TAKE A MID-SUMMER BREAK WITH SOME PET-RELATED TRIVIA
Books don't always sell in direct relationship to how much their authors love them. Sometimes that's for reasons outside of our control (such as the pet care book that came out just before Sept. 11, 2001), but there's often no reason for it at all.
Two of our books, "bowWOW!: Curiously Compelling Facts, True Tales, and Trivia Even Your Dog Won't Know" and its feline companion, "meowWOW!" (HCI, 2007), remain our little, almost-forgotten favorites: bright, fun and interesting, with illustrations by Molly Pearce so wonderful that we have them framed in our offices. We loved researching and writing these two books. Some fun facts we found:
-- Dogs have been taxed for centuries, but the idea of a tag to signify that a dog was "licensed" seems to date to the late 19th century, when Cincinnati started issuing tags on an annual basis, and other cities and states soon followed suit. Although wooden tags for soldiers were used in the U.S. Civil War to help identify the injured and the dead, it wasn't until World War I that American soldiers got metal tags as standard issue. The resemblance between the tags of soldiers and of dogs (along with a good dollop of droll military humor) soon had the men calling them "dog tags" -- a term that sticks to this day.
-- The cat has one up on the lion: Cats purr, but lions cannot. (On the flip side: Lions roar, which cats can't.) No big cat can get his motor running the way our household kitties can, purring constantly as effortlessly as breathing, both in and out. Tigers can rumble a tiger-sized purr-like sound, but on the exhale only.
-- All dogs have pink tongues, with two notable exceptions: the Chow Chow and the Chinese Shar-Pei, both breeds with tongues variously described as "purple," "black" or "blue-black." Black spots on tongues are common in many dogs, and are not necessarily an indication that there's a Chow Chow or Shar-Pei in the gene pool, however.
-- Most cats have five toes on their front paws, but only four of them hit the ground. The fifth toe is found on the inside of the front paw. This "dewclaw" is the feline equivalent of our thumb, and it's used for grasping prey and climbing trees. Any number of toes over the norm (usually an extra one or two, but occasionally as many as three or four) makes a cat polydactyl, which means "many fingers." Polydactylism is a dominant genetic trait, which means just one polydactyl parent is enough to make a litter of polydactyl kittens.
-- Helen Keller, the blind and deaf woman whose triumph over her disabilities made her an international sensation, was the first American to own an Akita.
-- Cats can hear nearly three times more frequencies than humans can. For you technical types, a cat's hearing stops at 80 kilohertz, a dog's at 45 kHz, and a human's at a pathetic 20 kHz. Because cats can rotate their ears and focus each ear independently, they also can hear well from all directions. A cat can rotate its outer ear to locate a sound -- such as the sound of a mouse's footsteps trying to sneak by -- 10 times faster than a dog.
-- The phrase "Beware of dog" is so old that its Latin equivalent -- cave canem -- has been found on signs in Roman ruins. The word "watchdog" isn't quite as old, but it has been around a long, long time. The first mention of it? By Shakespeare, in "The Tempest."
-- Cats' heads come in three basic shapes: round, such as on the fluffy Persians; triangular, such as on the sleek, show-bred Siamese and other so-called "Oriental" breeds; and rectangular, such as on the burly Maine Coon. Most random-bred cats tend more toward the triangular head, albeit a less-extreme version than on the show-quality Siamese.
-- One final one, just for summer: The "dog days" of summer have nothing to do with dogs and everything to do with the brightest star in the night sky: Sirius, the constellation also known as the "dog star" that's highly visible during some of the hottest weeks of the year.
Not all fruits and
veggies good for pets
Q: We feed our dog raw carrots. She loves them, but are they good for her? -- via Facebook
A: Raw vegetables and fruits are a wonderful treat. I often recommend carrots and apple slices as a substitute for commercial treats, especially for dogs who are pudgy. (Another easy weight-loss trick involving vegetables: Substitute thawed frozen green beans for part of your dog's daily food ration. They'll make your pet feel full without adding much in the way of calories.)
Not all fruits and vegetables are good for your pet, though, and some may even be toxic. The absolute no-nos include raisins and grapes, onions and many nuts. When in doubt, ask your veterinarian or visit the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center online (ASPCA.com/APPC). -- Dr. Marty Becker
Q: Can I give my dog garlic to control fleas? I don't want to put dangerous chemicals on him. -- via Facebook
A: There's no scientific evidence that garlic (or brewer's yeast, which I'm also often asked about) will control fleas. And since garlic in its natural form can be toxic, don't give it to your dog.
The best advice I can offer is to ask your veterinarian for one of the topical products that controls fleas. These products are considered safe when used as directed on healthy pets. And when you consider the problems caused by an out-of-control parasite problem for both pets AND people, the risk-benefit factor becomes even greater on the side of modern preventives.
There are some "natural strategies" that can help, and you should try them whether you use topical veterinary-recommended products or not. Wash your pet's bedding and vacuum pet areas frequently to remove eggs and developing fleas. This will interrupt the life cycle of these parasites and drop the number of adult pests you'll have to deal with. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Helping shelter cats
-- Ringworm is often fatal to cats in shelters -- not because the fungal disease is deadly, but because many shelters kill pets with even mild diseases to prevent the spread of infectious conditions. Veterinary dermatologist Dr. Karen Moriello, clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, is working to change that. She has established a protocol to detect and treat ringworm in cats that is being used in shelters across the country, saving countless feline lives.
-- Equine veterinarian Dr. Kent Allen of Middleburg, Va., filled in TheHorse.com on his role as technical delegate to the London Olympics. His job includes following 90 pages of veterinary guidelines for competitors in Olympic equestrian events, working with a team of veterinarians to keep the horses healthy (and pulling them from competition if they're not) and making sure everyone is playing fair, with no unapproved performance-enhancing substances. "It's not a slap on the hand and a fine anymore," said Dr. Allen of the strict anti-doping policy. "It's getting to be more like [the anti-doping policies for] the athletes in other sports."
-- The nonprofit Rural Area Veterinary Services provides veterinary care to pet owners who don't have access, either due to their rural location or financial situation. Sometimes working in MASH-like conditions, volunteer veterinarians, veterinary technicians and others provide help to nearly 9,000 animals a year. The care ranges from routine preventive medicine, such as spay-neuter, vaccines and parasite control, to treatment for serious injuries and disease. Donations are always needed to fund operations: ruralareavet.org. -- Gina Spadafori
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and also the authors of many best-selling pet care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.