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By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Much as we’d like our canine companions to stay forever young, sadly, just like us, they get older. The good news is it’s the care and love we give them throughout their lives that allows them to grow and thrive and reach their golden years.

Once your dog starts to show signs of aging, it’s important to focus on making his senior and geriatric years as happy, healthy and comfortable as possible. One age-related condition that many older dogs develop is canine cognitive dysfunc­tion (CCD), which is similar to Alzheimer’s diseases in people and is the result of an aging brain.

Clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction are found in 50 percent of dogs over the age of 11, and by the age of 15, 68 percent of dogs display at least one sign.1 And because large and giant breed dogs age more quickly than smaller breeds, dogs as young as 6 can begin to experience mental decline.

Symptoms of CCD

There are five classic signs of cognitive decline in dogs:

  1. Increased total amount of sleep during a 24-hour period
  2. Decreased attention to surroundings, disinterest, apathy
  3. Decreased purposeful activity
  4. Loss of formerly acquired knowledge, which includes housetraining
  5. Intermittent anxiety expressed through apprehension, panting, moaning or shivering

Other symptoms include failure to respond to commands and/or difficulty hearing, inability to recognize familiar people and...

Echo, a German shepherd, feels unappreciated and misunderstood, so she shares all her angst with the human who makes all the right noises that make her feel better.

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

We have a feline obesity epidemic in this country, and one of the reasons is because our indoor cats are overfed couch potatoes. Just because kitties are more independent than dogs doesn't mean they don't need the tools and motivation to get regular heart-thumping exercise.

It's easier to get your cat physically active than you might think, for example, hide kitty's portion-controlled food around the house and let her hunt for it. Ensure she has climbing and scratching surfaces, high perches and interactive toys that bring out her predator instincts. Also consider providing your kitty with a safe, secure outdoor enclosure and/or train her to walk with you on a harness and leash

10 Ways to Help Your Cat Exercise 1. Hunting for food and treats Your cat, while domesticated, has maintained much of his natural drive to engage in the same behaviors as his counterparts in the wild, including hunting for food, which also happens to be great exercise. A great way to do that with an indoor cat is to have him "hunt" for his meals and treats. Separate his daily portion of food into three to five small meals fed throughout the day in a variety of puzzle toys or indoor hunting feeder mice. You can also hide his food bowls or food puzzle toys in various spots around the house. 2. Cat trees and elevated vertical spaces Climbing, scratching...

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Cardinals are perhaps most well-known for their iconic red feathers, but in nature there are always exceptions. In the case of cardinals, which are typically either brilliant red (males) or pale brown (females), a rare genetic mutation can leave a male’s feathers bright yellow instead of red. It’s described as a “one in a million mutation” by Auburn University professor and ornithologist Geoffrey Hill, Ph.D., who told news outlet that most cardinals have an enzyme called CYP2J19 that converts yellow pigment into red feathers.

"Songbirds like cardinals almost never consume red pigments; rather they consume abundant yellow pigments," Hill told AL.1 "So, to be red, cardinals have to biochemically convert yellow pigments to red." The yellow cardinal spotted in Alabaster, Alabama must not have gotten that memo, as he’s been delighting birdwatchers with his striking bright yellow plumage.

Could Health Issues Also Turn a Cardinal’s Feathers Yellow?

The yellow cardinal was first spotted by Alabaster resident and avid birder Charlie Stephenson, who says the unique bird visits her home’s backyard feeder regularly. A friend and professional photographer Jeremy Black spent hours waiting to get the perfect shots of the bird, and managed to snap several striking images that have become very popular online, prompting a flurry of attention about what causes cardinals to turn yellow.

While a genetic mutation as cited by Hill could be the sole cause, it’s also possible that poor diet, stress and health...

This little girl may not have realized when she used her hands to bounce off the side of her house that the baby goat would see it as a leaping demonstration and copy her!

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Unfortunately, separation anxiety is an extremely common and serious problem for many dogs today (and their owners). Many dog parents confuse some of the milder symptoms of separation anxiety with gestures of canine devotion, but a dog who at first seems just a bit overeager to see you can develop separation anxiety under the right circumstances.

In fact, before your dog has her first full-blown anxiety episode, it's easy to mistake her panting, pawing greeting every time you walk through the door (even if you’ve only stepped outside to get the mail) as nothing more than the uncondi­tional love of a dog for her owner.

Another mistake dog parents often make is to assume the destructive activity their dogs engage in during an episode of separation anxiety is misbehavior. The misguided belief is that the bored, grumpy dog is exacting revenge on her owner for being left behind. It’s important to address your dog’s heightened stress when you see it occurring. Waiting until she has full-blown anxiety means you can manage the situation, but may not cure it.

What True Separation Anxiety Looks Like

If your dog suffers from true separation anxiety, he's having a panic attack similar to the ones humans have. This is a condition over which he has no control. Common behaviors in a dog with separation anxiety include:

  • A need to be in the same room you're in, within a few feet of you
  • Frenzied greetings, whether you've been out of his sight...

Internet kitties Cole and Marmalade creep in to check out their favorite sleeping human, maybe because they’re bored. When one creeps under the covers, playtime begins!

 Comments (1)
1 A warm nose always means your pet is sick. TRUE FALSE Most pet parents have been told that if a dog's or cat's nose is warm or dry, it means they're sick. Actually, that's a myth. A warm dry nose by itself doesn't mean that your pet has a fever or is sick. Dog and cat noses go from moist and cool to warm and dry and back again quite easily, and it's perfectly normal and healthy. However, if your pet has symptoms of an illness, such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite or lethargy, then her warm, dry nose is probably an additional symp­tom of an underlying condition. Learn more. 2 What disease has symptoms that include head tilting and a drunken gait, circling, falling down, rhythmic jerking eye movements and nausea? Lyme Disease Cushing's Syndrome Peripheral Vestibular Syndrome Peripheral vestibular syndrome, which is a problem with balance that involves structures in the inner ear, is relatively common in older dogs. Symptoms include head tilting and a drunken gait, circling, falling down, rhythmic jerking eye movements and nausea. Learn more. Addison's Disease 3 Most dogs don't get enough exercise. TRUE Most dogs today don't get enough exercise, which can result in obesity and other health conditions, as well as undesirable boredom-related behaviors. Learn more. FALSE 4 How many poisoning cases called into the Pet Poison...

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Lots of dog and cat parents who visit Mercola Healthy Pets are searching for information on prebiotics, which feed the growth of intestinal bacteria. Prebiotics are non-digestible food ingredients in the form of complex sugars and include:

  • Fructooli­gosaccha­rides (FOS), which is produced from the natural fermentation of sugar cane
  • Inulin, which is found naturally in chicory root, garlic and onions (note: never feed onions to pets)
  • Oligofructose, a breakdown product of inulin

When bacteria ferment prebiotic fibers in the large intestine, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are produced. SCFAs provide a number of benefits to your pet's gastrointestinal (GI) tract. They provide cells with energy, keep things moving through the intestines, and reduce both inflammation and overgrowth of potentially pathogenic bacteria.

5 Whole Food Sources of Prebiotics

Many pets benefit from whole foods containing prebiotic fibers. The very best way for her to get all the dietary nutrients her body requires, including prebiotics, is in fresh whole food offered as a part of a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate diet. It’s important to understand that while all prebiotics are fiber, not all fiber has a prebiotic effect on friendly bacteria.1 To be classified as a prebiotic the fiber must:

  • Resist gastric acidity
  • Resist absorption in the upper GI tract
  • Be fermented by intestinal flora
  • Stimulate the growth or activity of beneficial bacteria

Here are a few whole food sources of prebiotic fiber that can be fed to your pet in moderation:

1. Asparagus. Asparagus is...

Alaskan Malamute Nikon is teaching his little sister, Mocha, how to howl. Or maybe Mocha is encouraging Nikon by yipping! Either way, both are excellent vocalizers!

This Husky tries hiding his jealousy of the cat, who's getting all the attention from "Daddy" as they all lounge on the couch. Soon, he takes matters into his own paws!

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Here's a troubling statistic: nearly 50 percent of poisoning cases called into the Pet Poison Helpline each year involve human medications, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. More often than not, the victim is a curious dog who chews into a bottle of pills, but kitties can get into trouble, too, especially with certain specific medications they seem attracted to.

In some poisoning cases, pet parents accidently give their dog or cat their own medication; others deliberately give a drug that is safe for humans, not realizing it's toxic to pets. No matter how the poisoning occurs, human medications can cause serious illness and even death in dogs and cats, so if you have any of the following drugs in your home, be sure they are kept safely out of your pet's reach at all times.

Top 10 Human Medications That Can Poison Your Pet

The Pet Poison Helpline lists the following 10 human medications as most often involved in pet poisonings.1

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) Topping the list of human medications that can get into the mouths of pets are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. Brand names include Advil, Motrin and Aleve. Your pet is extremely sensitive to compounds in these medications and can become very ill from even a very small dose. Cats can suffer kidney and liver damage, and any pet that ingests NSAIDs can develop ulcers of the digestive tract. Symptoms of poisoning include digestive upset, vomiting, bloody...

Fun-loving Alex gets a kick out of the "toy" made by cutting squares into a piece of cardboard, because it's just big enough to pop his head through to get treats!

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Every dog needs exercise, and most canine companions these days don’t get nearly enough. Your dog’s ancestors and wild cousins spend their days hunting their next meal, defending their turf, playing, mating and caring for litters of pups. Their daily lives are extremely active and social, and challenge them both physically and mentally.

Compare and contrast the life of a canine in the wild with the one in your home, and you get a sense of just how out of condition and bored silly many family dogs are today. Some of the behaviors that are common in under-exercised dogs include:1

Inappropriate chewing Rowdiness, jumping up on people Destructive scratching, digging Inappropriate predatory play Dumpster (trash can) diving Mouthiness, rough play Heightened reactivity, hyperactivity Attention-getting behaviors How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?

It’s important not to assume that a fenced-in yard provides all the exercise your dog needs. I’ve had more than my share of owners of obese dogs tell me their pet is getting loads of exercise because they have a big backyard. Studies show that when your dog has no other dogs around and no humans encouraging him to be active, he’ll spend 80 percent of his time snoozing.

Dogs who have other dogs around for company spend a little less time resting — about 60 percent. The...

If you want to see what the term "jaw-dropping" means, look no further than this hilarious video of a German shepherd, who's apparently astonished, and shows it!

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Your family pet brings priceless love, affection and laughs to your life, along with a fair share of expenses for food, veterinary care and other supplies. Usually, these expenses aren't considered tax deductible by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even though you love your pooch or kitty as much as a child, there's no tax exemption for having a pet "dependent."

Many pet owners disagree; in a survey by Credit Karma Tax, 45 percent of pet owners said they wish they could claim their pets as dependents on their tax returns.1 That being said, there are cases when pet-related costs do qualify for tax breaks.

Guide Dogs and Service Animals

If you've been diagnosed with a physical or mental health condition that requires the use of a service animal, the costs related to adopting, training and caring for that animal may be deductible. For instance, a guide dog for the blind or an animal used in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder would likely qualify.

Expenses eligible for deduction would include veterinary care, food, training and grooming costs, but make sure you have documented proof of your medical necessity for the animal. Further, this applies only to certified service animals; therapy animals would not qualify.

Guard Animals

A dog that helps to protect your business is a legitimate write-off. You can deduct expenses related to the care of the dog, but do make sure he is truly capable of protecting the premises....

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

Described as "extremely adorable," amiable, independent and a devoted family dog, the basador represents two of the most well-loved purebred dogs — the basset hound and the Labrador retriever — but has been a favorite in the world of hybrid dogs for the last few decades. Sometimes "basador" is spelled with a double S. This particular cross is relatively new, so there's not a lot of history to draw on.

And as always, the basador, along with all of the newly created designer mutt "breeds" draws a lot of emotion from all pet lovers, ranging from excitement to anger. And the truth is, regardless if you agree with the ethics of people blending breeds (or breeding at all), these hybrid lovelies are showing up in our veterinary hospitals, training classes and grooming facilities with owners asking questions, so education about these newly created crosses is necessary (and hence my articles about them).

Owners of these hybrids often conclude that by mixing purebred dogs (in this case bassets and Labs), the resulting dogs will reflect the best of both parents. However, when a dog's forebears belong to two totally different dog breeds, aspects of the two dogs' physical, genetic and personality characteristics can emerge, and it's not always guaranteed which of those characteristics will "rise to the top," in a matter of speaking. Spock the Dog notes:

"The main aim when mixing two breeds is to bring together the best traits of the two parents, but this cannot...

No matter what type of domestic cat you may have, you'll find that cat trees bring out the "wild" in them, helping them observe their environment while feeling secure.

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

The vestib­u­lar system is a collection of structures in the inner ear that gives your dog his sense of balance and spatial orientation. When the vestibular system malfunctions, the brain doesn’t have the information it needs to under­stand the body's relationship with the external environment.

Vestibular disease comes in two forms, but the more common one by far is peripheral vestibular disease, and since it happens most often to older dogs, it’s also referred to as old dog vestibular syndrome. Another name for it is canine idiopathic (of unknown origin) vestibular syndrome. The syndrome also occurs in younger dogs and there are a number of underlying diseases that can cause it, but today I’m talking specifically about the condition when it occurs with no apparent cause in older dogs.

Symptoms of Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome

The scary thing about this disease is that it comes on very suddenly and typically manifests as a pronounced head tilt and drunken gait. Many pet parents see this unexpected and startling behavior in their senior or geriatric dog and assume he’s had a stroke.

In addition to the head tilt and loss of coordination, dogs with vestibular syndrome often circle, fall down and develop nystagmus, a condition in which the eyes make involuntary, rhythmic jerking motions. Nausea and vomiting are also common symptoms.

Many dogs with vestibular syndrome tend to be hesitant to...

This grey-headed flying fox named Bellevue shows how much he loves attention, but bats shouldn't be handled by anyone but professionals like the ones at Sydney Wildlife.