your dinner. You’ll first need to start with teaching him to sit when you ask him to:

Make sure you have your cat’s attention. Hold the tasty treat in your fingers right at your cat’s nose. When your cat begins to sniff the treat, slowly move it in an arc from his nose up just over his head between his ears.  Many cats will follow this arc motion with their eyes and nose, and as their chin raises up and back, their butt will go down.

Next, the instant your cat’s bottom hits the floor, praise him and offer him the treat. If his rear doesn’t go all the way down on the first try, give him the treat anyway. Over several repetitions of practice, give him a treat each time his rear gets slightly closer, until he’s gets into a complete sit with his rear all the way on the floor.  If your cat has difficulty taking the treat from your fingers, try offering your kitty from your hand or tossing it on the floor.  Your kitty see the movement when you toss it and know where the treat is.

Practice makes perfect (or almost) in training our cats.

You need to repeat your training and practice with your kitty.  You don’t want to wear your cat out or bore your feline, but you do want your kitty to understand the relationship between a particular reward and behavior as well as the command associated with that behavior. You will, however, want to repeat the routine again the next day and continue it on a regular basis so that your cat doesn’t forget what he’s just learned.

Train your cat with a loving, happy voice

Cats do recognize a loving voice and a nice rub down as a sign that they did something correct and/or you are happy with them.  Make sure to always praise them with treats, love and food (but not too much) after they have completed the task.  Food is the main motivator but love and kindness can help ‘seal’ the deal.

Make sure your cat has mastered one trick before moving on to the next

Once your cat has fully mastered his first trick, move on to others. Using treats, your sweet voice or whatever motivates your cat the best, you can introduce common tricks like “stay” “give me a kiss” and others.  Some cats can even be taught how to walk on a leash or open a door.

Don’t try training your kitty when he or she is sleepy

The best time to teach your kitty a new trick is after breakfast or at night.  Always train your kitty when they are at their most alert so that you can hold on to their attention.  If they are in sleepy mode and not responding (which is most of the time), try again another time when your cat is more alert.

With time and practice, you can train your cat to learn new tricks.  However, don’t get discouraged if your cat doesn’t respond at first.  It takes time, praise, treats and encouragement and a lot of repetition!

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Can You Teach an Older Dog New Tricks - Absolutely!

If you are just adopting an older dog or simply want to engage your current adult dog to learn some new tricks or behavior, it can be done.  Older dogs are less distracted than puppies, but need a bit more enticement.  Teaching a puppy and teaching an adult dog differ in that puppies have an eager-to-please attitude and tend to be much more excitable. A little bit of age is not enough to make it impossible to train an older dog, however patience and rewards are a necessity!

Positive Reinforcement in the only way to go

Positive reinforcement is always the best training technique for a dog of any age. While you may feel like your patience is being tested at times, you should never resort to punishment of any kind, because punishing your dog for not performing can have a negative effect, backfiring and preventing your training efforts from ever having the results you seek.

Teach A Dog Old Tricks

You want me to jump how high?

Along with positive reinforcement, having good treats handy is particularly important.  Be mindful of the quality and that it’s something your pup LOVES so he will do anything to get that particular treat and/or even toy. 

Patience is a virtue for training an older dog

While training your older dog, you need to exercise patience and restraint.  You might feel as if your dog should know what to do as he is an older dog and not a puppy.  But, sometimes it can be hard for your dog to learn something new or unlearn a bad behavior.  That is why toys, treats and much love and patience is required.  A ‘good boy’ and hug goes a long way!

Next time you visit your veterinarian, discuss what tricks your dog can accomplish

Beyond the basic training of sitting, lying down, coming to the door, talk to your vet to see if there are any medical conditions and/or tricks that you shouldn’t try with your dog.  Your dog might have arthritic or joint issues so jumping or catching a ball might actually hurt your dog and frustrate you without realizing it.  Start with something easier and gradually work up to bigger tricks.  However, jumping up might need even be an option and your vet will let you know what obstacles if any your dog might have.  There might even be memory or cognitive issues that can affect an older dog’s training.

Keep your training sessions short and watch out for fatigue

Remember that as our dogs age, they don’t have the patience of a puppy and therefore need to be trained differently.  Make sure to keep you training sessions short and watch out for signs of fatigue. Besides just walking away or lying down, some of the signs of exhaustion include:  yawning, drooping ears, excessive lip licking, lifting up his front paw and sniffing the ground.

Your older dog can be trained more easily by learning one trick at a time

Since your dog is older, you might feel the need to hurry up and put pressure on them to be trained and/or learn a certain behavior.  Don’t embark on a long list of desired behaviors or responses, juggling multiple tricks at once as it will confuse them and frustrate you.  Start with one or two, like come or sit, and only introduce an additional trick once they’re catching on to the first one.  Focus on one and then move on to the next.

Try training your older dog when he is at his most alert time of day

You want to teach your older dog new tricks when he is the most alert and likely to be engaged.  This would usually be in the morning after he has eaten his first meal.  Try feeding your dog a little less for breakfast so when you start the training, your dog is most enticed by the idea of a healthy dog treat.  If you try to train your dog or teach him a trick right after a long walk, he will be less likely to participate as he will be more tired from the walk and would rather nap. 

Make sure to work with your older dog every day for at least fifteen minutes

Make sure to spend every day trying to reinforce a new behavior to get your dog to learn a new trick.  The more consistency and repeat of the trick and/or technique, the easier it is for your dog to remember and learn it.  Make it fun for your dog and not annoying or like work.  Remember that many dogs have short attention spans so be short but always end on a good note.  Your dog will remember the good and want to repeat it.

If you try to teach an older dog a new trick or behavior, be patient, loving, practice and every day, and you will see your dog learning something new.  It will be exciting and rewarding for both of you!

 

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