Bird Tricks and Treats: Part I

The saying “bird brained” has sometimes been used as an insult. The truth of the matter is that birds of all kinds have complicated brains and are incredibly intelligent. Due to this intelligence, birds (especially parrots) will need to stay mentally active. Providing a variety of toys and rearranging perches and swings will help keep your bird mentally stimulated. However, just using these items by themselves may not be enough for your birds. Training them new tricks and continuing to practice these tricks will keep your birds thinking as well as a providing chances to bond with you more. Let’s learn some tips for training and a few simple tricks to begin with.

A parrot having fun and enjoying a Halloween treat.

Training Tips

When you’re first starting to teach your companion bird, make sure they are already somewhat comfortable with your presence. Some tricks may require you holding the bird while others can be expanded upon to achieve physical contact. Setting the pace for training is up to the bird. Positive reinforcement is the best way for the bird to progress. Because of their intelligence, birds will remember the reward they receive consistently when preforming the trick, however, they will also remember punishment or any negative reinforcement.

The best item to help with positive reinforcement is the use of treats. Treats are an excellent way to show that your bird is performing the correct activity. Training treats are a bit different from regular, everyday treats. A training treat is a treat that is highly desired by the bird but is also not so filling that they will become full during the training session. It is a special, favorite treat that they do not get often. Some possible training treats include a bite of sprayed millet, seeds, nuts, bird pellets, fruits, and vegetables. You can remove the bird’s food from the cage for a maximum of three hours before training sessions so that your bird is a bit hungry and will have a greater response to treats. Also, you can offer different treats throughout the training session. Start out with a treat that the bird enjoys and as training session continues, offer one that is more desired and finally towards the end, offer their favorite treat. For example, let’s say you are training your cockatoo: you first offer it a sunflower seed after each correct action in training, as the bird progresses maybe offer out a pellet treat that it enjoys. Finally, when your cockatoo has done such a good job in training for the day, give it a bite of fresh banana for each correct action until you are ready to end training.

Peanuts are a possible special treat.

It is always important to stay patient with training. In this same thought pattern it is also helpful to keep training sessions short. When the bird starts to act out or lose interest, it is best to end training for the time. You can do a few training sessions a day with break times in between. Training should take place in a safe area without places for the bird to fly off and potentially get injured and training should also take place in a neutral space. Neutral spaces are areas that is not designated as “the birds” space or areas that can be defined as “your” space. Often a bathroom works well as a neutral space. Bathrooms typically have minimum things hanging from the ceiling, is a space that neither you nor the bird spend great quantity of time in, and is an easily-controlled small space. However, for some tricks it might be easier to begin in the birds cages versus the neutral space. It all depends on the type of trick you are teaching and if it’s one that will be used while your bird is in the cage.

When training, it is important to take small steps. Remember that when you’re just starting to train your bird, you will not have the trick mastered by the end of the session. Keep working on it for several training sessions and continue to revisit the trick often so you and the bird do not forget it. It is always important to end all training sessions positive note. Ending positively helps you and your bird wrap up and feel accomplished even if you do not feel like much progress has been made. When you end on a bad note, you and your bird will feel frustrated and it is likely you will also both feel this way when you’re starting the next session. Ending in a good, positive way will make both of you feel successful and start the next session fresh and renewed.

Step Up

The trick of “step up” is a great one to start a birds training with and can become a use full everyday trick to know. The goal of “step up” is to have the bird step onto a surface such as a perch or a hand where you can then transport the bird somewhere else calmly and safely. This is a great trick for when your bird becomes more use too human contact and is an easy way to place them in and out of the cage. This is a trick that you can begin to train your bird inside its cage and is a good trick to begin with a shyer bird.

A hesitant budgie trying a bite of millet.

1) To begin “step up”, you can start with your hand open inside their cage, holding some treats while your bird is on a perch. Your goal is to have the bird feel comfortable eating out of your hand or even standing on your hand. The treat is both a lure and a reward at this point, and you should praise your bird for accomplishing each step in training.

2) Next, you are going to hold the treat in one hand and have the other hand either holding a perch for the bird to “step up” on, or have your hand with one or two fingers pointed so they can “step up” onto it. Hold the item that you want the bird to “step up” on in front of the bird on the perch but at a higher level than the current perch, just below the bird’s chest level. Hold the treat behind the “step up” item to help entice the bird onto it. When the bird puts a foot or completely moves onto the “step up” item, say the command “step up” while in fluxing your voice higher on the word “up”.

3) Once your bird is comfortable on the “step up” item, slowly move that item over and behind their original perch so that it becomes the new step up item. Situate the bird so that the new “step up” item is a bit higher then where your bird is currently standing, about the bird’s chest level. Say “step up” with the same voice flux as before and lure the bird onto this perch with a treat.

One small step for bird.

4) Finally, when your bird is more comfortable with the step up command, you may remove it from its cage using this command and practice this trick more. Using both hands as a continuous ladder makes a fun and easy way to practice this command.

Stay tuned for Part II coming out soon!

Ashley Gurnea, our Avian Editor, is a certified bird feeding specialist at Wild Birds Unlimited. A graduate from New Mexico State University, Ashley earned her bachelor degree in the field of Animal Science. She completed an internship at an exotic animal park, working with animals ranging from camels to porcupines and a variety of birds such as parrots and cockatoos. This love and curiosity of aviary has led her to her current position at Wild Birds Unlimited in Las Cruces where she remains up to date with local wild feeder birds. Growing up in a home where animals have always been present, Ashley is now a self-proclaimed “Corgi Countess” due to her love and adoration for her tricolor Pembroke welsh corgi, Colin.  Bring up anything corgi or bird related in a conversation and Ashley will be happy to share her many photos. Feel free to ask her about pet birds, and visit Wild Birds Unlimited for questions on wild birds! Ashley can be reached at

Six Ways to Get Your Cat to Like Using the Litter Box

Do you have a problem with your cat not liking their litter box? Not only does it make a stink around the house, but it’s such a hassle to clean up after a cat that hates litter! Fortunately, there are ways to remedy that. So read on as I show you the six ways to get your cat to like using the litter box.

Even if you have the best automatic litter box or the fanciest toys, your cat may not like (or isn’t used to) using the litter box. That’s why I rounded up these six tips that are proven easy and effective methods to follow:

An automatic litter box.

Have More Than One Litter Box

One reason as to why your cat may not like the litter box is because he has competition with other cats, or because he isn’t able to access the one you have at all times. It’s best to have one litter box per cat and an extra one just in case. This is for convenience for your cat. And it will lessen the tension if you have cats who have to compete for the litter box. After all, some cats don’t like to share!

Check the Litter Box’s Location

Another reason why your cat isn’t fond of his litter box is because of its location. Make sure that you put it in a strategic area where it is easily accessible but low in traffic. Cats enjoy their privacy and would want something they can quickly go to when they need. Do not place the litter box near their food (who wants to do their job near where they are eating?) and keep it on the ground floor if they are unable to climb up the stairs.

This litter box is a bit of a tight fit.

Get the Right Litter Box

It is best to have the right litter box that your cat enjoys. It should be comfortable for him to sit in, where it can accommodate your cat’s body while making it easy for your cat to go in and out. You may want to have something with a lid that contains any spilling or odors, but your cat may also prefer the open space. See what works for your cat to ensure comfort and to encourage him to do his business there.

Purchasing the Correct Cat Litter

It may not be the litter box your cat hates, but the cat litter itself. The cat litter shouldn’t only benefit you regarding containing odor and clumping, but it should also be easy on your cat’s paws. Opt for softer cat litter that has a fine texture, rather than large and chunky pieces. Consider the scent as well, since cats have sensitive noses and want something without any strong aroma.

Clean and Maintain the Litter Box Well

No one likes to do their business in a dirty bathroom, so your cat won’t like it when he enters a messy litter box. Through cleaning the litter box and scooping out litter often, it will encourage your cat to use it. Sanitize them regularly as well and wash it with hot water and a product that cleans enzymes once a month. Refill the litter and replace the litter box when needed.

Nobody wants a dirty bathroom!

Observe Your Cat’s Behavior and Their Feces

There may be times that your litter box isn’t the problem, but your cat himself has a problem. He may have trouble excreting his poo, or he has had behavioral changes that can be a symptom of underlying conditions. If there are ever other issues with your cat other than his digestion (such as being angry easily, change in appetite, or excreting everywhere without control), then it’s time to take him to the veterinarian. He will be able to diagnose the problem to address the real issues at hand.

In Conclusion

I hope that this article on the six ways to get your cat to like using the litter box helped you out! So don’t wait any longer and start investing in the right products for your furry pet today.

If you have any questions or would like to share your tips and experiences on how to get your cat to like using the litter box, comment down below. I would love to hear what you have to think.

My name is Ella Woods, and I am 29 years old. I am a stay at home mother and wife who writes in her free time so that I will not go crazy! The things I write about is the experience I go through personally, and I want to share that knowledge with you. Check out my blog,!

Rats and Surgery: Part One- Making the Choice

I’m going to start this article with a disclaimer. The ultimate decision as to whether or not your pet needs surgery can only be made after a discussion between yourself and your vet. In writing this article, I am not implying that my choices must be yours, instead my intention is to offer insight into some situations that may require surgery and my own personal experiences in those circumstances.

Mac, a young, healthy rat.

As pet owners, we all want to make the right choices for our fur babies, no matter what their size or species may be. We all hope that they will live happy, healthy lives, but we know that sometimes accidents and health issues get in the way of their longevity, and when that happens, it is up to us as owners to decide on a path for the future. As a rat owner who has had to make some fairly difficult choices regarding surgery, I hope to sum up some of my experiences here so that others who end up in a similar position can take comfort in knowing that they are not alone in this journey. Again, I must emphasize that my story is not your story and the best way to make a choice on surgery is with an appointment with your veterinarian who can properly diagnose, pre-check, and discuss options that are available to you. With that being said, let’s look at some scenarios.


The first thing every pet owner must expect when they decide to bring home their rat is that a diagnosis of cancer will most likely be in their future. Out of all of the rats I have owned, most have passed from some form of the disease, complications from it, or have had a tumor removed in order to extend their lives. The most important thing to know about the treatment for cancer is that it is the same as it is with humans: early detection. Regular, thorough petting of your rat should reveal even the slightest lump in any part of their body and if you are attentive, you can catch these lumps quickly and have a higher chance of successful removal.

Clay has developed a soft mass in her mammary area, a common location for females. She is young and healthy, so surgery is in her future.

Once the the need for surgery is determined, there are several things a rat owner should discuss with their vet regarding their options:

  • Weight – The weight of your rat is one of the most important elements to take under consideration when deciding to go ahead with surgery. An obese rat or a rat that is severely underweight may have difficulty during the procedure and it is important to ask if your rat’s weight should be taken into account.
  • Age – In our family, unless our rat is extremely healthy, we begin to question the safety of an operation by the time a rat is one and a half years old. Most often, we are able to go through with a surgery beyond that age, but not all rats are the same and so we discuss our rat’s age with the vet before we agree to have anything removed.
  • Family History – Most pet owners don’t know the family tree of their rats, but if you are lucky enough to have some idea, there are several things to think about. Questions to ask here are: How many rats in this family have had complications from surgery? Have any rats in this family been diagnosed with a heart or breathing condition that could be genetic? How many rats in this family are or have been afflicted with severe cancer that required operations? Share known information with your vet so that they can help you make an informed decision on what step to take next.
  • Location – Is this tumor in a place that is accessible through operation? Some parts of the body are easier to operate on than others, just as some parts of the body heal better than others. A tumor found in the folds of skin has plenty of excess tissue to stitch back together, where a tumor near the bone does not.
  • Recovery – If all of the above are tests that your vet thinks your rat can pass, you then need to talk about recovery. There are plenty of post surgical recovery tips that I will cover in a later article, but if you are not willing or able to give all of your efforts into this recovery process, will your pet suffer more post surgery than they are now? Will their recovery be short, or will their life expectancy far surpass the recovery time involved for the procedure?

There are times when surgery is not an option, but that does not necessarily mean that the happiness of your pet is at risk or that drastic choices about their lives should be made. In some instances, rats are capable of living long lives, even while their tumors grow. Part of the decision making process must be a discussion with your vet about weighing the risks with looking at their life expectancy and quality of life without surgery.

One of our rats had cancer in the spine, which consumed the lower half of her body. Obviously surgery was not an option, however because she was paralyzed and had no feeling in the affected part of her body, our family consulted with our vet and made the decision to allow her to live her life to the fullest. Together, we monitored her pain levels and she had regular checkups and a few x-rays, but in the end she passed away from old age, not any kind of complication from the cancer itself. In another, more common example, one of our most recent rats, Lee, was not a candidate for surgery due to the combination of his age and weight, so we made the choice to let him live as he was rather than risk his health and life further by attempting to remove the tumor at his side. With regular monitoring of his condition, the option of helping him cross the rainbow bridge was available to us when we are certain it was the time, rather than in surgery.

Lee, unable to have surgery due to his age and size, lived happily for many months before euthanasia was required.

Accidents and Injuries

Though none of us want bad things to happen to our pets, we know that there are occasions when your curious little angel gets into trouble. Hairless rats are particularly susceptible to accidental injury, even just while playing with their brothers or sisters. In these cases, a pet owner often has to make the decision of making an emergency vet visit or waiting until morning for a diagnosis. The most important thing to do is monitor your rat. If you can not stop the bleeding, if they seem to be in extreme pain, or if you are worried that the wound is too deep, you will probably choose to make that after hours appointment. Some cuts, scrapes, and even gashes will be survivable overnight, but those are usually detectable only with experience. If you are ever in doubt, it is best to call the vet.

The option of surgery here varies and most of the above rules from cancer apply. It is always important to keep your rat’s age, weight and family history in mind whenever anesthesia is involved, but in these cases, location and depth of the wound are typically the most important considerations. You will be surprised how quickly a deep wound heals in your pet rat and often you will have the ability to care for them with simple pain medications and regular cleaning and monitoring of the wound.

A naked rat with a puncture wound. The bleeding stopped, so the choice was made to visit the vet during normal business hours. (Image quality reduced due to graphic nature.)


As clean as rats are, infections are still a possibility. Most of these will not require surgery, though it is possible that some may. Most often, your vet will clean the infected area, remove any dead tissue, and examine the exposed site regularly to check for signs of proper healing. These open wounds can look particularly gruesome, but it is important to remember that rats are quick to heal and, with proper care, the wound closes rapidly and without further incident. There are rare instances, however, where a choice for or against surgery must be made.

Many years ago, one of our rats, Becket, was bitten by a spider, the tissue decayed around the bite wound, which happened to be just above our poor boy’s most private area. Initially he was expected to make a full recovery with a simple cleaning of the location and non-surgical removal of dead tissue. Over the course of a week, we realized that with the affected area so dangerously close to his penis that the topic of surgery had to be discussed. This was the worst example of necessary surgery that we could possibly have imagined and we were forced to go through our list.

  • Weight – Perfectly healthy for a rat his age, lean, and active.
  • Age – A little closer to the cut off than we generally prefer, but after talking with our vet, we decided that our rat’s excellent health outweighed the age risk.
  • Family History – One of his sisters did not recover well from surgery, however, other family members had. It was decided that the one difficulty with anesthesia was an isolated incident.
  • Location – This is a VERY difficult area, with plenty of complications, however the wound was just off to the side enough that our veterinarian (who is one of the best surgeons we have ever seen) was confident that he would be able to repair the damage without causing issues with the urinary tract. On the other hand, leaving the wound to heal on its own actually exposed the urinary tract to the possibility of being severed by accident.
  • Recovery – Our boy’s movement would need to be severely restricted and he would need careful monitoring to be certain that urine came out of where it was supposed to and not the surgical area. Once the wound healed he would lead a perfectly normal life, with no risk to his life at all.

Weighing everything, the choice was made to risk the surgery and our miracle worker spent one of the longest periods of his career performing one of the most complicated tasks that he had been faced with. The result? A happy, healthy boy who lived a long life with his family in our home.

Recovered and reunited. Becket (bottom) enjoys a snuggle with his cousin Lorne.

The Final Choice

As far as the history of the universe goes, rats have been popular as pets for only the blink of an eye, but in that short span of time more and more veterinarians have learned how to treat these sweet, loving creatures. In the end the choice to have surgery is yours, but having that choice available brings rat owners into the same circle with many other animal lovers around the world. All of us want only the best for our fur babies, and now, with technology and research constantly expanding, more of us have the option of scheduling surgery in order to give their rat the quality of life they deserve as members of our family.

Mirrani Houpe, our Small Animal Editor, has had rats since she took home her first little boy once they both completed the second grade. Since that time she has owned, rescued and bred many kinds of rats, from many backgrounds. She may not be a vet, psychology major, or scientist, but her babies have her very well trained when it comes to how to care for them. She is constantly working with her family’s veterinarian to come up with new and innovative ways to love and care for the most often misunderstood rodent in the pet world. You can e-mail her at

Traveling with K2 the Wonder Dog: On the road again

Eclipses, Pronghorns, and Bears, Oh My!

Welcome once again to the adventures on the road with K2 the Wonder Dog! K2 is my 2 ½ year old yellow Labrador Retriever. He is my second lab, named after the first one, Kojak. His full name is Kojak Version 2.0 (K2 for short). I call him the ”wonder dog” because I always wonder what he is thinking!  My husband and I have been RVing and traveling with dogs for quite a few years. I hope K2’s adventures will help you learn to enjoy traveling with your dog as well.

The handsome K2!

Our latest adventure was a 35 day RV tour heading north for the total eclipse in Glendo, WY, then on to Glacier National Park in Montana, Waterton Lakes, and Banff National Parks in  Alberta, Canada. Lake Louise was the northernmost point of our tour, after which we headed down to Yellowstone and Dinosaur National parks before heading to the New Mexico Good Sam RV rally at the Route 66 Casino and RV Resort in Albuquerque. Along the way, we visited my brother’s family and their dogs, Mojo and Lucky, as well as a friend’s farm in Colorado and their Labrador, Tucker.

Our first stop was in New Mexico at the Pecos National Historic Park. The historical  ruins were interesting to explore. K2 was allowed to walk on the trail with us. This is sometimes true in our National Monuments and National Historic parks, but not in the US National Parks where dogs aren’t allowed.

The lovely Pecos National Historic Park.

On to the eclipse! Whenever we attend events, we like to volunteer if at all possible. It makes the event more enjoyable for us, and helps us to connect with the local community. Estimates had the attendance in Glendo, WY and nearby parks at 70,000-90,000 people – for a town with a population of 204.  A total eclipse is a wonderful experience. It was the most awe inspiring sight I have ever witnessed, leaving me with a feeling of deep spiritual connection to our earth and a reverence for the power and beauty of our sun. K2 enjoyed the pre-eclipse events, with multiple walks into town from the grass airport we were stationed at in Glendo as the airport security volunteers in charge of parking.

It is recommended that dogs not be out during the eclipse itself, and if they are, to expect strange reactions. K2 was safely tucked away in the RV with the shades closed during the totality. But we heard a few other dogs barking and howling. All dog owners I spoke to before the event started were aware of the possibility of issues and were prepared, either by planning to seclude the dog, or by making sure they were firmly restrained.

Properly prepared for the eclipse!

After leaving the eclipse area, we spent a few days meandering up to Glacier National Park. As is true for all national parks in our country, dogs are NOT allowed to hike on the trails, but are restricted to the campgrounds and public parking areas. While in our campground at Glacier while walking K2, we saw a mother bear and two cubs. We quickly changed direction and returned K2 to the RV. Always make sure when you are in an area with wildlife to be extra careful with your dog. Always keep your pet on leash, and make sure his collar or harness is properly secured at cannot be pulled off by the dog lunging on the leash.

The next stop was Waterton Lakes National Park, just across the US-Canadian border in Alberta, Canada. Unlike US parks, Canadian National Parks allow dogs to hike on almost all the trails. Our first stop in Waterton Lakes was Crandall Mountain campground, where we had planned to hike up to Crandall Lake with K2. However, signs of bears on the trail and the berry covered bushes on both sides of the trail made us decide to return to the campground. Later, we spoke to some other campers that had seen a mama grizzly with cubs up at the lake, confirming our decision to avoid the area. Since it was huckleberry season, and the campground area was covered with huckleberry bushes, we encountered numerous black bears near our RV.

At one point, I was outside in my lawn chair snoozing, the dog restrained on his leash snoozing next to me, when I heard K2 start softly growling. Opening my eyes, I saw a bear grazing on the huckleberries about 15 feet in front of me. I immediately grabbed K2’s leash, then quietly, but urgently, asked my husband Jim to open the RV door. It turns out that Jim been quietly trying to wake me and had woken K2 who then alerted me to the bear’s presence. We scurried into the safety of the RV and watched the bear as he grazed and ambled across the berry covered field toward the trees. I never felt threatened by this bear – he was oblivious to us, enjoying his berry feast – but that can change in a split second. You can never be too careful with wildlife.

A much safer way to encounter a bear!

After leaving the Crandall Mountain campground, we went to the Waterton Township campground, where you can walk along the lake, take boat tours, and explore the town’s shops and restaurants. There were many deer along the lake and in the campground. I am equally cautious about animals you might not think of as dangerous – deer and other ungulates can easily kill or injure your pet with their hoofs and horns. We often think of these animals as tame and meek, but they are wild and will fight to protect themselves and their young. Whenever you are in an area with wildlife, no matter how well-behaved and controlled you think your dog is, don’t walk them unrestrained – use a leash. Your perfectly trained and controlled dog may disregard your commands and charge an animal that acts aggressive or unusual in order to protect you – and may well wind up paying for it with severe injuries, or even their life.

Our next stop was Lake Louis in Banff National Park. The campground had a lot of warnings about bears, but berry season here was over, so we did not encounter any bears in the campground. However, both in the campground and at the top of the gondola, there were electric fences and gates to keep the bears out of some areas. The campground was next to the river, so K2 had many great walks along the river with stops to swim (always staying on leash, of course!).

Our stop at the west side of Glacier National Park on our path toward home was cut short by sever fires in Glacier. The Apgar campground was very smoky, so we left and continued down to Yellowstone. In Yellowstone, we saw bison along the road, one of our favorite sites in the park. K2 viewed the bison out of the RV window when we stopped by the side of the road to watch them. In all honesty, K2 gets equally excited by cows crossing the road in front of the RV. He just doesn’t think they should be in the road. He doesn’t care if they are on the side of the road.

Beautiful wildlife.

Our next couple of stops were at the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and Dinosaur National Monument. The Flaming Gorge Lucerne Marina campground was infested with pronghorn. K2 had done well with all the other wildlife we encountered, but the sight of so many animals, all so willing to bound away from him when he simply walked too close on his leash, was truly an exercise in dog control for me. I think the way they bounce and run invoked some deep primal instinct in K2. I had to constantly watch for the pronghorn, and check outside on both sides of our RV before venturing outside with him.

In conclusion, it can be a lot of fun to travel with your dog, but it does take some forethought and planning particularly if wildlife is involved. Join me for K2’s next set of adventures.

Until next time – get on the road and enjoy some time with your dog!

Deborah Ivey is a Las Cruces transplant. She describes herself as a high-tech gypsy, having moved frequently throughout her life wherever her work takes her. Now retired, she travels with her husband, Jim, and their dog K2, both by car and in their RV. She loves to explore new places, and find fun activities for herself and her dog to enjoy together.

Caring For The Older Horse

Your horse is changing, so how you care for them has to change too.

Many older horses are living lives that are longer and that have a higher-quality due to improved equine nutrition, parasite control, veterinary care, and alternative therapies. (See our previous two articles about equine alternative therapies here and here!)

In many equestrian disciplines today, horses often don’t reach their peak until their teenage years. The equine “golden years” are considered to start between the ages of 18 and 20 but, like humans, some horses maintain an excellent body condition and continue to be full of energy, whereas others deteriorate quickly.

To keep your older horse in good shape, it is vital that he has a program that includes sufficient exercise, correct feeding, regular deworming, and vaccinations. He should also receive regular check-ups from both your veterinarian and your equine dentist.

Aging Process

Horses over the age of 15 are considered seniors by equine insurance companies.  Premiums are higher as older horses are more prone to illness and injuries.

A young girl with her older horse.

The aging process affects the veteran horse in many ways:

  • Loss of ability to absorb nutrients adequately
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Weakening of bones and joints
  • Stiffness
  • Increased dental problems
  • Immune system less efficient
  • Issues in regulating body temperature
  • Grey hair around eyes and muzzle
  • Grey horses become whiter and speckled
  • Depression over eye becomes more hollowed

Weight Issues

Older horses have trouble either keeping weight on or keeping it off

The Thin Horse

Reasons that your veteran is losing weight can include:

  • Not enough food
  • Dental problems
  • Competing with others in the herd for food
  • Worms
  • Picky eater
  • Progressive stage of Cushing’s disease

An older horse that is not receiving enough feed or has an unbalanced diet is prone to infections or anemia and it is also likely that they will feel the cold more during winter.

To add calories, use a high-fat supplement (such as vegetable oil) along with soaked sugar beet pellets. A cup of oil can be given twice a day in the feed, but remember to introduce it gradually.

This horse is grazing healthily!

Ensure that his teeth are checked regularly and have a worming program in place.

Monitor your veteran if he is out in the paddock with a herd as senior horses tend to have a lower rank and can be easily bullied. It may be better to bring your horse inside for feeding, or feed in a separate paddock.

Consult your veterinarian if your horse still doesn’t gain weight, or you have any other concerns.

The Overweight Horse

Reasons your older horse may be overweight include:

  • Too much feed
  • Lack of exercise
  • Metabolic disease or early stage of Cushing’s disease
  • Hormonal or insulin disorders

If your veteran is overweight, you need to be very careful as it can lead to laminitis. It also puts an extra strain on the joints. Make sure your horse receives regular exercise and a proper diet.

If your horse doesn’t lose weight, consult your veterinarian who can investigate further.

What To Feed

Older horses require a higher amount of protein, at least 12-14%, and between 7-10% of fat. They need feeds that are easy to chew and highly digestible along with the best quality hay. Hay cubes provide a good dust-free alternative.

There are many commercial feeds available, designed for the needs of the aging horse. However, if your senior maintains a good body condition and good health on regular feeds, there is no reason to change unless you begin to notice a difference in him.

Giving a vitamin and mineral supplement helps your veteran to metabolize fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, and Omega 3 oils help prevent arthritis and laminitis.

Horses with worn down or missing teeth need their feed pellets and hay cubes soaked to create a mash to help prevent choking. The water also helps to maintain intestinal function. Soaked sugar beet pulp is also an excellent addition to the feed.

However, each horse is different and has its own unique nutritional needs. If you are not sure what to feed, discuss with your veterinarian or an equine nutritionist who can recommend a suitable diet for your veteran’s age and condition and any disorders they may have.

Drinking Water

Your veteran’s water-drinking habits may change as they age.

To ensure that your horse drinks enough and doesn’t become dehydrated, provide loose salt along with a salt block to encourage him to drink water.

In winter, your veteran should be given warm water as he is unlikely to drink icy water.

Observe your veteran’s drinking habits. Drinking water excessively could indicate that something is wrong so consult your veterinarian for an appointment.

Worming and Vaccinations

As your horse starts to age, his immune system becomes less efficient, leaving him more prone to disease and reduced resistance to parasites.

Make sure your veteran’s vaccinations are kept up-to-date and have a regular worming program in place. Schedule a twice-yearly fecal egg count to ensure your program is effective.


Owners are very aware these days of the importance of having their horse’s teeth checked regularly, particularly in older horses.

As the horse ages, his teeth wear down at various lengths or even begin to fall out. They can also develop diastema, where there are gaps in between the teeth can become packed with feed, causing painful gum disease.

Your horse may also have sharp edges or hooks in his teeth that cause discomfort to him.

If you notice balls of feed (‘quids’) dropping out your horse’s mouth, he may have difficulty in chewing. Also check your horse’s droppings for poorly digested food particles.

Dentist check-ups are vital for your senior horse!

Other signs to watch out for are bad breath, “playing” with the water but not drinking, or jerking his head away from water. Your horse risks choking, colic, diarrhea, and weight loss if he doesn’t chew his feed properly.

Have an equine dentist check your horse twice a year. If you notice problems in between, schedule the dentist to come before the next check-up is due.

Veterinary Wellness Check

Your veterinarian should perform a thorough examination on your veteran at least once a year, checking his weight and body condition score, soundness test, and an assessment of any dental needs.

Your veterinarian will also take blood samples to check for problems such as infection, insulin resistance, or Cushing’s disease. Any findings in the results may mean that your horse requires medication and a special diet along with correct management.

Common conditions in senior horses include:

Cushing’s Disease

This disease is a malfunction of the horse’s pituitary gland.

Signs include:

  • Long, curly coat
  • Increased thirst and urination
  • Muscle wastage
  • Tiredness
  • Fat deposits around neck and above eyes
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Prone to infection
  • Laminitis

The condition is incurable, but it can, however, be controlled by the appropriate medication, clipping the coat, weight control, regular dental checks, and correct feeding.


Arthritis is widespread in older horses and it affects the joints.

The signs are:

  • Swelling around joints
  • Lameness
  • Stiffness
  • Reluctance to move forwards

Contact your veterinarian if your horse shows any of the symptoms described so they can examine him by carrying out flexion tests and x-rays.

Arthritis can be managed by anti-inflammatory drugs and by giving a joint supplement. Your horse should be turned out and exercised when possible.

The Horse’s Feet

Veteran horses require more foot care than their younger counterparts.

It is important that your veteran has his feet trimmed regularly as his hooves are less likely to crack, reducing the chances of abscesses and other lameness issues. Good hoof balance encourages even weight-bearing and places less strain on the joints.


Exercising your veteran improves his appetite, digestion, and muscle tone, and is also good for his mental health. However, it all depends on your horse’s abilities.

When exercising your veteran, don’t overdo it as he will tend to tire more quickly than a younger horse. At the beginning of your ride, walk him for at least ten minutes, giving him the chance to loosen up. Allow him time at the end of the session as well to stretch and cool down.

Older horses overheat easily, so, on hot days, ride him early in the morning or late evening, or not at all if it is boiling.

Have the fit of your saddle checked regularly by a qualified saddle fitter as your veteran’s body shape will change. A saddle with an adjustable gullet is ideal.

If it is not possible to ride your horse, then he should be hand-walked and go out in the paddock as much as possible. Ensure that he has appropriate shade, and in the winter, make sure he is warm enough, putting a rug on if he is thin or appears cold.

Final Thoughts

By managing your older horse correctly, he can enjoy a decent quality of life. Monitor his condition regularly and pay attention to any changes in his behavior and habits, seeking veterinary advice when necessary.

Alison O’Callaghan, our Equine Editor, is a professional horse riding instructor and has owned many types of pets. When she is not riding horses or walking her dog, she loves to write about animals. If you’d like to contact Alison, you can email her at 

Mutts: What’s Their Story?

When people say that a dog is a “mutt”, it means that the dog is not a purebred. The genetics can be so mixed that you can hardly pinpoint a breed associated with it, and they are often considered an “average” dog because they may or may not possess the specific characteristics  expected of a purebred dog. Although this is basically correct, there is much more to their story.

The Purebred Story

As of today, there are 339 dog breeds that are recognized by the World Canine Organization, more commonly known by its French name, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (or FCI for short). These purebred dogs have then been classified according to their origins, function, size, shape, and several other distinct characteristics. These dogs have been grouped into ten categories based on these characteristics.

A good example of a purebred King Charles Spaniel.

Within nine of those ten categories, almost ninety percent of dog breeds have only appeared in the last hundred years. Dog breeds are actually more man-made than one would expect. Basically, the creation of distinct dog breeds was a form of genetic manipulation in order to produce a dog with a certain set of traits such as temperament, appearance, and more. In order to maintain the characteristics of a desired breed, the dangerous practice of inbreeding was introduced and thus, the population of certain dog breeds began to increase. This breeding was done by matching dogs with desirable traits to see what the offspring would be. Dogs with certain desirable characteristics  resulted in them being named “pure breed”.

Fortunately, kennel clubs are now properly regulated. Back when this trend started becoming popular, these “purebred” dogs were maintained through inbreeding to retain their desired traits. This has also resulted in these dogs to being riddled with genetic disorders that still exist today..

Purebred dogs are often predisposed to certain genetic and hereditary diseases and this has become evident with the stark difference in appearance between dogs of the same breeds a hundred years ago as compared to today. For example, the English Bulldog was not as large as they are today. The current purebred look makes their heads disproportionately big, the females need a C-section to give birth, they cannot mate on their own, and according to a survey, the average lifespan is only 6.25. years. Moreover, the Golden Retriever is also more likely to develop cancer than any other breed. All of these health issues can be pinpointed in their genes, typically due to inbreeding.

This Schnauzer could have some serious health issues down the road.

Today, now that people and experts know better, there have been regulations set to ensure there is genetic diversity before a dog can be considered a separate and new breed. However, the desire to have a purebred dog has reinforced the idea that mutts are “lesser” and are often considered undesirable.

Although this is the current situation, most people are drawn to specific breeds based on their look and temperament, and thus, mutts or mixed-breeds are overlooked. More often than not, mutts end up in shelters more than purebred dogs.

The Benefits of “Mutts”

Mixed dog breeds usually end up in dog pounds more frequently just because they aren’t purebred. Sadly, dog pounds get crowded and, the harsh reality is, dogs that don’t get adopted get put down. This is also one of the reasons why many experts encourage adopting a dog from a shelter rather than buying from a pet store or breeder. The other reason is that dogs from pet stores have ambiguous sources for their puppies, meaning some puppies may have come from puppy factories or puppy mills which are horrendous and cruel. To help eradicate these practices, adoption is highly encouraged.

Isn’t this little one precious?! Whether its a purebred or a mutt, its adorable.

If you still have apprehensions in getting yourself a mutt rather than a purebred dog, here are a few reasons on why you should consider adopting one.

They are in their natural, happy state.

Mutts are actually dogs in their healthiest, most natural state, which means, they are what they should be. To put it bluntly, specific dog breeds are not what nature has intended them to be. For most dogs (outside of a few working breeds) the breeds were developed by humans.

Mutts are healthier and often live longer.

Genetic anomalies that could be passed down from one generation to another through inbreeding is eradicated in mutts and mixed breeds. In the theory of evolution, mating outside of their breed and family group ensures healthier offspring that can live longer.  A dog named Pusuke died at the age of 26 years according to the Guinness World Record, almost beating the dog Bluey which held the record of living until the age of 29. Both of these dogs were mutts, with the former being a Shiba Inu mix and the latter being an Australian Cattle Dog mix. Both of these dogs didn’t get to their age by mere luck, but it primarily came with the genes they were endowed with and the loving care of their owners.

The Border Collie mix probably looked quite similar to this one!

Mutts are more adaptable.

Whether you’re looking for a herding dog or a household pet, a mutt is as good as any. According to many studies, a mutt is defined as having at least three different breeds ingrained in the DNA. These dogs can typically function as both working and family dogs (based on their size and ability) due to the vast amount of genetic diversity that they contain. By being so adaptable, it is also known that mutts can often be faster at learning tricks.

They are often smarter.

In line with their adaptability, mutts are chosen as therapy dogs more than purebred dogs because of their more flexible temperament. When a dog is a specific breed, they usually have a certain temperament consistent among them, and they can often be quite energetic and excitable. With mutts, their temperament is more varied.

Adopting a mutt gives way for healthier dogs in the future.

Most genetic related anomalies among dogs can be solved by simply leaving them to breed on their own instead of enforcing strict genetic breeding. When this is encouraged it paves way for a better understanding for people when it comes to dogs and choosing one as a companion. This being said, you should ALWAYS spay or neuter your pet, whether they’re purebred or mixed. The overpopulation of dogs is very real and should not be taken lightly. This is another reason to adopt a dog from a shelter rather than encouraging breeders to continue the overpopulation.

They have so much love to give.

If anything, we could certainly agree that, no matter what breed your dog is, you can expect them to be a loyal companion to you. These dogs that are full of personality can love just as much and just as hard as any other, whether they are purebred or mutts.

When you do decide to get a dog, you will have to prepare for the necessary items to keep you, your household and your dog happy. With general hygiene in mind, a microfiber dog mat such as the Paw Designed Microfiber Pet Dog Bowl Place Mat, dog beds, and grooming tools will significantly lessen the mess that will inevitably reside in your house.

A warm home and loving arms are all a dog really wants.

If you are still wondering if mutts are any good, the answer is simple. It is a definite and resounding yes! These wonderful dogs can love just as hard, are loyal to a fault, and will forever shower you with unconditional love. With that note, what more could you ask for in a dog?

Christy of likes to write about whatever tickles her fancy and loves to document the adventures of her fur baby when she’s not busy going gaga over their crazy antics.

Cat Paw Facts & Tips

Aren’t kitty paws so cute?! So little and pink! And they’re attached to your cat who will probably swat at you if you dare lay a finger on their paws. Of course, we just want to fawn over how adorable our snuggly felines are, the cutest little beings in the world, but they may not be willing to share their paws. Who can blame them? Their paws are extremely sensitive, and our hands and feet would be too if we used them to check temperature, groom our hair, hunt for food, and communicate with other humans.

Some adorable kitty “bean” toes!

Their paws are designed to help them jump, run, climb, and pounce, they have four toes on their back paws, and five toes on their front paws. Have you ever wondered why one toe happens to be closer to their wrists than the others? It’s there so your cat can grasp objects (like toys or birds) similar to their humans! Not only do cats have thumbs, but their paws are also the most sensitive part of their bodies. But there are more aspects to your cat’s paws that help with survival, grooming, and more that are important for any cat owner to know.

Paw Facts

  • Just as humans are left or right handed, our cats are too! However, in cats, this difference is because of their gender. In female cats, their dominate front paw is their left, and for males, their dominate paw is their right.
  • Similar to dogs, cat’s only sweat through their paws. Like the skin on our bodies, our cat’s paws act as a cooling system to our body, the only difference is their body area is much smaller than ours.
  • Like humans, out cat’s toes have individual and unique paw prints, and similar to our fingerprints. Even twin kittens will not have identical paw prints.
  • Your cat’s paws are very flexible. Their front paws can bend inward so they can dig their claws into whatever they’re climbing to stable themselves. But when it comes to climbing down from cat trees, bookshelves, or branches, cats can have some problems because their front paws are designed to be used for walking normally or for an upward climb. Climbing down is more difficult for cats than what people often think.

Kitty claws are clearly not designed to help them climb down.

  • Remember the shocks on your car? They’re what absorb the impact from speed bumps, potholes, and the rough roads we drive on the make the drive more comfortable. Our cat’s paws act the same way! This is why our cats can jump from (and sometimes fall from) great heights and they will often be unharmed.
  • Like their whiskers that allow them to spread their scent as markers for their territory, cats do the same with their paws. When you cat scratch objects, they often do so to become sovereigns of that object and give information such as gender to other cats through the pheromones that are spread through their paws from their scent gland which is found between your cat’s toes.
  • Not all cats have pink paws. Some cats have spotted, tan, or black colored paws. The color of their fur is related to the color of their skin and also the color of their paws. For instance, my Calico, Missues, has pink, light tan, and brown spotted paws, Fredrick Douglass has what I refer to as magenta colored paws, and Mr. Baby Kitty is a Bombay, therefore he has naturally black paws.

These adorable paws could have gray, black, or pink toes!

Paw Tips

Our cats will sometimes need help to take care of their paws. Let’s briefly go over a vital truth that should be known to all cat owners. Your cat’s paws should always be clean; there is no excuse for this! Dirty feet can be painful to your cat, and unhealthy substances can stick to their paws or in-between their toes that can end up being ingested when they groom themselves. So if you have a little messy kitty, wipe your cat’s paws with a wet cloth or kitty wipe regularly. Here are some other tips you can practice to help your cat maintain clean and healthy paws.

  • Check for thorns, splinters, or cuts that are on your cat’s paws that can cause discomfort or infections. If there is swelling and you can’t see what could have caused it, you cat could have been bitten by an ant or stepped on a bee. In this case, take your cat your veterinarian right away.
  • Keep cat trees around your home so your cat can regularly scratch and shed their outer nail sheathe to allow for healthier nail growth.
  • Sometimes our cats need their nails trimmed. I’m opposed to having your cat declawed. It takes away their ability to survive on their own and also puts them in a serious amount of pain for a long time. So if you decide to trim your cat’s nails, make sure to massage their paws before you begin so your cat will adjust to your touch and the pressure of your fingertips. Always use cat nail cutters that are made for just cats, not human nail trimmers. ONLY cut off the white tip of their nails and stay away from the vein (mostly called the quick) that runs into the nail. If you hit the quick, serious bleeding can occur. Then give your cat a treat, because your cat deserves it. If you have concerns about trimming their nails yourself, take them to the vet or a groomer so a professional can trim them for you.
  • If you have a long-haired cat, make sure to check their hairy little feet. Sometimes cats have long hair growing between their toes, and this can irritate their paws, tickle them, and it may cause your cat to excessively lick their paws in order to flatten the hair. It is also good to keep this area clear and clean so clumped up cat litter doesn’t tangle in their furry paws.

Hairy toes are no good!

  • We can’t always keep an eye on our cats and we trust them to think and sometimes think before stepping onto cool, hot and wet surfaces. Anything wet may not be water, it could be a cleaning solution or leftover cooking oil on the kitchen counter. If you have an electric stove top, train your kitty to stay off the kitchen counters, and if you happen to use hair styling tools keep your cat away from those too. If you live in an area that snows during the winter, the temperature can numb your cat’s paws. In either hot or cold weather, moisturize them with a lukewarm washcloth to avoid numbing from their paws touching cold patios, or burning from hot sidewalks.
  • If you don’t want your cat to scratch you, you can always put on Nail Caps. They’ve become increasingly more popular among cat owners and cat fanatics around the world. Some disagree with this practice, finding it restrictive to your cat’s natural nature and other find it useful to avoid scratches and some just find it cute. Regardless of the reason you’d want to use them, the Nail Caps are vinyl and are safe for your cat. To put them on you do have to trim the tip of your cat’s claw and place a small dot of the adhesive (that will come with your package of nail caps) into the cap before pressing it onto your cat’s claw. Each nail cap lasts for about four to six weeks until your cat’s claws will be ready to shed with the natural growth of your cat’s nail and will probably fall over naturally. Make sure to check the nail caps weekly in order to check on your cat’s claw growth. Not to mention that nail caps will also protect guests that come into your home and your furniture.

A fashion statement and a protective measure all in one!

  • Get boots or paw protectors for your kitty if they have damaged or sensitive paws when the hot and cold weather comes around.

This information should help keep your cats happy and healthy, as well as expand your knowledge of your beloved feline. We can never know too much about those we love!

Elanda-Isabella Atencio, our Feline Editor, is on her road to being a “crazy” cat lady. She has three cats; a moody Missus, a wild Baby Kitty, and notorious Fredrick Douglass. She was raised with cats, chickens, dogs, and geese. From cleaning coops, morning dog runs, picking eggs, to growing catnip, Elanda enjoys pampering her pets. Elanda is a student at New Mexico State University, earning her BA in Creative Writing and is Editor-in-Chief of the online arts journal, Independent Noise and reader for Puerto del Sol. She plans to move to Oregon, where she hopes to take her cats on daily walks when it’s overcast and cool. If you’d like to contact Elanda, email her at

Three Major Reasons to Feed Your Dog a Home-Cooked Meal

Kibble might look yummy now, but just wait until he sees some home-cooked dog food!

Your beloved four-legged family member, without a doubt, deserves a balanced diet for perfect health. While commercial diets are the favorite for many pet owners, some foods pose the risk of causing harm to the dogs’ health. So, the best course of action would be to feed your dog a healthy, wholesome diet that’s prepared right in your kitchen. However, keep in mind that your homemade dog food recipes must adhere to dog nutrition guidelines. Talk to your vet before diving into making your dog home-cooked meals.

Well, if you’re pondering about why you should consider switching to a home-cooked diet, here are the three major reasons to feed your dog a home cooked meal.

Commercial dog food can lack adequate regulation

Let’s face it, the pet food industry faces minimal substantive regulation regarding quality, and this is, of course, the primary reason pet owners should consider home cooked meals. While there are a good number of agencies navigating several layers of regulation, their rules often fall short of ensuring that the pets receive adequate nutrition. Most of the regulatory agencies do not monitor closely what the private pet food manufacturers put in their products.

And even though certain regulatory codes do exist, things such as absorbability, digestibility, and overall quality of the pet foods are not comprehensively covered. Well, this only means that consumers have no other choice but to believe whatever the manufacturers say, and count on the accuracy of the labels.

It often doesn’t even look like food.

Most dog owners often consult veterinarians to get a few recommendations on the best pet food brands (which is a good idea). The scary part though is that no one knows for a fact that the composition and amount of the different nutrients listed on the labels on the packaging of the pet food is correct.

Even high-end commercial brands out there often use additives, chemical preservatives, flavor enhancers, and also extra fats to make the food more palatable to your dog.

Unfortunately, the food is in the real sense less healthy. You’ll find that some of the foods don’t live up to their marketing claims and may end up causing health problems despite feeding your dog with all the recommended portions.

Better control of your dog’s diet

With a home-cooked meal, it’s a lot easier to reduce uncertainty in regards to quality as you get full control over what goes into your dog’s mouth. You can tailor the food according to the dog’s needs, and if your four-legged friend experiences any health complications, it is easy to trace down the “bad” ingredients and make the necessary changes. Your dog can enjoy having quality protein from a variety of sources and, of course, the right veggies and fruits that are rich in antioxidants or medicinal properties.

As an added advantage, you’ll be able to get the grain out of the home-cooked diet—ensuring it is appropriate for your pet species. Knowing what constitutes biologically correct nutrition for your dog will help you leave out the unnecessary grain. For instance, you should not feed your dog with carbohydrates like grain, corn, wheat, rice, and soy. Why? Well, such grains can lead to indigestion and absorption difficulties, because the canines and felines have no biological grain requirement.

Sorry, pup, no sandwiches for you!

It is best to research and get different homemade dog food recipes for a variety of meals to help you in your cooking.

Save cost

While some pet owners will want to feed their pets with human-grade ingredients, it is unfortunate that they are expensive. There’s a huge disparity regarding the cost and value obtained when you compare a home cooked meal to human-grade ingredients.

A homemade diet allows you to get fresh ingredients, which are readily available in your local market. And the good news is that you can purchase large quantities of meat and vegetables, then prepare, package, and freeze the meals in large batches that are enough to sustain your dog for several days. However, never compromise on the freshness of the ingredients. It is also an excellent idea to pair up with friends who have dogs to share the costs and meal prep tasks among the entire group as it is economical and saves time.

Start feeding your dog a home-cooked meal today for a better overall health!

The key is to discuss the requirements for your pet with your vet before starting.

June is the founder of TobysBone, where she shares her passion for writing and love for dogs. She wants to help you deal with your dog’s behavior issues, grooming and health needs, and proper training. Through her blog, you can find informative and reliable posts, tips and tricks, and a lot of interesting reads that will help you maintain a close bond with your furry companion.