Gentle Care Animal Hospital

Gentle Care Animal Hospital

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cat on a leash: We'll walk you through it

Back in the late 1950s when I was a wee one in small-town Maine, we all — kids and grown-ups alike — snickered relentlessly at the lady who lived across Benton Avenue from my grandparents. Every afternoon she'd carry her massive tiger cat outside and connect a long cable to its harness, and the cat would spend the next several hours sunning herself, scratching at the maple tree and stalking birds.

This was at a time when people had mostly indoor-outdoor cats that roamed at will. Most of those cats had short lives, the result of unfortunate run-ins with cars, foxes, dogs and other cats. The neighbor lady's cat, on the other hand, lived nearly 20 active, sociable years. So much for our derision.

I thought about that old cat recently when on two separate occasions I saw women walking their cats through the park. Yup. Cats in harnesses on leashes strolling about the boulders and pine trees. Acting like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Turns out that in these times when most cat breeders, trainers and shelter personnel implore people to protect their cats by making them indoor-only pets, a few are recommending leash walks for felines as a way to stimulate them, keep them fit and allow them to connect with nature.

There's even a new self-published book, Walk Your Cat, The Complete Guide (Spiraka, $12.99), written by Steven Jacobson and Jean Miller, a married couple who have trained a handful of cats to prowl about confidently at the end of a leash.

"After a tough day," says Miller, a Virginia Tech philosophy instructor, "it's a nice, relaxing thing to come home, get the leash and take the cat out for a long walk."


Even she acknowledges that those words have an odd ring to them.

She hopes that in five or 10 years, though, cat owners the world over will be seen every evening de-stressing with cat walks. For the moment, however, as perhaps the nation's most vocal cat-walk advocate, she's "spending a lot of time trying to overcome the stigma."

The reasons leash walking for cats isn't already part of the American routine, she says, are twofold. First, most people think you can't train cats. More important, anyone who has ever tried to venture into kitty-stroll territory has probably been wildly unsuccessful. And that, Miller says, is "because they've used a dog model of leash training. That's certain to fail."

Miller and Jacobson have developed a step-by-step method that they say ensures success as long as the owner abides by the ever-so-important, can't-be-breached, No. 1 rule: You can't rush the process. It could take months to get a cat accustomed to the harness, confident with the process, no longer struggling against the leash, responsive to such words as "wait" and "no," and willing to return home when it's time.

The authors say that the command-and-control approach often used with dogs never works with cats (and will likely spur them to escape their harness and dash off), so it's important to know how to motivate them, how to reassure them when they get nervous, and how to habituate them to the sometimes-scary sounds and sights of the great outdoors. The couple's training method offers instruction in all these areas.

"Patience," Miller says repeatedly. "Without patience it's not going to work."

In other words, you'll wind up with "a flying furball at the end of a leash."


All this to give your indoor cat a few minutes to stalk a bird and roll in the grass?

"Cats have a very real need to go outdoors," she says. And though she advocates that cats be inside-only for their own safety if they're not attached to a human hand, she believes owners can accommodate a feline's nature needs with leash walks that allow them "the incomparable variety and intensity of sights, sounds and smells," not to mention the significant "behavioral stimulation."

Phooey, many cat experts say. You can give an indoors-only cat sufficient stimulation, you've just got to work at it — playing games with them, providing enrichment toys and climbing stands, and keeping plugged into the things they like, like dripping water, wadded-up paper or chase games.

"I'm totally against walking cats … for a lot of reasons," says Redwood City, Calif., cat behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger, columnist for Cat Fancy magazine. First and foremost, she says, "you can't control the environment" when you're outdoors, and if a cat freaks out because a truck drives by or a dog trots up out of nowhere, bad things will probably happen.

Moreover, she says, once they catch that love-the-outdoors bug, "they'll want to go out all the time" and are likely to become "door darters" that seize every chance to escape, or spend hours "howling at the windows." (Miller offers instruction in her book that she says will prevent those things.)

Still, for all her reservations about the concept, Krieger says "there are some cats that do fine with leash walking" especially "if they're started very early, like show cats."

Change happens. And maybe Miller's dream will come true. I've known a parrot that allowed himself to be hauled through the neighborhood in a little red wagon, and a massive pet pig that slept in a bathtub and led the family's goat around the yard by a rope, so I guess cats on leashes may not be all that extraordinary.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Veterinary Study Finds Aggressive Owners Have Aggressive Dogs

In a new, year-long University of Pennsylvania survey of dog owners who use confrontational or aversive methods to train aggressive pets, veterinary researchers have found that most of these animals will continue to be aggressive unless training techniques are modified.

The study, published in the current issue of Applied Animal Behavior Science, also showed that using non-aversive or neutral training methods such as additional exercise or rewards elicited very few aggressive responses.

"Nationwide, the No. 1 reason why dog owners take their pet to a veterinary behaviorist is to manage aggressive behavior," Meghan E. Herron, lead author of the study, said. "Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them or intimidating them with physical manipulation does little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses."

The team from the School of Veterinary Medicine at Penn suggest that primary-care veterinarians advise owners of the risks associated with such training methods and provide guidance and resources for safe management of behavior problems. Herron, Frances S. Shofer and Ilana R. Reisner, veterinarians with the Department of Clinical Studies at Penn Vet, produced a 30-item survey for dog owners who made behavioral service appointments at Penn Vet. In the questionnaire, dog owners were asked how they had previously treated aggressive behavior, whether there was a positive, negative or neutral effect on the dogs' behavior and whether aggressive responses resulted from the method they used. Owners were also asked where they learned of the training technique they employed.

Of the 140 surveys completed, the most frequently listed recommendation sources were "self" and "trainers." Several confrontational methods such as "hit or kick dog for undesirable behavior" (43 percent), "growl at dog" (41 percent), "physically force the release of an item from a dog's mouth" (39 percent), "alpha roll"physically -- rolling the dog onto its back and holding it (31 percent), "stare at or stare down" (30 percent), "dominance down" - physically forcing the dog down onto its side (29 percent) and "grab dog by jowls and shake" (26 percent) elicited an aggressive response from at least 25 percent of the dogs on which they were attempted. In addition, dogs brought to the hospital for aggressive behavior towards familiar people were more likely to respond aggressively to some confrontational techniques than dogs brought in for other behavioral reasons.

"This study highlights the risk of dominance-based training, which has been made popular by TV, books and punishment-based training advocates,"Herron said. "These techniques are fear-eliciting and may lead to owner-directed aggression."

Prior to seeking the counsel of a veterinary behaviorist, many dog owners attempt behavior-modification techniques suggested by a variety of sources. Recommendations often include the aversive-training techniques listed in the survey, all of which may provoke fearful or defensively aggressive behavior. Their common use may have grown from the idea that canine aggression is rooted in the need for social dominance or to a lack of dominance displayed by the owner. Advocates of this theory therefore suggest owners establish an "alpha" or pack-leader role.

The purpose of the Penn Vet study was to assess the behavioral effects and safety risks of techniques used historically by owners of dogs with behavior problems.

Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.

Source: Jordan Reese
University of Pennsylvania

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Dental Care at Home for Your Pet

Our last post was dedicated to educating our clients about the importance of dental care for your pets and what we as a practice can provide. The next most important pieces information that we can provide to you concern what YOU can do at home to ensure proper dental health for your furry loved ones.

Dr. Bowden passes along these tips for good home practices for keeping pearly whites in tip top shape:I am convinced that most of our patients over 3 have some degree of periodontal disease and many of those are suffering in silence. Time and time again, I have seen renewed vitality, health, and happiness in my patients following surgical extraction of one or more painful, infected teeth.

In additional to regular exams and professional cleanings, your pet needs daily attention at home. Imagine what would happen if you didn't brush your teeth for 6 months to a year!

Annual dental cleanings are no substitute for daily home care. Less than one month after a professional dental cleaning, plaque and bacteria are found on the teeth and below the gum line.

+ The efficient daily use of a soft-bristled toothbrush, with appropriate animal toothpaste, remains the only proven method for long term control of plaque and gum disease.

Judicious home care can prolong the interval between professional dental cleanings, although most pets will need annual cleanings for optimal oral cavity health. Our registered dental technicians can demonstrate proper tooth brushing techniques for you.

+ Chewing exercise is also beneficial as it stimulates natural teeth cleaning and protection mechanisms.

+ There are many products now available to augment your home dental care program. We recommend CET chews for dogs and cats and any over-the-counter product that carries the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal of approval on the product label.
Be sure to look for that seal of approval as many consumer products claim to produce results, but may not be best for your pet.

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February is Dental Month

Gentle Care Animal Hospital Celebrates National Pet Dental Month
Dr. Trudi Bowden provides this month's feature on your pet's pearly whites!

To educate pet owners about the importance of regular dental care, February has been designated National Pet Dental Month by a partnership between the American Veterinary Medical Association, American Veterinary Dental Society, Academy of Veterinary Dentistry, American Veterinary Dental College, Academy of Veterinary Dental Technicians, Veterinary Oral Health Council® and Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc.

Unfortunately, dental care is often ignored by owners. A recent American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) survey indicated that 66% of pet owners fail to provide essential dental care when recommended by their veterinarian. In fact, some studies suggest up to 90% of cats and dogs do not receive appropriate dental care. Experts agree that periodontal disease is the most prevalent disease of all cats and dogs. Periodontal disease is present in 70% of cats and 80% of dogs as young as three years of age. Although daily removal of plaque with tooth brushing is necessary for pets and people, the reality is that only two percent of pet owners actually follow through.

Regular preventive dental care includes oral home care by the pet owner and routine professional dental care by your veterinarian. The expenses associated with professional dental treatment are not insignificant. If, however, preventive care is ignored, the cost to the owner is often substantially higher for management of moderate to severe dental disease. More importantly, we must acknowledge that many of our pets are suffering in silence with undiagnosed periodontal pathology.

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is an inflammation of one or more of the support structures surrounding the teeth (gingiva, cementum, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone) and is caused by a buildup of plaque over time. When compared to gingivitis, periodontitis indicates loss of surrounding bone due to infection. Initially, plaque is soft and brushing or chewing hard food, hard treats, or toys will dislodge it. If allowed to persist and spread, plaque can lead to gingivitis, inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, periodontitis may cause loose, painful teeth as well as internal disease.

Periodontal disease is caused by plaque. It begins as a sticky bio-film of plaque composed primarily of bacteria. Plaque builds up on the tooth surface and over time will harden or calcify into tartar due to the mineral content in normal saliva. With progression of tartar, or calculus, plaque begins to accumulate more rapidly. Initially, plaque is soft and brushing or chewing hard food, hard treats, or toys will dislodge it. If allowed to persist and spread, plaque can lead to gingivitis, inflammation of the gums. Inflamed gums are red, swollen, and bleed easily.

As plaque and calculus develop below the gum line, a professional cleaning is necessary for complete removal. If the plaque and tartar buildup continues without intervention, infection can spread to the root of the tooth. In the final stages of periodontal disease, the tissues and bone surrounding the tooth are destroyed and the tooth becomes loose. This is a very painful process for your pet, but these problems can be averted before they even start.

Bone loss from periodontal disease occurs below the gum line. This can not be detected on a routine, awake examination of the oral cavity. In order to evaluate the stage of periodontal disease as well as the best option for treatment, your pet must be examined under general anesthesia. In addition to a visual examination, a periodontal probe and dental radiographs are used to measure bone loss.Stage 1: Gingivitis only, no attachment/support loss. Gingivitis is treatable and curable with daily tooth brushing.

Stage 2: Early periodontitis-less than 25% support loss. Periodontal disease is not curable once bone loss occurs, but may be controllable once treated and followed up with strict home care.

Stage 3: Established periodontitis- between 25-50% support loss. These teeth may be salvageable with a firm commitment to daily home care and more frequent professional cleanings.

Stage 4: Advanced periodontitis- greater than 50% support loss. Extraction is typically the only option for these teeth.

What are the signs of periodontal disease?

The most common sign of periodontal disease is halitosis or bad breath, caused by plaque (bacteria) accumulation. Experts agree periodontal disease is painful; it is an insidious chronic inflammatory disease to which most patients gradually adapt or cope. Some dogs and cats will have problems chewing hard food; others will paw at their mouths. Tragically, most will not show any obvious signs to their owners. By the time a cat or dog shows obvious oral cavity pain and dysfunction, severe periodontal disease is well established and numerous teeth must be extracted. Dental disease doesn’t affect just the mouth. Studies have shown that dogs with severe periodontal disease have more severe microscopic damage in their kidneys, heart muscle and liver than do dogs with less severe periodontal disease.
Signs to watch for: Bad breath, missing or loose teeth or teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar, guarding the head/face/mouth, drooling, dropping food from the mouth, swallowing food whole, changes in eating or chewing habits, pawing at the face or mouth, bleeding from the mouth/gums, loss of appetite, unexpected weight loss

What is the cost of a routine dental prophylaxis?

The definition of a ‘dental prophylaxis’ is a professional dental scaling, polishing, and fluoride treatment to maintain healthy teeth. Sadly, by the time most owners allow their pets to have their teeth professionally cleaned, some degree of periodontal disease is already present and the procedure is no longer considered ‘routine’.

If however, your pet has no periodontal disease and no fractured/missing teeth, a routine cleaning will average less than $300. This includes a comprehensive pre-surgical exam, IV catheter for emergency venous access/delivery of IV fluids and other medications, anesthetic monitoring with Pulse-oximetry, temperature, blood pressure, and EKG in select cases, supplemental heat, premedication for pain relief/sedation, dental probing/charting of the entire oral cavity, scaling and subgingival curettage of all accumulated plaque/tartar, polishing of all teeth, application of an antiseptic rinse and fluoride treatment. This does not however include the cost of dental radiographs (x-rays), extractions, nerve blocks, suture material, antibiotics, pain medications, or home dental care supplies. Many pets presenting for a presumed routine cleaning will have one or more problem areas identified while under anesthesia. It is important to discuss this with your veterinarian in advance so that diagnostic and treatment options and cost can be discussed and agreed upon in advance.

How often should my pets teeth be professionally cleaned?

The AAHA Dental Care Guidelines recommend regular oral examinations and dental cleanings, under general anesthesia, for all adult dogs and cats. AAHA recommends these procedures at least annually starting at one year of age for cats and small-breed dogs, and at two years of age for large-breed dogs.

Are dental radiographs (x-rays) really necessary?

Radiographs of the teeth are needed periodically in order to completely evaluate your pet’s oral health. Approximately 70% of the tooth is below the gingiva and not visible on oral exam alone. In many cases, the surface of the tooth can appear quite healthy, while significant disease is present in the tooth root and/or surrounding bone. Early detection can prompt treatment to prevent the development of a painful tooth root abscess. In many cases, x-rays will confirm the need for extraction of teeth that are loose or badly infected.

Last Thoughts
Many clients often ask, "Are his/her teeth bad enough to need a cleaning this year?"

In taking a pro-active approach to veterinary care, the doctor's of Gentle Care Animal Hospital don't recommend waiting until the mouth is in bad shape before you are willing to seek dental care.

A commitment to home care and annual veterinary dental care is an investment in your pet's dental health and comfort.

See for yourself, the following images are provided from two works by Jan Bellows, D.V.M., Diplomate, American Veterinary Dental College - Smile Book III and Canine Periodontal Disease – Diagnosis and Therapy.

The first two images provide a normal benchmark of both dog and cat dental conditions for comparison:

Normal - Canine

Normal - Feline

The following images detail increasing attachment loss:

25% Attachment Loss

Radiograph - 25% Attachment Loss

50% Attachment Loss

Gingivitis is not a people-only problem!

Early Gingivitis

Advanced Gingivitis


Severe Tartar / Early Periodontitis

Feline Alveolar Bone Expansion

Feline Alveolar Bone Expansion

Radiograph - Alveolar Bone Expansion

Progression of Feline Gingival Recession

Feline Gingival Recession

Marked Gingival Recession

Moderate Gingival Recession

Furcation Involvement

Furcation Involvement

Progression of Periodontal Disease

Grade 3 Periodontal Diseases - Canine

Grade 3 Periodontal Diseases - Feline

Stage 4 Periodontal Disease

As you can see, conditions can deteriorate quickly between stages. Preventative dental care at home and at your vet can help spot these issues become they become a problem.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Sussex Spaniel (the Oldest Dog Ever to Win) Takes Westminster Dog Show 2009

Westminster 2009 Winner

Another wonderful show. This years Westminster Dog Show was unbelievable! These were some of the most beautiful dogs ever. Over 2522 beautiful dogs were displayed representing 170 breeds during this two-day event. Competition and judging were tough, with a number of dogs returning to the show ring.

This year, a beautiful 10-year-old Sussex Spaniel that goes by the name "Stump" was the winner! He is the oldest dog to ever win the Westminster Dog Show! This gorgeous and charismatic pooch, formally named Ch Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee wowed both judges and spectators.

He won best in his breed group then continued on to win best in show on the final judging at the 2009 Westminster Dog show! Stump was born December 01, 1998.

"Stump" was handled by Scott Sommers, Scott also handled Ch Special Times Just Right! - a Bichon Frise that won the 2001 Westminster Dog Show. This is the first time a Sussex Spaniel has ever won the Westminster Dog Show.

This is the first win for the Sussex during the 133-year history! The show took place at Madison Square Gardens in New York City.

For more information about the Sussex Spaniel breed, go to Choosing a Sussex Spaniel breed profile.

2009 Westminster Dog Show Results for Best in Breed Group

  • Toy group: Ch Cilleine Masquerade (Breed: Brussels Griffon)

  • Herding group: Ch Cordmaker Field Of Dreams (Breed:Puli)

  • Hound group: Ch Gayleward's Tiger Woods (Breed:Scottish Deerhound)

  • Non-sporting group: Ch Randenn Tristar Affirmation (Breed:Poodle Standard).

  • Terrier group: Ch Roundtown Mercedes Of Maryscot (Breed: Scottish Terrier)

  • Working group: Ch Galilee's Pure Of Spirit (Breed:Giant Schnauzer)

  • Sporting group: Ch Clussexx Three D Grinchy Glee (Breed: Sussex Spaniel)

    The Westminster Dog Show, in its 133rd season in 2009, is the second-longest continuously running sporting event in the United States, next to the Kentucky Derby.

    Future Dates

    You may want to mark you calendar for next year's event. Next year will mark the 134th year!

    Next year's dates are: Monday and Tuesday, February 15-16, 2010.
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    One In Three Smokers Would Quit For Sake Of Pets, US Study

    Researchers surveying pet owners living in Michigan, USA, found that one in three of the smokers said knowing smoking was bad for their pet's health would make them quit and about one in ten said this would make them ask other smokers they lived with to quit.

    The study was carried out by researchers from the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, Michigan, and is published online on 10 February in the BMJ journal Tobacco Control.

    Although studies show that second hand smoke harms humans and animals, there is not a lot of information on the proportion of pet owners who either smoke themselves or allow others to smoke in their homes.

    Second hand smoke has been linked with lymph gland, nasal, and lung cancers, plus a range of allergies, diseases of eye and skin, and respiratory problems in cats and dogs.

    For this study, the researchers carried out a web-based survery of 3,293 adult pet owners living in the state of Michigan, USA. They asked them about their smoking status, whether any people living with them smoked, whether they allowed smoking in the home or not, and how knowing about the effects of second hand smoke on animal health would change their intentions about smoking and their smoking policies.

    The results showed that:
    • 21 per cent of the respondents were current smokers.

    • 27 per cent of the respondents lived with at least one other person who smoked.

    • 28.4 per cent of respondents who smoked said that knowing about the risks of second hand smoke to animal health would make them try to quit.

    • 8.7 per cent of respondents said knowing about the risks of second hand smoke to animal health would make them ask co-habitant smokers to quit.

    • 14.2 per cent said that knowing about the risks of second hand smoke to animal health would make them change their smoking policy to ban smoking indoors.

    • 16.4 per cent of respondents who were non-smokers but lived with smokers said they would ask their co-habitants to quit.

    • 24 per cent of non-smokers who lived with smokers said they would be interested in receiving information about smoking, quitting and the effects of second hand smoke.
    The authors concluded that:

    "Educational campaigns informing pet owners of the risks of SHS [second hand smoke] exposure for pets could motivate some owners to quit smoking. It could also motivate these owners and non-smoking owners who cohabit with smokers make their homes smoke-free."

    They said that pet owners are a devoted bunch and would make good targets for anti-smoking public health campaigns that focus on the effects of second hand smoke on animals.

    Nearly two thirds of US homes has at least one pet, and Americans spend about 10 billion dollars a year on pet supplies.

    But the depth of devotion that Americans have for their pets is perhaps reflected in the results of a recent survey referred to by the authors as carried out by the American Animal Hospital Association where half the respondents are reported to have said if they were stranded on a desert island they would prefer to have their pet with them rather than another person.

    "Pet owners' attitudes and behaviours related to smoking and second-hand smoke: a pilot study."
    S M Milberger, R M Davis, A L Holm.
    Tobacco Control online first, February 2009.
    doi 10.1136/tc.2008.028282

    Click here for Tobacco Control online first.

    Sources: Journal abstract, BMJ press release.

    Written by: Catharine Paddock, PhD
    Copyright: Medical News Today

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    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Peanut Butter Salmonella Infects Dog In Oregon

    Oregon Public Health Division epidemiologists confirmed today that the national outbreak of salmonella linked to contaminated peanut butter products can also affect pets. Laboratory testing has confirmed salmonella for at least one dog in a Douglas County household. Dog biscuits in the household have also been found to be contaminated with salmonella.

    "The dog biscuits were on the list of products recalled several weeks ago," said Dr. Emilio DeBess, Oregon State Public Health Veterinarian. "They contain peanut butter that comes from the same Georgia plant that has been linked to the human illnesses."

    The positive test results came from a box of Happy Tails Multi-Flavor Dog Biscuits that was sold at an Albertsons in Roseburg.

    "Several other brands of pet treats are also on the recall list, and we shouldn't put too much emphasis on this particular brand," DeBess said. "This is a reminder that people need to check not only their own food, but their pet food and treats as well. If the products contain any peanut ingredients, you should check the FDA's website or contact the manufacturer or the store where they were purchased to see if they are on the recall list," he said.

    Dogs, cats and other pets can get sick from contaminated food just like humans can, and sick pets are also a potential source of exposure for people. Salmonella is spread by the fecal-oral route.

    "Good hygiene and hand-washing are key to reducing the risk of diarrheal disease transmission from person-to-person," DeBess said. "The same good habits work pretty well to prevent animal-to-person transmission too."

    "The most common symptom of salmonella in pets is bloody diarrhea, and owners should contact their veterinarian for advice," said DeBess. He recommends that veterinarians culture dogs that are brought in and have eaten peanut butter-flavored products.

    This is the first Oregon pet illness and first Oregon pet food product that has been linked to the current Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak nationwide. Over 575 human illnesses in 43 states have been identified-most in the past 3 months-including 12 cases to date in Oregon.

    Case #12 was confirmed yesterday, and health officials again remind Oregonians to check pantries and shelves at home for recalled products. A link to the FDA's recalled product database is available at

    This outbreak has been linked to the consumption of peanut butter and peanut or peanut butter-containing foods. The common denominator is a processing plant in Blakely, Georgia, operated by the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Peanut products from the plant found their way into well over 1000 different items, prompting the largest and most complicated food recall in U.S. history.

    Name-brand peanut butter sold in jars or other retail containers is not a problem in this outbreak, nor are many other products that do not contain ingredients from the PCA factory.

    Salmonellosis is a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, fever and vomiting. In humans, symptoms usually develop within one to five days after eating contaminated food. Most people get better without the need for medical attention although the illness can be serious for infants and the elderly.

    Orgegon Gov.

    Article URL:

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    Sunday, February 1, 2009

    Study Finds Naming Cows Increases Milk Yield

    A cow with a name produces more milk than one without, scientists at Newcastle University have found.

    Drs Catherine Douglas and Peter Rowlinson have shown that by giving a cow a name and treating her as an individual, farmers can increase their annual milk yield by almost 500 pints.

    The study, published online in the academic journal Anthrozoos, found that on farms where each cow was called by her name the overall milk yield was higher than on farms where the cattle were herded as a group.

    "Just as people respond better to the personal touch, cows also feel happier and more relaxed if they are given a bit more one-to-one attention," explains Dr Douglas, who works in the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University.

    "What our study shows is what many good, caring farmers have long since believed.

    "By placing more importance on the individual, such as calling a cow by her name or interacting with the animal more as it grows up, we can not only improve the animal's welfare and her perception of humans, but also increase milk production."

    Dairy farmer Dennis Gibb, who co-owns Eachwick Red House Farm outside Newcastle, Northern England, with his brother Richard, says he believes treating every cow as an individual is "vitally important".

    "They aren't just our livelihood - they're part of the family," says Dennis. "We love our cows here at Eachwick and every one of them has a name. Collectively we refer to them as 'our ladies' but we know every one of them and each one has her own personality."

    What the study found

    The Newcastle University study looked at how farmers' attitudes to their cows influences milk production.

    Dr Douglas and Dr Rowlinson questioned 516 UK dairy farmers about how they believed humans could affect the productivity, behaviour and welfare of dairy cattle.

    Almost half - 46 per cent - said the cows on their farm were called by name. Those that called their cows by name had a 258 litre higher milk yield than those who did not.

    Sixty six per cent of farmers said they "knew all the cows in the herd" and 48 per cent agreed that positive human contact was more likely to produce cows with a good milking temperament. Almost 10 per cent said that a fear of humans resulted in a poor milking temperament.

    Dr Douglas added: "Our data suggests that on the whole UK dairy farmers regard their cows as intelligent beings capable of experiencing a range of emotions.

    "Placing more importance on knowing the individual animals and calling them by name can - at no extra cost to the farmer - also significantly increase milk production."

    Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.

    Source: Dr Catherine Douglas
    Newcastle University

    Article URL:

    Main News Category: Water - Air Quality / Agriculture

    Also Appears In: Biology / Biochemistry, Veterinary,

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