Month: January 2020

Is it time to say “Goodbye” to your pet?

This is a tough topic for many people to deal with. It is charged with emotions that often cloud our ability to decide what to do. With veterinarian medicine as advanced as it is, we can keep our pets alive much longer than we could years ago, but to what end?

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There are a few things that you need to consider when trying to decide if it is time to euthanize your pet or not.

  1. Is your pet in pain? This is not always easy to determine since animals in general do not show pain until it is severe. The signs may be subtle and come on gradually as age and illnesses increase. Your veterinarian can help you determine what illnesses your pet may have, and how it impacts their life, but that will be a generalization because every animal is different. Some tolerate pain much better than others. In the case of birds they may not show signs of illness until they are very sick.

 

It helps if you pay attention to your pet’s behavior. Do you notice that your pet does not move as well as before? Does your pet refuse to jump onto things whereas before they would fly through the air? Do they walk slower, run less, and are less active in general? Has their appetite and water consumption changed? Has their breathing changed, for example they pant more or sooner than before? Do they seem to hold part of their body still when they breathe? These are all signs of pain and/or illness.

  1. Does your pet have difficulty keeping food or water down? Has their overall appetite decreased? Is your pet eating a normal amount of food but losing or gaining weight?
  1. If your veterinarian suggests treatments you have to determine what the outcome will be for your pet. Will the treatment cause pain and suffering? How long can you expect your pet to live after the treatments? Will your pet be hindered for the rest of its life because of the treatments? If the treatments are painful or cause suffering such as a loss of appetite or physical difficulties is it worth it for your pet? You also must consider the cost of treatments and weigh if they will help your pet or just prolong his suffering.
  1. Has your pet’s toilet habits changed? A change in toilet habits can be a sign of dementia in a pet. A pet who cannot get up to go out or cannot control his bowels and bladder and will eliminate and lay in it, is a good sign that it is time to let them go. A pet that has abnormal eliminations, such as blood in either stools or urine, weak or strong urine, or who has trouble eliminating is a candidate for a serious evaluation. Has your pet’s stools and urine decreased or increased yet they eat and drink the same amount? This of course depends on what your veterinarian determines the problem is.
  1. Does your pet act as if they are lost? Some will cry out as if they are calling, “Where are you?” Some pets may stand with their face in a corner and not be able to find their way out. Some will stare at walls or have a blank look in their eyes. Some may not recognize their family members. Some may wander around the house or yard and not seem to know where they are. A pet may not respond to commands that they always responded to before, even though they hear you. These can be signs of mental degeneration.
  1. After all the considerations are evaluated, you must determine if the quality of your pet’s life is going to be better, tolerable or only prolong suffering.
  1. The most difficult part of the decision and perhaps the most important is determining how much of your own emotions are playing a part in your decision making. Are you trying to keep your pet alive because you cannot tolerate the thought of losing your pet? Are you keeping your pet’s well being as the main decision maker? This is the most difficult part of the decision-making process, separating your emotions and feelings from what is good for your pet. The biggest fear that many people have is that they are not making the right decision. Or they feel that they are letting their pet down by giving up, that something more can be done. This is why it is important to go over the points in this article. We all hope for a miracle, but they rarely happen. Letting a pet go is sometimes the kindest thing we can do for them. It helps if you have a friend who is not emotionally involved that you can go over the situation with, to help you see what is going on.

I know that sometimes it is hard for me to make that decision. For this reason I talk to my veterinarian before my pets age and let them know what I want to do in the event that my pets get a terminal illness or injury. Even though we cannot foresee the future, it helps my veterinarian guide me when the time comes. This helped me with a 17 year old cat that I dearly loved. When I took her to the veterinarian, she was having a cardiac arrest. I could not say the words to tell my veterinarian to put her down. But he knew my wishes ahead of time. It made it just a bit easier for me to not have to say it.

Deciding to let a pet go is never easy. No one wants the grief and loss that it brings. We all know that it may take a long time to heal and get over the pain. I know because I have had to go through it many times. For me, I take comfort in knowing that my pets will be in Heaven waiting for me, that they are going to a better place. This is one reason why I wrote my book God’s Creatures which you can see on my website, www.sbulanda.com

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We all must deal with the loss of a beloved pet in our own way. As our pets come into our lives and then leave us, one after the other, the loss- and decision-making process never gets easier. But as good stewards of our pets, it is up to us to do what is right for them, even if it means our loss. Doing this is the deepest and most unselfish kind of love.

Once we lose our pets we have to deal with the grief. Everyone handles it in their own way. In the case of a pet who has suffered a prolonged illness, some people grieve for awhile before the pet dies. In those cases it can make the actual loss less painful. If there was no time before losing a pet to grieve, the full emotion of grief will come on right away. The pain can at times feel like physical pain. There are many ways to handle your feelings. Talking to someone who understands how much a pet can mean to you is one way. Attending a grief counseling group can also help. Some people find that volunteering at a shelter or rescue group helps.

If you know that your pet is getting on in years, getting a new pet before the pet passes can help ease the loss for some people. Providing of course that the new pet isn’t going to stress or harm the resident pet. Some people find that writing about the lost pet helps or designing a photo album dedicated to the pet. These are just a few ideas about how to go through the grief. The main thing to keep in mind is that time does heal. We may never fully get over the loss of a pet, one particular pet means more to us than any others, but we can enjoy the fond memories and love that the pet has given us.

Do bigger brains mean smarter dogs?

According to a study conducted by Daniel Horschler, a UA anthropology doctoral student and member of the UA’s Arizona Canine Cognition Center, dogs with bigger brains can perform certain tasks better than dogs with smaller brains. The researchers found that larger-brained breeds had better short-term memory and self-control than smaller dogs, regardless of the extent of training the dogs had received.

The tests showed that brain size did not determine a dog’s performance on tests of social intelligence such as being able to follow where a person points or with the dog’s inferential and physical reasoning ability.

What the study did not define is what is considered small and what is considered large? What the study also did not seem to take into account is the difference between the way humans relate, handle and treat small vs large dogs. As a canine behavior consultant and dog trainer I have seen a vast difference between the way owners treat and relate to large vs small dogs. For example, you do not see owners carrying their Labrador Retrievers around in backpacks or pushing them in strollers. Often small dogs are not allowed to act like dogs whereas large dogs are allowed to act like a dog should act. It is interesting to consider.

Do dogs need training to understand human cues?

Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, India, and colleagues studied stray dogs across several Indian cities to determine if dogs can understand human cues without training.

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They found that stray dogs that were not timid or shy, would respond to a strange human pointing to a bowl. If the dog was friendlier and less anxious, they approached the bowls that the tester pointed to about 80% of the time. This shows that the dogs not only recognized human body language but are able to understand complex gestures.

What the researchers were unable to tell is how much experience the stray dogs had with humans and was it positive or negative. Also unknown is if people had fed the dogs in the past, using a pointing motion to indicate that there was food available.

The study does mention that more research is needed to determine if the personality of the dog is a factor in their response to human pointing. But all in all, it is another piece of information that gives us insight into the mind of the dog.

Roaming cats worry their owners

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, found that owners who allow their cats to roam freely outdoors worry about their cat’s safety. Why then do they let their cats roam? The study shows that many cat owners feel that their cats need to roam and hunt. They feel that a cat would not be happy or fulfilled if they are kept indoors.

 

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A feral kitten we rescued a few years ago. We found her in the road on a cold, snowy Christmas eve. She was adopted to a good home. 

Unfortunately these sentiments can be detrimental to a cat’s health and even it’s life. Cats do not need to be free outdoors to roam and hunt. Cats can and do live a happy and productive life indoors. It is up to the owner to provide interactive toys or play with their cat to satisfy the cat’s need to hunt and attack prey.

Cats also need companionship, either from another animal or their owners. Most cats are very social although not in the same way as dogs are.

There are videos made for cats to watch. If a cat owner feels strongly that their cat should spend time outdoors there are cat containment systems that allow a cat to go outdoors and be safe. You only need to google “cat outdoor yards” or “cat containment systems” to find a wide variety to meet your cat’s needs.

There are a number of reasons why a cat should not be allowed to freely roam outdoors. Being outdoors, even in a city or urban environment subjects the cat to predators which can range from dogs, other cats, hawks, foxes, coyotes and other wild animals that will attack a cat either aggressively or defensively. There are also evil people who make it a sport to trap and torture or kill cats.

If a cat kills wildlife, they are exposed to various parasites and diseases. If they come in contact with other outdoor cats, they can be exposed to various cat borne diseases which could be fatal. If a cat kills and ingests some of the blood of a rodent that has eaten rodent poison, the poison in the rodent’s blood can kill the cat.

Being exposed to injury, diseases and parasites, can make the cat sick and cost the owner multiple veterinarian bills. Not to mention subject the cat to preventable suffering and death.

If the cat is not spayed or neutered, letting it roam freely will cause pregnancy and add to the feral cat population. Contrary to what many people think, feral cats do not live a good life. They are subjected to all the above-mentioned diseases and death. Most feral cats do not live past kittenhood and if they do, only live about two very harsh years, struggling to find food, water, warmth and to fend off predators.

In conclusion, there is no positive reason to let a cat roam freely outdoors. There is every reason to trap, spay, neuter and adopt feral cats.