Archive for November, 2009

Cats and Kidneys

Posted on November 30, 2009. Filed under: 3. Trainer On Call | Tags: , |

If you have had a cat and had the priviledge to watch it grow old and be a long time companion, you may be familiar with a common problem we see in older cats.  Cats are notorious for developing kidney problems later in life.

Kidney failure develops when the nephrons on the kidney are no longer able to effectively filter waste from the body.

Some symptoms you may see include increased thirst and urination, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, hair loss, lethargy, poor coat or decreased grooming.  These are just a couple of symptoms.

There is no way to cure kidney failure, however, there are some things you can do to help keep a good quality of life for your pet.

1.)  See your veterinarian and begin with a treatment plan.  You will probably need to go in regularly to monitor kidney function through blood and urine tests.

2.)  Your veterinarian will probably put your cat on a low protein/low salt/low phosphorus diet to help decrease the amount of waste the kidneys will need to filter.

3.) Give supportive care by giving sub cutaneous fluids.

4.) Provide a low stress environment for your cat.

5.)  Give your cat multiple litter boxes and clean frequently, at least once a day.  Put them in low traffic area where your cat will not be disturbed when using them.  This is to encourage elimination frequently.

For more information on Kidney Failure, visit

or E-mail me at

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Thanksgiving Tips for your Pet

Posted on November 25, 2009. Filed under: 3. Trainer On Call | Tags: |

1.)  Don’t feed your pets from the table.  If a pet is not used to eating human food, they run the risk of getting pancreatitis.  This is inflammation of the pancreas.  It occurs from eating greasy or unfamiliar foods.

2.) Be careful of your table decorations.  Plants like Poinsettia can cause vomiting and irritation.  Check with poison control about your favorite holiday plants.

3.) If you are frying your turkey, not only should you keep it away from the house because of the fire hazard, but you should also keep your pets away from it.  The hot oil can cause serious burns to your pets if they knock it over or get splashed with the oil.

4.) If your pet is nervous around lots of people, keep them confined, or perhaps, take your turkey dinner to someone else’s house.  Make sure they are comfortable with all of the commotion and people.

5.) Make sure to secure your garbage.  Don’t let your pet get into the wrappings from the food, or more importantly, turkey bones.  If ingested they can become stuck and a trip to the vet with a pretty hefty holiday bill will not bring the best out of Thanksgiving.

For more Thanksgiving tips email me at

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )

Warning About Declawed Cats

Posted on November 25, 2009. Filed under: 3. Trainer On Call | Tags: , |

My blog this week is still about cats, although this one is pretty short and to the point.  If you have a cat that is declawed, it is extremely important to not let them go outside.  If you as an owner made a decision to declaw, or you adopted a declawed cat,  it becomes your responsibility to keep your cat safely inside.  The main defense a cat has are its claws.  If you let them outside with no claws, there is no way for them to defend themselves.  This makes them prime targets for predators like coyotes.  So do your cat a favor, and have them be house cats.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Cats and Urinary Problems

Posted on November 17, 2009. Filed under: 3. Trainer On Call | Tags: , , |

Continuing with my month of Cat information, I wanted to talk about Feline Urologic Syndrom (FUS).  This is a very common disease that affects many cats, especially males.  FUS or sometimes called FLUID is a urinary disease common in cats.  There is not a specific cause of the disease, but we most often see it in male cats that become obstructed in the urethra.  In females, you may see struggling to urinate, blood or misuse of litter box.  You less frequently see a female obstructed.  Therefore, I am going to focus on the males.  An obstructed male is an emergency and should be taken immediately to the veterinarian.  FUS could potentially occur due to inflammation, crystals in the urine due to diet, water intake, trauma or anatomical abnormalities.  If obstruction occurs, it can damage the bladder, cause kidney malfunctions and effect the PH of the urine.  FUS can be fatal if not treated.

Treatment usually involves a few days of urinary catheter placement, monitoring blood and re-hydrating with IV fluids.  Often FUS can be controlled with a good diet designed to balance the PH of the urine.  Most store-bought foods have a high mineral content that contributes to FUS.  In extreme cases, FUS may require surgery where the anatomy of the male cat is changed by doing a perineal urethrostomy (PU).  While this is a more extreme measure, a successful surgery will usually cure the cat of any future symptoms.

A veterinarian I used to work for thought there was a tie to FUS with male cats that frequently went outside.  He said he noticed an increase in FUS when the weather began turning cooler.  Cats that were used to urinating outside, were suddenly spending more time inside the house.  Because they were not as used to using te litter box, they would hold their urine for longer periods of time.  This could contribute to the disease.  It is important to have your pet litter box trained and keep multiple litter boxes in the house.  Clean each box daily.

For more information on FUS or FLUID, visit:


For more information on the PU surgery, visit:

or E-mail me at

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Assistance Dogs for Dummies

Posted on November 16, 2009. Filed under: 4. Guest Bloggers | Tags: , , , , |

Don’t get steamed up, the title isn’t meant to be derogatory. I know most of the Petopia Bloggers are more intelligent than the average bear, but you’d be surprised how many real ‘dummies’ I meet on a fairly regular basis when out and about with my guide dog, Musket. A lot of people really don’t know much about Assistance Dogs, what they do, how they work, where they can go and how to act around them.

So for anyone who wants a quick course in Assistance Dogs 101, here goes.

I’ll be posting a short series of Tips on the basics, and I encourage, (even beg) bloggers to ask questions and add comments. If I miss something you want to know, please tell me.

First of all what is an Assistance Dog (AD)?

The legal definition by the Americans with Disabilities Act, is: ‘Any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.  Tasks typically performed by service animals include guiding people with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to the presence of intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or retrieving dropped items.’

Simply put, they help someone with a disability to be more independent, safe and healthy. Musket’s job is easily defined. He’s my other set of eyes. I generally use the term ‘Assistance Dog.’ A ‘Service’ Dog’ is a specific type, which performs physical tasks. Service, Guide, Psychiatric Hearing Alert or Signal Dogs are types of Assistance dogs.

A Service Dog for someone with mobility or manipulative impairment may pull a wheelchair, pick up dropped objects, maintain their balance or do any of a hundred other physical tasks. An Alert Dog has the ability to sense an oncoming seizure, diabetic shock or even bipolar episode. There are dogs trained to help children with Autism, hearing impaired persons and even to call 911 on a special phone. Suffice to say Assistance Dogs, and in some cases horses, cats or monkeys are amazing, well-trained, well-behaved and intelligent animals.

Guide dogs have been around for almost a century. Guide dogs are well-known to the general public. But as mentioned above, many other trained Assistance animals are not familiar. In part this is due to what is known as a ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ disability. Being blind or using a wheelchair is pretty obvious, but a person who’s hearing impaired or bipolar, has diabetes or a traumatic brain injury might not be recognized as having a disability, yet many of them have animals to help them.

Any place a person can go, an Assistance dog may go. It’s not my intention to detail the issue here but I’ll mention a few examples. Restaurants, stores, banks, offices, churches, libraries, theaters, parks, beaches, recreation areas, public transportation, airlines, trains and more. The only places they are not permitted is in sterile areas like hospital ICUs, operating rooms or food handling areas in restaurant kitchens, which is a relief to me and an annoyance to Musket.

In my case, and that of anyone with an obvious disability, the Assistance dog is not often challenged. I say ‘not often’ because it does happen. When someone with an ‘invisible’ disability has an Assistance animal, the likelihood of a challenge or misunderstanding increases. In my work, I received dozens of calls a month from both people who were refused access to a public place because of their dog, and business owners who asked if a dog must be allowed in their place of business. Often the issue was easily resolved with a little judicious mediation. I informed both parties of their rights and the rights of the other according to the law. If a dog was doing its job to assist their owner in a manner directly involving their disability, then it was an Assistance dog. The business had to allow access, even if they didn’t understand the disability or permit pets.

Assistance dogs are NOT pets. The business may ask if it is a service or Assistance dog, and if it helped with the disability, but no more. Anything beyond that is an invasion of privacy. For instance, I could be asked if Musket was a guide dog and if he was working for me. If I said yes, that’s as far as it needed to go. They couldn’t ask my disability. They also can’t demand proof of the disability. The law does not require proof of disability, or of the dog’s training. Musket wears the California Assistance Dog ID tag, but again, it’s not required. In some cases, the dog may wear a harness or cape but some people don’t want or need it. A hearing alert dog doesn’t need a harness.

In the matter of the rights of the business, the dividing line is the behavior of the dog. If the dog is well-behaved, calm, non-aggressive and sanitary, there is no reason it couldn’t be with their owner in any public place. If on the other hand it is barking, being aggressive, unsanitary, disruptive and not under control, then the business has the right to ask the owner to either control the animal or leave. An owner must show respect for the rights of the business and other patrons. Most of the situations could be alleviated with common sense and reason. Both parties should know the law.

Coming Soon: DOs and DON’Ts in meeting Assistance Dogs.

Mark Carlson

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Musket the Guide Dog – Blonde Leading the Blind

Posted on November 9, 2009. Filed under: 4. Guest Bloggers |

Fountain 02Well where to begin? I want to write a SHORT bit about an amazing dog, my little buddy, Musket. Some of you may have heard of him already. Yes, it’s all true. Musket is my Guide dog, a yellow Labrador, now nine-years-old. We’ve been together for seven years since graduating from Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael California.

I don’t know what it is, but something indefinable sets Musket apart from the rest of the pack. He’s an excellent guide, having saved my life more than once, and very loyal, intelligent and quiet, but there’s something else. For instance, he’s an unusually beautiful dog, with soft brown eyes, fur like velvet and a heart big enough to encompass everyone he meets.

This dog is loved by people of all ages across the country – men, women and children. They call me from New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles and a dozen other cities to ask ‘How’s my Musket?”

He has made crying children laugh, helped soothe the pains of grieving friends and family, brought joy to elderly, sick, disabled and dying people with his wagging tail and sloppy kisses.

FORMAL ATTIREYes, I know a lot of dogs particularly Labradors do that, and I love all Labs, but I’m biased, of course. He’s been on TV, on the news, met movie stars, TV stars, war heroes, aces, admirals, generals, legislators, scientists and astronauts. He’s made friends with men who have walked on the moon and Medal of Honor recipients.

How, you ask? I’m glad you asked!

When I worked for the state as a disability technology specialist, we traveled all over the country, doing lectures and presentations, meeting and working with legislators, and participating in international disability conferences. In every single case, Musket was the focal point of the meeting. People wanted to meet him and get their pictures taken with him. He just took it all in stride, apparently thinking it was only natural for people to go nuts over him. Humility is not his strong suit.

Gee Bee 01On weekends we volunteer at the San Diego Air and Space Museum as tour guides. We’ve been doing it for about three years and have made hundreds of new friends.

We’ve been featured in newspaper articles and videos and been VIP escorts to Apollo astronauts.

A few years ago, a certain fast-food place refused us service because they said I couldn’t ‘have my pet in the restaurant.’ Yes you heard me right. It all worked out in the end, but it ended up on the news and in the paper.

I decided to write a book about life with Musket. We did it together. Well, I typed, he dictated. It’s called ‘Confessions of a Guide Dog, the Blonde Leading the Blind.’

It’s in the hands of an agent and editors right now, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed, though I can’t type that way.

SPACE POOCHMusket has his own Facebook page, and on it are pictures, videos, links to articles and excerpts from the book.

His Facebook name is ‘Musket Carlson PhDog.

I hope to meet a lot of new Musket fans and spread his canine love like he sheds fur.

Best, Mark Carlson and Musket

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 9 so far )

Cats, Cats, Cats

Posted on November 9, 2009. Filed under: 1. Daily Life | Tags: |


So this week one of my friends was looking at and E-mailed me and said “This site needs way more cat content.”  I told him I agree, and that is not the first time I have heard that.  Not having cats, it is harder for me to blog about them, but with the years of veterinary experience I have, I thought I could come up with a series for the month about cat facts.  Each week, I will give some more medical advice or tips about taking care of your loving cat.  This week, I will talk about Feline Diabetes.

Unlike dogs, many owners free feed their cats.  Since cats like to do things on their own time, owners will just leave the food sitting out and let the cats eat as much as they want.  It is still important, even if you are free feeding, to measure out the amount of food your cat is getting.  On each bag, there should be a feeding guide with how much your should feed your pet.  Remember you always want to feed an adult cat for the weight it should be, not the weight it is.  That means if you have an over or under weight cat, feed for the ideal weight the cat should be.  If you are free feeding, this amount is the total amount your cat should get for the day.  If you want to split this amount into smaller meals that is fine too.  Some people suggest feeding a mix of wet and dry food for your cat.  This is because a cats natural food would be high protein meats with low carbohydrates.  Adding the wet food, increases the amount of protein making up the diet.

Where am I going with this….Overweight cats are extremely prone to diabetes.  It is just as important to exercise your cat as it is your dog.  You can do this by playing with different toys, or making him run to his treats or food, having him climb on exercise play yards etc.

If your cat has been living with undiagnosed diabetes, there is a chance they have lost weight, getting them regulated will help them to maintain a correct weight.

Diabetes is a very treatable disease.  By giving a very small injection twice daily, your cat can be regulated.  Often times by controlling  your cats weight, the symptoms will disappear.  In the beginning of diagnosis, you will have to do blood work routinely to determine when they are controlled, once their blood glucose is regulated, you will be able to go up to six months without having the blood work done.

For more information about feline diabetes, check out or email me at

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Separation Anxiety

Posted on November 4, 2009. Filed under: 3. Trainer On Call | Tags: |

Many pets suffer from separation anxiety.  It is understandable considering the bond that humans and their pets have.  Separation anxiety is a difficult situation, but there are a few things we can do to soothe our pets when we have to leave them.

1.)  Create a place such as a kennel that is their “safe” zone.  They get lots of love, treats, food in this place.  They should be extremely comfortable in this spot. 

2.)  Try to wear your pet out before you have to leave them.  Take them to the park or the beach.  If they are tired when you leave and are in their “safe’ zone they will be more inclined to go to sleep.

3.) When you leave and come home, dont get excited.  Don’t bring attention to the fact that you are coming and going.

4.) Make sure you pet has lots of things to do when you are good.  Give him tons of toys, kongs with peanut butter, anything that night keep his attention on things that are good for him to do, and away from destructive behavior. 

These are just a few tips, if you have a problem with separation anxiety, email me at and we can discuss your case specifically and come up with a training plan.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Tips for Greening Your Pet – Honest Kitchen Guest Blog

Posted on November 2, 2009. Filed under: 4. Guest Bloggers | Tags: , , |

dog smiling - photo cedit Fintan

Photo Credit: Fintan

Did you know that the daily decisions you make for your pets affect both them, and our environment? As pet owners, it’s important to remember that everything from food to flea treatments (and even the bags we use to pick up after our four-legged friends), have an impact on the environment and can help reduce our pets’ ecological “paw” prints. With a few simple changes, we can make small, yet meaningful steps to support sustainable practices, which have a positive impact on the lives of our pets and the environment.

Ten Tips to Reduce Your Pets Carbon “Paw” Print

Paw print - photo credit Just Jo

Photo Credit: Jo

Below are ten tips for acting globally, which benefit the environment and our animal companions:

1)    Refrain from using chemicals in your yard. Weed and insect killers can adversely affect your pet’s health and have a detrimental effect on wildlife, too. A wonderful alternative is to introduce natural predators to the bugs you want to eliminate. You can purchase beneficial predator insects to release in your yard or encourage them in the following ways:

  • Plant a variety of flowering plants, especially ones with small flowers rich in nectar. Mix up your plants so those that attract beneficial insects are nearby those that need protection.
  • Place plants close together to provide a moist, shaded environment for beneficial insects that dehydrate easily.

2)    Wash your dog less and use plant-based, organic, or local shampoos. Over shampooing can dry your companion’s skin excessively, contributing to itchiness. Less frequent washing will help to maintain the natural oils in the skin, keep the pH in balance and also conserve gallons of water at the same time. Plant-based, organic, and local products are usually the best eco-friendly choices.

3)    Think twice about flea and tick medications. These topical preparations are laden with pesticides that can harm your companion in more ways than one. They deplete the immune system and compromise over all health. In fact, they’re so toxic that people shouldn’t come in contact with them at all.

  • Try adding brewer’s yeast and garlic to Fido’s meals, or use an essential oil combination to repel unwanted bugs. Pennyroyal is an excellent herbal repellent but should never be used around pregnant pets or people.

4)    Feed raw? Turn down the thermostat in your freezer by a degree or two if you can. Many households operate their freezers and refrigerators on the coldest possible setting. Often the temperature can be raised slightly without any detrimental effects – helping to reduce electricity usage quite significantly. The same goes for household heating and cooling. Your dog’s health and skin condition will be better without extreme heat and air conditioning, and moving the thermostat three degrees down in winter and up in summer can prevent the emission of nearly 1,100 lbs of carbon dioxide per household, annually.

5)    Plant your own herbs. An herb garden can be as simple as a few select species in a window box. Having your own botanicals on hand might help eliminate the need for chemical preparations (aloe and calendula are great for cuts and scrapes; parsley helps digestion and lavender or chamomile can be dried to use as natural relaxants). Living herbs produce oxygen which helps to cancel out some of the carbon dioxide we all emit into the environment.

6)    Choose natural household cleaners and detergents for your dog’s bedding (as well as your own laundry!). Reducing the chemicals in your companion’s immediate living space can help to combat contact allergies when he sleeps on surfaces that have been cleaned with chemical products. Itchy feet and a red belly can be a sign that something is aggravating your pet.

7)    Feed organic, free-range, or local food when possible. The food we choose for our four-legged friends affects both their well-being and that of the environment. By giving pets a biologically appropriate diet rich in local or organic fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, we can help do wonders for their health and offset the amount of pesticides, chemicals and fuels that typically go into feeding traditional foods.

8)    Always use biodegradable bags for clean up. Many companies now carry pet waste bags that are biodegradable, affordable, and convenient to carry with you anywhere.  It is believed that plastic bags take anywhere from 500-1,000 years to decompose. Switching to biodegradable bags can help greatly reduce the number of plastic bags that end up in landfills.

9)    Support sustainable pet products. From bedding to collars, to shampoos, topical treatments, food, treats and more, everything we use for our fur children has an impact one way or another.  A good rule of thumb: look for things like bamboo, free-range and organic ingredients, biodegradable or recycled packaging, and local products when possible. Feeding a diet like The Honest Kitchen is a great way to jump start a green routine for your pet – in addition to several other eco-friendly practices, many of our foods are now made with free-range chicken from Petaluma Poultry.

10) Make homemade treats for Fido. Treats are a wonderful way to reward your fury friend.  By making them at home with a few simple ingredients most people already have in their kitchens, you’ll help cut down on the carbon (electricity, fuel, etc) used to manufacture, pack, and transport these goodies.  Of course if you are able, using local, organic or free-range ingredients always helps make it that much better for pets and the environment!

Below is a quick and easy recipe you can whip up for your furry best friend!

Turkey & Cranberry Savories (Cats & Dogs)

These treats are perfect for Thanksgiving or the Holidays and help your pet feel special, with a festive delicacy all of her own!


2 cups Embark ™ or Keen ™ dehydrated dog food

2 cups hot water

1 cup raw ground turkey½ cup cook, mashed sweet potatoes (or ½ can of canned sweet potatoes)

¼ cup dried cranberries

½ cup grated cheddar cheese

2 eggs

What to do

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the Embark or Keen with the hot water and stir thoroughly. Set it aside to re-hydrate. In another bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients with a spoon. Add in the hydrated Embark or Keen. Use two teaspoons (or your hands) to shape golf-ball sized dollops and place them on a greased baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minute until the treats are firm to touch on the outside (check them carefully). Then turn off the oven leaving the treats inside for up to 2 hours. This will enable them to dry out and become crispier. Serve when they are thoroughly cooled, and store in a fridge for up to a week.

Watch Video on how to make these tasty treats!

About the Author: Lucy Postins is founder and president of The Honest Kitchen. A lover of all animals and a companion animal nutritionist, Lucy’s interest in biologically appropriate food and the raw food diet, led her to create her own holistic pet food company. Postins is passionate about advanced nutrition and health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. She frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. For more information, please visit

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: