Why Is My Cat Sneering at Me? It’s Not Personal, It’s Flehmen

Why is my cat sneering at me?  Have you ever asked yourself this question?  Does your cat sometimes make a funny face that resembles a sneer or a grimace when smelling an object? It’s not personal.

The Flehmen response

If your cat appears to sneer, or grimace, with panting or open-mouth breathing, he may be exhibiting the Flehmen response.  The Flehmen response is a natural way for animals, including cats, horses, camels, and llamas to temporarily improve their sense of smell.

When an animal bares its teeth and curls its upper lip, it opens up two small ducts in the roof of the mouth. These ducts, called nasopalatine ducts, connect with a special olfactory (smell) organ in the nose.  This is called the vomeronasal organ.  This organ has different sensory cells than the ones found in either the nose or taste-buds.  The effect of using the organ is probably something between smelling and tasting.

Invoking the Flehmen response

The Flehmen response is usually associated with social or sexual interactions 1.  In cats, just as in other animals, the Flehmen response is associated with exposure to fluids.  Exposure to secretions from other cats most often initiates a Flehmen . Males use the Flehmen response more frequently than do females.  However, if female cats are left in a room with urine from another cat, they will use the Flehmen response.

So, if your cat is doing the Flehmen, it probably means he is sensing the after-smells of another cat.  If you work around cats during the day, your cat is very likely to give you the Flehmen when you get home.  Think of it as a “How was work? Did you meet any interesting people?” sort of interaction.  It’s definitely not personal.

You may learn more about the Flehmen response in cats and other animals at Slate.com.

Hart, B.L. and Leedy, M.G., Stimulus and hormonal determinants of flehmen behavior in cats, Hormones and Behavior, 1987.
Photo credit: Shutterstock.com




Is It Safe for a Dog to Swim in a Chlorine Pool?

Is it safe for a dog to swim in a chlorine pool?

It’s pool season, and dogs need to cool off as much as their humans do.   But is it safe for a dog to swim in a chlorine pool?  It is, but you need to follow some simple rules to keep your dog safe during and after water play.

Are dogs more sensitive than people to chlorine?

At the levels used to maintain pools, chlorine is most likely as safe for dogs as it is for people.  Because dogs have a more acute sense of smell than humans, some people speculate that dogs may be more sensitive to the effects of chlorine in pools.  There is no scientific evidence that dogs display a higher sensitivity to chlorine.

Should my dog drink pool water?

While it is true that some pools may be maintained at chlorination levels close to the maximum level (4 parts per million) allowed in drinking water, there are still some differences.  Some products of chlorine, called chloramines,  are formed when chlorine combines with compounds in skin, disinfectants, and body secretions.  Chloramines are responsible for the characteristic pool smell, and they are also largely responsible for red, burning eyes and itchy skin after swimming.  And chloramines stay in the water longer than chlorine.

Your dog will likely not become ill after drinking small amounts of pool water.  However, it is best to discourage her from drinking pool water, and always keep clean, fresh water available.

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Will swimming after eating cause my dog to bloat?

If your dog is a deep-chested or large breed predisposed to stomach bloat and twisting, a serious condition, you should always limit exercise within an hour before to an hour after eating.  Swimming does not appear to increase the risk of bloat over other forms of exercise.

Simple rules to keep your dog safe during and after water play

  1. Hose your dog off prior to letting him in the pool.  This cuts down on dander that increases chloramines.
  2. Always monitor swim time, and use a dog life jacket if your dog is not a strong swimmer.
  3. Never force your dog to enter the pool.
  4. Limit drinking from the pool.
  5. Hose your dog off after swimming to avoid skin irritation.  Be sure to dry his ears.
  6. Shampoo and condition your dog more frequently during swim season.  Chlorine can dry out the skin and coat
  7. Keep chlorine tablets out of reach of dogs and children.

It’s safe for a dog to swim in a chlorine pool. Swimming is among the very best exercises for dogs of all breeds, activity levels, and ages.  During the summer, it’s also a way to get your dog the exercise she needs while avoiding heat exhaustion.   If you and your dog are lucky enough to have access to a dog-friendly pool, get out there and swim!


Travel with a Pet: Plan Ahead for Success

Should you travel with a pet? This is not a rhetorical question. You should ask yourself this before every trip.  Not every trip is pet-friendly, and not every pet is travel-friendly.

If thinking about leaving your pet with another caretaker for a week or more leaves you with hives or a deep sense of guilt, remember that everyone needs a break now and then.  A short pause from the routine of pet care may be just what you and your pet need.  Even if you aren’t feeling overwhelmed, letting go of daily pet care for a short time can help you be a better pet parent when you get home

Should you travel with your dog?

Will your trip include activities suitable for your dog?  Dogs make lousy luggage.  If you take your dog with you, do it for the right reason:  to include your dog in the vacation.

Always check ahead to make sure that your destination is dog-friendly. If you are traveling to a National Park, for example, consider leaving your dog home.  Dogs are not allowed on most trails in US National Parks.  I recently visited Yellowstone and saw many dogs hanging out in the car while their owners hiked.  Trust me, your dog will not enjoy this, and as the summer heats up it will be downright dangerous.  (The trails can be downright dangerous for pets, too, especially while bears are active).

Should you travel with your cat?

This is entirely up to your cat.  If your cat doesn’t mind getting into a carrier and loves to experience novel situations, she may make a better travel partner than a dog.  If not, so many things can go wrong, including stress-induced illness or destructive behavior at your destination.

The best way to ensure that your cat is travel-friendly is to acclimate him to a carrier and car travel, just as you would crate train a dog.  This should be done slowly, making the experience positive and gradually increasing the amount of time he spends in the carrier and in the car.

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Road trip vs air travel

Are you considering taking your pet on a plane?  If your pet will fit under an airline seat, travel in the cabin may be possible.  If not, remember that travel outside the cabin is stressful for pets and can be dangerous. Unless your stay will be more than a couple of weeks, it may simply not be worth the expense and the risk to take larger dogs with you via plane.

If you are taking your pet as a carry-on, be sure that your pet is comfortable in the carrier.  If your pet is unable to sit quietly in her carrier in an unfamiliar environment for a couple of hours or more, she is not a good candidate for air travel.  Airplanes are close quarters, and you may be seated next to someone who fears or is allergic to dogs or cats.  And nobody wants to listen to a whining cat or barking dog on a flight.

If you travel by car, there are some things to consider.  If your trip will take  more than a few hours of driving, think about what you will do with your pet when you stop for meals.  You may need to pack a picnic lunch or use a drive-through and eat outside where your pet can join you.  Does your dog do well with long car rides?  if not, breaking the trip up into shorter drives may help.

Planning your trip

If you have carefully considered and planned a trip that includes your pet, the following planning tips will help you make the journey safely and conveniently.

Two to six months before you leave:

  1. Book a pet-friendly hotel.
  2. If you are planning foreign travel, check up on requirements to bring animals into your destination country.
  3. Plan several pet-friendly activities in addition to your human-centered vacation fun.
  4. Make arrangements for local dog daycare at your destination if you are planning any activities in which your dog can’t take part.

One month before you leave:

  1. Ensure that vaccinations and flea/tick/heartworm preventatives are up to date.
  2. If you are traveling out of the country, get your pet’s required health examination
  3. Have your pet microchipped if he isn’t already.  Keep your microchip information with you.
  4. Get an identification tag and make sure your pet wears it.
  5. Copy your pet’s medical records and license information to take with you.
  6. Identify a veterinary practice and emergency practice near your destination.  Save the contact information and keep it with your pet’s records.
  7. Refill medications if needed

Packing your bags

Bring these items to ensure hassle-free travel

travel with a pet travel with a dog, suitcase, dog travel, pet travel

  1. Food and measuring cup
  2. Food water bowls
  3. Portable water bowl for road stops and hiking
  4. Medications,
  5. Toys
  6. First aid kit
  7. Brush and grooming tools
  8. Your pet’s favorite blanket
  9. Travel carrier with a blanket or pad to go underneath
  10. Dog poop bags.
  11. LItter box

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com


It’s Flea and Tick Season. Are you ready? You Should Be, and Here’s Why

Are you ready for flea and tick season?  A new report from the Centers for Disease Control reveals that vector-borne diseases, including those spread by ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas are increasing in the US.  These diseases impact humans and their pets.  Make sure you and your pets are protected this summer!

Cases of vector-borne diseases are increasing

The number of reported cases of disease spread by fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, called vector-borne diseases, in the US tripled between 2004 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control in their Vital Signs report.  There are several reasons why incidence of these diseases is on the rise.  People are increasingly moving into forested areas and areas where wildlife is abundant.  Warmer climate extends the range of many insect vectors, and warmer winters prolong the length of the insect season. Although increasing surveillance may be responsible for an increased number of reports, the CDC warns that cases of these diseases are most likely underreported.

Vector-borne diseases in the United States

vector-borne diseases, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, heartworm disease, tick season

Important diseases spread by vectors in the US, by region.  This table was created using data from the CDC.

Beware of ticks

We’re hearing reports from friends in northwest Arkansas and elsewhere that ticks are especially numerous this year, and by all accounts it is going to be a dangerous tick season.  Ticks are vectors for many diseases of humans and animals.  In the US, the most important tick-borne diseases are ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, babesiosis, and anaplasmosis. All of theses tick diseases affect domestic animals, especially dogs,  as well as humans.

Ticks transmit Cytauxzoonosis, a less well-known disease. This disease, which is often fatal, infects cats and causes systemic disease.  Symptoms include lethargy, decreased appetite, breathing difficulty, and pale gums (a sign of anemia).

Control fleas

Fleas are more than just a nuisance.  They can transmit some diseases that are harmful to both people and animals. We are all familiar with the series of plagues that decimated populations in Europe in centuries past.  But did you know that the same disease, bubonic plague, is present in parts of the US?  Prairie dogs and other animals in the Western and Southwestern US may carry this disease.

Fleas in all areas of the US may carry tapeworms.  When animals eat the fleas during grooming, they also ingest immature tapeworms which then mature in their gut.  Although tapeworms may also be transmitted through eating the flesh of infected rodents or other animals, wiping out fleas eliminates a major source of infection.

Fleas transmit cat scratch fever.  This disease is also called bartonellosis, and it generally does not cause symptoms in affected cats.  However, humans may contract the disease through cat bites or scratches.  Infection results in painful enlargement of lymph nodes in the area of the bite or scratch.

Fleas are vectors for another disease of cats, Mycoplasma hemofelis.  This organism causes anemia, sometimes severe and even fatal, in infected cats.

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Prevent mosquito bites

The number one reason to keep your pets away from mosquitoes is heartworm disease.  Although far more common in dogs, this disease also affects cats.  Even the bite of one infected mosquito may cause disease.  Heartworm disease has been reported in all areas of the US.  Where there are mosquitoes, there are heartworms.

Dogs and cats are not as susceptible as humans to the viral encephalitides, viral diseases that affect the nervous system.  West Nile virus affects birds.  Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus causes disease in horses and humans.  Owners can vaccinate horses against this disease.

Consult your veterinarian

Flea, tick, and mosquito control products for pets are available over the counter.  However, pest and parasite control in pets is a complex issue that involves both animal and environmental solutions.  Some animals are sensitive to certain types of products. Wherever you choose to buy these products, you should always consult with your veterinarian about the available options. Your veterinarian will be familiar with a variety of products and will be able to tell you which will be the best options for your pet and family this flea and tick season.

Learn More

The CDC is a good source of information about vector borne diseases.  Check out the visual map to learn more about the diseases in your area.  For veterinary-specific information, use the IDEXX Laboratories interactive map.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

Use the Babel Bark Monitor Dog Fitness Tracker to Meet Fitness Goals and More

Measuring progress towards goals is one way to stay accountable and keep on track.  The Babel Bark dog fitness tracker is an inexpensive tool to track dog health.  In the app you may plan, monitor, and track your dog’s diet, exercise, medications, vaccinations, and more, all in one place.

The dog fitness tracker

The Babel Bark monitor is about the size of a quarter. It attaches directly to the collar, and it comes with rubber bands sized to fit small and large width collars.  The monitor communicates with the free partner app via Bluetooth.  It’s powered by a watch battery that last approximately six months. It comes with an extra battery.

The monitor records your dogs activity as points.  The software calculates points according to your dog’s age and weight.  A points system makes sense for dogs, because the wide variety in size makes keeping track of steps virtually impossible.

The monitor retails for $29.95 (as of May, 2018).  If you are enrolled in the Fit2BPawsome Challenge, you are eligible for a 25% discount.  This is quite a bit less than some of the other dog fitness monitors on the market.  Because the monitor connects via Bluetooth you will not be able to sync data continuously via wireless.  The other drawback to this monitor is that it is not rechargeable.

I recommend that you monitor your dog’s baseline activity level over a few days before setting a goal.  Increase your dog’s activity gradually as you work towards your goal.

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The app

You may use the free partner app with or without the fitness monitor. With the app, you can connect to other pet parents, share your dog’s profile, and connect to your veterinarian and other service providers directly.  The app lets you monitor your dog’s weight, medications, diet, and activity.  I have created a video to demonstrate how useful this app can be.

If you aren’t using the fitness monitor, the app will let you set an activity goal for your dog based on miles traveled.  The app will only track miles if you and your phone are with your dog.

My dog Kawai has been wearing the fitness monitor for about a month now.  It does a very good job of tracking his activity through the day, and I can also see when he is up during the night.  The app is relatively user-friendly.  The only issue I have encountered is that my dogs tore the rubber band on the monitor when they engaged in some friendly rough-housing.  I replaced the rubber band that came with the product with a heavier, standard rubber band, and I have not had a problem since.

I would recommend this as a good place to start if you are serious about tracking your dog’s health and fitness.  There are other monitors on the market that have more features, but they are also considerably more expensive.  I give this monitor and app 8/10.

Babel Bark is a sponsor of the Fit2BPawsome Challenge, and provided a monitor for testing.  KC Pet Collective is not affiliated with Babel Bark and does not receive a commission on sales.