Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

State Pets

Which dogs or cats are associated with your state, and why? Here’s a rundown of official state pets

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Andrews McMeel Syndication

Late-night host Stephen Colbert’s work-at-home sidekick is his Boykin spaniel, Benny. Colbert is a South Carolina native, so the curly-coated South Carolina state dog is a perfect choice as his companion for Jeep rides and at-home filming of “The Late Show.”

The Boykin was developed in South Carolina, so it’s no surprise the breed would be named the state dog. What other dogs and cats are state animals? Let’s take a look at how and why they were chosen.

First thing to know: Not every state has a state dog, and fewer have state cats. If you live in Alabama, Minnesota or one of the other states lacking a state pet, it’s time for schoolkids to mobilize and ask legislators to name one. That’s often how state animals are chosen. Other times, they have a specific association with the state.

In New Jersey, for instance, the state dog is a working animal -- the seeing eye dog -- because The Seeing Eye guide dog school is located in Morristown. In Alaska, of course, the Alaskan malamute holds state dog honors. Maryland has the Chesapeake Bay retriever, and New Hampshire the Chinook, both breeds that were developed in those states. Maryland, by the way, has the distinction of being the first state to designate an official pet, in 1964.

Other dogs developed in or associated with particular states are Louisiana’s Catahoula leopard dog and North Carolina’s Plott hound. The blue Lacy is “a true Texas breed,” according to a state senate resolution in 2001. Born and bred in the city of his name, the Boston terrier is the state dog of Massachusetts. The American water spaniel, nicknamed “the little brown dog,” represents Wisconsin, where the breed was developed. Like the Boykin, the AWS has a curly coat and enjoys time spent on the water.

The bluetick coonhound wasn’t developed in Tennessee, but Smokey, a bluetick, is the mascot of the University of Tennessee. The breed was designated as the state dog last year. In Virginia, known for its foxhunting tradition, the American foxhound was named state dog in 1966. Pennsylvania chose the Great Dane because early settlers kept them as hunting and working dogs.

A number of states have embraced “rescue dogs” or “shelter dogs” as their state representatives. They include California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia and Illinois. New York has taken a different tack, honoring “working dogs.” That designation includes military and police dogs, service dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, disease detection dogs -- any dog trained to provide a service.

What about cats? Naturally, the Maine coon is the state cat of Maine. The large, furry cats are also known for the genetic trait of polydactyly, or extra toes.

Maryland chose the calico as its representative because the cat’s colors of orange, black and white match those of the state bird -- the oriole -- and the state insect -- the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly. Calico isn’t a breed, by the way, but a color pattern that occurs in many different cat breeds.

Massachusetts chose a cat of another color as its state feline: the tabby. Chosen by Massachusetts schoolchildren in 1998, tabbies are good feline representatives because all domestic cats carry the tabby gene, even if it’s not expressed in their coat.

The same states that recognize shelter dogs as their state animal also recognize shelter cats.

Some states are still working on their state dog and cat designations. Oregon might adopt the Newfoundland as its state dog. After all, explorer Meriwether Lewis brought his Newfoundland, Seaman, to the state on his journey to document the Louisiana Purchase. And Kansas has considered going Hollywood, proposing the cairn terrier in honor of Toto, Dorothy’s dog in “The Wizard of Oz.”


Nasal disease

has many causes

Q: My dog is snorting and sneezing a lot. What could be wrong with him?

A: Problems affecting the canine nose can range from minor to serious. Figuring out what’s causing the problem can take a little detective work.

Rhinitis is an infection of the nasal cavity and can affect dogs of any age. Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses. Many dogs have a combination of the two and show signs such as sneezing, bloody or mucuslike discharge, or coughing from postnasal drip.

Aspergillus is a type of fungus that can invade the nasal cavity. We see it most typically in young or middle-aged dogs with long or medium-length muzzles. Common signs of this fungal infection are a heavy, mucuslike discharge, discoloration of the nostrils, apparent facial pain and occasionally nasal bleeding.

Dogs that have snuffled up a foreign object into the nose -- a bean, a foxtail or even a blade of grass -- usually sneeze violently, paw at the nose in a fruitless attempt to remove the item and may have a thick or bloody nasal discharge. Sometimes a veterinarian can remove foreign bodies with tweezers while the dog is sedated or anesthetized, but surgery may be necessary for an object lodged deeply in the nose. Don’t try to remove objects yourself; you may make the problem worse.

Older dogs may develop tumors in the nasal cavity. The tumors may cause sneezing or sniffling, a runny nose or bleeding from one nostril. Some tumors can block airflow, making it difficult for the dog to breathe.

Like any health problem, nasal disease is easiest to treat before it becomes advanced. Nosebleeds, discharge and excessive sneezing aren’t normal. Signs of facial pain include pawing at the face or loss of appetite. Take your dog to the veterinarian at the first sign of irritation of that sensitive snout. -- Dr. Marty Becker

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Teaching touch

has benefits

-- Teaching your dog or cat to touch and follow your hand or a target such as a stick has many uses, according to the authors of the book “From Fearful To Fear Free,” Lisa Radosta, Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker. A dog who jumps on people in greeting can learn instead to touch his nose to a visitor’s hand. It’s also a simple way to move your pet off a piece of furniture or onto a scale at the veterinary clinic, or to direct his focus away from food or objects he’s not allowed to have. Following and touching a target can help reduce a pet’s fear of a stethoscope, nail clippers and similar objects.

-- Words about dogs have changed many times over the years. For instance, the words “pup” or “puppy” originally referred to a type of dog no longer in existence, but by the 16th century, they were used to refer to any young dog. Domestic canines used to be called “hunds,” a word that eventually turned into “hound.” The word “dog” entered the language in 1050, and “hound” became reserved only for hunting dogs. We see that history in the word today, in its use as a verb meaning to pursue relentlessly or to persecute or pester.

-- Feline fatale? The first cat to appear in movies is thought to have been a gray cat named Pepper, who appeared in several silent films. More recent famous film felines include the ginger cat who played Buttercup in “Catching Fire,” the second in the “Hunger Games” trilogy; Keanu, the adorable kitten in Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key’s 2016 screwball comedy of the same name; the seven cats in “Kedi,” a 2017 Turkish documentary of Istanbul’s street cats; Goose, the alien-in-cat-form from 2019’s “Captain Marvel”; and of course Mr. Bigglesworth from the Austin Powers series, played by Sphynx cat Ted Nude-gent. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.