General Interest

Prickly Pets

posted March 8th, 2015 by
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Hedgehogs

Prickly Pets

 

From hedges to households, hedgehogs reign as the latest pet trend.

 

By Bria Bolton Moore

 

When he was 9 years old, Mary Dickey’s son Ryan didn’t beg for a rowdy puppy or a purring kitten like most kids. He wanted a palm-sized prickly playmate, a hedgehog.

Mary granted Ryan’s wish, and they got their first hedgehog, Tiggy, in 1995. The Dickeys began breeding and caring for hedgehogs at their home in Stillwater, Okla.

 

“We went from having them in my son’s bedroom to the bedroom being overtaken by being the ‘animal room’,” Mary Dickey said.

Today, 20 years after Tiggy became part of their family, Dickey has eight hedgehogs, three females and five males, and operates Atlantis Hedgehogs.

It seems more and more people are interested in welcoming a quill-covered animal into their homes. Due to exotic animal ownership restrictions, keeping a hedgehog as a pet is banned or restricted in at least     six states. However, their popularity as American pets grows.

Dickey said she has seen sparked interest at Atlantis Hedgehogs with an influx of calls as more people question if a hedgehog is the right pet for them. Similarly, Kimber Knight, who owns Parkplase Heggies in Ramona, Okla., has also experienced more inquiries.

“I have gotten more emails and calls in the last six months than I ever have,” said Knight, who has owned hedgehogs since 1999 when her family got their first heggie, Sonic.

Dr. Rachael Davis, DVM, is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at VCA Woodland South Animal Hospital in Tulsa. She said she has cared for more hedgehogs recently, three in the last few months, and has about five in her client base.

People are fascinated by the small, cute creatures. Social media celebrity Biddy the Hedgehog has an Instagram account with more than 480,000 followers featuring snapshots of Biddy at the beach, on road trips and hanging out with a fellow pet, Charlie the Mini Mutt. The April 2014 cover of National Geographic highlighted Jade, a female hedgehog from South Carolina, who attracted attention to the magazine’s piece on owning exotic animals.

While there are 15 hedgehog species, most domestic hedgehogs in the United States are African Pygmy hedgehogs. They generally have white bellies, of course fur, with more than 5,000 spines covering their crown of the head and back. Male hedgehogs weigh about 1.5 to 2.5 pounds, while the females weigh half a pound to 1 pound. Hedgehogs live about four to six years.

The right pet for you?

Kristen Zorbini Bongard is a board member of the Hedgehog Welfare Society, a 501(c)(3) committed to the health and welfare of hedgehogs through rescue, education and research. The society has more than 1,600 members who reside in 31 countries.

“I originally became interested in hedge-hogs because I was allergic to many of the more traditional furry pets,” Bongard said. “I read a couple of books about them and then adopted an unwanted hedgehog from a friend of a friend.”

As a rescuer, Bongard said she sees “many, many instances of buyer’s remorse” because people don’t know a lot about hedgehogs before they bring them home. She encourages people to do their research, talk to someone who owns a hedgehog and meet a hedgehog before deciding to get one as a pet.

“They’re really interesting pets, but they’re not for everyone,” Bongard said.

She said she has spent thousands of dollars in vet bills through the years.

“They are exotic animals and require a knowledgeable vet and frequently require anesthesia just to be examined—the downside of a pet that can enclose its body in sharp quills,” Bongard said. “For all you put in, you will still not have an animal that will miss you when you’re gone or greet you at the door with a wagging tail. Make sure it’s worth it to you before you commit to owning a hedgehog.”

Hedgehogs can be interactive pets, but they’re naturally shy, rolling up into a ball when they feel threatened or uncomfortable.

“They require a little bit of effort, but they can be a lot of fun,” Dickey said. “They’re not social like a dog or a cat that seeks to be friends with you. You have to handle them a lot. So, if you’re not willing to handle your hedgehog, you may end up with a little pet that sits in the corner, and you never see it. And it’s prickly,” she said between laughs.

Dr. Davis echoed Dickey’s comments on hedgehog temperament.

“Some aren’t really interested in being handled,” Dr. Davis said. “They want to just roll up into a ball. But, most of the time, that can be overcome with gentle handling and getting them used to people. Then, I see some that are just out, walking around and aren’t even phased by coming in to see me (in the veterinarian’s office).”

Dr. Davis said some hedgehogs are stressed by new people, small children, or dogs and cats that may be perceived as predators.

Another unique characteristic is anointing. When hedgehogs encounter a new smell or object, they pick it up or chew at it until they begin drooling excessively. Then, they rub the saliva all over their quills and body in a process called self-anointing. No one knows why the animals anoint, but it’s a common behavior.

Hedgehogs can be purchased from a breeder or a pet store that offers exotics. A hedgehog from Atlantis Hedgehogs costs $125 while a hedgehog from Parkplase Heggies costs $150.

Caring for a hedgehog

“They’re easy to care for,” Dickey said. “They’re not rodents, so they don’t have     any odor.”

A hedgehog should be housed alone in a large cage with a solid base, at least 2 feet by 3 feet with shredded newspaper or Aspen shavings. A hiding place or shelter as well   as an exercise wheel are recommended. The cage should be cleaned weekly.

In the wild, a hedgehog diet consists mostly of insects. However, pet hedgehogs usually eat two to three teaspoons a day of commercial hedgehog food or low-calorie cat food. Their diet should be supplemented with one to two teaspoons of mixed vegetables or fruit as well as insects, such as crickets or mealworms.

“The most common issue I see with [hedgehogs] is obesity,” Dr. Davis said. “It’s hard, because there’s not a readily-available hedgehog diet.”

Dr. Davis said other common health problems are mites and dental disease.

Hedgehogs are also nocturnal, sleeping during most of the day, so Dr. Davis advises owners to house their pets in a non-sleeping room.

“A lot of people will get [hedgehogs] for their children, put the cage in the child’s bedroom, and then the hedgehog’s up, running around all night long.”

Dr. Davis also recommends that owners take their hedgehogs to see an exotic veterinarian at least once a year for a check-up.

Bongard has cared for more than a dozen hedgehogs since getting to know her first hedgehog in 2004.

“Hedgehogs are really fascinating creatures,” Bongard said. “They are independent and sometimes standoffish,  but that’s part of their charm. There’s something magical about earning their trust over many, many days and watching them splat out, unafraid, on your lap. They have adorable little faces, too.”

Plump Pets

posted March 1st, 2015 by
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Plump

Plump Pets

 

By Kiley Roberson

 

It’s not just a people problem; many of our pets are packing on the pounds too. Just over half of all cats and dogs in U.S. households are either overweight or obese, according to a survey from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

And just like in people, extra weight means extra health problems associated with it.

“Excess weight predisposes pets to a variety of illnesses,” explains Dr. Scott Floyd, DVM at Midtown Vets in Oklahoma City. “Diabetes, intervertebral disk rupture, arthritis, collapsing trachea, heart-associated illness and fatty liver syndrome, to name a few.”

Dr. Floyd says he treats at least two to three obese pets every week, and not surprisingly, treats are part of the problem. He says over-treating, free-feeding and lack of exercise are the major contributing factors to pet obesity. We’re all living such busy lives, that a long walk with Fido or tossing around a ball of yarn with Fluffy just isn’t a top priority. As we do less and less, so do our pets, and before you know it the scale is going up.

It might seem like an extra pound or two on our four-legged companions isn’t so terrible. But that little bit can be a significant percentage of a pet’s total weight. For example, a Yorkie who tips the scales at “just” 12 pounds is equivalent to a 5-foot- 4-inch woman who weighs 218 pounds.

Some pet owners ignore the health hazards associated with overweight pets, focusing on how cute their plump kitty or roly-poly puppy looks. But overfeeding a fat cat or dog is loving it to death basically. That’s because overweight and obese pets also have much shorter life spans.

“Preventing obesity will contribute to a much higher quality of life for your pet       and could certainly lead to a longer life,” says Dr. Mark Shackelford, DVM at 15th Street Veterinary Group in Tulsa. “Your pet will  be happier, healthier and much more energetic.”

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says inactive pets are more likely to become depressed or anxious—habits most pet owners associate with behavioral problems. That’s because a sedentary life-style leads to an alteration  in the three major brain chemicals responsible for mood, and that can create emotional issues. Aerobic activity for as little as 20 to 30 minutes a day balances norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin levels, resulting in a better, more stable mood. Also, well-exercised pets won’t be quite as wired indoors, so they’ll be less prone to chewing, barking and other troublesome behaviors.

How can you know if your pet is overweight? You may not be able to tell by appearance alone, since pets can appear to be in good shape even when they aren’t.

“The standard that applies to most animals is that the owner should be able to count the ribs with their fingers, but not be able to see the ribs under the skin,” explains Dr. Shackelford. “At the appropriate weight, pets should only have a thin layer of fat over their ribs and show an hourglass shape from above. If you have a long-haired pet, it may be best to do this when your dog is wet. If you’re in doubt, you can always ask your vet.”

If your pup is a little plumper than you thought, don’t panic, but do take action. “Restricting food is the first step in fighting obesity,” says Dr. Shackelford. “Feeding a recommended amount of pet food with a minimum of treats usually will help with weight loss. Some dogs and cats, due to genetic makeup causing difficulty in dieting, will have a special weight loss diet prescribed for them, and exercise is very important. Exercise will help burn calories and will also help change the metabolism  to help burn calories more efficiently.”

Exercising dogs is usually simple, but what about cats? You can try  toys that engage them or scattering their food around in small portions through-out the house so they have to hunt for it and, in turn, get more exercise.

Canines & Carwashes

posted February 22nd, 2015 by
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Canines & Carwashes

CANINES & CARWASHES

By Sherri Goodall

It seemed like such a good idea at the time… sunny day, dirty car, no line at the carwash. I didn’t think about my two dogs in the car.

Who knew?

I plunked down my money for the deluxe carwash—the one with all the bells and whistles and the longest cycle (of course), seven minutes—the longest 420 seconds of my life!

At the first downpour of pounding water and pummeling brushes, my Westies went ballistic, howling, growling, snapping and yapping. The flashing green and red lights didn’t help. At the same time my car was shimmying and shaking, my dogs were leaping from the back seat to the front seat, into the dashboard, into my lap and into each other. They were desperately trying to escape or attack the water and brushes. (Anything that moves is fair game for a Westie.) I understand what it must feel like to be inside a washing machine.

I gripped the wheel in panic as I realized I was stuck in this carwash, trapped! I am trapped in this car with two flying, freaked-out dogs! Plus, I am trying to keep my eyes on an immovable object in the distance so I don’t get carsick and throw up. I see the cycles light up on the bar above the car. We’re only on cycle three, one of countless rinses. I can’t hold my breath any longer, or I’ll explode. We’re not even halfway done. I toy with the idea of crashing through the brushes as they slap the car. My luck, I’ll get stuck and spend eternity on a merry-go-round of wash cycles. I’m astounded at the insanity of my dogs, and their stamina… that they could keep up this level of hyperactive madness for seven minutes.

By the time the carwash spit us out, finally waxed and dried (another extremely loud and annoying noise, especially for dogs’ ears), I was a sweating, hyperventilating wreck. The outside of the car sparkled; you could apply your makeup and pluck your eyebrows by looking into the gleam.

The inside looked like the aftermath of a tornado. White tufts of fur stuck to the ceiling and dashboard, scratch marks streaked the leather seats, my sunglasses lay broken on the floor, and the contents of my purse littered the front seat. And, to top it off, my macho-male MacTwo had peed everywhere possible in his excitement, and my dainty lady Mulligan had pooped in terror in the back seat.

Will I ever take my dogs to a carwash again? NO WAY!

Pet Insurance: Better Health for Pets, Peace of Mind for Pet Owners

posted February 16th, 2015 by
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Pet Ins

As pet ownership in the United States increases, pet owners are turning to www.petinsurancequotes.com to find out their options. Pet insurance keeps pets healthier while letting pet owners choose the coverage that suits their needs—and their budgets.

The 21st century has seen the rise of two dynamic movements in social consciousness: a heightened awareness of the importance of having health insurance and the increase of the number of American households with pets. True, the health care issue has so far focused on people, not pets, but a quick look at pet math reveals that the latest trends in pet care point the way to a new level of understanding about the level of care we should provide for the four-legged members of our families.

According to the American Pet Products Association, 68% of households responding to a 2013-2014 survey owned a pet. The APPA estimated that, in 2014, those 82.5 million households spent $58.51 billion on their pets. The number one expense, logically enough, was for food; our pets get hungry and we spent $22.62 billion to keep their bellies filled. The second highest expense? $15.25 billion in veterinary care.

With numbers like that, it’s easy to see that pet insurance is destined to become a standard feature of pet ownership, But that doesn’t explain why only one percent of American pets are insured, compared to 30% in the United Kingdom and more than 50% in Sweden.

Concern about the diagnosis for pet health inspired the launch of PetInsuranceQuotes.com so that as many American dogs and cats as possible can be insured. Since that time, the company has generated over two million quotes for insuring cats and dogs all across the country. They’ve built a reputation for being America’s most trusted pet insurance comparison website. Not only that, but they’re the only licensed pet insurance agency in the United States.

Animals share some health issues with their owners. Just like humans who have a hard time saying “no” to second helpings and failing to get enough exercise, excess pounds are becoming a problem for our pets. Maybe you’ve already had an episode of pet illness and you’re concerned about future incidents because you know that you want to keep your pet healthy. You know that the average office call runs $45-$55. But it doesn’t stop there. Animals are like us, and when they get sick, tests are called for to determine what’s causing the problem. Geriatric screening for older pets can cost as much as $110, and surgery can cost thousands.

Anyone who doubts that pet insurance makes a difference just needs to listen to the experience of one couple who purchased insurance for their Labrador retriever, Magruff. When he ended up needing hip replacement surgery, they were glad—not to mention relieved—when their pet insurance carrier paid $4300 of the $5200 cost of the operation. They were so impressed by the friendly and professional service they received for Magruff’s care that they felt as if they had their own personal concierge. “The service was so good I wish they owned an airline and some restaurants because they’re setting a new standard for service!”

That’s why you want to provide the insurance that allows you to give your family pet the best health coverage possible. Choosing a pet insurance plan is the first step in keeping the furry, four-footed members of your family around for a long time. Oh, and maybe you and your pet might want to keep an eye on those meal portions , , ,

About PetInsuranceQuotes.com
PetInsuranceQuotes (www.petinsurancequotes.com)  is dedicated to helping pet owners find the best insurance plan for their pets. The only licensed pet insurance agency in the United States has been selling insurance plans for dogs and cats for over seven years. The website offers free quotes, coverage comparisons, and guidance to steer pet owners to the plan that’s right for them. For more information, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDI9-lbRLaE

Connect Socially:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/pages/PetInsuranceQuotescom/199156640134800

Twitter – https://twitter.com/PetInsQuotes

Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/petinsurance/

YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOVHW2BpoxqocaYW3fsigxQ

Google + – https://plus.google.com/u/0/106248626777029593285/posts

Blog – http://blog.petinsurancequotes.com/

 

Contact:

Nick Braun

[email protected]

1-800-928-6168

Training 911 – Stop the Jumping!

posted February 8th, 2015 by
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Training 911

Training 911

by Khara Criswell, MA, CPDT-KSA, CNWI

STOP THE JUMPING! You come home from work, and your dog is so happy to see you, he leaps into the air and hugs you. You then realize his paws are covered in mud or something worse.

Instead of requesting a sit or touch, you yell at the dog for greeting you. Maybe you yell “Down” or “Get away!” but the only thing the dog hears is the tone and inflection in your voice. What is a responsible dog owner to do to eliminate the jumping?

There are a number of ways you can teach your dog not to jump. Remember, do not hit the dog or step on the dog. When you start training, you should start with the highest value reward first—for most dogs, a treat or a toy. You can take away the treat and use other rewards when your dog has learned the opposite behavior.

I usually tell clients they can decide if they want 7/10 to 10/10, meaning if I ask my dog to sit 10 times and the dog sits 8 out of the 10, I have an 80 percent sit rate with my dog. An important point to remember is, keep the training consistent. Here are some options:

Option 1:

  1. Your dog jumps up; you leave the area. Go into the nearest room or outside the house and shut the door only for a second or two.
  2. When you come out, approach your dog. You can ask for a sit or touch; if the dog doesn’t jump up, you mark or say “good girl/boy.” (If you have a clicker device for clicker training, use it in this step.) Next, you give the reward—a “treat/toy/pet/verbal praise.”
  3. If the dog jumps up, repeat the leaving of the area.

Option 2:

  1. The dog jumps up; standing like a tree, arms crossed, say, “Off.”
  2. Allfour paws are on the floor. Now you can pet him or her.Kneel down to the dog’s level.
  3. Ask for a sit. Mark or say “good girl/boy/clicker” and give the reward with a “treat/toy/pet/verbal praise.”

Option 3:

  1. The dog jumps up; lean into your dog’s space and say, “Off.” (Some dogs may not like you in their inner space. Do not do this with strange dogs.)
  2. Allfour paws are on the floor. Now you can pet him. Kneel down to your dog’s level.
  3. Ask for a sit. Mark or say “good girl/boy/clicker” and give the reward with a treat/toy/pet/verbal praise.”

Option 4:

  1. You come home from work or walk into the house, your dog jumps up. Turn your back and start talking aloud or walk over to a window and describe what you see.
  2. Allfour paws are on the floor. Now you can pet your dog. Kneel down to his or her level.
  3. Ask for a sit. Mark or say “good girl/boy/clicker” and give the reward with a “treat/toy/pet/verbal praise.”

Option 5:

  1. You are letting your dog inside the house from being outside. As soon as the dog sees your hand on the door handle, he starts to jump up. You take your hand off of the door handle, and when the dog is calm, you put your hand back on the door handle. Play this game until the dog is calm when you are touching the door handle.
  2. If the dog jumps up when you start to open the door, then close the door. You slowly open the door. If the dog gets too excited, you can close the door. Once the dog is calm, you can open the door to let the dog in. Mark with “good girl/boy/clicker.”

Option 6: Premack Principle

According to Intropsych.com, Premack’s Principle, or the relativity theory of reinforcement, states that more probable behaviors reinforce less probable behaviors. Essentially, if your dog wants the reward, he or she will perform the desired activity required by you to get to that reward.

You teach your dog to jump up and get excited by dancing around or tossing a toy. When the dog jumps up, mark “good girl/boy/clicker” and give a reward with petting only.

Then, you immediately ask for a sit. Mark or say “good girl/boy/clicker.” Reward with a “treat/toy” and ask for the hug or jump up again.

Eventually, you will fade the treat/toy reward, and your dog will sit for a hug/jump up.

Option 7: Hand Target

While facing your dog, hold your finger or your open hand a few inches away from the dog’s nose.

When he or she sniffs your hand or the target to investigate, mark or say “good girl/boy/clicker” and reward him or her with a treat.

Repeat several times, and then move your hand to the left, right, up and down. Each time the dog touches the target, mark or say “good boy/girl/clicker.” Next, reward with a treat.

When the dog comes running over to jump on you, stick out your hand; your dog should stop to nose-touch it. Mark or say “good girl/boy/clicker.” Reward him or her by petting or with a toy.

The important thing to remember is consistency. Before long, the jumping days will be over, and you will find a better behaved pooch in your home.

Tick 411

posted February 1st, 2015 by
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Tick 411-2

Tick 411

Tick 411

 

Everything You Need To Know About Treatment, Symptoms And Prevention

 

By Christy VanCleave

 

 

Ticks, more than just a nuisance, can carry diseases dangerous to people and animals.

That’s why it’s important for Green Country folks to know about ticks most common to the area and the viral, bacterial diseases and toxins they carry, as well as tick bite symptoms in both humans and dogs and how to treat and prevent them.

Here is the tick low-down to keep you and your pets tick free and healthy this summer.

Tick-born illnesses are caused by infection from a variety of pathogens. Because ticks can carry more than one disease-causing agent, patients can be infected with more than one pathogen at the same time. Diagnosis can be difficult since symptoms overlap with many common illnesses.

Reactions to tick bites may not show up for two to six weeks after the tick has been removed. Patients could experience one of many symptoms of the disease, and symptoms could appear intermittently.

Common symptoms in humans include headache, flu-like symptoms, stiff neck, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, nerve problems, abdominal pain and vomiting. If left untreated, the diseases can become severe and lead to other complications, even death.

The two most common tick-related diseases are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but they are also the easiest to diagnose due to the rash that usually accompanies them. Lyme has a very distinct bull’s eye rash and Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a wide-spread rash.

Doxycycline is the first line of treatment in both adults and children and is most effective if started right away—within five days of the first symptoms. (The disease can later be confirmed by specialized lab tests.)

Canine symptoms are a little different and may include recurrent lameness due to inflammation in the joints, lack of appetite, depression, kidney damage, a visible stiff walk with arched back, sensitivity to touch, difficulty breathing and fever.  A blood panel test and urinalysis can be performed for accurate diagnosis. Again, doxycycline is the first choice of treatment if caught early.

Should you find yourself or your dog with a tick, promptly remove it with tweezers and grip the tick as closely to the skin as possible. Never use a smoldering match, cigarette, nail polish or kerosene as they may irritate the tick and cause it to inject bodily fluids into the wound.

Do not squeeze, crush or puncture the body of the tick since fluids may contain infection-causing organisms. The “head” does not stay in the skin, but the mouth parts may break off under the skin. Leave the mouth parts alone; they will expel on their own.

After removal, tape the tick to a calendar in case treatment is needed.  You can show the doctor for identification should it be necessary. It is also helpful to know how long it was attached if it was engorged.

While flea prevention has come a long way over the past 10 years, tick prevention hasn’t. Topical applications of Front-line or Advantix help, but take 24 hours to kill the tick once attached to the host. Some flea and tick shampoos with a pyrethrin base have a residue that lasts up to four weeks after application.

With Oklahoma’s high tick population, sound advice is to look over yourself and your pets after each walk or run in wooded or tall grass areas. With prevention in mind, and some basic knowledge of treatment, your summer outings can be fun, safe and tick free.

American Dog Tick

The American Dog tick is the most commonly-identified species responsible for transmitting rickettsia, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) in humans. This tick can also transmit tularemia.

Brown Dog Tick

The Brown Dog tick has recently been identified as a reservoir of Rickettsia, causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichia canis. It is also responsible for Hepatozoon canis and Babesiosis (zoonotic). Dogs are primarily the host for this type of tick.

Black-Legged Tick (Deer Tick)

Commonly-known as the deer tick, the black-legged tick can transmit the organisms responsible for anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Lyme disease.

Lone Star Tick

The Lone Star tick transmits Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii, causing human ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), as well as Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast tick can transmit Rickettsia Parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever. Adult ticks have been associated with transmission of R. parkeri to humans. It is also responsible for hepatozoonosis infection that comes in two forms, but this tick is only responsible for Hepatozoon Americanum.