Tips For Caring For An Older Dog

Your dog will always be a key part of your family, no matter how old he gets. However, when your furry friend is getting on in years you might need to adjust your lifestyle a little to accommodate your older dog.

Whether your dog is a senior or not will depend on its breed. A small dog like a terrier or chihuahua won’t be considered to be a pensioner until they reach the age of ten or twelve, however bigger breeds like Great Danes could be seniors at just 5 or 6. Not only does breed and size have an impact on your pup’s life expectancy, their genetics, environment and diet all have a role to play.

aged senior dog care

The good news is that modern medicine hasn’t only extended human lives, it can also help your dog to live a long, happy life too. As long as you give your fur baby the right preventative care and attention, your aging dog will have the longest and best life possible.

With that in mind, here are some tips for caring for your older dog.

Don’t Forget Your Pup’s Teeth

Caring for your dog’s dental hygiene couldn’t be more important at all stages of your dog’s life but particularly when they get old. Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth and getting them cleaned professional can guard against painful decay and dental disease. It’ll also help to avoid chewing problems that can lead to poor nutrition. If your pet isn’t keen on having his teeth brushed, you should consider toys that are designed for this purpose instead or dental treats which will keep your pet happy while also getting his teeth plaque free.

Caring For Your Dog’s Skin

As your dog ages they may develop more sensitivities. Their skin may be more easily damaged so switching to a hypoallergenic shampoo is good for your pets as they get older.

Eating Healthily

Just as humans have to watch what they eat, particularly as they get older, elderly dogs also often have problems with food. Some may struggle to chew, others lack appetite and some have digestive problems or may even be obese. Talk to your vet about how to choose the right exercise and diet plan for your older dog. You may need to adopt some dietary changes such as adding extra fiber into his diet to help improve digestion, or you may need to reduce carbohydrates so your pet can maintain a healthy bodyweight. You may also need to add supplements like glucosamine or fish oils into his diet to treat joint pain.

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Exercise For Mind And Body

As humans age, they struggle to perform physical activities. It’s the same with dogs. As they get older they may experience pain or find it hard to do the things they used to love. Exercise, however, is still vital to your dog’s well-being and health. Take your pet on gentle, short walks but take care to monitor his gait and breathing to ensure that everything is ok. Your dog’s mind also needs exercise. Food puzzles and other stimulating toys will help to keep your pet sharp.

Schedule Regular Vet Visits

You should take your older dog to the vet for a check up every six months. In the same way as older people have to take care with their health and see their doctor more frequently, older pets also benefit from more frequent vet visits. Old pets often need more examinations, dental treatment and blood tests. Some breeds are also more predisposed to developing certain conditions like diabetes, cancer, hip dysplasia and arthritis. Detecting these problems at an early stage will help to prevent them from becoming serious concerns.
older dog vet care

Make Your Home Suitable For An Older Dog

When you first brought your puppy home, you probably puppy-proofed it. Now your pet is older you’ll need to seniorize it. If your pet has joint problems or hip dysplasia you may need to put in some steps or a ramp so he can get into the car or onto the bed. Keep his water and food in an area that can easily be reached, particularly if they have sight problems. A heated bed could soothe their aching joints, particularly if you’re living in colder regions. Also, non-slip surfaces could protect against falls, helping your elderly dog to keep traction when getting up.

Pay Closer Attention

Always monitor any change in appetite, weight, behavior and dental problems as well as lesions, bumps or lumps which appear. Any changes you note should be reported to your vet.

Although it’s harder to care for your older dog, your lifelong companion will be by your side for the rest of his life, so it’s worth making a few small changes.

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Dog Safety & Pet Containment Systems

Our dogs are our family and most of us treat them like our children.  Guilty!  In loving them as much as we do, we want to protect them and keep them safe from harm.  Whether it is on the home front, throughout the daily routine, or out and about traveling, we want to ensure their safety.

There are plenty of pet containment systems available to aid in providing safety.  Ranging from wireless fences to traditional fences and all things in between, you will most likely be able to find something to best suit you and your family.

dog behind fence

Electronic Wired Fencing

One of the most popular pet containment systems is the electronic fence.  With installation, cables are buried underground and run the edge of the perimeter in any shape, forming an invisible boundary for your pet.  The cables also allow you to exclude areas of the property, to keep your dog away from certain things such as a pool or pond.

A base unit for the system operates electronically and can be placed anywhere on the property, as it has rugged characteristics and does not have to be kept indoors.  The unit uses a digital radio frequency signal to travel along the cable wires and works with your dog’s collar receiver.

Training flags are placed along the boundary to assist in training for your dog.  They are visible cues to let your dog know where the boundaries are.  If the dog goes beyond the boundary, he will receive a corrective stimulation on his collar.  The corrective stimulation is adjustable depending on the size and type of dog you have.

As far as safety for your dog when using this type of containment, it is not one hundred percent secure.  While it may provide a decreased chance of your dog getting out, there is still a chance that your pup can run through and disregard the electronic correction.  Other pests or predators cannot be kept out, which could potentially pose a threat.

Electronic Wireless Fencing

These types of fences allow owners to monitor their dog through a GPS (Global Positioning Systems) collar, by placing a transmitter in a central location, connected to the GPS.  The transmitter then gives off a signal that provides an invisible boundary for the dog.  Unlike the base for the wired fencing, this transmitter must be in an indoor location.

Shih Tzu In Yard Invisible Fence

Similar wireless systems do not need a transmitter, rather can create a boundary or invisible fence connected directly to the GPS collar.  Your dog can then learn the boundary areas, through training.  If he wanders outside of the boundary, he will receive a corrective stimulation through the collar.

There are several different types of GPS fence systems on the market.  Most of them only provide a circular boundary, covering only a certain amount of feet.  Some may see this as a negative if you are looking for more space for your dog to roam free.

Many of the GPS systems are designed to be completely portable so that you can easily travel with your pup.  This may be a nice alternative to the wired systems, for that reason.

Along with the wired electronic fencing, the wireless fencing cannot guarantee to keep your dog in the boundary; and will not be able to keep others out.

The wireless system may be prone to more outages as well, in comparison to the wired fencing.

Indoor Systems

Needing to keep your pup contained to a certain room, or away from the trash can?  The electronic GPS systems can work for this inside.  Some systems allow for the GPS collar to work with a boundary transmitter, marking off certain areas to keep your pet away from, or confined to, ranging from eight to ten feet.

Using this type of system would provide a good alternative to those child or pet gates that may be going up all over the house.   Although, the system is still operating like the outdoor ones in which the dog’s collar is connected to the frequency transmitter.  The dog could still find a way to disregard the corrective stimulation and go after what he wants.

Traditional Fencing

Wooden, wrought iron, vinyl, aluminum, and the list goes on.  Many options are available when you are looking at fencing in your yard the traditional way.  While fully fencing in your yard will be a more expensive route than others, it is going to create a little more security in the long run.

Most dogs adapt well to a fenced in yard.  If the fencing is high enough, you will not have to worry about them jumping over.  If digging is an issue, there are products designed to work in conjunction with your fence to prevent digging.  The products are steel rods which run down into the ground, protecting your pup from digging a way out or other pests from digging their way in.

A traditional fence is also going to keep predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, or other wildlife out.  However, in my case, this has not been full proof.  There is a snake that manages to sneak his way into my fenced in backyard.  Fortunately, he is not poisonous, so he gets a free pass.

Other Safety Factors

Regardless of the pet containment system you are thinking of, or currently using, keep in mind nothing is full proof.  Our dogs are instinctive animals, and simply put, animals.  Some of them can find their way out of any containment.

Certain precautions should be taken in addition to using pet containment systems.  Visually monitoring your pup even when he is outdoors in any type of fencing, is recommended.  Make sure your dog always has his ID tags on and visible.

Having a microchip can also be a lifesaver.  Our neighbors found a dog without any tags or ID and drove her to a local pet store where the store looked up her microchip.  They were able to contact the family and they were reunited within a few hours.  A happy ending that may not have happened otherwise.

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9 Tips for Anyone to Help Save the Ocean

According to reports from NOAA, more than 40 percent of Earth’s oceans have been negatively impacted by humans. What some people do not realize though is that there are things we can do to change that.

Tips on Protecting the Oceans

  1. Recycle, reduce, and reuse

    The reported volume of plastic waste floating in our oceans is shocking. Recycling is helpful. It is also a good idea to reduce the number of disposable products and packaging. Use reusable grocery bags, and reusable containers as well. Finally, stop using such things as plastic utensils and straws.

  2. Reduce energy use and be aware of your carbon footprint

    Be aware of your energy use to help reduce the impact of climate change. Walk or ride a bicycle whenever possible. Use the stairs instead of an elevator. Use energy-efficient light bulbs and fixtures and unplug any appliances you do not use daily.

  3. Eat only sustainable seafood

    The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) states that 75 percent of Earth’s fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited, recovering from overexploitation, or significantly depleted. So eat sustainable fish. The popular Monterey Bay Aquarium even offers a free app called Seafood Watch which can find restaurants and markets that offer sustainable fish to make it easy.

  4. Buy products that are ocean-friendly

    Some cleaning and cosmetic products are made via environmentally harmful and unsustainable methods. Select non-toxic cleaning products instead of harsh chemicals and bleach. Numerous chores can be handled using such things as baking soda, lemon juice, or vinegar. Choose cosmetic products that consist of organic materials.

  5. Be responsible when traveling the oceans

    Be responsible when you engage in such watersports as boating, diving, jet-skiing, kayaking, parasailing, swimming, and water-skiing. Don’t throw anything into the water. Be certain to know about marine life in the surrounding water. If you choose to take a cruise for a vacation trip, choose the option that is the most eco-friendly.

  6. Don’t purchase products made from sea life

    As a tourist in any particular coastal community, you ’ll come across souvenirs built from sea life. Avoid buying coral jewelry, sea turtle shells, shark fins or teeth, and any kind of cosmetics that include ingredients from whales. These things are connected to unsustainable fishing and even the destruction of undersea ecosystems.

  7. Clean up garbage at the beach

    Beach litter is a major portion of the plastic that’s in the ocean. A fun day at the beach shouldn’t endanger the oceans. When you go to the beach take a bag for your litter. Join a beach clean-up group. Divers can join special dives and clean the ocean’s floor.

  8. Support groups that work to protect the oceans

    Several organizations and institutes are working to protect marine life and ocean habitats. You can donate money or even join one or more of said groups. Additionally, you can volunteer to help educate others about this issue.

  9. Tell others

    Tell your friends, family, and neighbors too. Visit your local grocery store and urge them to sell only ocean-friendly and sustainable products. If you notice any threatened species at their seafood counter or dine out and see one on the menu, encourage them to make changes. Prior to voting, learn where the candidates stand on ocean policies and vote accordingly.

Protect the Oceans

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Can a Snapping Turtle Bite Your Toe or Finger Off?


Can they bite a finger or toe off?
There are no recorded cases of it but do you really want to find out the hard way? They are called ‘snapping’ turtles for a reason. It’s not the force of the bite that you need to worry about, it’s also the sharp beak like mouth that’s meant for cutting. To answer the question, with those two factors considered, it’s possible a snapping turtle could sever human fingers or toes.

The common snapping turtle, scientifically known as the chelydra serpentina species, can weigh up to 75 pounds and grow to be 18 inches in length. The exception to this is snapping turtles that are kept in captivity that are commonly overfed, causing them to often become overweight. In the wild, they rarely exceed 35 pounds. They have a hard shell covering both their back and stomach that protects them in the wild. Their tail, which is close to the length of their top shell, is covered in spiny sharp ridges. They have no teeth but possess a bony beak for a mouth that is particularly strong.

Snapping Turtle

In addition to a strong beak, they have sharp claws that they can use to fight off predators in the wild. Due to their many defense mechanisms snapping turtles are prey to a short list of animals but are the predator to several animals found in the wild.




Where Do Snapping Turtles live?

Snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles that can be found in North America. However, smaller and more aggressive turtles can be found in areas from Canada to South America. These animals commonly live in ponds, streams and even brackish environments like estuaries. Snapping turtles enjoy floating at the water’s surface, basking on logs in the sunlight and burrowing into muddy areas found in shallow waters.

How Powerful Can They Bite?

While toad-headed turtles have the strongest bites of any turtle, with a force of 432 newtons, the snapping turtle and snapping turtles are both still very serious threats to the animal kingdom. Snapping turtles have a bite force of 208 newtons and their cousins, the alligator snapping turtles, have a slightly weaker bite force of 158 newtons. It is believed that the bite force of the alligator snapping turtle is strong enough to snap a broomstick in half. While there have been no reported cases of snapping turtles actually biting fingers off, there are nightmarish stories of snapping turtles biting and latching onto people’s faces and hands. In one incident, an alligator snapping turtle bite led to infection that caused a young man to have a “near total amputation” of his finger.

In comparison, Crocodiles with the strongest bite have a force of 16,460 newton, and humans have a bite force of around 890.

But remember, snapping turtles have a sharp beak like mouth that can cut. They don’t need to crush their prey when they can cut it in half.

How Do People “Safely” Catch Snapping Turtles?

Catching snapping turtles is easy, but steering clear of its powerful jaw proves to be a more difficult to task for some. There have been several accounts of fisherman accidentally catching snapping turtles while using jug or limb lines to catch catfish. Anglers argue that the best time of year to catch snapping turtles is during the winter due to how much slower these animals become when the temperature drops. When capturing a snapping turtle it is safest to use a trap containing bait. When using this method you greatly reduce the risk of learning firsthand how painful a snapping turtle’s bite can be.

Snapping Turtle Mouth

Some people use nets when capturing turtles, not realizing that the turtles can become ensnared in the net. This can this cause a threat to the turtle as well as the person handling it when the time comes to cut the netting away.

If you enter the water where snapping turtles are present, be careful not to place your feet or hands in the muck where they like to hang out. Normally they would try to flee but if they feel threatened, as in you stepped on them, they will bite. If signs are posted noting their presence, it’s best to heed the warning and stay out of the water.




Why Snapping Turtles Don’t Make Great Pets

Snapping turtles and alligator snapping turtles are fascinating creatures. When people think of pet turtles they typically envision smaller breeds like the eastern box turtle and western painted turtle. Snapping turtles often more than double these smaller turtles in length and have a mass of 15-30 times that of the average eastern box turtle. Even though most people have the knowledge that snapping turtle are particularly aggressive, while other breeds are docile, some still find the idea of keeping a snapping turtle as a pet to be tempting.

People have been fascinated by reptiles from the beginning of our existence. While some reptiles are relatively safe to keep as pets, it is a bad plan to hold others in the captivity of your home. When snapping turtles are kept as pets, they frequently grow to weigh over 60 pounds. The sheer size of the creatures makes it difficult to handle them.

Snapping turtles are known to be highly aggressive animals. It is important to remember that when left in their natural habitat these animals are mighty hunters to many animals such as frogs, insects, worms, snakes, frogs, fish, smaller turtles, birds, small mammals, and crayfish. It is only natural for them to use their bite and strength to “hunt” for food, even when they are kept in captivity. If you are considering keeping a snapping turtle as a pet you should keep the force of their bite in the forefront of their mind. There are a plethora of videos on the internet depicting the damage that these animals can cause. Considering that they are capable of biting through the thick shell of another turtle, it is easy to draw the conclusion that they can easily penetrate both the skin and muscle of humans.

When considering a turtle as a pet several people across the globe opt for a smaller, less aggressive breed. There are several very good reasons for this. Aside from the nasty bite that snapping turtles can deliver, it is necessary to consider the size that snapping turtles can grow to. Once a turtle surpasses eight inches in length it is recommended that they are kept in a 55-gallon tank at the very least. As these animals grow it becomes more and more difficult to keep them contained in a large enough enclosure. This is the cause of many snapping turtles that have been held in captivity being released back into the wild as they approach adulthood.




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Is It Cruel to Ear Crop and Tail Dock a Dog?


Ear cropping and tail docking for dogs is usually considered to be cosmetic surgery for dogs. In other words, neither procedure is necessary for a dog’s health; it is simply done for appearance. These procedures used to be standard for certain breeds.

However, many owners are reconsidering having them done because they are unnecessary and may be considered cruel.

adult doberman pinscher dog

Which Dog Breeds Have This Done?

According to the American Kennel Club, there are as many as twenty breeds that routinely undergo this procedure. These are some of the most common breeds.

Ear Cropping

Tail Docking

  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Rottweilers
  • Boxers

The American Kennel Club estimates that there are 17 other breeds that undergo ear cropping and 62 other breeds that undergo tail docking in addition to the most common ones listed here.

Doberman pinscher baby natural ears
According to the Pet Health Network, these procedures served a useful purpose at one time. Cropped ears on guard breeds such as Great Danes and Dobermans prevented the ears from being ripped in a fight. Docked tails on hunting and herding breeds prevented injuries as the dogs performed their various functions. Over time, these breeds were used more for companionship rather than the purpose for which they were originally bred. So the necessity of these procedures are being questioned.

How Are These Procedures Performed?

The procedures are usually performed on very young puppies. Tail docking is performed without anesthesia when a puppy is only a few days old. Although the puppy feels pain, the rationale is that the puppy is so young that it will recover quickly. The vet uses scissors to cut off the tail to the desired length and then bandages the stump to prevent infection.

Ear cropping is a more complicated procedure which requires the use of anesthesia. The flap of the dog’s ear is removed and the ears are taped for several weeks to “train” them to remain upright. This procedure is typically performed on puppies that are six to twelve weeks old.

Why Are These Procedures Done?

As stated previously, at one time there was a practical purpose for these procedures. However, they have now become more cosmetic than practical. Several countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom have banned them altogether.

In the United States, the controversy is becoming more heated. This is partially due to the American Kennel Club’s stance on preserving the historical standards of the breeds. In fact, these procedures are still part of the AKC standards for these breeds even though they now say that dogs who have not had them done can still compete and win dog show competitions. However, many veterinarians in the United States are against the procedures and the American Veterinary Medical Association discourages the practice. Because of this, a few states are considering banning the procedures but none have done so at this time.
cocker-spaniel-docked-tail

What Are the Pros and Cons?

As with any surgical procedure, there are health risks to consider. Young puppies who have these procedures are at increased risk for blood loss and infection of the surgical wounds. Futhermore, docked tails can develop nerve damage over time, which can cause pain and affect the dog’s temperment.

Tail docking can cause social issues as well. Dogs use a complex body language for social communication to other dogs. When the tail is docked, the dog may not be able to communicate effectively which may cause unwarrented aggression or fights with other dogs.

The only argument for tail docking is that it can prevent injuries for working dogs. Herding and hunting breeds who are active in their respective fields are prone to broken or sprained tails. However, dogs who are merely used for companionship rarely need to have the procedure done.

As far as ear cropping is concerned, there are more arguments against it than for it. Ear cropping in this modern age is done purely for cosmetic reasons rather than health concerns. The procedure exposes a young puppy with an immature immune system to the risk of infection. Also, there is no evidence that ear cropping reduces the risk of ear infections.

Conclusion

Companion and service dogs have no need for either of these procedures. There is no increased risk of injury or infection if they are not done and the procedures do not give any real benefit to the dog. Research also indicates that the perceived risk of injury for working or hunting breeds is unfounded.

Boston Terrier Ears Up

Therefore, these procedures are cosmetic and elective. The only motivation for them is to conform the dog’s appearance to a certain standard. When enough pressure is brought to bear on the dog show world, hopefully those standards will change and the procedures will be banned altogether. This is why many animal welfare associations are actively working to legalize a ban on these procedures in the United States and for cropped ears and docked tails to be removed from AKC standards.

Ultimately, every dog owner needs to research and decide what is best for their dog. However, the majority of evidence proves that not only are these procedures out-dated and unnecessary, they do inflict pain on young puppies and expose them to an increased risk of infection.

Because of this, ear cropping and tail docking could indeed be considered cruelty to dogs.

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Controlling Feral Cat Populations Using Trap-Neuter-Return Programs

Trap-neuter-return, or TNR consist of the capture, sterilization, and release of feral cats in order to control the population of feral cat colonies.

Either local animal control or a caregiver who has been feeding the cat will use a live cat trap with food inside to procure the animal. Then, the cat is transported to a veterinary facility or animal shelter to be examined and spayed or neutered.

Trap Neuter Return Programs

In many cases, the cat may also receive vaccinations such as those for rabies. Treatments for common feline medical conditions such as deworming medications are sometimes also available. Often, clinics will perform a procedure called “eartipping”: a small segment of the tip of the ear is cut in order to identify sterilized cats. This practice prevents readmission of cats who have already received a vasectomy or hysterectomy. After a short stay in the clinic of one or two days, an adult cat is then returned to its original habitat where it was trapped. A kitten or stray cat is instead taken to a shelter to be cared for until adoption.




What are the pros and cons of such programs?

Pros

Trap-neuter-return provide communities with a solution to ever-increasing numbers of stray and wild cats. With a committed caretaker providing necessary food and shelter, feral cats who have been involved in a TNR program may have a lifespan of up to 10 years. Eventually, the colony will reduce since the individuals are no longer able to reproduce. In a complete absence of the colony, a new one would take its place, utilizing the resources the old one left behind. This fact makes trap-and-kill methods less effective than TNR. Feral cats who have undergone a TNR program, and are properly cared for, are useful for reducing rodent populations on farms and near restaurants and homes. Due to their wild behaviors, most feral cats are rarely accepted into shelters and cannot be adopted; fix and release programs offer both these cats and the community a less disruptive solution than euthanasia or relocation. In most areas, TNR programs are usually preferred to trap-and-kill since they are humane and cost roughly $60 as opposed to euthanasia, which costs around $100. Animal shelters that house feral cats, instead of adopting TNR, spend taxpayer funds and end up having to euthanize most of the cats due to low adoption rates.

Cons

Feral cats who are released back into the wild may develop diseases and infections such as feline AIDS, feline leukemia, upper respiratory infects, and anemia. Fleas, ticks, worms, and other parasites can cause unbearable discomfort and even illness. Feral cats are also subject to the elements, including extreme heat, freezing temperatures, and oncoming vehicles. Predators are yet another risk to their wellbeing; domestic and wild dogs, other cats, birds of prey, and even cruel humans may attack feral cats, injuring or killing them. Starving or consuming tainted prey, such as mice that have eaten poisons, are also likely causes of harm.

Pros ad Cons of TNR

In some cases, feral cats also pose a danger to humans: rabies, toxoplasmosis, typhus, and even bubonic plague. Cats left to their own devices in the wilderness will also decimate bird, small reptile and mammalian populations due to an innate instinct to hunt–hunger is often irrelevant.

Do TNR Programs Work?

In the event there is a caregiver who is consistent in meeting the needs of these cats, feral cats can live long, peaceful and fulfilling lives in their natural habitat. However, they are still somewhat at risk of the many dangers that come with living outdoors and still pose a risk to humans. For the benefit of local communities, TNR programs are more likely to bring significant changes to the local population of feral cats; trap-and-kill programs will lead to other colonies occupying the previous one’s habitat due to available resources left behind.

How to Care for Feral Cats

Fix and release programs only work if the entire colony is sterilized and there are consistent food and water sources made available. Not only will feral TNR populations reduce over time, they will avoid traveling in search of resources, virtually eliminating the spread of pests and diseases beyond their current colony area.




What Are the Alternatives

Common alternatives to Trap-neuter-return programs include trap-and-kill programs and relocation. Trap-and-kill programs aim to reduce local populations of feral cats by euthanasia; however, these programs only lead to new feral cats–who have not been spayed or neutered–moving into the area and utilizing existing resources. Also, there are many advocates for these cats that deem trap-and-kill programs cruel and inhumane. Relocation places the feral cats in another area, creating the same concerns as to whether or not this method is truly effective at reducing feral cat populations as trap-and-kill but with its own problems as well, including increased rates of starvation and disease. As animal shelters have housed many a feral cat, they have realized the financial burden on local taxpayers and charity organizations is much greater when a fix and release program is not implemented. Shelters provide food, housing, and veterinary care and attempt to acclimate feral cats to humans. When they cannot be adopted out of the system or cared for after a certain amount of time, the cats are euthanized, which is another large cost to the community. Overall, it is much simpler and cheaper for local shelters and governments to implement fix and release, or TNR, programs.

Who Funds Trap-Neuter-Return Programs?

Trap-neuter-return programs are funded by charity organizations, local government agencies, and communities. Some city and county governments in the following states have established and implemented fix and release programs for feral cats:Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Spay and Neuter

Local animal shelters may also provide vouchers which reduce or eliminate the costs to spay or neuter feral cats.

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What is the Largest Rabbit Breed?


What Is the Largest Type of Rabbit?
Flemish Giants are the largest breed of rabbits, often referred to as the ‘king of rabbits’ due to their enormous size. Flemish Giants routinely reach an adult weight of 14 pounds, but Giants have been recorded hitting weights of as much as 22 pounds.

In the wild, the average rabbit tends to weigh anywhere from about 1 to 4 pounds. It would take about 9 such rabbits to equal the mass of the largest rabbit in the world.

flemish giant rabbit largest breed

There’s a wide range of sizes from breed to breed of rabbits, with the heaviest breed of rabbits tipping the scales at over 20 pounds. Here are a few facts about giant rabbit breeds:




Largest Breeds of Rabbits

The American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA) recognizes a handful of giant rabbit breeds. Here are five of the largest:

Giant Angora

Giant Angoras are the largest of the Angora breeds, and must grow to a minimum of 9 1/2 pounds for senior bucks and 10 pounds for senior does.

Originally from Turkey, Angoras were popular among French Royalty for their fur, which was woven into angora wool.

Giant Angoras tend to have an easy-going temperament.

Big Angora Rabbit

French Lop

The French Lop, which weighs about 10 points on average, was originally bred in France, where it was created by the crossing of a butterfly rabbit and an English Lop.

French Lops have short ears which hang down each side of its head, and are known to be intelligent and of easy and calm temperament. As such, they tend to be a good breed for interacting with children. French Lops like company, meaning they should be kept in pairs whenever possible.

huge french lop rabbit



Checkered Giant

Known as Giant Papillons in the United Kingdom, Checkered Giants have a minimum weight of 11 pounds for senior bucks and 12 pounds for senior does.

No one is precisely certain as to the origin of the Checkered Giant, though some speculate that it came about from crossing a Lop with a Flemish Giant.

The Checkered Giant derives its name from its unique color pattern, featuring a white coat with blue or black markings. It has circles around its eyes, a dark strip of fur down the length of the spine, and a butterfly on its nose.

Checkered Giants are known as a breed of nervous temperament, and have been known to bite on occasion. Experience is needed if raising or showing the breed.

rabbit papillon

Giant Chinchilla

Giant Chinchillas, created in 1921 in the United States, have a weight of 12 to 15 pounds for senior bucks and 13 to 16 pounds for senior does.

The first Giant Chinchilla was a cross between a Flemish Giant and a Standard Chinchilla. Giant Chinchillas are frequently raised for meat, though they are of a gentle and calm temperament. They’re known for their large litters, as litters of 6 to 8 are frequent.

chinchilla rabbit



Flemish Giant

Flemish Giants are believed to have come from stone rabbits in the Flemish region, though specifics are unknown.

Flemish Giants are a hardy breed, and if socialized at a young age tend to be of a gentle temperament.

How Large Do They Get?

The largest Flemish Giants on record tip the scales at over 20 pounds, and have been measured at lengths of over 4 feet.

One of the most famous Flemish Giants was named Herman, and clocked in at 22 pounds. Another celebrated Flemish Giant was named Rudi, and outweighed Herman by two pounds. Herman, however, was longer than Rudi, and is generally regarded as the bigger rabbit overall. But then there is Humphrey, a French Lop that’s over 42 inches long.

Lifestyle and Temperament

Flemish Giants can be tolerant of handling and docile, but must be handled frequently to reach that temperament. If improperly handled or neglected, they can become either fearful or aggressive.

Anyone thinking about getting a Flemish Giant should be aware of a few special conditions when raising the breed.

First of all, because of their weight Flemish Giants are particularly prone to sores on their feet and hocks if caged with improper gauging.

Second, Flemish Giants need a good deal of space to flourish. It’s recommended that they receive at least 5 feet of floor space, and even more for larger than average Flemish Giants.

flemish Giant Baby Bunnies
The diet of Flemish Giants is a little bit different than many other rabbits in a few ways. Flemish Giants need more food than most rabbits, which may be stating the obvious. But they also need more protein than most rabbits early in their lives. Flemish Giants need to produce far more bone mass, and they grow relatively slowly. And all that food means more waste – Flemish Giants produce quite a bit more than the average rabbit.

A Flemish Giant reaches full size at about a year and a half, and lives around 8 to 10 years.

Do They Make Good Pets?

Flemish Giants can make excellent pets. However, it’s best to know certain things about them before considering them as a potential pet.

  • It’s imperative that Flemish Giants receive socialization at a tender age. If they are properly socialized when young, they will usually have a gentle and peaceful temperament.
  • A Flemish Giant’s temperament (if properly socialized) is suitable for children, but the breed may not be the best choice for a family with young children. The weight of the rabbit tends to make it too difficult for young children to carry a Flemish Giant.
  • Flemish Giants need to be lifted and carried carefully, with special attention given to their spine alignment, again due to their weight.
  • It’s also necessary to consider whether you’re willing and able to devote the resources needed to raise and keep A Flemish Giant. Can you allocate enough space, and are you able to support its larger-than-average diet? And you’ll need to stay on top of keeping its habitat clean in light of the waste it produces.

If all of the above sounds reasonable and you want to own the ‘King of the Rabbits’, a Flemish Giant could be the rabbit for you.

Further Reading

image credits:
By Stamatisclan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Ben23 (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
By No machine-readable author provided. Hagen Graebner assumed (based on copyright claims). [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

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Can You Die from Touching a Poison Dart Frog?


Can A Dart Frog Kill You?
Yes, a golden dart frog’s poison is strong enough that a single frog can kill 10 men with a single dose; it only takes 2 micrograms, an amount that can fit on a pinhead, to fell a single human adult.

Dendrobatidae frogs, meaning “tree-walker” in Greek, are a family of frogs native to Central and South America.

Genus of this family include: Colostethus, Epipedobates, Phyllobates, and Minyobates steyermarki.

After a revision in 2006, the Dendrobatidae consists of 13 genera and 170 species. The Hyloxalus genus is the largest at 56 species and Minyobates steyermarki is a monotype, meaning that it is the sole member of its genus, known as Minyobates.

Azure dart frog



Why Are They Called “Poison Dart Frogs?”

These animals received their nickname after evidence that the mucous from a handful of frog species, all from the relatively large Phyllobates genus, was used to poison the blowdarts of indigenous people. Most tribes tended to prefer using the curare plant for this purpose.

origin poison dart frog

Nicknames

Beyond the common “poison dart frog,” these animals are also known as poison frogs or dart-poison frogs. Several genera have their own unique nicknames as well: Colostethus frogs are sometimes referred to as “rocket frogs;” Epipedobates frogs are referred to as “phantasmal poison frogs” because of the large number of species that exhibit cryptic coloration (see below); Phyllobates frogs are referred to as “golden poison frogs” for their bright yellow coloration and are the most toxic of all poison dart frogs and Minyobates steyermarki has garnered several nicknames, including “demonic poison(-arrow) frog,” and “Yapacana’s little red frog.”

the most toxic frog golden dart

They exhibit “aposematism” or “color warning.” These animals have extremely bright patterns of coloration to signify their toxicity to predators. Some species exhibit “cryptic coloration,” meaning that they do not actually produce any toxic mucous, but merely survive by signalling the implication of toxicity. Generally, the brighter and more vibrant the coloration, the more toxic the frog is or wants predators to believe it to be.




How Big Are They?

Poison dart frogs range in size from 1.5 cm to 6 cm, depending on the sex and species.

Where Do They Live?

Although poison dart frogs are chiefly found within the tropical rainforests of Central and South America, at least one species was introduced to the United States of America by way of Hawaii. Although they are tree frogs, these animals can generally be found along the ground and in foliage no more than 30 feet off the ground.

Red striped poison dart frog

How Poisonous Are They?

The answer to this question depends on two factors.

Factor #1: Is it a species that actually exhibits poison mucous?

Despite their common name, only three species of poison frog, Phyllobates terribilis, Phyllobates aurotaenia, and Phyllobates bicolor were ever used to coat the tips of darts by indigenous peoples. The most toxic species, Phyllobates terribilis is capable of producing 20 times as much batrachotoxin and homobatrachoxin as other Dendrobatidids; these two poisons affect the heart and nervous system and their name literally translates as “frog poison” in Greek.

Factor #2: What does the poison frog eat?

Only poison frogs that consume vermin like ants, mites and termites are able to secrete their trademark poison and such creatures tend to focus their diet on such fare. Furthermore, it is believed that most of the insects such frogs consume tend to only make those frogs poisonous because of the insects’ diets of poisonous plants. Poison frogs that rely on cryptic camouflage tend to have a much wider-degree of diet thanks to the freedom of not needing fuel to generate the highly-noxious toxins iconic to the animals. Domesticated poison frogs tend to have a diet that excludes the sort of insects that allow them to secrete toxic mucous.

How Dangerous Are They Compared to Other Poisonous/Venomous Animals?

Unless you are planning a trip into the tropical jungles of Central or South America, you have relatively little to fear from poison dart frogs. Even upon encountering a legitimately poisonous poison dart frog, you are perfectly fine unless you come into physical contact with it. Because their poisonous mucous works entering the body through the skin, these deadly animals can be handled with gloves. Lastly, poison dart frogs are passive threats; their poison is on their skin, rather than on a natural weapon like a snake’s fangs or a scorpion’s tail.

poison arrow frog

In the grand scale of poisonous and venomous animals, the golden dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis), the most toxic among its Family, would be placed right between the cone snail’s conotoxin, which there is no cure for, and the box jellyfish’s nematocysts, which affects the heart, nervous system and even the skin. A golden dart frog’s poison is strong enough that a single frog can kill 10 men with a single dose; it only takes 2 micrograms, an amount that can fit on a pinhead, to fell a single human adult. While the cone snail and box jellyfish are relegated to just the ocean, the golden dart frog’s habitat continues to shrink due to urban development. When assessing the poison of most other species, the overall effect is an incredibly unpleasant taste when a predator’s attempts to eat it.

venomous vs poisonous

Beyond batrachotoxin and homobatrachoxin, the poison secreted by these frogs can include:

  • Allopumiliotoxin 267A, a poison that affects the heart
  • Epibatidine, which is derived from Epipedobates anthonyi, informally known as Anthony’s poison arrow frog. While research went into medicinal uses like a painkiller, the unfortunate necessity to use nearly as much of the poison as a normal fatal dose ended such research.
  • Histrionicotoxins, named after the Oophaga histrionica of Columbia, are a relatively low-power poison that can be recovered from in a few hours. The chief effect of these poisons is damage to the nervous system.
  • Pumiliotoxin 251D, which affects the heart and nerves, leading to cardiac arrest, convulsions, hyperactivity, and even death, especially in arthropods.

Further Reading

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How Much Work Is It to Own a Saltwater Fish Tank?


When you were a kid, your family probably had a bowl with a couple goldfish swimming around. If you were really lucky, you had a freshwater aquarium containing such popular fish as guppies, tetras or even a gorgeous betta.

Now that you’re grown, you’re ready to take an additional step and upgrade to a saltwater fish tank. Before you “get your feet wet” in this new venture, however, you should consider some of the differences between the types to make sure a saltwater aquarium is right for you. Here are some of those differences:

Clownfish in fish tank



Cost of Setting Up

Generally, the initial cost to set up a saltwater tank is higher than for a freshwater aquarium. First, you must decide what kind of tank you need. The three main types of saltwater tanks, from lowest-priced to highest, are: (1) fish only, (2) fish only with live rock and (3) reef.

When you compare the cost to set up freshwater and saltwater tanks, the actual tank itself runs about the same, provided both hold an equal number of gallons. In order to maintain a healthy environment for your saltwater animals and plants, you’ll need a tank that holds a minimum of 50 gallons. The cost of aquarium lights is also about the same. A quarantine tank for new fish likewise costs about the same for fresh and saltwater aquariums.

The cost of the substrate on the bottom of tank will vary, as you need gravel for a freshwater tank and sand for the saltwater aquarium. You can count on sand costing about 2 1/2 times more than gravel.

The basic test kit for a freshwater tank tests pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. In addition to these tests, a saltwater test kit should include tests for calcium and alkalinity. Thus, you can expect a saltwater test kit to cost around $20 more than that for freshwater.

The most expensive and time-consuming tank setup is the reef tank. Reef tanks require a more complicated lighting system, as corals need a food supply that highly depends on photosynthesis. The reef tank lighting might actually turn out to cost 5 times more than that for freshwater or regular saltwater tanks. In addition, if your tank includes anemones and certain types of corals, you might need to invest in a reverse osmosis water filter system. Considering all the extras needed for a reef tank, you can expect the initial cost of setup to run around twice that of a regular saltwater tank.




Cost of Animals

As a rule, saltwater fish are more expensive than freshwater species. Such saltwater invertebrates as starfish, shrimp, clams, snails, crabs and urchins tend to be pricey, especially if you’re not located near the ocean and need to pay high shipping and handling costs to have them delivered to your door.

Related Reading:

Maintenance

To be sure, maintaining a saltwater tank is more time consuming than taking care of a freshwater aquarium. All aquariums require periodic partial water changing. If you have a freshwater tank, you can usually get by with removing around 10 percent of the water by using an aquarium vacuum and just refilling with filtered or chlorine-free tap water. For a saltwater tank, however, you need to separately mix the salt and water in another container, such as a bucket or large tank, several days in advance of changing.

Although not essential, a protein skimmer can be extremely beneficial in a saltwater tank system. A step above a mechanical filter, a protein skimmer works on the same principle as ocean waves that crash and deposit dirty particles in sea foam on the shore. A collection cup on the skimmer removes harmful substrates contained in bubbles.

Yellow Tang

Special Biological Needs

Not essential but highly recommended for a saltwater tank is live rock. Broken off as pieces of a coral reef, live rock is so named because living organisms, such as algae, bacteria, marine worms and small crustaceans, make their homes on marine coral reef structures.

Live rock serves as an important biological filter in the tank. This type of filtration allows good bacteria to grow and convert ammonia that results from uneaten food and fish waste first into nitrites and then into nitrates. Because of its porous nature, live rock provides living and hiding spaces for saltwater animals. Some creatures even use it for food.

Live rock also contributes to the aesthetics of a saltwater aquarium, as it adds to the natural appearance of the tank and can be a home for beautifully-colored algae.

Most freshwater fish available for sale have been raised on fish farms for several generations and are used to eating man-made food or fish flakes. Because most species of saltwater fish are caught in the wild, they might need to be slowly acclimated to an aquarium diet over the course of several weeks or even months.

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Are Hedgehogs Related to Porcupines?


Hedgehogs and porcupines, though often confused, are very different creatures. Apart from their enthusiasm for acupuncture, they are entirely different species who have merely developed similar reactions to physical threats over the years.

What is a hedgehog?


hedgehogs are not related to porcupines


A hedgehog is a small carnivorous mammal, that can measure between six inches to one foot in length. Their most striking visual feature is certainly the hard, sharpened spikes, also called spines, on their backs. These are a type of defense mechanism used to deter predators. If a hedgehog feels threatened, they tuck themselves into a small ball, covering their vulnerable body parts and exposing their sharp, spiky exterior. Because they are nocturnal, they also are known to sleep in this defensive position as well. There is a lot more to hedgehogs besides their spikes, though.

Their name comes from an appropriation of their foraging behavior, which early peoples found similar to the behavior of foraging hogs. They make similar grunting noises while rustling through hedges for the small bugs, rodents and occasional amphibians that comprise their diet. Hedgehogs utilize their great sense of smell to compensate for their poor vision.

Occasionally found in gardens and increasingly kept as pets, hedgehogs are known to keep largely to themselves in the wild. They are solitary animals, born in litters of about a dozen, and only remaining in their nest for about two months prior to embarking out into the world.




What is a porcupine?


porcupines are not hedgehogs


Porcupines are mammals, that can be two to three feet in length, not including their tail, which can measure just under a foot in length. The size can roughly be compared to that of a domestic house cat, but that is about where the similarities end. A porcupine’s hair is soft, but it’s back is covered by a thick layer of needle-like quills. The quills vary in length with the species, but can be up to twelve inches in length. They begin as hairs grown within the first few days of birth, but quickly harden to form their primary defense system. The porcupine can perk up, and even eject the quills at attackers when it feels threatened.

North and South American porcupines largely live on branches and eat small twigs and tree bark. They have tails similar to possums that can wrap around branches for better climbing grip. Eurasian and African varieties can inhabit a large variety of environments from wooded forests to deserts and typically have shorter, less specialized tails. No matter where they are found, porcupines have a feisty nature to contrast their herbivore lifestyle.

Related Reading:

How are They Similar?

The obvious comparison between hedgehogs and porcupines is their spines. The backs of both mammals are covered in sharp points and used for their protection. Another similarity can be found in looking at the Latin root of the name porcupine, which translates to “quill pig,” meaning both animals have a historic comparison to swine. Like the male and female versions of swine, the male and female gendered porcupines and hedgehogs are called boars and sows respectively. Hedgehogs and porcupines each make vocalizations comparable to pig grunts as well.

type of hedgehog

Other similarities stem from their independent nature. Neither hedgehogs or porcupines are social creatures and spend the large majority of their lives alone. Both can be found in several different climates and geographic locations around the world. Though they consume different diets, both animals find their food by using their great sense of smell to make up from their limited eyesight. Eyesight is not essential for either animal because most varieties of each are nocturnal.




How are They Different?

While it might be tempting to conflate images of the two mammals, they have less in common than most people imagine. There are many important differences between the animals both in appearance and behavior.

Porcupines are much larger than hedgehogs, weighing much more and growing to almost four times the length. For reference, the average weight for a hedgehog is just under two pounds while some species of porcupines weigh easily over thirty-five pounds. Any easy way to visually distinguish between the two species if size cannot be accurately determined, is to look at their noses. Hedgehogs have what could be described as berry, or button noses that extend from a tapered snout and porcupines have large pronounced nostrils similar to that of a large rabbit or small dog. Porcupine noses are typically snubbed and pink, in comparison with a hedgehog’s rounded brown nose. Their feet are very easy to distinguish between, and follow suit with the rest of their nature. Hedgehog paws are petite with short ineffectual nails. Porcupine feet are wider with long, strong claws that are better for climbing and stripping bark.

Porcupine Species

In terms of behavior, hedgehogs and porcupines have different diets, quill types, and many other attributes. Eating only plant-based natural material, porcupines are vegetarians. In contrast, hedgehogs typically leave vegetation alone and rather eat the small insects and snails that bother plants, making them the perfect tiny guardians little guardians. This, paired with their small size and mild-mannered demeanor, make hedgehogs a relatively popular house pet. Porcupines, however, would make terrible pets because they are too large and much more aggressive.

Their quills can become dislodged when they are attacked, but hedgehog quills are much more permanent. Knowing this, porcupines have avoided being the target of many predators over the years while hedgehogs are known to supplement the diets of large rodents and carnivorous birds.

Porcupines do not hibernate, and are found active even in cold climates. Hedgehogs hibernate through most of the winter. That being said, a majority of porcupine species are found in more tropical regions, making their winters less harsh. Hedgehogs are born in large litters, but porcupines are born in litters as small as one sometimes and their period of gestation is several weeks longer.

The animals, though both adorable and important, are not related. That being said, the world is certainly big enough for them both.

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