Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Live Long and Prosper, the final chapter

OK, those of you that have been following along probably have some documentation indicating that this was going to be a 5 part series and if you've been counting, it's only 4. Too bad, my blog, my rules. I actually am quite surprised that I was able to focus long enough to string together 4 posts over a rather regular interval on a related subject. Fortunately, I just got back from vacation, so I should be able to avoid the rant that happened in a previous post. I'm feeling very mellow after spending some quality time with family and friends and their dog. That's right, a true busman's holiday, their dog Zeus was with us for the week. Just to make me feel at home, my host's fed their dog some table food (you all know how I feel about that) and he had a bout of an upset stomach that ruined a previously reviled and hideous, yet functional area rug in the living room. But I digress. Zeus is a really cool dog of the 60 lb mixed breed type. Not without his foibles like a bit of separation anxiety and a quirk that won't allow him to pee or poop unless he is taken for a walk at the most inopportune time. One thing I will say, he is well behaved. In fact most of the dog's we encountered on this trip to Martha's Vineyard were well behaved. Well, that one black dog did almost knock his owner over trying to get to Zeus on one of our previously alluded to walks and their was the dog aggressive Leonberger on the beach that barely looked like a Leonberger but we'll defer to his owner since the owner and the dog both were trying to behave.

Why am I prattling on like this you are probably asking at this point. Well, I would like to address an often overlooked reason for early death in both dogs and cats. Euthanasia for behavior issues. Cats are trickier so we can get them out of the way first. While I have seen cat's euthanized for behavior issues, these are often not training deficiencies, but rather behavior problems. The most common being failure to use the litter box, destruction by scratching and aggression towards people and other animals. These can be stress related, although looking at the lifestyle of most of the cats that I know I can't imagine a more stress free life.

However, the stereotype of the cat collector aside, cats are not pack animals like people. In the wild they are generally solitary hunters, coming together when necessary at common feeding areas and to seek the company of other cats to make kittens. (there, doesn't get anymore G rated than that does it?) We put a bunch of them together in one home and sit back and wait for behavior issues to develop. There are a number of good sources of information on reducing this stress, but my favorite is put out by The Ohio State University, School of Veterinary Medicine. Give it a look see.

To summarize, make sure everyone is neutered (cats not people, different topic and less G rated), have adequate, clean litter boxes with varied substrate, separate feeding and watering areas, and plenty of perches and scratching posts. This should take care of most of you issues. For those that are particularly troubling, consult your veterinarian, and take a look at the Ohio State link.

Dogs are both more complex and actually easier to deal with. They are pack animals and as such can and should be trained. That doesn't mean that all dogs will be neurosis free and never have a bad moment. I mean, my dog Cookie is generally well behaved unless you let your toddler put their face too close or it thunders out. Even Zeus had his moments this week. However, it is a rare dog that can't be made obedient in most, if not all situations. Dogs should listen to their owners, come when called, sit, stay, and go to the bathroom outside. Some can even be trained to pick up after themselves and friends although I think Piglet has way too much supervision in this video.

The point is, well trained dogs are easier to deal with and people will enjoy being around them and therefore, around you as well. So start as a puppy, socialize your pet, and get some basic obedience training. Oh, and you can't just go to some classes when your dog is 4 months old and expect that it will be trained for life, you have to keep working at it and working at it.

If I had read the manual for the digital camera that my wife purchased a couple of weeks ago, I would have a picture of Zeus behaving for you to see and it would make this blog more interesting. So, if you have photos of your dog doing tricks, why don't you post them on my Facebook Fan Page so everyone can see them. Or, if you know how, put them in a comment right here on the blog.

While we're talking about comments. I had to reject a couple in the past week. While I love to hear from you all, please don't submit comments for products or services. If you want to promote yourself, then write your own blog. It's not hard, any well trained dog or cat can do it. Heck, even a veterinarian that can't use a digital camera can do it.

Next week, we'll try to focus on nutrition and specific diseases. If you have any favorites that you would like me to touch on, let me know. These may end up being a little less rambling and a little more educational, but hey, you never know.

Keith Niesenbaum, VMD

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