Pet Care by Sheila Webster Boneham
This section is sponsored by Sheila Webster Boneham to provide help and guidance to pet owners.|
Sheila Webster Boneham , Ph.D writes non-fiction books and articles about how to choose, train, care for, and live happily with dogs and cats.
Her books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Cat, and her most recent publication Rescue Matters.
Watch this space for new articles!
For more information on Dr. Webster and her work check out the following websites:
Understanding Puppy Development
Puppies are not just small, cute versions of adult dogs. They are canine “children,” and like their human counterparts, they go through distinct developmental stages on their way to adulthood. If you are raising a puppy, understanding these stages will better equip you to help him develop his full potential. If you are training an older puppy or an adult, you may gain some insights into his behavior by understanding how he developed. So let’s begin with a basic overview of puppy development.
Puppy Development, Week by Week
Say the word puppy and most people see a mental image of a growing canine about six to eight weeks old. It’s easy to think that your puppy’s life began the day you took him home, but those preceding weeks since his birth, and even the nine weeks he spent in utero, have a lifelong influence on his health and behavior. It may help you as a dog owner and trainer to understand how puppies develop during their earliest weeks on earth.
Weeks 1 and 2
For the first two weeks after they are whelped (born), puppies cannot see or hear, but their noses work very well, enabling them to root out their mother’s milk and to recognize familiar dogs and humans who hold and nuzzle them. A newborn puppy cannot shiver to warm himself or pant to cool himself, so he relies on his environment to maintain his body temperature. He can and will snuggle with his siblings and crawl toward or away from warmth provided by a heat lamp or heating pad. He cannot urinate or defecate without direct stimulation, which his dam (mother) normally provides. In fact, the neonatal puppy depends completely on his dam or foster dam for safety, nourishment, bodily functions, warmth, and cleanliness.
The canine mother depends in turn on the breeder for good nutrition and health care, a safe, private, and clean environment, and plenty of emotional support and cuddles. A good breeder also handles the puppies frequently and provides neurological stimulation that helps them develop more brain cells and prepare for later learning.
The third week of a puppy’s life brings many changes. His eyes and ears open and he begins to respond to light, movement, and sounds. He is easily startled by the sudden onslaught of stimuli and should not be exposed to sudden movements, loud noises, or bright or flashing lights (including camera flashes). The three-week-old puppy crawls around the “den” and is very aware of his littermates and his dam, people, other animals who visit the puppies, and toys or other objects in the whelping area. By the end of the third week he may even try to play with his siblings and with toys. If he’s a bold puppy, he may try to escape from the whelping box to explore the bigger world. He begins to stand and walk, although like any toddler he sways, staggers, and falls down a lot. He grows quickly and gains considerable strength and coordination during the third week, and he can begin to learn to accept gentle grooming with a soft brush, as well as nail trimming.
Week 4 (Through Week 7)
Beginning at four weeks of age and ending at seven weeks, a puppy experiences many changes, and he may leave for a new life at the end of this period. He learns to eat solid food and to drink water rather than relying on his dam. The urge for cleanliness that is present in most puppies kicks in, and he begins to go to a remote spot to urinate and defecate. If he’s lucky, his breeder helps the puppy begin housetraining by keeping the puppy area clean, and weather permitting, by taking him outdoors to eliminate beginning in the fourth or fifth week.
He also begins to learn the social skills he will need throughout his life. He learns to communicate with and understand his dam, siblings, and perhaps other dogs, and the people in his life. He forms bonds. He asserts his personality and assumes his own position in the social hierarchy of the litter. He spends a lot of time playing and play fighting with his siblings, and he learns from them and from his mother that life includes discipline and that behavior has consequences. His mother and siblings reprimand him when he bites too hard, teaching him the essential trait of bite inhibition (self-control of the urge to bite). His problem-solving skills develop, especially if the breeder provides a variety of toys and small obstacles such as cardboard boxes, barriers, steps, and other challenges. He becomes more coordinated, and faster.
During the fourth week, the puppy’s sensory development accelerates. He now recognizes and responds to people, and he begins to learn how to bond to people and other dogs. He is alert and easily startled and should be sheltered from influences that could frighten him and have long-lasting effects. He learns very quickly from the fourth through eighth weeks, and he remembers what he learns—critical skills for survival as a wild canid. An environment rich in playthings—a variety of toys, rolled-up towels to crawl over, shredded newspaper to dig into, tunnels to crawl through, and so on—help him develop his ability to learn. He should be exposed to the sounds of life—radio, television, music, toys that make noise, washers and dryers, vacuum cleaners, and so forth—during the fourth week.
Week 5 (Through Week 7)
Beginning during the fifth week and ending at seven weeks, the puppy needs to spend most of his time with his siblings, and some with his dam, to learn essential canine social skills. He also needs some individual human attention to help him learn to bond to people.
Week 6 (Through Week 7)
Exposure to more new experiences will benefit the puppy during his sixth and seventh weeks—the hair dryer, short car rides, carefully screened human visitors, and exposure to the breeder’s gentle adult dogs other than the puppy’s dam. At this age the puppy can begin short, positive training sessions, learning some basic skills (stand, sit, come) and—more importantly—learning to learn.
Weeks 7 and 8
Puppies learn faster between seven and eight weeks of age than at any other time in their lives, and they retain an amazing amount of the information they acquire during these weeks. If you consider the life of a wild canid, this makes perfect sense. Pups leave the den and begin to explore the world at around seven weeks, but that world is a dangerous and unforgiving place. The pup who doesn’t learn quickly dies. Fortunately, most domestic puppies live in safer environments than their wild cousins, and they get to repeat the lessons they fail the first time around.
So When Can You Bring Your Puppy Home?
There is a widespread idea that you must take your puppy home at exactly seven weeks of age or he will never bond to you and your family. Not true! That idea comes from a misunderstanding of research that showed that puppies must have contact with people beginning no later than the 49th day or they will not bond well with people later in life. It doesn’t matter who the people are, only that they are human beings who treat the puppy with kindness. In fact, the end of the seventh week is the absolute earliest that a puppy should leave his mother and siblings but is not necessarily the best time for a new home. Many puppies benefit from another one to nine weeks with their natal families if the environment is healthful and stimulating. If you want a well-adjusted dog, do not purchase or adopt one who has been isolated from human contact from 7 to 16 weeks of age. If you already have the young puppy, be sure to socialize him well from 7 to 16 weeks. (We will talk more about socialization later in this chapter.)
There is another important factor to consider when deciding the best time to take your puppy home. Sometime around eight to ten weeks of age, most puppies go through the first and most severe of several fear imprint periods (or just fear periods). Many puppies experience milder fear periods around nine and eighteen months of age, although some pups never seem to notice. This eight-week fear period is linked to the rapid-learning developmental period that occurs during a puppy’s seventh and eighth weeks, and is part of a dog’s heritage as a wild predator who had to learn quickly or die. When he is going though a fear period, a puppy is especially prone to being frightened by a variety of things. Sights and sounds that he didn’t seem to notice the week before may suddenly terrify him, and unusual events or painful experiences can cause emotional trauma that may lead to problem behaviors for a very long time. It’s important to shield the puppy as much as possible from potentially scary experiences during the fear period, including a move to a new home, visits to the veterinarian, and so forth.
If you devote time to your puppy from his 49th to 56th day, you can establish a foundation that will last a lifetime. You and your pup can forge a bond that will grow richer over time. You also can use short, positive training sessions to teach him some basic commands and behaviors that you will refine later. More importantly, you can teach him how to learn and to enjoy the process. The downside of this ability to learn at lightning speed is that the puppy will remember bad experiences as well as the good. Any training you do during fear periods should be especially gentle and completely positive, and the puppy should be sheltered as much as possible from things that may frighten him.
From Training Your Dog for Life by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. (T.F.H. Publications, 2008, Chapter 6, "Puppy Training."
Hot-weather Safety for Dogs
Spring and summer are perfect for playing outdoors with our dogs, but exercising in hot weather can be dangerous. Dogs cool their bodies by panting, which is not a very efficient way to maintain normal body temperature. This can be a problem for any dog in hot weather and more so for those with short muzzles (brachycephalic breeds), heavy coats, and certain health conditions.Heatstroke (hyperthermia) occurs when an animal’s body temperature rises beyond a safe range for even a few minutes. For dogs, the normal range is 99.5ºF to 102.8ºF (37.5 to 39.3ºC).Symptoms of Heat StrokeSymptoms of heat stroke may include* red or pale gums* bright red tongue* sticky, thick saliva* rapid panting* vomiting and/or diarrhea* acting dizzy or weak* shockIf your dog begins to show any of those symptoms, let him rest and cool off in a shady spot. You can help him cool down by wetting his belly and the pads of his feet with cool water. If your dog has more than one of these signs, or if you take his temperature and find that it exceeds the normal range, wrap him in a cool wet towel or blanket and get him to a vet immediately.PreventionTo prevent heatstroke,* never leave your dog in a car in warm weather, even with the windows open.* avoid hard activity during the heat of the day, especially when humidity is high.* be sure that your dog has access to cool water every 20 to 30 minutes.* keep him in the shade as much as possible to keep him from absorbing heat and getting sunburned (yes, dogs sunburn).* avoid paved surfaces, especially blacktop—your dog’s body is much closer to their heat than your own, and he is barefoot to boot.Have fun this summer, but please keep it safe!Adapted from Training Your Dog for Life by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. (T.F.H. Publications, 2008, Chapter 3, "Nurture."
Although the following list of poisons is frighteningly long, it does not include every danger. The best cure is prevention, so keep these and other hazardous products locked up where your pets cannot get them.
* Rodent poisons, coyote bait, slug bait, ant and roach bait, and other anti-pest poisons that are made to attract and kill animals. A single dose of modern anticoagulant poisons, sometimes ingested by eating a dead animal, can kill a pet.
* Insecticides (including flea killers), and dewormers. Some can be absorbed through the skin on contact.
* Lead, found in paints, linoleum, batteries, lead pipe and fittings, and other products, including some metal and ceramics products produced overseas.
* Phosphorus, found in matches, matchboxes, matchbooks, flares and fireworks.
* Petroleum products.
* Household cleaners, drain cleaners, and solvents, particularly those containing pine oil, phenol, acids, or lye.
* Some species of spiders, scorpions, snakes, and amphibians are venomous. If you know your pet has been bitten or stung, or has picked up a poisonous toad or other creature, or if you notice a sudden swelling on his face or body, especially with evidence of penetration, get him to the vet immediately. If you kill the biter, bring the body with you.
* Medications meant for people and other pets, and overdoses of their own medications, can kill. Many pets are treated for poisoning from pain relievers (one acetaminophen tablet can kill an adult cat), antihistamines, sleeping pills, diet pills, heart preparations, vitamins, and other medications. Don’t give your pet any medication without your vet’s approval, and store all medications in a safe place.
* Tobacco products.
* More than 700 house, garden, and wild plants are toxic, including many common species. Ask your veterinarian or agricultural agent for a list for your area.
* Some foods, especially chocolate and products with caffeine (coffee, tea, many soft drinks, and other products), and toxic for pets. Grapes and raisins are deadly for dogs.
* Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) tastes sweet, and it is lethal in fairly small amounts (a teaspoonful can kill a cat or small dog). Animals sometimes appear to recover only to die later from kidney failure.
If you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance, do not wait - call your vet immediately. By the time signs of poisoning appear, it may be too late to save your pet.
Adapted from The Multiple Cat Family by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D.
What You Should Know About Bloat
Bloat (also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus or gastric torsion) is a life-threatening condition that can affect any dog at any age. Dogs with deep chests, like Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, and Rottweilers, are particularly at risk.Bloat occurs when pressure from a large amount of gas in the stomach causes the stomach to twist, a condition called volvulus or torsion. When torsion occurs, the esophagus is twisted shut and the dog can no longer relieve the pressure by vomiting or belching. As pressure builds, the flow of blood to and from the heart decreases, the heartbeat becomes erratic, the stomach lining begins to die, and toxins build up. The liver, pancreas, spleen, and bowel may be damaged, and the stomach may rupture. The dog suffers terrible pain, goes into shock, and if not treated immediately, dies.Symptoms of bloat or impending bloat include* abdominal distention,* retching,* salivation,* restlessness,* refusal to lie down,* depression,* loss of appetite,* lethargy,* weakness,* rapid heart rate. If you think that your dog may be bloating, get him to your vet immediately. Call to let the office know that you’re on your way with a bloating dog, and drive carefully.Death from bloat is common even with treatment, so prevention is the best cure. Feed your dog two or three meals a day rather than one, and don’t exercise him within two hours of a meal.
From Training Your Dog for Life by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. (T.F.H. Publications, 2008, Chapter 3, "Nurture."
Preventing and Correcting Pet Problems
It’s worth noting that many problems are related to the following factors:
* Lack of exercise: ...
* Boredom: ...
* Physical problem: ...
* Nutritional problem:..
* Pre- and post-natal care
* Early environment and handling
Knowing as much as possible about an animal’s background may help you help the owner find ways to stop or lessen the unwanted behaviors. Conversations about these aspects of choosing a pet also offer opportunities to educate people about responsible breeding, buying, socializing, and training. The more people understand about those things, the more likely they are to make good choices that reduce the need for rescue.
Abridged from Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009). For the complete text, please see Chapter 7. For additional suggestions, refer to Sheila Boneham's other books, especially
* The Complete Idiot' Guide to Getting and Owning a Cat (Alpha, 2005), named Best Health & Care Book and given Award of Excellence, Cat Writers' Association
* Training Your Dog for Life (TFH, 2008).
How to Medicate Your Cat (and Live to Tell About It)
Most dogs are easy to medicate - a little peanut butter or cheese and bing! You're done. Cats aren't so easily fooled. Here'e how to "make the medicine go down," from the award-winning book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Cat
You may be able to disguise medication in canned cat food, baby food, or some other soft yummy thing. If that works, and you’re sure the right cat is getting the whole dose, great! If not, you need to “pill the cat,” which can be almost as risky as belling her unless you proceed with caution!
Find a comfy spot to sit or kneel to hold your cat securely. (If someone else can hold her while you give the medication, all the better.) If Kitty is particularly reluctant, wrap her in a towel with just her head sticking out. When she’s securely restrained, hold the medication with your right thumb and index finger (assuming you’re right handed – reverse if you’re a lefty). Then, with the palm of your left hand on top of her head, place your left index finger and thumb at either corner of her mouth, and gently tilt her head back. Her mouth will probably open. If not, push down gently on her lower incisors with your right middle finger.
* Pills: Once your cat’s mouth pops open, drop the pill as far back on her tongue as you can. You can use your fingers, or get a pill plunger (a syringe for administering pills) from your vet, pet supply store, or drug store. Keep Kitty’s head tilted back and gently massage her throat or blow lightly on her nose until she swallows.
* Liquid Medication: use the pilling procedure (above) to open Kitty’s mouth. Don’t use a spoon – the medicine will likely end up everywhere but down your cat’s throat. A needleless syringe, available from your vet, pet supply store, or drug store, will make squirting the medication down Kitty’s throat much easier for both of you. Markings on the syringe will also make it easier to measure the dose.
Don’t let your cat leap away as soon as the medicine is down the hatch – that simply reinforces her opinion that a terrible thing just happened, and she’ll be even less cooperative next time. Continue to hold her, gently stroking and talking to her, and give her a treat if she’ll take one. When she relaxes, gently let her go.
Then watch her for a while. Cats can vomit easily and at will, and she may scurry off to rid herself of the horrid stuff you forced on her. Calm her with petting, and offer her a treat to take her mind off the ordeal. If she does barf it up, do not re-administer the medicine unless you’re certain she gave up the whole dose. If she throws up most doses, speak to your vet about alternatives.
From The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Cat by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. 2005 winner of the MUSE Medallion for Best Health and General Care Book, and an Award of Excellence, from the Cat Writers' Association. Available where books are sold and on line, and in Kindle and eBook formats. http://astore.amazon.com/sheilaboneh0d-20/detail/159257341X