Say Ahhhhrrrfff!

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No, this post isn’t about human health. We’re targeting your fur babies with this one. Sometimes they feel a little “meh.” Not having a grasp of feline or canine verbiage, we’re often at a loss for how to help.

We just came across a great article from Dr. Patty Khuly, which can give you some insight into your pet’s own way of trying to get their message across. Khuly’s top 10 things you can discern from your pet’s behavior:

1. I hurt. Pain is probably the No. 1 thing your pet won’t communicate directly. Sure, she may limp, chew funny or shake her head, but whining, crying and carrying on (like we humans would) isn’t her MO. Slowing down, taking the stairs more tentatively, being reluctant to jump and struggling to rise are more than likely signs of true pain — not just “old age.”

2. I’m scared. When pets get aggressive, owners often assume their pets are acting out because they’re being dominant, angry or just pain bratty. But the truth is often much simpler: They may be just plain scared. And fear must be dealt with differently — far more carefully — than other kinds of aggression. It sometimes calls for the assistance of a certified trainer or veterinary behaviorist.

3. I’m pissed off. I know it’s a vulgar thing to say, but there you have it. Cats, especially, are prone to getting PO’ed when things don’t go their way. While there can certainly be an underlying medical condition behind litterbox avoidance, it can also be a sign of pent-up resentments in kitties, especially if they don’t agree with your choice of litter or have a bone to pick with the litterbox cleaning schedule.

4. I resent my housemate. Both dogs and cats can be jealous creatures. And cats are extraordinarily territorial by nature. But the signs that things are amiss between dogs and dogs or cats and cats can be incredibly subtle. So subtle that you’ll easily miss them — until it’s too late, of course, and altercations ensue. Start this conversation with your veterinarian, but this may be another instance where a certified trainer or veterinary behaviorist might be in order.

5. I need to lose weight. If there’s one subject most owners tend to overlook, it’s obesity. In fact, most of my clients are shocked when I tell them their pets are easily 20 to 50 percent overweight. Now, your pets may not want to eat less, but they certainly don’t want to feel the effects that excess poundage brings.

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6. I need more exercise. This is a corollary to No. 5, but it deserves its own line item on this list. That’s because dogs and cats who get regular exercise are not only more likely to be leaner, they also tend to be happier. Promoting exercise is a key goal of environmental enrichment, after all.

7. I’m sick. As with pain, dogs and cats are masters of masquerade when it comes to illness. Cats are especially proficient at this kind of obfuscation. Indeed, unless you’re really, really careful about watching their every move (appetite and litterbox activities, especially), you might not catch a critical issue until it’s well under way.

8. I need to be socialized. It’s not just puppies; cats need to be socialized, too. In fact, poor socialization is the No. 1 reason pets become fearful. (Abuse is a far less common cause for fear aggression, but it’s one many pet owners mistakenly assume is to blame.)

Trouble is, the optimal socialization window for pets is both early and brief. Start this conversation with your veterinarian, who may refer you to a certified pet trainer or veterinary behaviorist to address how your pet’s socialization can be best accomplished.

9. I need a professional trainer. Training is not just for puppies! And training is not just for dogs who misbehave. Training is forever. Some dogs might even benefit from working with a certified trainer who can hook you up with Canine Good Citizen or therapy pet status and other niceties, including training for athletic endeavors, if your pet is so inclined. Not only is it intellectually stimulating, it’s also great for your relationship with your pet.

Now, training your cat? That’s a whole ’nother story — but it’s possible.

10. I need pet insurance! Pet insurance is a must! Without pet insurance, you might not be able to do what’s best for your pets. Consider my recent bill at the board-certified veterinary dentist: Would you be able to pay $6,000 for two root canals? I’m guessing some of you wouldn’t. Hate to say it, but some owners might leave their dogs in pain or simply extract teeth that have an important function (for $1,500-$2,000) if they couldn’t afford it.

**Many thanks to Pet Health News and Blue Cross Pet Hospital for sharing this important pet information.

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