Category Archives: Pet Tips – Guinea Pigs

New Year’s Resolution: Keep My Family Together!

By The Tidy Cat Whisperer:

2011. It is a new year. Oh yes “whoopee”. So many people are now out celebrating the passage of time and the ritualistic saying goodbye to the year just completed and the eagerly anticipated year to be. The year we’ve just left behind-although flawed and fraught with inequities- is at least familiar territory. Some people are anxious to leave that with which they are familiar. You know, the old “change” thing. Even if we are in a bad situation, we HATE change. The new year ahead?  Unknown territory, and therefore subject to much speculation-and not just where people are concerned.

The Stinky Cat and the Tidy Cat Whisperer (TCW) don’t always agree on everything: but one thing we DO see eye to eye on is the fact that, in the year just completed more pets have been turned into animal shelters and rescues than the aforementioned shelters have room for. Which means that some of these pets never find a second chance for love and a forever home. It is the sad, yet inevitable result of life in a post-economic-meltdown world.

One of the prime reasons that cats and dogs are turned into shelters is due to dreaded “inappropriate elimination”: in other words, failure to use the litterbox (cats) or poor housetraining habits (dogs).  Many rescues and shelters are overwhelmed by more strays than in previous years, coupled with more animals turned in due to financial considerations than usual. Today’s new “economic reality” has been a disaster for animal rescues and shelters, not to mention most human welfare resources. That is why TCW and Stinky  Cat are here: to help.

According to TCW, “often all too often litterbox issues could have been avoided if a little more thought and planning had been in place.” In other words, if you already have a cat and you are not sure how your cat would react to another cat in your home, then before you decide to bring a new cat in do some research. Ask your vet how to integrate a new cat into an environment with an existing cat. Ask friends who have multiple cats how they were able to integrate the cats. And for pete’s sake, ask all these questions BEFORE you make the decision to bring another animal into your house. And, although declawing a cat makes life convenient for people, it quite often makes life for your cat very inconvenient and in many cases can lead to inappropriate urination.

The Stinky Cat adds that “inconsistent housebreaking or lack of any sort of training at all can contribute to a dog’s poor housetraining habits. A dog without proper housebreaking is not the fault of the dog; it is the fault of the people who did not spend the time to train.” Typical life situation: Cute puppy, family loves the puppy, brings the puppy home. All is right with the world. Then reality sets in. Mom & dad work 8 hours a day, kids are in school, no one has time to house train the dog. Yet, the dog is the one who pays the price by being turned into the local shelter, where an uncertain future awaits. Note to dog owners: no matter how old the dog is, it is never too late to house train a dog. It CAN be done-and often is very successfully.

Unfortunately people all too often choose the “easy” way out, either by medication (Xanax, Buspar) or by simply deciding that they can no longer “deal with the situation” and the only alternative is to rehome the pet. This blogpost is a plea to ALL pet owners to please consider every option before making the decision to rehome your pet.

Many vets, rescue groups, dog trainers and shelters will spend time working with you and your pet to try and help resolve the issues that might prevent you and your pet from enjoying your “furrever time” together. In a world that has morphed into moment-to-moment, day-by-day, we remind you that one way to ensure the stability of your own household is to make sure the needs of all the members of your household-including your pets- are properly attended to.

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Does the Fourth of July cause your pet to panic?

By Nikki Senecal

When I was growing up, we had a 125-pound Doberman Pinscher. Many people were scared of Humphrey, but there was only one thing he was frightened by: thunder. At the first sign of a summer storm, he would huddle under the dining room table shaking pathetically. It made you want to crawl under the table to hug and reassure him.

That, it turns out, is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Animals who are frightened by loud noises—like thunder or 4th of July fireworks–shouldn’t be babied; that can reinforce the fearful behavior. Nor should you punish an animal for his fears.

Finding A Place to Feel Safe
Letting your dog or cat find a place where they feel safe, however, is one of the many things you can do to help ease phonophobia, whether the cause is thunderstorms, fireworks, or the vacuum cleaner. Allow your cat to hide out under the bed or in a small space. Perhaps put a bed in a closet and let them know it is there. Leave your dog’s crate open—and throw a blanket over it to create a more cave-like space. Rabbits and guinea pigs should be given extra bedding, so they can burrow for comfort.  Wherever your pet finds comfort, don’t try to lure them out; it could increase their stress.

When you know loud noises will occur, like the upcoming 4th of July holiday, your pets should be inside. Make sure the doors and windows are closed, in case the stress causes your pet to attempt an escape. To prepare for this possibility, make sure Fluffy and Fido’s tags are attached and up-to-date.

You could try turning on a radio or television loudly to drown out the outdoor sounds. Your pet is used to having strange sounds come from these devices.

Training
Desensitization training may work for your dog. This technique involves exposing your dog to low levels of the anxiety producing noise while performing positive activities, like obedience training or playing games. However, trainers usually recommend starting this training before you need the dog to behave. Dogs who are afraid of fireworks, should be trained during the winter, for example.

Find a recording of the noise that your pet is afraid of. While playing the sounds at a barely audible volume, engage your pet in an activity like obedience or trick training. Give food or other rewards during the activity when the pet accomplishes what he is supposed to. If your dog shows signs of fear, stop and try again later, playing the recording at an even lower level. It is important that you don’t reward your pup while he is fearful or anxious. Sessions should last about five to 10 minutes.

As training progresses, gradually increase the volume for each session. Because dogs aren’t good at generalizing, you should repeat the exercise in various rooms. When your pup does not show fear when the recording is played at a loud volume, you may want to try playing the recording when you are away from the house for a short time. When Fido appears to have lost his fear, the sessions can be reduced to one per week. These sessions may need to be repeated at regular intervals over the course of your time together. Finally, during a storm or the Fourth of July, use the same activities and rewards you used in the training sessions.

Medication

  • Appeasing pheromones are available for both dogs (DAP) and cats (Feliway). These chemicals mimic the pheromones produced by lactating mothers that give puppies and kittens a sense of well-being. The result is a calmer, less stressed animal.
  • Melatonin can be used in both dogs and cats. Several articles published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association show that melatonin has a sedative effect. One trainer I know uses it for her German Shepherds who are afraid of thunderstorms.
  • Other medications, like xanax, can be prescribed by your veterinarian if your pet has more severe anxiety.

Although some of these treatments are available without a prescription, you should discuss all of these options with your vet.

Alternative Therapies
Anxiety Wrap – According to some experts, pressure applied to large areas of the body can be comforting. Although no scientific studies have been done on this therapy, T-Touch and Temple Grandin’s “Hug Machine” are both examples of this theory put in practice. There are a number of “maintained pressure” jackets available on the market.

Whatever you do, project a calm attitude. Your pet looks to you for guidance. If you show no fear, it may be calming for your rabbit, guinea pig, dog, or cat. Have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

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How Do I Know My Pet is Sick?

Knowing what to watch for in your pet's behavior can help catch illnesses early.

By Nikki Senecal 

 
There are many times I wish my dog could talk, but that feeling is compounded by worry when she seems to be feeling ill. (Talking animals would make the vet’s job easier too!) 

   

If we remember that we’re mammals too, diagnosing our pets can be a little easier. How do you know you’re sick? Vomiting, diarrhea, appetite changes, abnormal bleeding, and lethargy signal something’s wrong in humans. It turns out many of these symptoms signal problems for our pets too.      

Guinea Pig     

  • Bloated abdomen
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss

Rabbit   

  • Loud tooth grinding
  • Very hot or very cold ears
  • Discharge from the eyes or nose
  • Labored breathing
  • Drooling or a wet chin
  • Loss of balance or head tilt
  • Abnormal fecal pellets (smaller, irregular shape, droppings laced with fur)
  • Loss of appetite or lethargy

Cat   

  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Stops using the litter box or strains upon elimination
  • Develops puffiness or a lump under the skin
  • Hides for more than a day
  • Becomes ill-tempered or doesn’t want to be touched
  • Increased head shaking
  • Changes his routine or loses interest in his favorite games
  • Stops grooming
  • The “third eyelid” (nictitating membrance) emerges from the corner of his eye

Dog   

  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased drinking
  • Vomiting or unproductive retching
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or bloody feces
  • Unexplained, sudden weight loss
  • Seizure
  • Pale gums or tongue
  • Increased panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent cough
  • Straining to urinate, decreased urination, or bloody urination
  • Inflamed ears or skin, or smelly ears
  • Discharge from ears, eyes, or nose
  • Difficulty walking or lameness
  • Head shaking

Take notes on changes in your pet’s habits and health and take him/her to the vet at the first sign of concern. Your vet will want to know details of your pet’s symptoms, including when they began. Until animals learn to talk, your pet needs you to speak for her.

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