Friday, February 24, 2006

House Hunting With Dogs

The Wall Street Journal's real estate section has a good piece on what dog owners should look for in a home. I especially liked the advice on electronic fences, which seem like a good idea to many people but have some definite cons: to name just two, they don't keep other people out of your yard and they don't prevent other dogs from coming into your yard and attacking your dog.

If you're a dog lover deciding where to settle, consider some of these dog-friendly cities. Dog Fancy has also ranked places friendly to dogs. Of all of these, my dog-tested favorites are Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Long Beach, and San Diego. Just remember that water dogs do best in Vancouver. Luckily, my greyhound and Cavaliers have never minded the rain. Maybe that's because they're all of British origin and some ancestral memory tells them that rain is a normal state of affairs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cool Pet News

If only I'd had a dog to tutor me in school. I might have gotten beyond basic arithmetic. A couple of recent experiments show that dogs appear to use calculus-like, well, calculations to figure out the optimal path to fetch a ball or stick. And, of course, we all know they can count. My dogs all keep careful track of the number of treats each has received to make sure they're not shorted.

Those of you in tick country may be interested to learn that scientists have deciphered the genomes of certain bacteria that cause ehrlichiosis, a tick-borne disease that can affect dogs and people. The study reports new genes that allow the bacteria to evade a host's immune system and adapt to new niches and will help scientists better study the bacteria and how they operate.

Fellow pet writer Beth Adelman recommends a new book for people with allergies who have or would like to have pets. Here's what she says:

"I just got a copy of a great new book by Shirlee Kalstone, called "Allergic to Pets? The Breakthrough Guide to LIving With the Animals You Love." Shirlee worked with a DVM and an MD on this book, and it is really straightforward, practical, factual, and covers dogs, cats, birds, horses, ferrets and rodents!.

"She has dogs and cats, and is very allergic; she and her husband have a company that develops products that lessen the impact of allergies. But the book is not a commercial for her stuff. It's a rundown of pretty much everything we know so far about pet allergies and what you can do about them so you can keep your pet with you. The book is short and inexpensive, too ($7.99). Definitely, it will help keep some animals in their homes.

(And no, I did not work on the book with her at all, so this is an unbiased endorsement.) "

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How 'Bout That Bull Terrier?

Ch. Rocky Top's Sundance Kid, Rufus to his friends, last night became the first colored bull terrier to win best in show at Westminster. My neighbor e-mailed me to ask what I thought about the winning dog, ending her message with a pictograph of an unhappy face. Her feelings probably mirrored those of a lot of people, but although I'm not a fan of terriers in general--too rowdy for my tastes--I've always liked bull terriers, with their sculptural heads and big smiles.

The bull terrier is an extrovert, a happy, outgoing dog. The first bull terriers, created sometime around 1835 by crossing bulldogs with the now-extinct white English terriers, were all white, but of course the genetic lottery ensured that some would have colored coats. By 1936, these colored bull terriers--which must be any color other than white or any color with white as long as white doesn't predominate--were recognized as a separate variety. Later, the miniature bull terrier was developed. Whatever its variety, the bull terrier likes to have fun in the ring, and Rufus did that all the way to a win.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Brush Those Fangs!

February is Pet Dental Health Month. Yes, you're bad enough about flossing your own teeth, let alone brushing Bailey's, but really--how much longer can you stand his bad breath? That bad breath is a sign of periodontal disease, caused by the buildup of bacteria-laden plaque on the teeth. Plaque hardens into tartar, the ugly brown or yellow spots you see on Spot's teeth.

Regular brushing is the best way to keep your pet's mouth healthy and breath sweet. It's easy to learn to brush your pet's teeth, and once it becomes a habit, it takes less than a minute each day. Back up brushing by giving rope toys and knobbly hard rubber toys to help "floss" the teeth.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cats Undercover

No, not under the bedcovers, although they're often found there. Cats have a long history with and as spies and detectives, both in literature and film. Now a real-life cat, Fred, putting his very man-, er, malehood on the chopping block, so to speak, has helped bring to justice a man masquerading as a veterinarian. What's next? Drug-sniffing dogs? Oh, wait...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Itchy and Scratchy

Does your dog or cat suffer from allergies? If your pet seems to be scratching a never-ending itch, he may be allergic to some of the same things you are: grasses, pollen, molds, the chemicals on certain fabrics or carpets, or even other pets. It's not unusual, for instance, for dogs to be allergic to cats. Theoretically, cats can be allergic to dogs, although it's not something that's commonly tested for, says veterinary dermatologist Kim Boyanowski of Peninsula Animal Dermatology in Redwood City, California. These types of allergies are known as atopic or inhalant, meaning they're absorbed through the skin or inhaled through the respiratory tract.

Pets can also have food allergies, but they're less common than inhalant allergies, Dr. Boyanowski says. For instance, only about 10 percent of allergic dogs exhibit true food allergies.

Unlike people, it's rare for cats and dogs to manifest allergies by sniffling, sneezing or coughing. A coughing cat, however, may have allergy-related asthma.

Allergies can be genetic, but whether a pet develops allergies depends on the convergence of three events: genetic predisposition, exposure to an allergen, and a reaction to that allergen. "If they are not genetically predisposed or they don't have an exposure or haven't triggered a reaction, they could theoretically on a blood test or skin test react as an allergic patient but not be displaying symptoms," Dr. Boyanowski says.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Year of the Dog

"Sit Ubu, Sit." What television viewer doesn't remember that tag line from shows produced by Ubu Productions, such as Family Ties and Spin City? The black Labrador retriever is number 95 of 100 canine pop culture icons celebrated during the Chinese year of the dog. Favorites from my childhood that it includes are Underdog, Mr Peabody, and Huckleberry Hound. To top things off, we'll give equal time to our other furry friends, cats.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Profiling of a Species

Should pit bulls, or any breed for that matter, be banned? Every time a dog attacks someone, there's an outcry about the danger of keeping Xenobian Doomhounds and the local city council calls for its ban. To most people, breed-specific legislation probably seems like a good idea--that is, unless their own Xenobian Doomhounds are renowned for their therapy visits to the nursing home, the tightrope-walking act they perform at kids' birthday parties, and the time they saved the neighbor's cat from being swept away in a flash flood. Dog lovers in every breed should be concerned about the increasing number of attempts by municipalities to ban certain breeds. Sure, today it's Xenobian Doomhounds and you don't have those, but tomorrow they'll come for the Swedish ChickenHund (it might spread avian flu, after all), and the day after that--well, it might be your breed's turn.