Newsletter Spring 2020

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Spring 2020

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Does Your Pet Have Springtime Allergies?

The arrival of spring brings along with it so many wonderful things - more sunlight and longer days, blooming trees and flowers, and the return of warmer weather. For many folks, the arrival of spring can also bring along with it severe allergic reactions that cause people to stay indoors or seek treatment from itchy and watery eyes, sneezing, and congested noses.

But humans aren't the only creatures that can suffer from seasonal allergies. Your pet may be susceptible to them as well.

flowerAllergies are basically an over-reaction of the body’s immune system to a foreign substance. Seasonal allergies can be caused by tree and flower pollen, grass, weed, mold, mildew or dust. Once these substances enter the body, the immune system mistakenly sees them as a danger and releases antibodies to attack the allergens. This leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. The uncomfortable symptoms associated with allergies, such as itching and sneezing, are caused by the reaction of histamine with receptors in our nose and upper airways.

Dogs and cats have histamine receptors as well, but they have more in the skin and fewer in the nose. As histamine is released, this can cause an itchy feeling that leads to scratching at the site, which in turn causes more itching. This can lead to infections, oozing sores, and hair loss. Current estimates show that about 20 million pets suffer from some sort of skin condition and many of these are allergies.

How do you know if your pet might be suffering from seasonal allergies? Most people have watery eyes and runny noses when they have a reaction, but this is not so much the case with pets. Excessive scratching and biting might be the first sign you notice, along with inflamed skin. Your pet may also experience excessive shedding. Dandruff is a common side effect of allergies, since they can dry out the skin and cause it to flake.

While cats often lick their paws as part of their grooming routine, compulsive paw licking may be a sign of allergies in dogs. Facial rubbing can also be related to allergies. When dogs have allergies, they tend to push out the histamines to their extremities, such as their ears, paws, face or anal region. You might notice your pet scooting or licking their anal region. Scooting could be an attempt to scratch an unpleasant itchiness. These histamine reactions are similar to sneezing or tearing up in humans.

cat lickA somewhat less prevalent symptom of allergies can be respiratory issues, which tend to affect cats more than dogs. Cats can be much more sensitive than dogs to airborne allergens. Allergic reactions can cause respiratory issues in the form of difficulty breathing, coughing and wheezing. This is often referred to as allergic bronchitis or feline asthma.

So how can you best help your pet through allergy season?

The first place to start is to limit the exposure they have to potential allergy-producing substances so you can head off reactions. Avoid taking your dog for a walk or letting your cat outside during high-pollen times of the day (typically between 5am and 10am). Also pay special attention to the pollen reports that many local weather stations provide. Be sure to wipe down your pet's fur and feet when they return from outside. Since dogs and cats often lick their paws (and cats especially while grooming), cleaning these area can help reduce the chances they will ingest allergens. You can also use boots for your pet to prevent them from stepping in and tracking allergens into the house.

Another way to help reduce your pet's exposure to allergens is to reduce the amount of airborne particles in your house. Remove or wipe down your own shoes when you get home. Also keep windows closed and consider running a HEPA filter. Soft substances, such as pet beds and soft toys, should be washed regularly. You can also place blankets over pet sleeping areas, as well as your own furniture, that might be easier to wash more regularly. Regular baths with a hypoallergenic anti-itch shampoo that contains a soothing ingredient such as oatmeal, aloe, or evening primrose oil, can help as well.

Antihistamines, which can help prevent symptoms or greatly reduce your pet's reaction to them, can often be helpful. But don't just have your pet pop a Benadryl. Over-the-counter medicines can be lethal for pets, so be sure to seek the advice of a vet. Treatment may also involve the use of topical or oral steroids, or even regular treatments with allergy shots.

So don't let allergies ruin spring for you or your pet. Take the necessary steps to identify, prevent or treat allergy symptoms so you can enjoy the season.

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How to Raise a Friendly Cat

In some circles (particularly among dog owners), cats can have a bad reputation as solitary, disagreeable animals, and many people perceive them as standoffish. Feline lovers, however, claim that cats are unique and affectionate beings with whom they share a special connection.

Cats are certainly quite different from dogs, but that doesn't mean they don't make great pets. Just like a dog, every cat has his or her own personality, and while it's true that some individual cats are less affectionate and social than others, a lot of their behavior has to do with how they are raised. Certainly the same can be said of humans!

As a cat owner, there are many steps you can take to make sure you raise a friendly cat. Raising a friendly cat begins with how you handle them. Your cat or kitten needs to learn to trust you, and they can become frightened if you don't handle them carefully. This is especially true for kittens and younger cats. If you can show your cat that you're trustworthy, they are more likely to be responsive when you touch them, and may learn to crave your attention in return. If you have small children in your home, be sure to teach them to handle your cat in the same manner, and supervise them when they are playing together (this is especially important if you have kittens). While children might mean well, they are not always the gentlest of creatures.

peeking cat 

Beyond handling your cat gently, be sure to show them affection. Spending time cuddling with them is a great way to accomplish this. If you've got a kitten, support them like a newborn baby by holding their head and bottom with gentle hands, stroking their tummy with a single finger, or right-side up, cradling their belly and hindquarters, without squeezing or clutching. A grown cat can be held the same way, but they may move around a bit more in order to adjust to a position they find comfortable. Your cat might also prefer to just nestle against you while you gently rub them. Showing your cat that human interaction is perfectly safe will help for them to develop trust and will also work to create a strong bond between you and your cat.

It's also advisable to show your cat affection at other times. While preparing their food, talk to them. When they begin eating, gently stroke them a few times. This will help them associate being stroked with other positive experiences.

Socializing your cat is important to helping them learn to be a friendly cat. In the first few months of cat ownership, be present in their lives. It's necessary for your cat's social development to be interactive with them and to shower them with attention. Invite family and friends over to show your feline friend some love, too, so they can become accustomed to attention from others.

Most cats are naturally afraid of dogs, so the earlier you can introduce them to a cat-friendly dog, the easier it is for them to learn that some dogs can be pleasant. If you already have a dog in your home, this will be easier. If not, try socializing your kitten or cat with a friend's dog that is already cat-friendly.

Teaching your cat to come when you call his name can give a sense of a much deeper relationship. Cats should have no problem recognizing their names after a bit of repetition. Practice calling them by name and once they start coming, you can reward them with a treat. Cats that learn to come on command usually aren’t shy and enjoy being around people. This is great training for your cat to not be shy when others call him as well.

Make time to play with your cat, too. Keep a rotating array of toys on hand. You can also use "toys" you already have at home, such as wads of paper, straws, empty boxes, and plastic rings from milk or juice containers. Laser pointers are great for playing games of chase. Or if you're hanging out on the couch, use a blanket for an easy game of hide-and-seek with one of their favorite toys.

A cat will only be as friendly as they are happy, and one sure way to keep them happy is to make sure they are in good health. Be sure your cat maintains an appropriate weight and that they have adequate food and water. Visit your vet regularly for check ups, and also if your cat has a sudden mood change. Since cats can't tell us when they are in pain, it's important to watch for any behavioral changes, which could be a sign of a serious issue.

So while it's possible to raise a friendly, loving cat, you've got to take the lead and be friendly and loving yourself. If you don't make time for your cat, they are certainly going to learn that it's okay not to make time for you.

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6 Things to Consider When Searching for a Pet-Friendly Senior Living Community

nursing home dogContributed by James Hall

Pets make excellent companions throughout our lives. Being a pet owner through your golden years can be especially rewarding. If you decide it’s time to move to an assisted living facility, though, bringing your pet along can pose a challenge. Here, we’ll look at six things to consider when looking for a pet-friendly community that you and your companion will love—and what amenities you need to thrive there.

Think About Your Pet’s Specific Needs

Each type of pet will have unique needs and wants. A large dog needs plenty of exercise outdoors, for example, while cats often prefer to remain indoors. Felines will still require special care and attention, but they won’t need space to run.

If you decide to become a pet owner by adopting a cat, you can find many products that help meet their needs. Most cats know how to use a litter box as young kittens, but you might want a self-cleaning litter box to avoid handling potentially toxic material. Scratching posts can serve your feline’s need to scratch—without ruining your furniture.

Another helpful item for cats is a cat water fountain, which can reassure you that your kitty is getting enough to drink. Dehydration is a common struggle for felines, and cats that don’t get enough water can wind up with urinary tract problems.

While considering your pet’s needs is vital, there’s more to consider when moving to an assisted living community. Fortunately, there are more and more communities that are both pet- and senior-centric.

Pet-Friendly Communities Are Becoming Easier to Find

Having a pet helps provide seniors with companionship and even health-boosting benefits. Thankfully, many administrators of senior living properties are realizing this fact. The value of pet ownership also represents another selling point for these communities.

Ask About Weight or Breed Restrictions on Pets

cat handSenior living communities typically welcome smaller pets like cats and dogs. Many stipulate a weight limit for dogs, however. Breed restrictions are also common, and these often depend on factors outside the community’s control. Over 700 cities outright ban ownership of specific breeds—such as pit bulls—notes the ASPCA. If your pet is larger or deemed a more “aggressive” breed, you may have a hard time finding a welcoming community.

Pets that municipalities consider to be “pests”—such as rodents—may also hinder your search for a new home for both of you. Some communities also have limitations on aquariums, such as requiring renter’s insurance coverage.

Investigate Pet Parks and Facilities

A surefire sign that a community is pet-friendly is the existence of dog runs or other facilities in the neighborhood. Pet parks, dog-washing stations, and pet potty bags around the property can start conversations about the types of pets that are permissible and what amenities are offered.

Look into Pet Deposits and Fees

Many rental properties allow pets with a stipulation on damage—plus a deposit per animal. Assisted living communities often have similar policies. You may find that the property requires a move-in deposit for your pet, or that they charge a monthly fee per animal. Inquire about such fees before applying to move into a property. Compare prices to see what is standard for your area—and find out whether the fees are legal, too.

Is the Facility Welcoming to Pets or Just “Pet-Friendly”?

As many pet owners have learned the hard way, pet-friendly doesn’t always mean that pets are enthusiastically welcomed. While many retirement communities allow residents to bring their pets along, they don’t necessarily offer extra services or incentives for pet owners.

Some communities offer get-togethers for residents with pets, sponsor pet parties, and even provide veterinary care or dog-walking and similar services on-site. Some cities are more likely to have pet-centric amenities and retirement properties than others, making a retirement move more appealing.

Finding the right place to live with your pet can be challenging. It’s worth doing your homework, however, so that you and your companion can enjoy your golden years together. Ideally, you’ll be doing so alongside other pet owners and their animals, too.

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Wildlife of Mexico

The celebration of Cinco de Mayo is coming up soon. Many people mistakenly think that this holiday commemorates the independence of Mexico, when in actuality, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army's victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on significance beyond that in Mexico, and is more heavily celebrated in the United States as a celebration of Mexican-American culture.

But beyond the celebration, Mexico is home to an amazing array of beautiful wildlife.

The Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) is probably one of the most recognizable wildlife creatures from Mexico. Spider monkeys, with their long, lanky arms and tails that can grip (known as a prehensile tails), are able to move quickly and gracefully from branch to branch. They spend most of their time in the air, so to speak, and are found in the tropical rainforests of Mexico.

Also found high in the treetops of Mexico is a beautiful bird know as the quetzal (Pharomachrus mocinno). Part of the trogon family, the quetzal likes to live in tropical highlands. With stunning, unusual plumage and grace, the quetzal is named for its splendor. The Aztec word quetzalli was used to describe this bird's tail feathers, and also means "precious,' or "beautiful,' and can be loosely translated to 'large brilliant tail feather.'

These legendary tail feathers that can be a meter long are one of the most noticeable traits of the male quetzal. Adult quetzals have a grey and black striped tail, and are covered in shimmering green on the head, back, and wings, so they blend into the wet foliage of the forest. The females have somewhat similar plumage, but lack the green crest and bright red breast of the males, as well as the elongated tail feathers.

The quetzal mostly eats fruits of the avocado family, as well as figs. Its diet also includes insects, small frogs, snails, and lizards.

As we look from high in the trees to down into the rivers and lakes of Central Mexico, we'll find the axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum). This creature is very strange looking but adorable at the same time. The axolotl is a neotenic salamander and is related to the tiger salamander. Their most notable physical features are their gills, which protrude from the back of their wide heads and remain there throughout adulthood.

When the Aztecs settled the Valley of Mexico in the 13th century, they found a large salamander living in the lake surrounding the island where they built their capital, Tenochtitlan. They called the salamander "axolotl" after Xolotl, their god of fire and lightning. Xolotl was said to have transformed into a salamander, among other forms, to avoid being sacrificed so the sun and moon could move in the sky. Axolotls were commonly killed for food by the Aztecs, and today, due to development and pollution, are in danger of extinction.

Back on land in the southeastern jungles of Mexico, you might see, if you're lucky, the cacomistle (Bassariscus sumichrasti). This Mexican mammal is similar in appearance to a monkey crossed with a cat and a raccoon. That's quite a combo! These furry creatures owe their name (which means half cat) to the Aztec language Nahuatl. They’re nocturnal and love to hang out in trees, jumping from branch to branch with ease.

Cacomistles are omnivores and feed on insects, rodents, lizards, snakes, birds, eggs, amphibians, seeds, and fruit. Some use bromeliads (flowering plants), which live high in the forest canopy, as a source of water and prey. Cacomistles hunt at night. Unlike the spider monkeys, they are solitary and remain in large ranges, so they are rarely seen.

Cacomistles are commonly confused with the ringtail, but there are differences between them. The ringtail has rounded ears, semi-retractable claws, and stripes all the way to the end of its tail. The cacomistle has pointed ears, tails that fade to black at the ends, and non-retractable claws.


If you're out in the evening, you might just spot an ocelot (Leopardus pardalis). Mainly active at night, the ocelot is a slinky and elusive big cat that loves to sleep in trees during the day. Often the ocelot is confused at first for a tiny jaguar, given that they have many similar features. Ocelots are only distantly related to true leopards or tigers. Leopards and tigers are members of the Pantherinae (roaring cats) subfamily, and ocelots are in the Felinae (small cats) subfamily. The ocelot's coat has distinctive markings in a wide variety of patterns, and each ocelot's pattern is unique, with dark spots on an orange, tan and white coat.

Ocelots hunt prey on the ground and climb trees to hunt as well. As carnivores, ocelots have special teeth for eating meat. They are considered picky eaters as they will remove the fur and feathers from their prey before they eat it. Then their sharp incisors tear meat from the bone and their back teeth cut the meat into smaller pieces like scissors.

Typically, their prey includes frogs, iguanas, rabbits, fish, crabs, rodents, monkeys and birds. To prevent waste, ocelots will hide their prey and come back to finish it when they are hungry again.

Ocelots are on the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Endangered Species list. They were extensively hunted for their furs from the 1960s into the 1980s.

So this Cinco de Mayo, instead of heading out for a beer, consider celebrating the amazing wildlife of Mexico.

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