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At first blush, you might expect that no dog would be a picky eater. Your stereotypical canine readily wolfs down food (even that phrase implies that canines have a ferocious appetite). Some dogs will go after anything even vaguely resembling food and, much to our frequent chagrin, plenty of things that do not– shoes, socks, branches and rocks. So seriously how picky could they be? Well you might be surprised to learn that not all dogs are so quick to eat whatever is put in front of them.
How have ancestral eating habits changed?
First, regarding the ‘wolfing down’ aspect of how some dogs approach eating, proposed by the Journal of Nutrition’s website, their preference, as a species, for larger, infrequent meals likely goes back to the competitive feeding behavior of early of wolves that were their ancestors. It certainly doesn’t take a PhD in animal behavior to appreciate how eating as much as you could get, as quickly as possible, would be essential in that situation. You only have to have had a few brothers and sisters at your own dinner table to understand.
In spite of that, however, modern dogs apparently do have some innate taste preferences. As far back as the 1981, research indicated that dogs showed a strong taste preference for meats and sugar1. They preferred a diet containing sugar to one that does not, and they actually preferred water with sugar added to water without1. The same research, authored by Katherine Houpt and Sharon Smith, also showed that dogs preferred canned meat to fresh meat, cooked meet to raw meat and have a preference for canned or semi-moist diets over dry kibble. Furthermore, the sense of smell is very important to dogs in determining their food preferences – though apparently not so much when choosing between meat and non-meat options, but more so when discriminating between different meat choices1.
Does your dog only want people food?
Knowing that dogs do have specific taste preferences, it probably comes as little surprise that your dog often begs for people food. How can you curb this behavior? Well, some of that is training. If you’ve shared with him in the past, then he knows human food is an option. But there could be even more to it, too. More recent research (2006) has determined that “dogs acquire food preferences from interacting with recently fed conspecifics2.” What does this mean? Basically dogs prefer food they have smelled on other dog’s breath prior to being fed themselves. Knowing this, I think your dog may develop food preferences based on what you eat— making him even more inclined to want what you are eating.
So what do you do if your dog is a picky eater?
First and foremost, don’t feed your dog whatever he asks for, this will lead to obesity and any number of associated issues. When you get a puppy, raise him to eat his food, not yours, on his own schedule, not when you are eating, and certainly not off of your dinner table. Pick up his food in between feedings, even if he doesn’t finish it in a reasonable (say 15-20 minute) period of time. And be firm about the rules, provided that he appears happy, healthy and at a good weight. Remember that we should be feeding our dogs high quality, readily digestible diets that rarely require the volume intake that we might think they must need to be eating. Use your veterinarian, not a measuring cup as your guide to what is an appropriate amount.
When could picky eating be a medical problem?
If your dog has been eating well and then becomes picky, especially if he is losing weight or looking unkempt, do not brush it off. Visit your veterinarian immediately to look for a reason. Anything from a bad/spoiled bag of food, to dental disease, to neck pain to other serious medical problems could be the cause. Before you decide to stubbornly stand firm and wait for him to start eating right again, consult your veterinarian.
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian -- they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Source: PetHealth Network Brought to you by IDEXX
Lifestyle Contributor and Pet Behavior Expert
Does your feline companion lick you, and are you wondering why? Particularly since a cat’s tongue can feel a bit rough, it’s a behavior that’s hard to ignore! In general, there are two major reasons a cat will lick human family members:
Some cats lick for social affiliation and affection
If you have more than one cat, or have observed cats together, you’ll notice that cats will lick other cats in their social group. Known as “allogrooming,” many species of animals will lick and groom each other to strengthen their social bonds. It also helps to reduce conflict within the group1. Since cats live with you, as part of your social group, it’s natural for them to engage in allogrooming to demonstrate affiliative behavior. If your cats are generally healthy and behaving normally, licking is a positive indicator that they like you and want to be closer.
Cats will also lick people if they find the taste enjoyable. The natural ingredients found in human perspiration can be appetizing for some cats. Cats can also be attracted to items you put on your skin, such as medical ointments and skin lotion. This can actually be a concern if you use certain topical hormone-treatments which lead to negative hormonal changes in cats and dogs2. According to the pet poison helpline, topical medications that are toxic to cats include corticosteroids, Calcipotriene for the treatment of psoriasis and creams containing zinc (i.e diaper rash creams). If you regularly use a topical medication, consult with your veterinarian to make sure there is no risk to your pets.
Some cats lick to alleviate anxiety
Some cats will lick humans because they feel anxious and/or fearful. Licking their humans is a way to calm themselves3, somewhat like how humans will chew their nails when they feel anxious. This behavior is also observed in cats that were too young to be taken away from their mothers. These cats develop an oral fixation, which is a condition that can also be found in human babies. If you have a cat that is excessively licking you, and is showing fearful or stressed behavior, contact a feline behavior professional. Katenna Jones, Associated Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, says, “Often the behaviors I’m called for are actually symptoms of an underlying issue. In this case, if I determine stress is the issue, licking is the symptom – not the issue. I would focus more on the sources of stress and on implementing a stress reduction program. By observing and measuring the frequency of licking, the consultant and client can determine the success of the program.”
What if my cat is licking too much?
Many people find their cats licking unpleasant eventually, as a cat’s tongue can feel very rough on skin. There’s actually a biological reason for this. A cat’s tongue effectively serves as a brush to remove loose hair, mats, dirt and fleas. Small spines made of keratin called papillae are spread out on the surface of a cat’s tongue in a backwards direction. These spines act as the equivalent of a hair brush or comb for a person4. It’s no wonder that excessive licking from a friendly cat can become annoying and uncomfortable. If your cat is not stressed and is simply licking you out of affection, you can reduce the behavior with some positive redirection.
To deter a cat from this behavior, find some things that your cat really enjoys and do those instead to distract him from licking. For example:
Hopefully, if you find your cat licking you, it’s a sign of affection and you can take these simple steps to alleviate the behavior and spend enjoyable time with your feline friend. If you find your cat licking you excessively out of the blue, or the licking is combined with nervous, fearful body language and behavior, consult your veterinarian and a qualified behavior professional to help you improve your cat’s quality of life. If you’re looking for a vet, the American Association of Feline Practitioners list veterinarians who specialize in cats with “Cat Friendly Practices®.” For behavior help, visit the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (www.dacvb.org/), the Animal Behavior Society (www.animalbehaviorsociety.org/), and the IAABC (https://iaabc.org) to find a professional near you who specializes in feline behavior. If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Source: PetHealth Network Brought to you by IDEXX
During the first five months of the COVID-19 outbreak (January 1 – June 8, 2020), which includes the first twelve weeks following the March 11 declaration by the WHO of a global pandemic, fewer than 20 pets have tested positive, with confirmation, for SARS-CoV-2 globally. This despite the fact that as of June 8, the number of people confirmed with COVID-19 exceeded 7 million globally and 1.9 million in the United States.
There have been fewer than 25 reports from around the world of pets (dogs and cats) being infected with SARS-CoV-2; however, none of these reports suggest that pets are a source of infection for people. Evidence to date from the few domestic animals that have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 indicate these infections are typically a result of close contact with people with COVID-19. In laboratory studies of experimental infection with SARS-CoV-2, ferrets, Syrian hamsters, and cats—all animals that may be kept as pets—show potential for serving as animal models of human infection, but dogs, pigs, chickens, and ducks do not. And, although molecular modeling and in vitro studies suggest that multiple animal species may theoretically be able to be infected with SARS-CoV-2, a definitive intermediate host has not been identified. There is little to no evidence that domestic animals are easily infected with SARS-CoV-2 under natural conditions and no evidence to date that they transmit the virus to people. The primary mode of transmission of COVID-19 in humans is person-to-person spread.
Additional evidence that pets appear to be only rarely infected with SARS-CoV-2 under natural conditions comes from two commercial laboratories in the United States, which in April 2020 announced the availability of a reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for SARS-CoV-2 in domestic animals, including cats and dogs. During development and validation of these tests, each laboratory assessed thousands of specimens from dogs and cats for the COVID-19 virus without obtaining any positive results. Those specimens came from pets located in the United States, South Korea, Canada, and Europe, including regions that were concurrently experiencing a high number of human COVID-19 cases. While this is encouraging, the specimens tested were originally submitted for PCR analysis of more common pathogens that cause respiratory disease in dogs and cats and, as such, per-case information as to whether these pets had contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 positive people is not available.
The first confirmed reports of pets infected with SARS-CoV-2 came from Hong Kong. Since the onset of the outbreak there, government officials with the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department (AFCD) recommended that mammalian pets from households with persons hospitalized because of COVID-19 be cared for in quarantine and tested for infection with SARS-CoV-2. As of April 15, 30 dogs, 17 cats, and two hamsters had been held at the AFCD quarantine facility. However, only two dogs and one cat have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Infection was confirmed by detection and sequencing of viral RNA in upper respiratory tract samples and detection of neutralizing antibodies against the virus in serum. Virus also was isolated from one of the two infected dogs. None of the animals in quarantine, including the three positive pets, developed clinical signs of respiratory disease and all positive animals were released from quarantine after at least a 14-day stay and negative RT-PCR test results on samples collected over at least two consecutive days. On May 14, an article describing SARS-CoV-2 infection in the two Hong Kong dogs was published online in Nature.
The first reports of positive pets in the United States came on April 22 when the CDC and National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) reported that two cats in New York state were confirmed to be infected with SARS-CoV-2. Both cats had signs of mild respiratory illness and were expected to make a full recovery. The owner of one of these cats was confirmed to have had COVID-19; a second cat living in this same household tested negative for the virus. The second positive cat was an indoor-outdoor cat whose owner had no symptoms of COVID-19 and was never tested. However, it lived in an area with a high number of human COVID-19 cases. It was presumed that that this cat was infected by either its owner, who was asymptomatically infected with SARS-CoV-2, or by another infected person in the neighborhood. A case report describing clinical signs and progression in these two cats and diagnostic tests completed was published in the June 8, 2020 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Until June 1, these are the only two positive pets confirmed to be infected in the United States.
On June 2, the USDA NVSL announced the first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2 in a dog in the United States. This pet, a German Shepherd Dog, lived with one other dog and their two owners in New York state. One of the dogs’ owners had tested positive for, and the second had symptoms consistent with, COVID-19 prior to the German Shepherd Dog developing signs of respiratory illness. The second dog in the household remained apparently healthy. Samples taken from the affected German Shepherd Dog tested presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2 by use of RT-PCR performed at a private veterinary laboratory, which then reported its results to state and federal officials. Results of further laboratory tests performed at the NVSL on the original and additional samples collected from the German Shepherd Dog confirmed that this dog was infected with SARS-CoV-2. The dog was presumed to have been infected by its owners and is expected to make a full recovery. Results of serological tests conducted by the NVSL on the second dog in the household revealed virus-specific antibodies, indicating that although this dog never developed clinical signs of disease, it had been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.
An in-depth summary of these and other reported cases of naturally occurring SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals is available for those who wish to learn more. It will be updated regularly, so we encourage you to check back often.
Because infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2 meets the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) criteria of an emerging disease, any confirmed infection should be reported to the OIE in accordance with the Terrestrial Animal Health Code. Both the US and Hong Kong governments have reported the positive animals described above to the OIE. In addition, all cases of SARS-CoV-2 in animals within the USA that are confirmed by testing conducted at the NVSL will be posted on the USDA/APHIS Web site.
Because infection of animals with SARS-CoV-2 meets the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) criteria of an emerging disease, any confirmed infection should be reported to the OIE in accordance with the Terrestrial Animal Health Code. Both the US and Hong Kong governments have reported the five positive animals described above to the OIE.
Information about testing for SARS-CoV-2 in animals is available here.
For pet owners, preparing in advance is key. Make sure you have an emergency kit prepared, with at least two weeks’ worth of your pet’s food and any needed medications. Usually we think about emergency kits like this in terms of what might be needed for an evacuation, but it’s also good to have one prepared in the case of quarantine or self-isolation when you cannot leave your home.
Other appropriate practices include not letting pets interact with people or other animals outside the household; keeping cats indoors, if possible, to prevent them from interacting with other animals or people; walking dogs on a leash, maintaining at least 6 feet from other people and animals; and avoiding dog parks or public places where a large number of people and dogs gather.
If you are ill with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed with a test), restrict contact with your pets and other animals, just like you would with other people; have another member of your household care for your pets while you are sick; avoid contact with your pet, including petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food or bedding. If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wear a cloth face covering and wash your hands before and after you interact with them. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. Additional guidance on managing pets in homes where people are sick with COVID-19 is available from the CDC.
While we are recommending these as good practices, it is important to remember that there is no evidence at this time that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2. Based on the limited information available to date, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low. Accordingly, there is no reason to remove pets from homes where COVID-19 has been identified in members of the household, unless there is risk that the pet itself is not able to be cared for appropriately.
During this pandemic emergency, animals and people each need the support of the other and veterinarians are there to support the good health of both.
Source: American Veterinary Medical Association
Dr. Trudy Wade opened Jamestown Veterinary Hospital 37 years ago. She is a native of Guilford County and received her DVM Degree from the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1980. She was the first female Veterinarian to own a Veterinary Hospital in Guilford County.
Both Reagan and Palin, seven year old miniature dachshunds, Pence a black and tan hound mix, Evie and Ellie black lab mix, all adopted from the animal shelter reside with their mother Dr. Wade.
Eron has worked as a Veterinary Assistant for over 20 years at Jamestown Veterinary Hospital. He attended NC State University and he owns Lady a charcoal grey cat.