Animal Health Care P.C.
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Naperville, IL 60565


cats and owners
May 15, 2017

Study Suggests Cats Love Owners More Than Food

Cat owners are well aware of the fact that cats can be extremely lively, loving, and entertaining characters, but few others recognize this. Many individuals consider cats to be aloof or lazy creatures–too independent to care much for human interaction. However, while they are definitely far more independent than dogs, cats yet love to interact with their owners in their own way and on their own terms–and not just because this is how they get their food.

Understanding Cats

Various studies into cats and feline behavior have indicated that there is far more to them than lazy, aloof creatures who look down their noses at “those humans” who serve them. It’s true that some cats are truly scared, anxious or shy and seem to prefer spending most of their time hiding in boxes and other dark areas of the house, but this should be viewed as the exception rather than the rule. In fact, learning how to understand a cat is honestly as simple as recognizing that they each have their own, unique personality and therefore have their own, unique way of interacting with and loving their owners.

A study shared in the Oregon State University publication Behavioural Processes has recently shined a light on the fact that, contrary to what Garfield may have tried to convince us all, cats normally love their owners more than they love food. Similar studies have been previously conducted on dogs and tortoises, and researchers subsequently determined that it was time to dig deeper into the relationships cats form with their owners in order to better understand these whimsical creatures.

Researchers commented on the fact that studies into cat cognition have been able to provide evidence that cats have complex socio-cognitive and problem-solving abilities, despite the fact that they are often seen to be unsociable and difficult or even impossible to train. In actual fact, proper advice on cat behavior would encourage owners to consider that cats prefer very specific stimuli, and will, therefore, be most motivated to work by the proper stimuli. Not only are these stimuli unique to cats, they can be unique to the breed, age and even personality of a specific cat.

As part of the study, fifty different cats were put through a series of cognitive tests. Some of these cats were pets comfortably placed in homes, while others had been borrowed from animal shelters. Every cat participating in the study was deprived of food, toys, and human interaction for a few hours before being presented with these items. The purpose, of course, was to see which of these items the cats were most attracted to, and therefore had missed the most. Almost all of the cats desired human interaction first, with roughly fifty percent of the cats preferring chin scratches and petting over any other offered stimuli. Less than forty percent of the cats chose to receive food first. Additionally, researchers noticed that there was no real difference between the actions and preferences of the pet cats over the shelter cats–they all seemed to want human interaction more than anything else.

Needless to say, the fact that research has indicated that cats enjoy receiving love from humans and actually tend to prefer it over food does not negate the fact that they are still uniquely individual. Not all cats appreciate it when their owner suddenly descends upon them, determined to pet and cuddle them. Some cats want their love and interaction in very specific ways, and may actually become frustrated if they feel it is either overdone or underdone. Rather than chalking this up to the “cold aloofness” of felines, consider what makes your cat unique from others, and take a good look at their personality before trying to determine what stimuli they most prefer. If you do this, you may just discover that you can form a deep, meaningful, and highly satisfying relationship with your cat that is as unique as they are.


Study: Your Cat Probably Loves You More Than It Loves Food (Take That, Dogs!)

pets and children
April 17, 2017

Study Indicates Children Feel Closer to Pets Than Siblings

There are many different reasons for why individuals may choose to own, care for and interact with a pet. In most cases, pet owners consider their pets to be a very important part of their family, and they greatly enjoy being able to care for and interact with their pet. In addition to providing unconditional love and companionship, pets can help to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression in their owners and some studies have even indicated that they can help to lower their owner’s blood pressure. A pet will never talk back to or render judgment on their owner, something that their owner can find incredibly welcome and comforting. In fact, it seems that these particular traits of pets can make children feel even more closely connected to them than their siblings.

Study Into the Relationship Between Children and Pets

While there have been many studies in the past that have investigated the relationship between pets and humans, these studies have focused largely on adults, rather than children. This has left a gap in understanding about just how children are affected by or benefit from pets, and whether pets are truly beneficial to a child’s healthy development. A recent study led by William Cassels at the University of Cambridge delved into this area, with the understanding that children turn to their pets for the purposes of companionship and disclosure–much in the same way that they would turn to another child or adult–and that children can form meaningful relationships with their pets. However, Cassels wanted to dig even further into this area to determine just how strong a child’s relationship was with their pet specifically when compared to other close family relationships. His findings revealed that children who have both pets and siblings tend to feel more satisfied by their relationship with their pet than by their relationship with their siblings.

In the study, Cassels and his colleagues surveyed seventy-seven twelve-year-olds who each had at least one pet and at least one sibling. This survey measured the quality of the relationship each child had with their siblings and with their pets, with specific regard to conflict, companionship, and emotional support. Unsurprisingly, the children routinely reported that they had less conflict with their pets than with their siblings. The children also routinely reported that they felt much greater satisfaction through their relationship with their pets than with their siblings. This revealed an important truth to the research team: that even though pets cannot understand or respond to children, the children were just as comfortable disclosing things to their pets as they were to their siblings. In fact, the fact that pets cannot understand or respond is likely viewed as just as valuable to children as it is to adults because they don’t talk back or render judgment that can make an individual feel uncomfortable or self-conscious.

In addition to discovering that children felt more satisfied with their relationship with their pets than with their siblings, Cassels and his colleagues determined that girls formed even stronger relationships with their pets than boys. The girl study participants reported that they experienced more disclosure, companionship, and conflict with their pets, which led the researchers to believe that they may have more involved interaction with their pets. Furthermore, researchers discovered that the satisfaction children experienced in their relationship with their pet was greater if it was a dog, perhaps because dogs are more dependent, loyal, and interactive than other common family pets.

As is often the case, researchers feel that more studies would be necessary in order to further explore the relationship that children have with their pets. However, this study definitely indicated that children highly value the relationship they have with their pets, and therefore may benefit greatly from sharing their lives with a pet.



March 20, 2017

National Poison Prevention Week: Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe

It can only take a single moment, and a very small amount of a poisonous substance, to result in a dangerous medical emergency. National Poison Prevention Week, held during the third week of March every year since 1962, works to raise public awareness about the risk of poisoning, and what can be done to protect against this risk.

Keeping Your Pet Safe from Poisons

National Poison Prevention Week may seem to focus first and foremost on protecting humans from poisoning, but it is also important for pet owners to consider what must be done to protect their pets from poisoning. Consider the following tips to help keep your pet safe:

  • Store all human medications securely out of reach. Any medication, from ibuprofen to anti-depressants, can be highly poisonous to a pet. Even if you are absolutely certain that your pet is completely disinterested in your medications, it is important to be prudent and store them securely out of reach.
  • Only use recommended insecticides exactly as directed. You may desire to use insecticides in order to help your pets by killing off the fleas, ticks and other insects that bother them. However, the products that are commonly used to kill these pests can also poison your pet. You should always consult with your veterinarian prior to using insecticides of any sort and always follow their recommendations and directions exactly.
  • Follow veterinary guidelines when administering pet medications. Like human medications, pet medications can be poisonous if they are administered in the wrong amount or to a pet other than the one they are intended for. If you are even slightly uncertain about administering pet medications, you should contact your veterinarian immediately and get this sorted out.
  • Know which common household plants are toxic to pets, and keep them out of your household. Whether out of curiosity or boredom, many pets will chew on household plants from time to time. Unfortunately, there are many common household plants, including lilies, azaleas, rhododendrons, sago palms, and poinsettias, that can cause major health issues like vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and kidney failure. It is also important to ensure that your pet does not have access to toxic plants in your yard or garden.
  • Keep all household cleaners secure and out of reach. A very small amount of any household cleaner like detergent, bleach or disinfectant can potentially cause a pet gastrointestinal upset, mouth and throat burns, respiratory irritation and other dangerous and life-threatening health issues.
  • Prevent your pet from ingesting any amount of chocolate. While chocolate is usually perfectly safe for human consumption, it is incredibly harmful to pets in any amount. Chocolate contains methylxanthines, a substance which can cause pets to experience abnormal heart rhythms, tremors, seizures, and even death. The darker the chocolate, the higher the risk.
  • Ensure all chew toys and treats are safe. Not only can certain chew toys and treats pose a choking hazard for pets, they can sometimes contain dangerous and toxic chemicals. Some pets may have very little or even no reaction to these toys and treats, while others can have more serious reactions. It is better to play it safe and avoid those toys and treats that are not entirely natural.
  • Secure all household improvement products. Any household improvement products like solvents, adhesives, expanding glues, paint, and other similar items can be harmful if ingested, and their smells can be incredibly alluring to pets. It is, therefore, important to ensure that your pet does not have access to these products at any time.

It only takes a brief opportunity and a little bit of curiosity for a pet to get into something that is poisonous to them. It is always much better to be safe than sorry and keep all potentially dangerous items out of reach. If you suspect that your pet may possibly have ingested a poisonous product, you should call your veterinarian immediately.

February 27, 2017

Study Examines the Differing Ways to Determine a Dog’s Intelligence

There is a lot of debate about the intelligence of dogs. From those who believe that dogs are mainly pack animals that are goal-oriented to those who believe they are somewhat intelligent to those who believe they are capable of great intelligence, there are a lot of differing opinions on the subject. Dog owners themselves often wonder the most about canine intelligence, perhaps largely because they see prime examples of it on a day-to-day basis and it can appear to be a point of pride to state that one has a highly intelligent dog. It’s true that some dogs seem purely goal-oriented and treat-motivated, others definitely seem to recognize specific words and are eager to learn and follow directions, but how can you really determine a dog’s intelligence?

Study Into Dog Intelligence

Researchers in Yale’s Canine Cognition Center recognize the fact that many dog owners are very curious about not only determining their dog’s intelligence but also in optimizing it. In fact, they have been pressed by many dog owners who are willing to volunteer their dogs for various research exercises and puzzles that will help to determine intelligence–and some have even driven for many hours to arrive there. Laurie Santos, who is a professor of psychology and directs the center, indicates that dog owners aren’t shy about expressing their desire to have it proven that their dog is intelligent, just as parents are proud of their intelligent kids. That said, labeling a dog as more or less intelligent means that one has to have some point of comparison–the dog is more or less intelligent that what? Other dogs? Cats? Humans? And perhaps more importantly–why would it be desirable to have a more intelligent dog?

Researchers who seek to determine a dog’s intelligence use methods that vary greatly from the dog owners’ methods, and from one another’s methods. Some researchers study the dog’s brain, while others work to identify cognitive abilities. On the other hand, when a dog’s owner asserts they are intelligent, they are often asserting their own comparison–as in their dog is smarter than their neighbor’s dog because of how he responds to commands. In fact, a great deal of animal behaviorists agree that most individuals consider that any dog that is easily trained is often referred to as intelligent by their owners. However, considering that dogs have lived closely with humans for about thirty thousand years, it’s easy to understand that they have evolved into understanding basic human cues, which they can choose whether or not to honor. While this is certainly intelligent, it’s also a basic survival instinct that has helped them to arrive where they are today.

All things considered, determining a dog’s intelligence may actually have a lot to do with what the owner needs or wants from the dog, as well as what the dog has been bred for. Bloodhounds, for example, are known to have an incredible sense of smell that can make them appear to be quite intelligent when tracking. If one were to encounter a particular bloodhound that seemed unable to or disinterested in tracking scents, one may find that this causes them to consider that dog as less intelligent–especially if their scent-tracking skills are desirable. Similarly, Australian Shepherds are well known as highly capable sheep herding dogs, so if one encountered a particular Australian Shepherd that was afraid of or incapable of herding sheep, they may consider that dog as less intelligent.

Dog owners who are truly interested in determining their dog’s aptitude along certain lines can find plenty of various intelligence-measuring options on the internet. For example, for a mere $19 Dognition will send owners a questionnaire and video instructions to follow in order to gather information about their dog and submit it. Dognition will then prepare a cognitive profile, running a comparison between the owner’s dog and other dogs, for the owner to review their dog’s abilities in areas such as empathy, communication, cunning, memory, and reasoning.

The Bottom Line

More than intelligence, dog owners tend to value their dog’s love and companionship. A dog that recognizes that their owner likes to unwind after a stressful day at work and cuddles up in their lap to provide love and companionship could be considered quite intelligent, as they perceived their owner’s needs and met them. So while there is plenty of research “out there” that proclaims many different ways to test and even enhance your dog’s intelligence, what really matters is if you feel they are intelligent because they add richness to your life.



February 13, 2017

Study Disproves Belief About Relinquishment of Pets Given as Gifts

When it comes to selecting a gift for a loved one, we often find ourselves searching endlessly for the one gift we think will make the receiver the most overwhelming happy. Perhaps this is why we often turn to the idea of giving our loved one an adorable, squirming puppy or a soft, cuddly kitten. But is this really the best idea?

Many people believe that pets that are given as gifts are often returned to animal shelters very shortly thereafter. In fact, some animal shelters discourage or even completely prohibit gift adoptions because they are concerned the pet will be returned. This is certainly a legitimate cause for concern, as it can be quite detrimental to the pet’s overall health and well-being and it can, of course, be draining for the shelters that have to take back newly adopted pets. However, new studies indicate that it may not actually be a problem.

The Truth About Gift Pet Relinquishments

Contrary to what many have long believed, a gifted pet is not at great risk of relinquishment. According to Inga Fricke, the director of Pet Retention Programs for the Humane Society of the United States, studies now show that animals given as gifts are highly likely to be kept. One study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association determined that dogs given as gifts were actually less likely to be relinquished than dogs that were directly purchased or adopted by their new owners. Another study by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals found that the vast majority of individuals who were gifted pets felt that it either had no impact upon or actually increased their love and attachment to the pet. Studies into why pets are relinquished to shelters have found that there is a multitude of reasons, including the animal’s aggressive behavior toward people or hyperactivity, and only a very few of these pets–.3 percent of dogs and .4 percent of cats–were relinquished because they were unwanted gifts.

It’s true that receiving a pet as a gift can come as a surprise, but it may not be an unwelcome surprise. Parents who gift their kids with pets often do so while knowing that their child desires a pet and that taking on a pet is a family responsibility. On the other hand, an individual who has never owned a puppy before and has only made some casual comments about how nice it might be to have a puppy may not do so well if they are suddenly and unexpectedly saddled with this responsibility.

Tips for Successfully Gifting a Pet

Obviously, choosing to gift a pet should not be a last-minute, impulse decision. Following are some tips for successfully gifting a pet:

  • Ensure that the recipient of the gifted pet has shown a long-term interest in owning a pet, and is fully capable of taking responsibility for said pet. Any individual may see an adorable kitten photo and say, “Oh, I’d love to have a kitten!” in passing, but if this is really the only indication that they may enjoy a new pet, it’s not enough. If they are constantly talking about how much they’ve enjoyed owning cats in the past, and how they are seriously considering bringing a new kitten into their life, your gift is more likely to be well-received.
  • Make sure you know exactly what type of pet the recipient desires. Some individuals may talk about taking on a dog, but if they have their heart set on a dachshund and you gift them a Labrador retriever, it may not go over as well as you’d hoped.
  • Consider letting the recipient pick out their own pet. A gifted pet can be even more special if the recipient is given the opportunity to join you at the shelter and select the pet they most desire.

With good planning, a gifted pet can be very well-received and happily placed in their forever home with someone who may well love them even more because they were a heartfelt gift from a loved one.



January 30, 2017

Study Deciphers the Meaning Behind Dog Barks

Dog owners have long wondered about the meaning behind the various vocalizations their dogs make, especially on those occasions when there really is no obvious reason for them. When a normally friendly and sociable dog barks frantically at all passersby, their owners may wonder exactly what they are trying to communicate and whether they would bark differently if a true threat presented itself. Not surprisingly, many dog owners would love to know what their dog’s barks mean so that they can better interpret communications of actual threats, and maybe even work with their dog to not bark so readily in certain situations.

The Meaning Behind Dog Barks

Some individuals have suggested that dog barks may be a by-product of domestication and may actually have little meaning beyond an expression of the dog’s current emotional state. This has been surmised largely because on more than one occasion, dogs have been seen to bark when they have no audience–which means they cannot actually be hoping to communicate to another living thing. Some dogs will even bark monotonously and endlessly while performing some task–such as guarding free-ranging livestock. In comparison, barking makes up only about three percent of all wolf vocalizations and is usually used primarily as an alarm signal.

All speculation aside, some recent research has indicated that there may actually be more meaning to dog barks than originally assumed. Their vocal cords allow them to alter their voices in subtle ways so that they can produce many different sounds, which may be a way for them to alter the meaning of their vocalizations. Considering that the hearing abilities of dogs differ greatly from the hearing abilities of humans, it’s possible that some of these sound alterations are completely indistinguishable to humans while being perfectly clear to other dogs. In fact, spectrograms of dog barks have proven that even the same dog does not produce the same barks over and over again, as they can vary in timing, pitch, and amplitude. Scientists suspect that this means they also vary in meaning.

Dog owners may have experienced perfect examples of how one particular kind of vocalization from a dog can seem to have widely different meanings–as in the growl emitted during play and the growl emitted while eating. Two dogs playing a friendly game of tug with one another may emit loud growling noises that sound fairly real and threatening, and yet neither dog may back down from the game. However, when the same two dogs are eating and one approaches the other’s dish, a lower, quieter growl may quickly warn the approaching dog off. So how did the dogs know that the playtime growls were harmless communications and the dinner time growl was a true threat, if not for a difference in meaning?

To test the theory that dog vocalizations carry innate meanings, researchers used pre-recorded growls to gauge a dog’s reaction as they approached a juicy bone. One growl was an aggressive “food growl,” emitted while a dog was protecting their food dish, and the other was a “stranger growl,” emitted while a dog was reacting to a stranger in their environment. In the experiment, dogs were more hesitant to approach the juicy bone when they heard the food growl than when they heard the stranger growl. Another experiment used pre-recorded “alone barks” and “stranger barks” to gauge general reactions. When dogs heard the “alone bark” three time in a row, they demonstrated less attention to each subsequent bark. However, with the “stranger bark” then played as the fourth bark, the dogs quickly became alert, jumping up attentively. When the order of barks was reversed, the dogs’ reactions were the same–demonstrating alertness to the “stranger bark” and not so much interest in the “alone bark.” Similar experiments have also indicated that dogs can easily distinguish between the barks of different dogs.

As a further study, researchers played various dog barks to humans and found that most individuals could distinguish alone barks, stranger barks, playful barks and aggressive barks, but they did have a difficult time distinguishing the barks between different dogs unless they heard different dogs emit the stranger bark. The stranger bark is certainly one of the most distinguishable bark types, and if a dog owner chooses to become alerted to any one of their dog’s vocalizations, this is the one they should pay attention to. That said, it may take considerable more research to better understand exactly what a dog’s vocalizations mean.



January 16, 2017

Study Debates the Likelihood of Owners Catching Flu From Pets

No one likes getting sick, and unfortunately when we are sick we often discover that there’s little we can do but take our vitamins, rest and wait for full recovery. Our pets can help provide us with a lot of comfort during this time, especially since they are usually willing to stay cuddled up close despite all of the sneezing and coughing. But if they begin sneezing and coughing you may wonder whether it’s more than just a coincidence. More importantly, what if it had actually happened the other way around–you beginning to sneeze and cough after you had first noticed your pet doing so–would this be a coincidence?  Maybe not.

Transferring Illnesses Between Pets and Humans

Recently, a flu epidemic at a Manhattan animal shelter caused illness in forty-five cats and even developed into pneumonia which took the life of one senior cat. The cats displayed symptoms such as fever, runny nose, lip smacking and a persistent cough. When the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine researched into the cause of the outbreak, they discovered it was actually a mild bird flu which had been transferred to cats. Except for the elderly cat that contracted pneumonia and died as a result, the other cats were able to make a full recovery. There were also two documented cases of this same strain of bird flu occurring in humans–once in 2002 with a farmer who worked closely with chickens and again in 2003–in which both individuals made full recoveries. Furthermore, there was a strain of canine influenza that first reared its ugly head in the Midwest in 2015, only to show up a year later in cats in northwest Indiana. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has indicated that this particular canine influenza, identified as H3N2, has the ability to mutate into other viruses which can definitely spread to humans.

While cases of human flu developing from zoonotic illnesses (those that transfer from animals to humans) currently appear to be rare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does caution that flu viruses constantly change and evolve. This means that a zoonotic illness does have the potential to change so it can easily infect and spread between humans. Such a virus could have devastating results, since the human population would have very little, if any, immunity against it. An example of this is the H1N1 flu virus pandemic of 1918 and 1919, which is suspected to have caused up to fifty million human deaths worldwide. The source animal for this virus is still unknown, but the current strains of the H1N1 virus which can infect humans can also infect pigs, turkeys, ferrets, dogs, cats and even cheetahs.

In the same way that pets can spread illnesses to one another and to humans, humans can also potentially spread illnesses to pets. Some cats have developed antibodies to human viruses, which indicate that they were exposed to these viruses and they reacted to them.

As with any other medical condition that either humans or pets can experience, it is always better to be safe. It may be unlikely that you will catch your pet’s cold or flu, or that they will catch yours, but you should still follow basic illness prevention measures. For example, don’t nuzzle your face close to your pet when either one of you are ill, and always be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after sneezing or coughing into them, petting your cat, and before preparing food for yourself. This can help you to minimize the chance of contracting illness from any infectious disease.

Of course, if you are ill and simple home care doesn’t seem to be making a significant difference, you should seek proper medical care. And if your pet is ill it is always wise to consult with a veterinarian, just to ensure that your pet isn’t suffering a major medical issue or some other underlying condition that needs to be treated.



January 2, 2017

Study Examines Relationship Between Pets and Insomnia

Like a healthy diet and exercise regimen, sleep is critical to establishing and maintaining one’s good health.  It has actually been proven that the leading cause of various undesirable health conditions is a lack of sleep, and most individuals can attest to the fact that a good night’s sleep can do wonders for their mood and energy levels.  This may be why we also tend to turn to naps and earlier bedtimes when we feel even slightly under the weather–we naturally seem to understand the restorative benefits of getting good sleep and try to get more when it’s necessary.  So what happens when we can’t get the sleep we need and want?

Needless to say, it can be incredibly frustrating to deal with insomnia–especially when you feel so tired that it seems it should be easy to fall and stay asleep.  Unfortunately, insomnia does seem to strike us all at one point or another in our livesStudy Examines Relationship Between Pets and Insomnia and can be brought on by a variety of conditions, including poor health, anxiety or even depression.  Since no one relishes having to suffer through insomnia, we inevitably find ourselves going through the various motions of trying to deal with it.  However, this too can prove frustrating when nothing really works to resolve the problem, and one becomes increasingly exhausted.  Fortunately, there may be a good solution you have not tried yet: having your pets sleep with you.

The Relationship Between Pets and Insomnia

A new study suggests that individuals may be able to resolve their insomnia problems by inviting their pets into bed with them.  This is actually quite significant, considering that prior studies have recommended that all pets should be removed from the bedroom before bedtime in order to help ensure a good night’s sleep.  Certainly, if you have an extremely active young pet–like a kitten or puppy–or just a generally exuberant pet, you may find that their presence actually contributes to wakefulness and not sleep.  However, many mature animals are usually very happy to snuggle up with their owners in their bed and then fall into a deep, restful sleep, which is where they can best help their owners deal with insomnia problems.  Being able to pet or even just lay one’s hands on or next to a warm, calm sleeping pet can allow one to quiet their mind and fall into a deep, restorative sleep.

Joseph Krainin, the founder of Singular Sleep, once recommended that all pets be taken out of the bedroom at bedtime.  But after conducting a new study via social media, he decided to amend his recommendation.  In the new study, one thousand participants from around the world reported how their bed partners, or lack thereof, affected their insomnia.  Sixty percent of responders indicated that bringing pets into their bed either had no effect upon or improved their sleeping pattern.  Based on these results, Krainin determined that pets may be able to provide a comforting effect, and certainly are unlikely to adversely affect their owner’s sleep patterns.

It should be noted that cats may not be the best bed partners, simply because they are nocturnal and therefore less likely to sleep soundly throughout the entire night.  Most dogs, however, make fantastic bed partners as they will become comfortable and sleep the whole night through–sometimes even beyond their owner’s wake-up time.  Owners are also encouraged to be selective, as they are often able to determine which of their pets, if any, would be likely to aid them in their sleep, and which of their pets may only serve to keep them up all night long.



December 19, 2016

Study Details Role Pets Play in Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is commonly understood to be the aggressive or violent action of one individual against another or others in their household.  When considering those who are part of, influenced by and influential in domestic violence, one rarely looks beyond these two main categories.  Unfortunately, there are others who are commonly overlooked, and who can actually play a big role in both the victim’s safety as well as the progression of aggressive and violent behavior.

Pets and Domestic Violence

Pets are usually overlooked in domestic violence cases unless they defend the victim or attack the aggressor, but they actually play quite an important role.  As shocking as it may sound, the very existence of household pets can actually worsen a domestic violence situation, as the victim may be more concerned about their pet’s health and safety than they are about their own health and safety.  This concern may cause them to remain in a dangerous situation in an effort to “protect” their pet, which unfortunately can turn out ill for both of them.

In various studies that were published between the years of 2007 and 2008, a significant amount of domestic violence survivors indicated that concern about the safety of their pets delayed them from seeking shelter for themselves when they otherwise knew it was appropriate.  Roughly thirty percent of responders indicated that they had hesitated to seek shelter because they were concerned for their pet’s welfare if they left him behind, and roughly twenty-five percent of responders indicated that they actually returned to their abusive partner because they were concerned for their pet.  Unfortunately, this worry is not entirely unfounded.  Other studies have shown that domestic violence aggressors often purposely target household pets in order to exert some degree of control over their victims, seeing as how many pet owners willingly place themselves in harm’s way in order to protect their pet.  More than fifty percent of all pet-owning women who entered domestic violence shelters have confirmed that their abuser threatened, harmed or even killed a family pet.

It is estimated that twenty-five percent of all American women experience some form and degree of domestic violence at least once in their life, and one woman in America is abused every nine seconds.  Women need to understand that domestic violence is absolutely unacceptable and should never be tolerated in any form or degree for even a single second, for any reason.  If they feel that the welfare of their pets is of great enough concern to them that they will put their own health, safety and welfare in danger, they need an option to get out of the home with their pets.  There are those that believe that offering safe shelter to victims of domestic violence includes providing full shelter to the victim and any other living things they are concerned about–including their pets.  Currently, only three percent of domestic violence shelters across the nation allow victims to bring their pets with them.  One could reasonably argue that this is tantamount to stating that ninety-seven percent of domestic violence shelters across the nation aren’t actually making a reasonable effort to provide victims with the safe haven they truly need and desire.

Thirty-one states across the country, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have recognized the increased dangers inherent in domestic violence that occurs in a house with pets and have passed laws that are designed to protect the pets of domestic violence victims.  The Pet and Woman Safety Act is designed to operate at a federal level and intends to criminalize the intentional targeting of a domestic partner’s pet with the intention of intimidating, harassing, injuring or killing said pet.  This bill also seeks to establish grants that will help to provide adequate shelter for domestic violence victims and their pets.  Additionally, domestic violence shelters would do well to ask victims whether there are pets in their home that are in danger.  Even if the domestic violence shelters cannot themselves take in these pets, they can coordinate with local animal shelters and veterinarians to help provide alternative housing options, and thereby stabilize a victim’s recovery path.



December 5, 2016

Study Examines the Memory Capacity of Dogs

Dogs are loving, devoted and faithful companions that can dramatically improve their owner’s health and life.  Studies have indicated that dogs can help to eliminate their owner’s stress and reduce high blood pressure.  They are also wonderfully whimsical in their actions and behavior, and can often cause their owners to wonder what they are thinking, or how well they learn and remember things.

The Memory Capacity of Dogs

Dog owners have often wondered about their canine companion’s memory capacity, and it is a subject about which there is often a considerable amount of confusion.  On the one hand, dogs seem to innocently forget many things after even just a few seconds, but on the other hand they also seem to remember certain commands and objects for a very long time.  Fortunately, researchers from Hungary have been able to put an end to the questions and confusion.

A study into the memory capacity of dogs has indicated that dogs not only have incredibly memories, they can remember many things–more than just objects and commands.  Like humans, dogs can remember certain events and situations with what is called an episodic memory.  Humans also possess a semantic memory, which gives them the ability to remember general information and knowledge they have gained over years of time.  This is not normally a type of memory possessed by animals, but prior research has indicated that dogs also use semantic memory.  However, it was once believed that this was the only type of memory they used.

According to the new study, a dog’s memory is far more complex than previously believed.  It was previously understood that only a few animals, including rats, monkeys and birds, had episodic memory.  However, the study was able to prove that dogs may indeed possess episodic memory abilities.

As part of the study, researchers trained seventeen different dogs in a method called “do as I do”.  The intention of this type of training is to encourage the dog to do whatever his owner is doing, whether it is touching a chair or moving to a different spot in the room.  Once the dogs became familiar and comfortable with this training method, the researchers asked the dogs to sit instead of performing whatever action their owner was performing.  Once the dogs became familiar and comfortable with this action, the researchers then had the dogs watch the action being performed, then were asked to sit, and then told to repeat the action.

Even after the training game was changed several times, the dogs remembered what they were supposed to do and performed admirably.  More than thirty percent of the dogs remembered the original commands and started to repeat the actions they were shown.  Of course, some critics feel that this doesn’t actually prove dogs have a good memory–just that they can learn things very quickly.  However, one could argue that any living thing’s ability to learn well is largely dependent upon their memory abilities, as it is our memory that allows us to gather information in order to make informed decisions and choices.  Researchers admit that further studies will be necessary in order to fully understand how dogs’ memories work, and how they may be able to be improved.  Those who are blessed to share their lives with dogs may feel that further research is actually entirely unnecessary, as it is clear to them that their beloved furry companions are incredibly smart, and possess remarkable memory abilities–ones that permit them to remember those things that serve them well to remember and forget those things that they want to.


Your Dog’s Memory Might be Better Than You Think