LAS VEGAS — The Western Veterinary Conference, held in mid February, attracted more than 8,000 veterinary professionals from around the world. Among the 730 hours of continuing education offered, expert researchers presented the latest and greatest in cutting-edge medicine. Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Jacqui Nielson offered this roundup of recent studies in the field of animal behavior:
Shelters and breeders typically adopt puppies advising owners to use a puppy diet, visit their veterinarian and to socialize their new family member by enrolling in a puppy class. It turns out another piece of advice may soon be added to the list: Use dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) collars. These collars contain a chemical scent that only dogs can detect and contain an analog or man-made "knock-off" of an appeasing or calming pheromone, which pups get when they nurse. In a study of 66 puppies, about half had DAP collars and half had placebo or neutral collars. Pups with the DAP collars had significantly reduced levels of separation distress, less nighttime vocalization and fewer fear-related behaviors than puppies who wore the placebo collars.
In another study of 45 puppies who enrolled in an eight-week training class, about half the pups wore a DAP and about half wore a placebo. After each lesson, owners filled out questionnaires about their puppies and follow-up questions were collected at various intervals, following the completion of the class. Dogs with the DAP collars played for longer periods and enjoyed better social interactions than dogs wearing the placebo.
Further work needs to be done, but these studies certainly suggest that DAP collars may help puppies transition to their new homes and may even aid in their socialization skills.
Kitty needs a drink
Perhaps cats aren't as finicky as we think. It turns out that given a choice between ordinary tap water and fancy purified water, a recent study of shelter cats demonstrated a clear preference for the tap water. This study was conducted because most cats don't get enough water in the first place. Lots of cats are going through life seemingly healthy, but at least partly dehydrated.
Encouraging water intake is particularly important for cats with kidney failure, cystitis or feline lower urinary tract disease. Researchers attribute tabby's tap water preference to either what they've been conditioned to, and/or the possibility that the purified water is actually too acidic. The lesson learned: For most cats, tap water is fine.
You can lead a cat to water, but you can't force it to drink. One idea to encourage cats to drink more water is to offer them more than a single place to drink. When there are other pets, and toddlers, running about, many cats don't feel comfortable enough to take a long drink in a water bowl on the floor, so move the water to a place up high, on a ledge or countertop. Also, cats prefer fresh water, so refill the bowl frequently. Some cats become enamored of water dripping from the tap or water fountains made for pets.
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