Universal Press Syndicate
The term "dog days" has more to do with astrology and the constellation Sirius than with our canine companions here on Earth. Still, we thought we'd celebrate the warm dog days of summer by offering up some cool facts from one of our books, "BowWOW! Curiously Compelling Facts, True Tales and Trivia Even Your Dog Won't Know." Enjoy!
-- The problem with panting: Compared to their owners, dogs have very few sweat glands. There are some in the paw pads, so dogs do sweat from their feet and from other relatively less furry regions of their bodies. But the primary way dogs cool off is by panting.
Panting is very rapid, shallow breathing that enhances the evaporation of water from the tongue, mouth and upper respiratory tract. Evaporation dissipates heat as water vapor.
Panting can reach frequencies of 300 to 400 breaths per minute (the normal canine breathing rate is 30 to 40 breaths per minute). Yet it requires surprisingly little effort. Because of the natural elasticity of the lungs and airways, panting does not expend much energy nor create additional heat.
And that's a good thing, because dogs are very easily overheated, prone to heat stroke in hot weather, especially when the humidity is also high, which minimizes the effectiveness of panting.
-- Follow the bouncing ball, with caution: A golden retriever named Augie holds the record for the most tennis balls held in the mouth at one time -- five, according to the Guinness World Records book.
Even when a dog can hold only one tennis ball, though, owners need to take care. Veterinarians warn that tennis balls should be used for supervised retrieving play only, and never allowed to be used as a chew toy. That's because a dog can compress the ball, which can then pop open in the back of the mouth, cutting off the air supply.
In other words, we don't recommend allowing your dog to shoot for that record.
-- Drink up: The average daily water intake for a dog is about 3 ounces for every 5 pounds of body weight, so a 25-pound dog would drink about a pint of water per day under average conditions. The amount goes up if the weather is hot, the dog is exercising or both. Depending on whether or not a pet eats canned or dry food, up to half of a pet's daily water consumption can come from food.
Dogs drink a lot of water, not only because they need it for normal bodily functioning, but also to create moist nasal mucous to help them with their keen sense of smell.
-- Computing "dog years": The idea that 1 year of a dog's life equals 7 human ones isn't accurate -- but the formulas to replace that easy-to-remember computation are too complicated to ever really catch on.
The first 8 months of a dog's life equals 13 years in human terms -- birth to puberty, in other words. At a year, a dog's a teenager, equivalent to a 16-year-old human, with a little filling out still to do. After the age of 2, when a dog's about 21 in human terms, every dog year equals approximately 5 human ones. But then you have to adjust for the fact that small dogs live longer than big ones.
-- Problems with pug noses: Dogs with extremely short muzzles and rounded heads are called "brachycephalic," and despite their adorable, almost human expressions, they have a host of health challenges related to their nonstandard-issue canine anatomy. ("Brachycephalic" comes from Greek roots, combining words for "short" and "head" to define these dogs perfectly.)
From the dog's point of view, being pug-nosed isn't much of a plus. The dogs are notoriously heat-intolerant and have such difficulty breathing that air travel is generally not recommended. The malformation of the skull often results in crowding of teeth that can cause dental issues. Snoring and drooling are also an issue.
Bird furniture can be found for free
Q: I'm the proud owner of a cockatiel. The pet store set me up with a cage and everything I need, but I'm not sure about the perch. It's just a dowel, and I wonder if a tree branch would be more natural. Can you advise? -- L.P., via e-mail
A: You're on the right track. Pitch that boring wooden dowel and install a variety of perches for your new pet.
A perch is more than something to stand on for your bird. Chosen properly, it's also an important tool for helping to keep your bird physically and emotionally sound.
When choosing perches, think variety and select an array of textures. Choices you'll find at the bird store or through catalog or online retailers include rope, natural wood and concrete, and each should find a place in your bird's cage.
Some of the best perches around won't cost you anything more than the time it takes to trim them from your trees. Limbs from most fruit and nut trees make fine perches, as do those from ash, elm, dogwood and magnolia. Cut the branches to fit the cage, scrub with detergent, rinse well, and let them dry in the sun before putting them in the cage.
A final check is for insect pods -- just break them off and dispose of them in an outside trash can.
Check for wear as your bird chews on the perch, which is actually a good thing. Discard perches as needed and add more. With nature as your supply shop, you'll have no problem finding new ones. -- Gina Spadafori
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.)
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars." Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Dog problems pull trigger for cops
-- In New York City, one out of every four times an officer fires a gun, it is aimed at a dog. The New York Times reports that the police department considers dogs to be a top threat to its field forces, especially those animals trained or encouraged to be aggressive.
-- Pet-care services in the United States will expand 9 percent in the next five years, rising to $34 billion in 2013. The pet-care services market was $23 billion in 2008, with veterinary services making up for three-quarters of that amount, according to a study by Packaged Facts. Market growth in the pet industry has been expanding in areas such as mobile grooming, waste removal, pet travel, pet-sitting and pet walking, and funerary/bereavement.
-- The most bizarre veterinary claim incidents are being rewarded by the Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.'s first ever Hambone Award, which looked at more than a million claims to find the strangest. The award was inspired by a dog who jumped into a refrigerator and ate an entire Thanksgiving ham before being let out of the refrigerator and taken to the veterinarian with a mild case of hypothermia. One contestant in the running this year is a spaniel mix, Toby, who got a bone got caught around his front teeth and lower jaw. Toby was anesthetized and then had the bone removed with a hacksaw.
-- The first pet-only airline is Pet Airways, which flies with pets in the main cabin rather than in cargo. The airline has been flying since 2005 and serves the five boroughs of New York City, Washington, D.C., Denver, Chicago and Los Angeles, but has plans for expanding nationwide to serve its furry clientele. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon
Don't discount idea of adopting mature dog
The idea that an adult dog is somehow "damaged goods" as an adoption prospect is strangely pervasive, especially among people for whom an older dog would be perfect -- novices with neither the time nor the experience to raise a puppy properly.
Mature dogs of 5 years and older are especially recommended, since many dogs have an extended adolescence that can be avoided by choosing a dog who's often overlooked in the shelter. Many older dogs have years of loving left, and they deserve a chance.
The older dog can slide easily into your life and will bond just as surely as the dog you took home as a puppy. And older dogs are everywhere, available from private homes, rescue groups and shelters.
If you're interested in a purebred, a rescue group specializing in your breed can be the deal of the century -- these volunteer organizations typically offer their dogs for the cost of the shots and neutering that they've already taken care of.
While the older dog can be a marvelous find, you still have to be selective. While expecting to work on some things as your new dog gets used to you is reasonable, you want to avoid those animals who have too many problems, especially if one of them is aggression. Working with shelters or rescue groups that evaluate their dogs and provide them with basic training is highly recommended, as is signing up your new dog for a training class to help work through the rough patches. -- Gina Spadafori
BY THE NUMBERS
Cats and dogs, happy together
It's often said that there are "dog people" and "cat people." But in fact, a lot of folks are just plain "pet people." For example, many people who have a dog also have a (multiple answers allowed):
Cat 41 percent
Fish 20 percent
Bird 10 percent
Small animal 9 percent
Reptile 7 percent
Horse 5 percent
Source: American Pet Products Association
Even neutered dogs may need Viagra
Viagra (Sildenafil) is used for more than what it's most famous for. In both humans and canines, the drug is prescribed for severe pulmonary hypertension -- high blood pressure in the lungs.
The disease is physically debilitating, and many affected dogs are unable to walk across the room without collapsing. Once they receive the proper dose of Viagra, these dogs can take short, daily walks with their owners and return to a more normal quality of life.
So if you overhear Viagra being dispensed at your veterinarian's, you'll know its more likely for a heart condition than for "performance." That's especially true, of course, in a neutered dog.
And no, dogs aren't prescribed it for that "other" use. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.