Thursday, October 6, 2016

Top Ten Facts About Domestic Animals

These are some simple facts about some domestic animals that everyone really should know, but not everyone does.

1.  You do not need a rooster to get eggs.  Hens (and other female birds) can, and will, lay eggs even when no male is present.  Without a male the eggs will not be fertile.  Some birds lay more eggs than others.  Eggs only hatch if fertile and if incubated for the required period of days.

2.  "Pitbull" is not a breed of dog.  The term pitbull (also written as pit bull) is a term that refers to a type of dog for which many breeds fit.  The term comes from the fact that certain dogs were bred to be used for blood sport, often being "pitted" against bulls, mules, or other animals, for entertainment.

3.  Pigs are as intelligent as dogs.  Pigs can be trained to walk on a leash (usually with a harness) and can be house trained.  They can learn basic commands and enjoy human company.  They like to wallow in mud to keep themselves cool, to control pests, and just to have fun.

4.  Most cats are lactose intolerant and can get diarrhea or tummy cramps from having dairy.  Goat's milk is usually somewhat more gentle on a cat's stomach than cow's milk, but either way the calcium level can also contribute to urinary tract problems.  Another food commonly given to cats, but one they really should not have is tuna, especially if the tuna was canned in oil for people.

5.  Not all sheep have wool.  Primitive sheep did not have the thick wool coats we associate with sheep now.  Selective breeding produced woolly sheep.  Hair sheep are still popular in parts of the world and only grow a thicker coat for winter, shedding it in the summer.  Hair sheep are also popular among hobby farmers who want sheep but don't want to have to shear them.
The brown sheep pictured above are hair sheep.

6.  Dogs with docked tails suffer a social disadvantage compared to dogs with tails.  Dogs communicate though scent.  They spread their scent by wagging their tail.  If scared they sometimes clamp their tail.  From a distance a dog can wag its tail to spread its scent to dogs it sees before it gets too close, thus offering an early greeting or signalling "stay away".  A dog with a docked tail cannot spread its scent as effectively and this could concern another dog that sees.

7.  Guinea pigs are social animals and do best in pairs, or in small groups.  They find it hard to make new friends when older so should be purchased as pairs when young.  In some areas it is illegal to own only one guinea pig.

8.  Rabbits are not rodents they are lagomorphs.  They have two pairs of upper incisors (teeth).  Some owners are surprised to see their pet rabbit eating its own feces but they actually produce special feces (often in the morning) which they do eat.  This is normal and part of their diet.

9.  The betta fish typically sold in stores are males.  Some times female fish are offered for sale but the males are the more colorful ones.  Males will attack other males and will also attack females unless she is in her breeding phase.  They do not need air filters because they get their air from the surface.  Although often kept in tiny tanks they should really have at least 3 gallons of space.

10.  This last fact is not about a specific type of domestic animal at all but is a fact about what you should do if you happen to find an animal and have taken it into your home or yard.  The animal is not yours to keep or sell, you must first contact the local animal shelter or whomever deals with lost and found pets in your area (sometimes this is a veterinarian or police in areas where a proper shelter does not exist).  You can take it to a veterinarian who will check it (for free) for a tattoo or microchip.  You can also try to find the pet's owner by posting its picture on Facebook or other websites, but make sure you contact the proper authorities in your area as mentioned. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What is Vestibular Disease in Dogs?

If your dog is suddenly acting strange, falling over, rolling to one side, behaving not quite right, you may want to consider that your dog has Vestibular disease. The sympoms are similar to that of a stroke, and prior to development in brain imaging techniques, we often mistook Vestibular disease as being a stroke. You will note that dogs can get strokes, but what we are talking about here is something different than a stroke.

Vestibular disease is basically an inner ear problem. The vestibular system being the name for the inner ear and the nerves that run to the brain. Since balance is controlled and regulated in the inner ear any problems with this area will show as dizziness or balance problems. Vestibular disease is not contagious.

You will want to note that the common age of onset of Vestibular disease is after 10 years, but it can occur in younger dogs as well.

Symptoms of Vestibular Disease
healthy dog

The dog may tilt its head to one side
Eyes tend to wander, often looking off to the side
The dog may keep its eyes shut or blink more often
The dog may walk with a staggering gait, even falling down to one side
Circling behavior
Facial tics or twitching of the face muscles
Paralysis of facial muscles
The dog may seem confused, drunk, or dizzy
The dog may loose interest in eating
Incontinence, or frequent urination

Causes of Vestibular Disease

Vestibular disease in dogs can have many causes. Infection to the ear, or from the brain. Cancer, poison, or even parasites in the ear. Immune diseases can contribute to a dog developing this problem as can an under active thyroid. Encephalitis can also bring on Vestibular disease. Sometimes we simply do not know the cause of the problem, and occasionally it starts, and stops, all on its own.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Vestibular Disease

A veterinarian is required to diagnosis vestibular disease and to make the distinction between it and a stroke, or other problem. They may do a test of the Cerebrospinal Fluid, which is fluid around the brain, and/or giving the pet an MRI. Both tests may be costly to an owner. A thyroid test may be done as well. Do not encourage the dog to “snap out of it” rather it is best to keep the dog calm, and relaxed.

Once diagnosed, if the cause is parasites (including ear mites), or infection, treatment for the cause should be given immediately, however long term damage may have already been done. As mentioned, sometimes vestibular disease starts, and goes away all on its own, in these cases the dog may still have a characteristic tilt to its head but other symptoms (such as falling over) will have passed.

Focus is then placed on keeping the dog safe, and comfortable. The dog may be given medication to deal with the dizziness. Dogs should be taken for shorter walks, in safe areas (not next to the road) and be kept on leash at all times. Care should be taken in the home to prevent the dog from falling down stairs; as such the dog should not be allowed to climb stairs or go down them on their own, and stairways should be blocked off.

If the dog is unable to control its urination, it may be fitted with a doggy diaper. If the dog has problems eating it may need to be given a special, more pallet able, diet.

Finally, if you own a dog with a problem such as vestibular disease you must be sensitive; knowing how you feel when going through a dizzy patch will help you understand how your dog must feel. This condition is manageable with love and understanding.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Things to Know Before Adopting a Rabbit

Cute, soft, and popular; rabbits make great pets for some people, but there are some important things to know before adopting one. Learning a bit about them first will help a potential owner know if a bunny (another name for a rabbit) would be a suitable pet to adopt.

Unlike somepets, rabbits, are pretty much legal to keep everywhere, however, if a person rents their home they may need landlord permission. A potential adopter who is going to a shelter to adopt a rabbit should bring a copy of their lease agreement to indicate that they are allowed pets, otherwise the shelter will need to contact their landlord just to be sure.

Two rabbits getting to know each other.
The next consideration is their space requirement, some of the smaller breeds of rabbits are fine in a cage that provides at least 2 square feet of space, but the larger breeds will need at least twice that. No breed of rabbit should be housed in minimal space if the owner is not going to have sufficient time to allow it out of the cage every day. Two other housing options exist, one being to allow the bunny to roam loose in the home, the other is to confine it to an outdoor hutch.

There are some things to know before allowing a bunny to be loose in the home. Firstly, because they are natural chewers, they may nibble cords, so any electrical wires must be put out of reach or run through a piece of PVC pipe. Secondly, unless litter trained, they will leave messes throughout the home. Finally, if you have other house pets this may be a concern, while adult rabbits are usually safe with cats, some breeds of dogs have high prey instinct and a loose rabbit might not be so safe. It is important to note that all rabbits need time out of their cage and should be allowed access to at part of the house for at least an hour every day. 

If a rabbit is to be housed outdoors in a hutch there are some other considerations. The most important thing is that the owner be aware of the condition known as “FlyStrike”, whereby flies lay eggs on rabbits dirty bottoms and the maggots will eat the bunny alive. This means any rabbit kept outdoors must be kept in very clean conditions. Another consideration is climate, with larger bunnies being more tolerant of the cold than smaller ones. Additionally the hutch must be safe and secure against predator types in ones area.

One advantage of rabbits over cats and dogs, is that they are vegetarians, being a lot cheaper to feed than cats and dogs are. Also rabbits may be allowed by some landlords where cats and dogs are not. You should know that a well socialized rabbit is unlikely to bite or show signs of aggression
Rabbits have very few health problems when compared to cats and dogs, their teeth being a main concern. They must be given proper things to chew on so their teeth do not over grow. Like cats and dogs they may be spayed or neutered, as some male rabbits will spray. As mentioned earlier rabbits can be litter trained. Their lifespan is similar to that of a large dog, being about 8-12 years. A person not willing for this length of a commitment may decide to adopt an older rabbit rather than a young one.

A disadvantage may be that rabbits do not interact with their owner to the level that cats and dogs do, making it more difficult for some people to bond with them. Another disadvantage is that it may be slightly harder to find good veterinary care for an ailing rabbit. 

Before adopting a rabbit it is important to know that there are many breeds to choose from. They range from the tiny, Mini Rexes, to the larger meat breeds, such as the Flemish Giant. There are short haired rabbits, and long haired ones, such as the Angora and Fuzzy Lop, that require regular grooming or they will develop painful hair mats. Rexes are noted for their softness, and in addition to the Lop breeds, are one of the most popular as pets.  Do not just adopt a bunny because it is super cute, select the right one for you!

More important than breed, is how a rabbit was handled prior to being adopted. Rabbits who came from commercial breeders (those sold in pet stores) are seldom handled prior to arriving at the store and are less likely to be friendly than one adopted from a shelter or acquired from a private home/breeder. A person should know that rabbits generally dislike being picked up or put down, but should be able to be held without too much squirming and fuss.