All posts by Dr. Marty Becker

Talley Becker

Remember Me Thursday: Inspire change for pets in need on Sept. 27!

The most powerful inspiration to get people to adopt is the pets themselves! That’s why I’m asking you to once again help homeless pets with a simple social media post.

If we all share our rescue pets with #RememberMeThursday, we will inspire the world to find forever families for every pet who needs one.

Be a light for rescue pets on Thursday, Sept. 27.

To learn more about #RememberMeThursday, visit www.remembermethursday.org.

Quill'N Becker

QT and Quixote

 

Three American Bulldogs with their noses to the ground, tails wagging

Canine Confidential: A great book about what dogs do, written for people who love them

Are you looking for a book about animals that will inform you, uplift you, and make you think?

Every since they introduced in-flight wifi, the amount of reading I do on airplanes (which is where I seem to spend half my life) has dropped dramatically. But when Fear Free Advisory Group member Dr. Marc Bekoff’s new book, Canine Confidential: Why Dogs Do What They Do, found its way into my carry-on bag, I decided to skip the laptop and dig into a good book.

Now, Dr. Bekoff is an impressive guy. The author of 30 books, he’s professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, a former Guggenheim Fellow, and co-founder (with Jane Goodall) of Ethologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In fact, just reading his bio gives me an inferiority complex. And Canine Confidential is good, too — but in addition to being good, it’s a good read.

He takes us from the dog park to scientific journals to our homes and yards, to share his deep-based understanding of how dogs behave and why. (Although he admits the answer to “Why?” is often “We don’t know… yet.”) He also takes a stand on the issue of “dominance” training, and explains why positive approaches to learning in dogs are the most effective.

I couldn’t have enjoyed Canine Confidential more, both as a veterinarian and a dog owner/lover. Definitely worth the read, even if there is wifi on your flight!

Cat

How to manage your cat’s allergies

Allergies can make your cat itchy, painful, and miserable. And that makes a loving cat owner miserable, too. Here is what I told a reader struggling with severe allergies in her cat.

Q: My cat is allergic to everything: fleas, food, pollen, etc. She has scratched and bitten all the fur off her belly and chews at her legs. How can we manage her condition and help her stay comfortable?

A: That’s a triple-whammy! We often see flea-bite allergies in cats, and environmental allergies aren’t unusual either. Food allergies are less common, but they definitely occur. Signs for all three can be similar: scratching, biting, rubbing and grooming excessively. Other signs include sneezing, watery eyes and ear infections. All of those things add up to one seriously uncomfortable cat!

Treatment is individualized to each cat because they all have different signs. Beyond corticosteroids, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines, cyclosporine and allergy shots. All of these may play a role in helping to reduce your cat’s intense itching.

Used with antihistamines, essential fatty acid supplements may contribute to itch relief, too, according to some veterinary dermatologists. In dogs, applying EFAs topically has been found to help improve what’s known as barrier function — the skin’s ability to repel pathogens that can aggravate atopic dermatitis. We don’t know if that works in cats, but it’s something to ask your veterinarian about.

It can be challenging and time-consuming to determine exactly what your cat is allergic to so you can get her on a program to keep symptoms under control. It may be necessary to restrict her diet — called an elimination diet — and then gradually add back specific ingredients to figure out which ones are setting off her allergies. Be prepared for the process to take as long as several months. If possible, enlist the services of a board-certified veterinary dermatologist who can perform allergy testing and recommend other environmental or dietary changes, as well as appropriate medication. Your veterinarian may be able to refer you to someone locally, or you can find one through the American College of Veterinary Dermatology.

Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.

QT and Quixote

Has an adopted pet changed your life? Your story could be a lifesaver!

Has your adopted pet changed your life?I know that every beloved pet we’ve rescued from a shelter, rescue group, or the streets has added love and beauty to our lives and our family. I bet the same is true for you and your beloved adopted pets!

This season, our good friends at the Petco Foundation, who give so much to animals and shelters throughout the year, want to hear the story of how your adopted pet changed your life!

Tell your tale and you could win a lifesaving grant of up to $100,000 for the animal welfare organization you adopted from, and a Petco shopping spree for you and your pet during their Holiday Wishes campaign! Visit petcofoundation.org/holidaywishes to share your story!

aggressive cat shows teeth and hisses

Cat with two personalities

Have you ever known a cat who veered from nice to naughty and back again? That was the problem facing a reader, and as I always do when faced with behavior questions, I recruited my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, to respond.

Q: Our cat seems to have two personalities. She is an 8-year-old rescue that we have had for a few months. She can be sweet when she wants to sit by us or when she jumps up on our bed, but more often, she is on the defensive. When we bend down to pet her, she usually tries to bite. Sometimes she reaches out for passing legs. No one dares pick her up. Any suggestions? Do you think it had something to do with her previous life?

A: Cats are more comfortable when they are the ones doing the “choosing” when it comes to initiating closeness or interaction with a person, especially if they’re fearful. Acting out when being petted could be a defensive response caused by fear. Swatting at legs as people walk by could be a type of predatory play behavior.

A consultation with a Fear Free-certified veterinarian, veterinary behaviorist or certified applied animal behaviorist who can see your cat’s behavior in person could help you get a better picture of why your cat acts the way she does or uncover underlying health issues that may be contributing to her behavior.

What animals learn during early life can forever impact their adult personalities and comfort level with humans and their environment. Animals can still learn throughout life, but their basic resilience in the face of stress is formed early. That said, you can do some training exercises to build your relationship, communication and her confidence. One is to turn petting into a positive by pairing the reach of your hand with a desirable reward, such as a favorite treat or toy. A skilled behaviorist or trainer can offer other suggestions. — Mikkel Becker

Read more in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.