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Stay Connected...Spring 2016
Are You Stressing Your Pet Out?
Human relationships can be rocky sometimes.  We can hurt each other's feelings or get on one another's nerves.   In the same way, some of our behaviors and actions can cause a great deal of stress to our animal companions.  Let's look at this a bit closer.

Hugging and Kissing
Hugs and kisses are a way we, as humans, express our love and affection. Cats and dogs may feel uncomfortable receiving hugs and kisses. Often hugs involve being held tightly.  Your pet may feel trapped and like they cannot escape. This may cause them to feel like something bad is going to happen which is stressful. Pets may become particularly uncomfortable if strangers hug or kiss them.

Assuming Language Fluency
Cats and dogs are both proficient in reading body language. They can also be taught some word cues and learn to respond with a specific behaviour.  However, they do not actually understand our spoken human language. It can be stressful for your pet if you speak to them and they don't understand what you want.  Sometimes your pet may have another interpretation of the words you use. For example, if you say to your pet "it's okay" and your pet has learned to associate this phrase with something unpleasant like a trip to the veterinarian, this expression can heighten their stress even in a non-stressful situation. 

Ask PHP Pete! 

Dear PHP Pete,

My veterinarian wrote a prescription for my cat, Fluffy. She requested marshmallow flavoring. This seems like a strange flavor for a cat. Do cats really like this flavor? Do animals have the same sense of taste as us?

Sincerely, 
Flavors for Fluffy

Dear Flavors for Fluffy,

Great questions! We often see marshmallow flavoring chosen for cat prescriptions, by owners and veterinarians. As humans we can detect five basic categories of flavors - salty, bitter, sour, sweet, and umami (savory). Dogs and cats are members of the order Carnivora. This group contains not only those that are true carnivores (meat-eaters) but also includes some species that are omnivores (eating meat and plants), and a few that don't even eat meat. Dogs are carnivores but can also be thought of as omnivores, they obtain nutrition from their preferred meat sources as well as from small amounts of vegetation/fruits. They can detect many of the same flavors as humans - including sweets. They are not as sensitive to salt (not needed as they get enough salt from their "prey"). 
 

Cats are obligate carnivores (true meat eaters), their taste buds are fine-tuned to detect meat. They can detect different amino acids (building blocks of protein) and are particularly sensitivity to bitterness which (making it even more of a challenge to mask medication flavors). Some medications are bitter despite added flavors. One of the genes responsible for sweet taste in humans and dogs is inactive in cats, rendering them unable to detect sweet flavors. Some cat owners have reported that their cats love sweets, but sweets also often contain other components, such as fat, which may be attractive to them. So, does that mean marshmallow is a poor choice for Fluffy? Not at all. Many flavorings used, including marshmallow, do not contain sugar but mimic the flavor of the food. The marshmallow flavoring itself may counteract some of the bitterness of medication. Both dogs and cats have been known to explore novel tastes different from their everyday diet. Taste preference can also vary from pet to pet, Fluffy may love marshmallow or prefer more traditional flavors like chicken, fish, or beef. Finding the purr-fect flavor can sometimes be challenging, but can make medications much more palatable for our furry friends.

Reference:
Bradshaw JWS. The evolutionary basis for the feeding behavior of domestic dogs (Canis familiaris) and cats (Felis catus). J. Nutr. 2006; 136: 1927S-1931S.

San Diego County Veterinary Med. 
April 30 - May 1

Central Veterinary Conference
May 13-15

Desert West Connection - AzVMA
May 20-21

American College of Vet Internal Medicine
June 9-11

Pacific Veterinary Conference
June 23-26
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