Friday tip of the day – What’s going on inside your pet’s head Part 1

August 31, 2012 at 6:19 am Leave a comment

You love them, you feed them, you welcome them into your homes and even your beds.  But no matter how much you share with your dog, he can’t tell you why he just spent 20 minutes settling on a place to pee.  And you ct is never going to attach a note to the dead mouse she just left on your doorstep.  That’s whey PARADE rounded up some experts (human ones!) to help clear up pet owners’ top head-scratchers.

1.  Why do dogs drool (and why do some dogs drool more than others)?
If your pup’s friendly welcome leaves your clothes looking like they’ve been attacked by a giant slug, you can probably thank his genes:  Certain breeds’ lips just leak more than others.  Notorious droolers like Newfoundlands, bloodhounds, and basset hounds have loose jowls and lots of skin around their mouths where saliva can accumulate, making it far too easy for them to share their slobber.
As for the reasons for drooling, dogs are like humans:  Their mouths release saliva in the presence of food, or when they’re anxious or excited.  This behavior is perfectly normal, but if your dog begins to slobber more than usual, or if the saliva smells bad, yu may want to swing by the vet:  A wound in the mouth (from, say, a splinter), a dental infection, or even poisoning might be behind it.

2.  Why do cats chase balls of string?
Your cat’s obsession with yarn is not unlike a lion’s interest in a gazelle:  Stalking string is a predatory behavior, a very watered-down and domesticated version of a hunt.  “This type of play is good for cats; it helps discharge their prey-chasing instinct, and it also keeps them physically active and alleviates boredom,” says veterinarian Michael W. Fox, syndicated pet columnist and author of Cat Body, Cat Mind.  But since string can damage a cat’s digestive system if swallowed, try substituting a laser pointer – many cats love to chase it’s light.

3.  Why do dogs chase their tails?
“Sometimes, it’s just a sign that the dog is craving interaction and playtime,” says Warren Exkstein, and animal behaviorist and therapist and host of the syndicated radio program The Pet Show.  It that’s the case, you might put a stop to it by distracting your dog with another activity, like fetching a ball or tugging a rope.  But if tail-chasing – or biting – becomes a ritual (say, before going outside or getting fed), or if it becomes excessive (the dog works itself into a frenzy), it could signal an obsessive-compulsive disorder that requires help from an animal behaviorist or a vet.

4.  Why do cats present their owners with “kills”?
Experts agree that if your cat leaves a mouse on your doorstep, you should take it as a compliment.  “It’s actually a very warm, friendly thing for a cat to do,” says Patricia McConnell, certified animal behaviorist and author of The Other End of the Leash.  “It’s kind of like bringing flowers.”  If the mouse is dead, it’s probably just a gift, similar tot he kill a lion brings back to its pride.  But if the animal is still breathing, your cat may also be mimicking a behavior she displays with her kittens:  bringing half-dead animals home to teach her babies (or, in this case, you) how to finish the job.

5.  Is it true that dogs are color-blind?
Dogs do see color but, much like color-blind humans, they have difficulty distinguishing between certain hues.  Humans have three types of cones (the cells in the eye that recognize color); dogs have only two.  As a result, they see fewer colors than we do, and these colors are less rich.  (Cats also have only two types of cones, and they see colors even less vividly than dogs.)
“The common form of color blindness in people is red-green color blindness, and that’s really what dogs have too,” says Jay Neitz, Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmology and a color vision researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle.  For dogs, the rainbow is reduced to two colors, “blue at one end and yellow at the other, with colorless bands where pure red and pure green would be.”  But don’t feel too sorry for your pup:  What dogs lack in color-perceiving cones they make up for in abundance of rods, the cells in the eye that aid night vision.  They ar also exceptionally good at spotting movement, which is why your dog is aware of every squirrel in your yard even when he’s got all four paws inside.

Written by Marilyn vos Savant, PARADE section of Wenatchee World newspaper.
Part 2 will be published next Friday


Entry filed under: Dogs, Guest Posts. Tags: , , , , , .

Happy First Birthday LJ! Friday Tip of the Day – What’s going on inside your pet’s head, part 2

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