The veterinarians and staff at the Irving Pet Hospital are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

Fourth Of July Pet Safety Tips

Fireworks and the Fourth of July go together like ... well, fireworks and the Fourth of July. While you may already have safeguards in place for people and children, there are additional things to consider for pet owners. Here are a few tips on helping your pets remain safe and happy while dealing with fireworks.

Always keep fireworks out of reach of your pet- While this may seem obvious for lit fireworks, it’s important to keep unlit fireworks away from your pets as well. Ingesting fireworks could be lethal for your pet. If your pet does get into your fireworks, contact your veterinarian right away.

Be aware of projectiles- Roman candles, for example, have projectile capabilities. If used incorrectly, an ejected shell can hit a pet, causing burning. If your pet gets burned, contact your veterinarian right away.

Keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier- Never let your pets run free in an area where fireworks are going off.

Know what do to in case of a seizure- For some animals, being in the presence of fireworks can trigger a seizure. If your pet is prone to seizures, he or she should never be around fireworks – but most pet owners won’t know if their dog is prone to seizures until he or she experiences one. If this happens, stay calm and remove any objects in the area that might hurt your pet. Do not attempt to move your pet, as they may bite without knowing it. When the seizure is over, move him or her into an area clear of the firework’s sights and sounds. Call your veterinarian right away.

Ease your pet’s fear- Many pets are frightened of fireworks, and may exhibit fear by whimpering, crying, or otherwise displaying uneasiness. Create a safe space for these animals before the event. During the fireworks, use the radio, television, fan or air conditioner to create white noise that will drown out the sound of the fireworks.

By planning ahead and keeping key information in mind, your pet can have a happy, stress-free Fourth of July – and so can you!

Take Your Dog to Work Day is Friday, June 24

Every dog has its day.

Take Your Dog to Work Day

Initially celebrated in 1999, Pet Sitters International's Take Your Dog To Work Day® (TYDTWDay®) was created for two reasons: first, to celebrate dogs’ innate virtues of loyalty, love and dedication to their human companions, and second, to encourage canine adoption from rescue shelters, humane societies and breed rescue clubs. This year, the annual event occurs on Friday, June 21 and employers are encouraged to support TYDTWDay by opening their workplace to employees’ canine friends. Participation will create an immediate “feel good” workplace environment and allow your staff to meet each other's special family members.

Looking for additional ways to celebrate and support this popular day?

- Solicit photos and designate a bulletin board for a “Dog/Owner Look-Alike Contest”
- Host a Pet Fair. Provide ASPCA or shelter materials and client educational materials regarding dog adoption, preventive care, training, diets, etc.
- Award a “Top Dog” honor- which employee’s dog can do the best trick, has the cutest face or the most endearing personality?

So don’t let sleeping dogs lie. Win over your employees and your clients by participating in this fun annual event… and watch as wagging tails spread office joy.

Cat Aggression Toward People: Part II (Playful & Fearful)

Play Aggression is usually observed in young cats who live in single-cat households. These cats are very active and generally less than 2 years old. This behavior provides kittens and cats the opportunity to practice the skills they would normally need to have in order to survive in the wild. Play incorporates a variety of behaviors, such as exploratory (explore new areas), investigative (investigate anything that moves) and predatory (bat at, pounce on, and bite objects that resemble prey).

Playful aggression often occurs when an unsuspecting owner comes down the stairs, rounds a corner, or even moves under the bedcovers while sleeping. These playful attacks may result in scratches and bites which usually don't break the skin. People sometimes inadvertently initiate aggressive behavior by encouraging their cat to chase or bite at their hands and feet during play. The body postures seen during play aggression resemble the postures a cat would normally show when searching for or catching prey. A cat may freeze in a low crouch before pouncing, twitch her tail, flick her ears back and forth, and/or wrap her front feet around a person's hands or feet while biting. These are all normal cat behaviors, whether they're seen during play or are part of an actual predatory sequence. Most play aggression can be successfully redirected to appropriate targets; however, it may still result in injury.

In order to correct this behavior, you need to redirect your kitten's aggressive behavior onto acceptable objects. Drag a toy along the floor to encourage your kitten to pounce on it, or throw a toy away from your kitten to give her even more exercise by chasing the toy down. Another good toy is one that your kitten can wrestle with, like a soft stuffed toy that's about the size of your kitten. She can grab this toy with both front feet, bite it, and kick it with her back feet. This resembles the way young kittens play with each other. Encourage play with a "wrestling toy" by rubbing it against your kitten's belly when she wants to play rough. Be careful and get your hand out of the way as soon as she accepts the toy.

Since kittens need quite a bit of playtime, try to set up three or four consistent times during the day to play with your kitten. This will help her understand that she doesn't have to be the one to initiate play by pouncing on you.

Fearful/defensive aggression involves cats that may display body postures which appear to be similar to canine submissive postures - crouching on the floor, ears back, tail tucked, and possibly rolling slightly to the side. Cats in this posture are not submissive, they are fearful and defensive. They may attack if touched.

In order to figure out the reason for the fearful behavior, you need to closely observe your cat to determine the trigger for this behavior. Keep in mind that just because you know that the person or animal approaching your cat has good intentions, this does not mean that your cat feel safe. The trigger for her fearful behavior could be anything. Some common triggers are:

  • A stranger
  • Another animal
  • A particular person
  • Loud noises
  • A child

To help eliminate the fearful behavior, you need to desensitize your cat to the fear stimulus. Determine what distance your cat can be from the fear stimulus without responding fearfully. Introduce the fear stimulus at this distance while you're praising her and feeding her a favorite treat. Slowly move the fear stimulus closer as you continue to praise your cat and offer her treats.

If at any time during this process your cat shows fearful behavior, you've proceeded too quickly and need to start over from the beginning. Working too quickly is the most common mistake and short frequent adaptation sessions work the best. If you are not having much success with the desensitization process, you may need help from a professional animal behavior specialist.

Senior Dog Ditched At Shelter Watches Younger Housemate Go Home

Web users were heartbroken when a photo of nine-year-old Cookie, a Cocker Spaniel, was posted by California’s San Bernardino City Shelter at the end of January.

In the photo, the golden-colored pup sits on the shelter’s floor while looking questioningly into the distance – her lip seeming to communicate “what the…?” But, what got everyone’s attention was the story that accompanied the photo.

According to shelter staff, Cookie had been taken in as a stray with a younger Labrador retriever at the end of December. When Cookie’s family finally showed up to claim her and her housemate in January, she watched her lab-friend walk out as she was left behind. As they left, staff said she whimpered.

“Cookie is crying for her family,” they posted. “She watched as the family drove away and left her to die.”

Apparently, Cookie was abandoned because she has medical issues the family can no longer afford. Older dogs in shelters are adopted out much less often than younger dogs, and thus more often euthanized.

Rescue group OC Small Paws So UT learned of Cookie’s sad story and scooped her up as fast as they could. She received medical treatment, including surgery for cancer, and is currently living happily in a forever foster home. The group chose not to put the dog up for public adoption due to her medical needs. They will continue to post updates on Cookie on their Facebook page.

The group is encouraging anyone who may have wanted to adopt Cookie to help another senior dog in need.

VIDEO - How To Brush Your Cat's Teeth

Regular brushing of a cat's teeth can help prevent oral disease that can spread bacteria to other parts of a cat's body. Watch this video to get an idea of how to start the practice of brushing your cat's teeth.

June is Adopt-A-Cat Month - Here's How to Find the Right One

You may have heard the saying, "You own a dog, but you feed a cat." It is true that cats value their independence a bit more than their canine counterparts. But, if you've ever been around cats, you already know they crave and require love and companionship. Cats make wonderful pets and most easily adjust to a variety of lifestyles and living spaces. Every cat is a true individual though, so it's important to take the time to choose a four-footed friend who's right for you. A cat's personality, age and appearance, as well as the kinds of pets you already have at home, are all things you should keep in mind when making your selection.

If you've ever been to a shelter, you have probably noticed that some cats meow and head butt the cage door while others simply lie back and gaze at you with a look of total ambiguity. There are as many different personalities of cats as there are cats in the shelter. Which disposition is best for you? YOU have to decide.

Regardless of individual personality, look for a cat that is playful, active, alert, and comfortable while being held. At the shelter, ask an adoption counselor for assistance when you wish to spend some time with individual cats. Because they are in an unfamiliar environment, some cats that are usually quite social may be frightened or passive while in the shelter.

As a general rule, kittens are curious, playful, and full of energy, while adult cats are more relaxed and less mischievous. Kittens also require more time to train and feed. Cats are only kittens for a few months, though, so the age of the cat you adopt should really depend on the level of maturity you are looking for. Young children usually don't have the maturity to handle kittens responsibly, so a cat that is at least four months old is probably the best choice for homes with young children.

They All May Be Cute, But Which Is Right For You?

Though dogs also have differences in coat, choosing the length of coat on a cat is a little different. Because the hair is generally finer and cats generally shed more, hair length can be an important part of your decision. Cats can have long, fluffy coats or short, dense fur, and the choice between the two is chiefly a matter of preference, availability, and your willingness to devote time to regular grooming. Short-haired cats are generally easier to come by since they're the most popular and the most common. Keep in mind that long-haired cats require frequent grooming to remain mat-free. Felines with short coats also require brushing, though less frequently. Most cats enjoy a regular brushing and look forward to this daily ritual.

If you already own a cat or dog, you're probably wondering how easy it is to add a cat to the family. The good news is that cats can get along with other cats, and despite the common stereotype, most dogs can get along with cats too! Unfortunately, introducing a new cat to a home with other pets can be time consuming and require patience on your part.

The best way to handle adding a new cat to the home is to provide time for a period of adjustment. You can do this effectively by isolating your new feline in a room of his own for a while, something that is a good idea for a new cat anyway. After several days, supervise meetings between the animals for periods of increasing length. Most cats will soon learn to accept each other. Some dogs simply won't tolerate the presence of a cat, but by carefully introducing them, most problems can be solved.

No matter which kind of cat you choose, remember that you're making a commitment to love and care for your new feline friend for his or her lifetime. That could mean 10, 15 or even 20 years! So choose you new companion carefully and be a responsible pet owner. In no time at all you'll know how wonderful sharing your home with a cat can be.

For more information about Adopt-A-Cat month, please visit the American Humane Association's website.

Budgerigars: Do they Empathize or Are They Just Excellent Mimickers?

Yawns are highly contagious between some mammals. Humans, chimpanzees, dogs and one type of rat are all susceptible to the wide-mouthed symptom of boredom or sleepiness; however, catching a yawn is about more than your energy level. Researchers have linked yawn-catching to the capacity for empathy.

“Contagious yawning by itself is not exactly empathy, but it hints at the tendency to mimic and synchronize with the bodies of others,” said Frans de Waal of Emory University in Georgia. “This process is probably the basis of mammalian empathy.”

New research shows budgerigars (also known as parakeets or “budgies”) experience contagious yawning, too. If this is true, the parakeets are the first known non-mammals to exhibit this empathetic behavior.

The Findings

Researchers from the State University of New York observed the behaviors of budgerigars in two studies. For the first study, the parakeets were placed in neighboring cages with and without visual barriers. When they could see each other, the birds demonstrated contagious yawning three times more often within five minutes of witnessing a yawn from their neighbor.

For the second study, the budgies were shown video of another budgie yawning. In this case, the birds watching the video were inspired to yawn every time. Birds shown a video with no yawning still yawned nearly 50% of the time.

A Highly Social Bird

Budgerigars are considered social parrots who are intelligent and clever creatures. More so, they are known for being fantastic mimickers. Like other parrots, they can learn words, sounds and phrases through repetition; however, they can also learn through observation. Many budgie owners have reported their birds learning how to escape from their cages simply by seeing their human open its hatch every day.

Could contagious yawning simply be another form of mimicry? That remains uncertain.

Seemingly empathetic behaviors have, however, been documented in other birds. Crows and jays are said to hold “funerals” when a member of their flock dies. Birds who fly in V-formation take turns in different positions (which all require different amounts of energy expenditure). In addition, birds experience increases in heart rate when flock members experience conflict.

“Until now, most empathy research has been on mammals,” said de Waal. “Empathy may turn out to be a mechanism even more widespread than we think, which is all the more remarkable given that it was thought just one or two decades ago that empathy was uniquely human.”

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