This May Be The Reason Your Dog Curls up to Sleep.

 

Nothing is cuter than when a dog curls up to sleep. But why do they do it? My dog Radar has a pre-sleep ritual. He’ll wait to be invited onto the bed, dig in the blankets to make a nest, and turn in circles until he’s found the perfect spot to curl up in. Radar almost always curls up to sleep, even when it means squishing himself into a seemingly too-small space.

Some dogs sleep stretched out on their sides. Others contort themselves into uncomfortable-looking sleep positions. But many dogs curl up to sleep like my Radar. And it’s not just a preference: curling up to sleep has practical benefits for dogs.

Canine sleep habits
Like humans, dogs like to be comfortable when they sleep. Although some dog sleep positions look uncomfortable from the outside, for your pooch, they’re just perfect.

Common dog sleep positions include:

  • On their side
  • On their tummy
  • On their back with their paws up in the air
  • Snuggled up with their favorite human or animal friend
  • Curled up in a ball

All of the above sleep positions have their benefits. For instance, sleeping sprawled out on their side or tummy can help dogs cool off in warmer months. In general, dogs fall asleep in positions that offer physical comfort and psychological safety.

A dog curls up to sleep for warmth
The most obvious reason dogs curl up to sleep is for warmth. By curling tightly into a ball, and tucking their nose under their tail, they conserve body heat. Consider how you sleep when it’s cold: bundled up under warm blankets, possibly with your knees drawn up to your chest, or even snuggled around your sleeping dog.

Huddling up for warmth is an instinctual behavior in mammals. You and your dog have a lot in common!
Your dog’s tendency to curl up to sleep goes back to their origins. Before they were domesticated, dogs slept in dens and made nests to keep warm at night. Even though your dog has a warm, dry shelter, they still have hardwired behaviors from their ancestor’s pre-domestic days. This may also explain why dogs “make the bed” by digging into blankets or the couch. They’re preparing their nest for the night.

Dogs curl up for security
Another reason dogs curl up when they sleep is to feel safe. You may have heard that dogs show their stomachs when they’re comfortable. Conversely, they curl up to protect their tummy in vulnerable situations. Curling up to sleep protects dogs’ vulnerable organs from would-be predators. Curling up to sleep can also offer psychological comfort to dogs who feel unsafe. Consider how often you see photos of dogs in animal shelters, huddled or curled up in the corner of their kennel. In a noisy, intimidating environment, curling up to sleep can help dogs feel protected and safe.

Dogs curl up for comfort (even if it doesn’t look that way to you)
In truth, the main reason dogs choose one sleep position over the other is simple: it’s comfortable!

When your dog curls up to sleep, whether for warmth or protection, they’re mainly just trying to get comfortable. Even if they sleep in a crate, as long as they have space to stand up, stretch out, turn around, and lie down, they can get a great night’s sleep.

You can help make your dog more comfortable by providing space and soft surfaces for sleeping. Give them a soft blanket or pillow to use in their “nest.”

And for added cuteness, keep a teddy bear or other stuffed toy around. Curling up to sleep is always nicer with a friend to snuggle!

What Does it Mean When a Dog Is Tilting His Head?

When your dog cocks his head from side to side, it’s not because he knows you think it’s cute — not always, anyway. He does it for a combination of reasons, but they aren’t all adorable. It could indicate an illness, so watch out for other signs of health trouble.

Poor Balance

A dog who tilts his head often could be suffering from poor balance and is trying to compensate. Your dog’s vestibular system, deep down in his inner ear, controls his balance and his ability to gauge his posture. Vestibular disease, which can be caused by conditions such as injury, nutritional deficiency, parasites or more, affects the vestibular system. Your dog’s balance suffers, and he tilts his head to try to stay level. Other symptoms include frequent falling down, nausea and poor coordination — if your dog appears to be struggling, contact your vet.

Better Hearing

Your dog may tilt his head when you speak to him as a way of trying to hear you more clearly — think of it like adjusting your earbuds when you listen to music. While dogs generally have excellent hearing, their outer ears don’t automatically adjust and hone in on sounds like yours do. He has to tilt and turn his head as a way of funneling sound into his ear. You may notice that he does the head tilt more often when you’re directly in front of him than when you’re to the side — that’s because when you’re face-to-face, the sound isn’t going straight into his ears, and he has to point them at you.

Communicating Back

Dogs don’t communicate by listening alone — they are visual communicators that rely on body language. In fact, they communicate with body language so much that the same part of the brain that controls listening to sound also controls movements of the head and face. This means that while your dog is listening to something, like you asking him for the hundredth time who a good boy is, he’s working his face and head muscles to “talk” back, and show you his reaction and/or comprehension.

Learned Behavior

Dogs learn from consistency. When it comes to getting positive attention from their people, they can learn quickly. When your dog does something cute like tilting his fuzzy little head, you can’t resist fawning a little bit — it’s OK to admit it. Once your dog gets that positive reaction from you a few times, though, he realizes that tilting his head is the key to making you gush — and he’ll milk it for all it’s worth. Dogs aren’t always too proud to perform a little, especially when affection and treats are at stake, so sometimes they just tilt their heads because they know how much you love it.

 

OTHER DOGS TILT THEIR HEADS FOR DIFFERENT REASONS

Many dogs have learned to cock their heads to the side simply because they get a reward. What is the reward? Well, remember at the beginning of this article how I mentioned that this gesture is just too cute?

Your immediate response is to say something like, “Awwwww, like at Buddy with his head turned to the side, how cute!” followed by lots of petting and soothing tones. This is a reward, and some dogs may have turned their heads to the side a few times in the beginning, but soon enough learned that this will give them lots of that lovable attention.

So if you have ever given a dog this kind of attention after it has tilted its head in a really cute way then you have just positively reinforced that behavior. And you know what? The dog will remember this and might do this more often – not to hear better, but to feel better.

HUMAN SPEECH & YOUR DOG

Dogs can understand part of our human language, but most of it is just a fuzzy blur to them. Almost like when a human hears a foreign language. Dogs cannot take in everything we say. But canines are very good at observing and becoming familiar with human tone of voice, body language as well as eye movement.

Trying To Absorb Every Sound He Can

It is when a dog notices something of interest that its ears perk up to catch all the sounds. If the sound comes from the front your dog might cock its head in the direction of the sound, but if the sound is coming from a direction to the side of him then there is not likely going to be any head tilting. Why? The ears are in the perfect spot all ready to pick up the minutest of sounds.

A dog’s ear shape and position will have something to do with how the dog perceives sound and how often a head tilt might be noticed. Even the age and experience of the dog play a role in this. A German shepherd with pricked up ears might hear better from the front than a cocker spaniel who would hear better from the side. Certainly, a long floppy eared dog would be seen tilting its head more often than a dog with open ears.

So, trying to understand why a dog tilts his head we learn it’s probably down to the dog trying to understand us or the strange noises of our world. It’s been said that a dog who tilts their head to the side is showing intelligence. A very subjective position to take. Canine intelligence is still a largely disputed area of scientific study. A clever dog is not always a dog who happens to be what we like to call ‘obedient’. However, head tilting by dogs does tend to suggest an advanced propensity to want to understand and identify an audible stimulus.

 

Five Ways Your Pet Helps Reduce Holiday Stress

It’s the most stressful time of the year. But it doesn’t have to be. Read on to see how your pet can reduce your holiday stress!

Once you’ve experienced enough Decembers, you know the drill. This holiday season, you’ll attend fabulous parties sporting your trademark ugly sweater, be reunited with that group of relatives you’re fine with only seeing annually, and endure enough stress to last all year long.

Yes, holiday stress is inevitable. Like overspending and overeating, it comes with the territory. As you proceed with coordinating gatherings, hanging decorations, and attempting to remain within your spending budget this holiday season, your stress level is bound to grow.

But thankfully, you have a secret (and non-alcoholic) weapon to combat stress. Enter your pet – your ever-loyal friend, confidant, and sanity-keeper. Since your dog or cat’s holiday stress level is comparatively minimal, you can balance each other out.

Here are five ways your pet can help you remain as happy and carefree as a gift-awaiting child this holiday season.

How Your Pet Can Reduce Your Holiday Stress

1. Constant Companionship

As you scramble around the house completing holiday preparations, your pet will be right there with you, operating as your secondary shadow. Your dog or cat will keep you company whether you’re wrapping gifts in the living room or baking up a holiday storm in the kitchen. Always aiming to please, your pet is by your side, adapting to your hectic schedule. You can confide in your pet regarding the true source of your stress, or simply talk to him in order to relieve loneliness.

2. Warm Bedmate

Achieving ample sleep is key to controlling holiday stress. When it comes to your dog or cat, you have a furry, snuggly sleeping aid. Those cold holiday nights will be much cozier when you have your pet’s warm body producing heat nearby. And your dog or cat’s mere presence – and gentle snoring – will help soothe you to sleep. Why let the stressful obligations of the upcoming day race through your head when you should be enjoying pet-aided rest?

3. Exercise Partner

When you worry about holiday weight gain, you get stressed. And when you cope with stress by eating, you gain weight. It’s a vicious cycle that your dog can help you avoid. Twice-daily walks in the morning and evening can bolster both your sanity level and your pooch’s well-being. The stress-relieving powers of adequate exercise are well-documented. Escape your holiday anxiety by stepping outside into the crisp air for 15 minutes. Your dog will be thrilled to partake, even if it’s snowy and cold.

4. Comic Relief

Sometimes you just need a good laugh to stave off holiday stress. When your fully-decorated Christmas tree topples over or you accidentally regift that malfunctioning blender to Aunt Jackie, there’s not much else you can do. As luck would have it, your pet is a king of unintentional comedy. Whether he’s creating mischief by carrying a stocking around the room or wearing a gift bow as a hat, your dog or cat’s antics are sure to induce a chuckle or two. Hearty laughter will vanquish your stress, whether it’s attributable to your pet’s natural hilariousness or to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

5. Therapeutic Presence

The cost for an hour of private counseling to treat your anxiety can exceed $200. Save that money to find the perfect holiday gift for your spouse, and instead rely on your dog or cat to be your living stress ball. Your pet is blessed with a naturally therapeutic presence. Oodles of research indicate that simply petting your dog or communicating with your cat can relax you and lower your blood pressure. With your dog or cat serving as your loving therapist (and only charging mealtime + attention), your holiday stress doesn’t stand a chance.

Put Your Pet on The Path to Perfect Health

There is no doubt that a healthy diet is the best way for your dog or cat to get the essential vitamins and minerals necessary for maintaining health and warding off illness and disease. But unfortunately, our hectic lifestyles prevent most of us from making dog and cat food from scratch with fresh, natural whole foods. Even if you feed your pet a natural, high-quality commercial food, chances are it still does not provide all the natural vitamins and minerals that an animal needs to stay healthy and strong.

A high-quality daily vitamin can supplement your dog or cat with the optimal level of nutrients that may be missing from their food.

Extensive research has shown that modern-day ailments are caused by nutrient deficiencies and exposure to environmental toxins. Luckily, there is something we can do to support the health and the normal growth and development of our cats and dogs. Enhancing your pet’s diet with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids, we can help make up for nutritional deficiencies…which means your best friend will stay healthier longer.

So stack the odds in your pet’s favor. Start today by giving your pet, or friends pets the nutrients they need for a balanced health.

Give the gift of NuVet “Your Pet’s Best Friend.”

NuVet Labs spent more than eight years to create a product designed to provide the best immune system support possible. NuVet products are made in an FDA registered lab with natural, human-grade ingredients compounded to deliver the most effective nutritional health benefits. It is their pledge to the millions of pets, and to their human families, “To continually produce the most powerful nutritional supplements that support pet’s health and keep them that way for a lifetime.”

Try NuVet or give NuVet to a loved one’s pet and decide for yourself!

 

How and why dogs play

Play, by definition, is fun. When play stops being fun it stops being play. Play is a pleasurable activity during which animals engage in behaviors that are not part of the immediate business of life, but rather are performed in mimicry, rehearsal or display. During play, dogs behave without real seriousness – running, jumping, chasing, mouthing, chewing, wrestling, biting, hiding and even humping. In play, all behaviors are a game to the players and are performed for fun. There is no hidden agenda.

Dogs have a unique gesture, the play bow, that signals “play mode.” The signal involves dogs going down on their elbows with their rear end elevated, tail raised and wagging. During such posturing, they have on their “play face,” with mouth open and ears pricked. They may bark to signal their wish to solicit another’s involvement, and may approach or withdraw from a potential play partner while pouncing and leaping about.

Play is usually, but not always, between two or more individuals. Sometimes dogs without partners will play by themselves. Solitary play is a rather sad event and may even have unwanted long-term repercussions.

Why Do Dogs Play?

It has been suggested that play is a necessary part of growing up for all young social animals and that without it they may not develop to their full potential. This does not appear to be the case, as animals deprived of play for reasons of sickness or ill health grow up to be behaviorally indistinguishable from their play-satiated peers. This is not to say that “players” may not develop more rapidly than their play-deprived peers, just that the end result often turns out to be more or less the same.

If play is not absolutely imperative for normal development to develop, what good is it? Well, play is a role-playing rehearsal for adult behaviors and as such will prepare a youngster for what lies ahead. During play, pups exercise their bodies and minds, making them healthier and smarter for it. In nature, this may give players the edge over their unrehearsed counterparts who may be still struggling to learn the Ps and Qs of canine etiquette or the rudiments of the chase. Note that different types of play unfold in parallel with sensitive periods of learning, so that play learning is most efficient. Mouthiness is first seen at 3 weeks of age, right after the transitional period. Then come play solicitation, play fighting, scruff holding, deference, and finally sexual play.

All these forms of play start in the socialization period between 3 and 6 weeks of age and they intensify as the pup approaches adolescence. Object play, chewing and chasing objects, occurs a little later, becoming most intense after about 16 to 20 weeks of age.

Types of Ways Dogs Play

Social Dog Play
Social skills are honed by playful interactions between individuals. One pup may jump on another pup, pin him, and then mouth him around the head and neck. If the pressure of the pup’s bite exceeds tolerable limits, the temporary underdog will roll over, yelp or run away. Both parties learn an important lesson. The biter learns to inhibit his bite if he wishes the fun to continue, and the pup that is bitten learns that deference or escape will cause the unpleasant experience to come to an end. Of course, sudden role reversal is also a feature of play, with provisional subordinates suddenly becoming pursuers and “attackers.” A happy medium is reached when truly dominant dogs learn their gift for mastery, and subordinates learn how to avoid or deter unpleasant exchanges. This dynamic may explain why dominant dogs are less successful than their subordinates in soliciting play. Aloof pups that don’t play much, and orphaned pups, often grow up to be socially inappropriate. In repelling borders, they may send a message that is too profound, failing to inhibit their bite – and they may not be able to deliver convincing messages of deference.

Sexual Dog Play

This mostly takes the form of mounting, clasping and pelvic thrusting (“humping”). The lack of seriousness is indicated by the somewhat haphazard orientation of this behavior, initially. Male and female pups are equally likely to be targeted, or in their absence, peoples’ legs and cushions may have to suffice. Dogs that have had no humping experience will not be as immediately successful in mating as previously rehearsed counterparts. Also, dogs without playmates may imprint on inanimate objects or human appendages as substrates for humping behavior, and become an embarrassment to own if not neutered. In addition, the relationship between humping and dominance must be born in mind if the correct human-companion animal relationship is to be preserved.

Oral Dog Play
Young puppies have a biological need to mouth and chew malleable objects. It seems to give them almost undue pleasure. Unlike social and sexual play, this type of play does not require a partner, though socially-testing tug-of-war games sometimes evolve as a spin off. Of course, by teething time, at around 6 to 8 months of age, object chewing becomes an extremely useful adjuvant to assist with tooth loosening and dental eruption, and may even provide some relief from gingival discomfort.

Predatory Dog Play
Chasing moving objects is a sure way of fine-tuning predatory skills. Ball chasing, stick chasing, and leaf chasing, are all ways in which this play form is expressed. With appropriate opportunity and guidance, pups will learn the ins and outs of the chase – how to accelerate, turn on a dime, brake suddenly, and how to pounce with accuracy and alacrity. If deprived of play predatory opportunities, dogs may resort to vacuum chasing of imaginary creatures, may pace, circle, or chase their own tails. This is a sad state of affairs.

Playtime as Dogs Age

In many species, like wolves, play is pretty much restricted to juveniles and adolescents. Adults do not normally have the time or energy to waste in such trivial pursuits. Domestic dogs, however, seem to be enduringly suspended in a juvenile frame of mind. Thus play is not something they outgrow but rather an activity they keenly pursue throughout their lives. Unhealthy and unhappy dogs do not play, so play serves as a barometer of well being, indicating that a dog is well fed, in good health, and content. Dogs, like humans, do not play when they’re sad or distressed. Dogs that do not seem to enjoy playing should be carefully scrutinized to make sure all is well in their lives.

Written by Dr. Nicholas Dodman for petplace.com

3 Ways Playing in Puddles Could be Deadly to Your Dog

There’s a lot to be said for a vigorous walk with your dog after a heavy rainstorm. The landscape appears refreshed, the air smells great, and you and your dog get to unleash some cabin fever!

1. Leptospirosis from puddles
Leptospirosis organisms are bacteria that thrive in wet climates. Wild animals, particularly deer and rodents, and some domesticated animals (cows, sheep and pigs) can be leptospirosis carriers. Although infected, these mammals maintain good health while shedding leptospirosis organisms in their urine.

Dogs can contract leptospirosis by drinking from water sources contaminated with urine from an infected animal. Puddles that have formed from rain runoff certainly qualify as such a source. A 2002 study on the prevalence of canine leptospirosis in the United States and Canada revealed that disease prevalence correlates with the amount of rainfall. The more rain, the more dogs diagnosed with leptospirosis.

Not all dogs become sick when exposed to Leptospirosism, but for those that do, the results can be devastating. Leptospirosis most commonly causes kidney failure. Associated symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite. The liver and lungs are also targets for this disease. The diagnosis of leptospirosis is made via blood and urine testing. Successful treatment consists of antibiotics and supportive therapy such as supplemental fluids.

The leptospirosis vaccination does a good job of protecting against this disease. Talk with your veterinarian about whether or not this vaccine makes sense given where you live and the nature of your dog’s extracurricular activities.

2. Giardia from puddles
Giardia organisms are microscopic protozoa that live within the intestinal tracts of a variety of domesticated and wild animals. The infectious (contagious) forms are shed within the feces and readily contaminate water sources. This is one of the main reasons it is recommended that drinking hikers and backpackers drink only filtered water. A 2012 study documented that dogs who attend dog parks are more likely to test positive for giardia than those who do not attend dog parks.

The most common symptom caused by giardiasis in dogs is diarrhea. Vomiting and loss of appetite may also occur. The diagnosis is made via stool sample testing. A handful of medications can be used to rid the intestinal tract of giardia. Metronidazole and fenbendazole are the two most commonly used.

3. Antifreeze puddles
Consumption of only a very tiny amount of antifreeze can have devastating consequences for dogs. Ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze, causes acute, often irreversible kidney failure. Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, weakness and ultimately coma and/or seizures. The diagnosis is made based on history, urine and blood testing. Unfortunately, even with aggressive therapy, many dogs suffering from antifreeze toxicity don’t survive.

Until relatively recently, antifreeze had a sweet taste rendering it all the more enticing to dogs and children. In 2012 antifreeze manufacturers were forced to add a bittering agent to their products. Even with the addition of a bitter taste, vigilance is required to prevent antifreeze toxicity. A small amount of antifreeze within a puddle may not be enough to deter a thirsty dog from drinking.

Antifreeze sources include open product containers and antifreeze leaks from the undercarriage of vehicles. When with your dog, be sure to avoid puddles that have formed in and around parking lots.

Take home message
My goal in telling you about the potential perils of puddles isn’t to convince you to confine your dogs indoors. Heck, my dogs hike with me daily, rain or shine. Rather, my objective is to increase your awareness so that you will be mindful about where your dog drinks when out and about with you (no parking lot puddles!). I encourage you to maintain awareness of the symptoms of leptospirosis, giardiasis and antifreeze toxicity so that, if observed, you will seek veterinary attention right away.

Questions to ask your veterinarian
• What symptoms should I be watching for after I’ve observed my dog drinking from puddles?
• What should I do if I observe any of these symptoms?
• Are there certain places where I should be sure to avoid letting my dog drink from puddles?
• Should I consider the leptospirosis vaccine for my dog?
 
If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian — they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Written by Dr. Nancy Kay, DVM, DACVIM for Pet Health Network Newsletter: www.pethealthnetwork.com