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The Language of a Wag - What Your Dog is Really Saying

The Language of a Wag - What Your Dog is Really Saying

The classic telltale sign of the emotional state of man’s best friend is the position and movement of the tail. Wagging infers happiness or excitement, while the well known “tail between the legs” demonstrates fear, shame, or timidity. But the action of your dog’s tail and their behavior is spectacularly more complex than this. Veterinarians and dog researchers worldwide have done profoundly in-depth studies on your furry friend’s brain and behavior. A surprising recent discovery is that tail-wagging can actually indicate aggression depending on which way the tail sways. Experts have documented that tail wagging favoring the right side of a dog’s body in slightly circular motions signifies amiability while left-sided wags indicate aggression and anxiety. In this groundbreaking study, Italian veterinarians tested dog interactions with their owners, other dogs, human strangers, and cats. Not surprising, owners elicited a strong right bias or amiable response, while smaller dogs and human strangers elicited a weak right bias or less amiable response. Interactions with cats provoked a strong left-sided or aggressive tail wagging response.

So what to make of these mysterious findings? Scientists predict that the answer lies in the neurological structure within the dog’s brain. Similar to humans, dogs possess two separate sides of the brain which become excited during different emotional states. Left-sided brain emotions include love, affection, bonding, and security while aggression and anxiety are known as right-sided emotions. The physical, real life response, is, however, exhibited opposite to the excited side of the brain. So affection is an emotion felt in the left side of the brain, but is acted out on the ride side of the body. This explains why a puppy happy to see its owner will wag its tail more toward its right side.

Dog’s are expressive animals and so are humans. This is why we so closely identify with them and often develop such extremely close bonds with them. Tail wagging says a lot about a dog’s emotional state and there are a number of factors you should keep in mind when trying to read their state of mind besides the left-right bias.

If something has caught your dog’s attention and he or she becomes aroused, expect the tail to be high and stiff. This is a classic sign that your dog may be in an aggressive state of mind. A stranger at the door, mailman, or malevolent cat may cause this rigidity in the tail. Also known as flagging, the dog may slowly wag the stiff tail while still pointing it upward. On the other hand, timidity and submissiveness will result in tail tucking under the buttocks and firmly against the stomach. These emotions are often detected during thunderstorms or trips to the vet. It’s important to keep in mind that dogs, like humans, have unique responses to emotional stimuli. Tail wagging may be a convenient way to detect the emotional state of your furry friend, but always know that doggy behavior is anything but simple.

  • Fahloney's Pet Admin
Nut Dangers for Dogs

Nut Dangers for Dogs

Nuts are always popular treats, not just as an easy snack, but also in all sorts of baked goodies and other recipes. It is important that dog owners not share many of those snacks and treats with their pets, however, because of the different nut dangers to dogs. Understanding those dangers can help dog owners keep their pets safe.

Some Nuts Are Okay – In Moderation

When dog owners first learn that nuts can be dangerous to dogs, they may be shocked to see peanut and peanut butter-flavored treats available for dogs from pet stores, major retailers and even specialty pet bakeries. The truth is that not all nuts are equally hazardous, and peanuts and peanut butter in limited quantities can be a fine treat for dogs if the nuts are offered appropriately. Roasted peanuts without any added salt or flavorings are best, and nuts should be already shelled. If offering peanut butter to dogs, low sodium varieties are best, but avoid any peanut butter with sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners as they can be extremely toxic, even fatal, to dogs. It is also important to note that some dogs can have peanut allergies, so peanuts and peanut butter should be offered cautiously until pet owners are sure their dogs have no adverse reactions.

In addition to peanuts and peanut butter, several other types of nuts are also suitable for dogs if offered appropriately. Almonds, Brazil nuts and hazelnuts can be eaten by dogs, but always offer these treats only rarely to avoid too much fat, choking hazards or other potential problems.

Say Never to These Nuts

Many nuts that are popular favorites as human treats are never suitable for dogs and can cause drastic health problems such as diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, neurological damage, hives, disorientation and pancreatitis. While every dog's tolerance for different nuts will vary and some dog breeds and even individual dogs are more sensitive than others, these nuts should never be offered to dogs:

  • Cashews
  • Hickory nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

Even small amounts of these nuts can be dangerous to dogs, and for some, such as cashews, the dangers are much stronger with raw nuts rather than roasted, but the risk is still there.

Hidden Dangers All Nuts Pose to Dogs

The dangers nuts create for dogs go beyond just ingesting potentially toxic foods. All nuts, even those that are considered safe for dogs, can still be dangerous in different ways.

  • The high fat content of most nuts can quickly lead to  health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, loss of mobility and other concerns, especially if the dog's diet is not adjusted for all the fat and calories added by nuts being offered as treats.
  • Nuts are hard and can cause choking hazards, especially for smaller dogs and puppies, though large nuts can be problematic for bigger breeds as well. Internally, large pieces of nuts or whole small nuts can also cause intestinal or digestive tract blockages.
  • The sharp edges of broken shells a dog may bite on could cause cuts and scratches to sensitive tissues such as the gums, lips and tongue, as well as internal damage to the throat, stomach or intestines if the shell pieces are swallowed.

Keeping Your Dog Safe From Nuts

Fortunately, it is easy to keep your dog completely safe from nuts with a few simple steps.

  • For the safest course of action, avoid offering any nuts to dogs at all, especially from mixed nut cans that may have the more toxic nut varieties mixed in.
  • Keep dishes, bowls, cans or jars of snacking nuts out of reach of pets at all times, including off low coffee tables or other locations where dogs could sneak a bite.
  • Don't feed backyard birds or other wildlife any whole nuts or mixes with nuts, as many birds will spill or bury foods and dogs could find the nuts.
  • Never offer dogs any baked goods with nuts, and keep plates of cookies, brownies, fruitcake and other treats with nuts well out of reach of pets.
  • Do not use nut-producing trees in your landscaping, or if they are already there and cannot be removed, clean up fallen nuts right away so dogs are not tempted.

Because all types of nuts, even the "safe" varieties, can be risky for dogs, it is best for many dog owners to simply avoid feeding their pets these morsels. With a good understanding of dangers nuts can pose to dogs, however, it is easy to choose safer, healthier treats dogs will enjoy just as much without any of the risks.

  • Fahloney's Pet Admin
Helping Physically Challenged Pets

Helping Physically Challenged Pets

Physical Challenges Pets Can Face

Just like humans, there are many ways pets can develop physical challenges. For some pets, birth defects or genetic abnormalities may develop into problems, while other pets could face difficulties as they age. Injuries or diseases can also create physical challenges for pets to overcome. Common physical challenges pets can face include…

  • Sensory loss, such as blindness or deafness
  • Mobility limitations that could be caused by arthritis, obesity or nerve problems
  • Amputation or loss of a limb or limbs from injuries or disease
  • Special dietary needs that cause digestion difficulties
  • Allergies and sensitivities to foods or environmental factors

Regardless of the challenge, it is important to understand that animals do not perceive these difficulties the same as humans would, and they do not suffer the same emotional traumas that severe challenges can create for humans. With patience, care and appropriate adaptations, a pet can continue to lead a full and happy life regardless of its physical challenges.

Helping Your Pet Overcome Physical Challenges

Whether your pet's physical difficulties happen all at once or begin gradually, the steps to helping your pet overcome those challenges is the same.

  • Understand the Challenge
    Consult a veterinarian to diagnose your pet's challenges, and work with them to determine how these challenges have come about. This may also require specialist or therapist consultations to determine exactly what problems your pet is facing. Once the diagnosis is complete, your veterinarian can offer guidance about the best treatment for your pet's specific needs, including whether or not the condition is progressive and what sort of reactions you can expect from different treatments.

  • Address the Cause
    In some cases, a pet's physical challenges can easily be overcome if the root cause of the difficulties is resolved. A pet with severe allergies, for example, may only need to change to a different diet or have some irritant removed from its environment, and their symptoms will subside. Even if the condition cannot be completely reversed, addressing the cause may be able to halt any ongoing progression that could make your pet's life more difficult.

  • Adjust the Environment
    For pets with physical challenges, small changes to the environment can make great differences for how easily your pet can get around and enjoy life. This may mean lowering a bed or adding a riser to help your pet access a favorite chair or couch, installing ramps to help a pet that has difficulty climbing, installing non-slip surfaces to minimize the risk of falls for pets unsteady on their feet or removing barriers or other obstacles that cause problems for pets with limited senses. These simple changes can help your pet get around much more easily without risking further injuries.

  • Establish a Routine
    Your pet will feel more comfortable and at ease if they are secure in the daily routine. You should have a firm routine for feeding, exercise and other daily tasks, as well as the special tasks your physically challenged pet may require, such as daily medications or shots, physical therapy or assistance with potty time. Each task should be approached in a positive way with good reinforcement for your pet so they do not dread any of these actions. Use firm but positive commands so there is no confusion about what is expected of your pet.

  • Find the Proper Gear
    Some physically challenged pets may require special equipment to help them adjust to their difficulties. The exact gear that will be right for your pet will depend on its exact challenge as well as its size, temperament and needs. Typical gear available to help physically challenged pets includes slings, wheelchairs, braces, non-slip boots, diapers and other equipment. Choose equipment that is the proper size and fits your pet comfortably so it does not cause additional stress to the animal.

  • Get Your Own Training
    You may need some specialized training of your own to help your pet overcome its physical challenges. Ask your veterinarian or your pet's physical therapist for guidelines, and be sure you know how to use any equipment safely and properly. You may also need to learn how to help your pet evacuate waste, administer daily shots or medication or do other simple tasks that can help your pet be more comfortable. The more of these tasks you do, the more comfortable your pet will be, rather than requiring veterinary visits or strangers to do them.

  • Consider Quality of Life
    At all times, you want to make the best decisions to give your pet a good quality of life. If you cannot properly care for your pet or afford the specialized equipment, training or veterinary care a physically challenged pet may need, there are assistance programs available and you can investigate alternative options to get your pet the help it requires. While no pet owner wants to make that "big decision" about end of life care for their pet, you should also be ready to keep your pet's best interests in mind if its challenges become too large to overcome.

A physically challenged pet can be a wonderful member of the family. Not only will you enjoy all the fun and companionship your pet provides, but you will learn about your own reserves of compassion and strength and just how valuable a true friend can be, whether they have skin, fur, scales or feathers.

  • Fahloney's Pet Admin