The veterinarians and staff at the Beach Veterinary Clinic are pleased to provide you with an online newsletter. This fun and fact-filled newsletter is updated on a regular basis.

Included in the newsletter are articles pertaining to pet care, information on our animal hospital, as well as news on the latest trends and discoveries in veterinary medicine.

Please enjoy the newsletter!

Current Newsletter Topics

Animals Laugh. No Joke.

A dog may be man’s best friend, but can dogs join in on a joke by laughing? If so, what does this suggest for animal behavior and their cognitive skills? New research suggests that animals not only have the ability to respond to physically-induced sensory stimulation that causes laughter, but that certain behaviors may trigger cognitive reactions that strongly resemble human laughter as well. If so, it is hard to say who has the last laugh: animals or us.

From Birth to Mirth

For many years, scientists have studied chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates, as well as rats and even dogs to develop theories regarding the evolution of animal pleasure and mirthful behavior. Interestingly, two categories have emerged from such studies that shed more light on whether animal laughter is merely a reactionary or cognitive response.

Reactive Laughing- Scientists have long studied chimpanzees, gorillas and others in the primate species in order to identify evolutionary traits and common ancestry links. Through their research, scientists have discovered that when chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas wrestle or are tickled, they exhibit laughter-like vocalizations. Whether or not the animal lives in the wild or exists in captivity doesn’t matter; a spontaneous game of tag produces the same result — laughter.

While chimpanzee laughter may not sound like human laughter, it does follow the same spectrographic pattern that human babies follow. That is, they alternate between rapid inhalations and exhalations, create similar facial expressions and even share similar ticklish areas on the body such as the armpits and belly. Unlike humans, however, chimpanzees continue to enjoy being tickled throughout their entire lifespan. There are few elderly among us humans who would admit the same.

Cognitive Laughing- Likewise, rats also have striking similarities to humans when it comes to our funny bones. When tickled and/or engaged in physical activity and play, rats emit long, high frequency, ultrasonic, socially induced vocalized… well, laughter. Extensive studies by Jaak Panskepp and Jeff Burgdorf, then at Washington State University, concentrated on whether rats can become accustomed and conditioned to tickling sensation so as to seek it out on their own volition. The result is no laughing matter. Over time, not only do rats become conditioned to the tickling sensation but they seek out the tickler — thereby strongly suggesting a link between sensing the stimulus and acting upon the favorable positive emotion — a cognitive connection, to be sure.

Of additional interest, rats that “laughed” the most also played the most, and preferred to spend more time with other laughing rats. Just as humans abide by the old adage “like attracts like” so too do rats appear to socially prefer other rats who exhibit similar laughing behavior.

Obviously, it is hard to know what goes on in an animal’s brain, but ongoing research and analysis seem to suggest that laughter is not only a way to signal joy but also an age-old tool used to promote social bonding. With this in mind, it seems fair to say that animals may very well have the last laugh.

Attention-Seeking Behavior in Dogs

It is perfectly normal for our dogs to engage in a little attention-getting behavior from time to time. As long as the behavior stays within acceptable limits, there is nothing particularly wrong with it. Many times your dog will communicate with you by barking at you, indicating a reason to take notice of him. Also, if you are engrossed in conversation, for example, and your dog paws at your leg to solicit your attention, it would not be inappropriate. What you must remember is that your dog quickly learns which behaviors work and which ones do not according to how you respond. That being said, it is necessary to set reasonable boundaries so your dog can learn which behaviors are acceptable to you.

There are a number of ways a dog can look for attention. The most common actions are barking, whining, gagging (or actual vomiting), feigning lameness (limping), jumping and pawing. Keep in mind that some dogs go above and beyond if they think their behavior will be rewarded with attention, so this list may seem fairly tame. It is important to note what your reaction is to certain behaviors in order to determine which one your dog has employed to get your attention. If you ignore your dog when he barks but yell and/or touch him when he jumps, you are more likely encouraging him to jump whereas his barking is a normal communication.

The main principle involved in treating attention-seeking behaviors is to ignore it. It is not a fast-acting solution, but one that generally produces the best results. In fact, the behavior may get worse or even more intense before it eventually fades away. Keep in mind that if you give in intermittently or after a lengthy period of trying to "tough it out" before the behavior has been squelched, you will reinforce the behavior more firmly. Your dog will learn that if he keeps it up, the attention he wants will eventually come his way.

Another way to solve the problem is to use a "bridging stimulus." A bridging stimulus is a neutral sign (or cue) that brings about a particular consequence (i.e. it forms a "bridge" between a behavior and a consequence). It could be a duck call or a tuning fork, or the sound of striking a note on a piano. The noise is sounded at the time the dog is engaging in the unwanted behavior to signal the owner's imminent withdrawal of attention, perhaps even leaving the room. What the bridging stimulus does is to focus the dog's attention on that point in time when attention withdrawal is about to happen. It is not intended to be aversive, but rather a consistent signal. The specific behavior should dissolve more consistently and rapidly if a bridging stimulus is used rather than if attention withdrawal is employed without such a signal.

If your dog is still performing the same behaviors after employing the above mentioned strategies, there could be other factors involved. It is possible that your dog is not receiving any attention or he is spending too much time alone or in a crate. It may be that he is getting insufficient exercise or mental stimulation. Excess energy could also be an issue. It is extremely important to address these issues than just trying to stop the dog from bothering you. It could be that your expectations are not conducive to normal dog behavior and care. Some questions you may ask yourself include:

• Does my dog get enough exercise? The minimum is 20-30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily.

• Is my dog eating a sensible diet?

• Is my level of communication with my dog adequate? Have I trained my dog? You should be striving for 85 percent responsiveness to a one word command such as sit, down, come, watch, etc.

• Is my dog being rewarded with my attention (petting, praise, etc.) when he is doing something I like? If not, begin indicating my approval of desired behaviors.

• Does my dog have a "job?" For certain breeds having a job or something to focus attention regularly helps curb unwanted behavior. Retrieving the paper every day or accessing his food is an example.

The bottom line is that dogs need attention. What you give your attention to (whether good or bad) generally teaches the dog how to achieve that attention through certain behaviors. As an owner, it is your responsibility to let your dog know which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not. Any behavior can be reinforced. It is up to you to decide what kind of relationship you want with your dog.

Deadly Toxins: How To Keep Your Pet Safe

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has compiled a list toxins commonly ingested by pets and for the first time ever, over-the-counter-medications proves the most problematic. Help keep your pet happy and healthy be keeping these dangerous items away from your pet.

Common potential pet toxins include:

Over-the-counter medications for humans - Acetaminophen, ibuprofen and herbal supplements were some of the most frequently ingested by pets

Prescription medications for humans - Heart medications, antidepressants, and pain killers were the most frequently ingested

Insecticides - Pet owners are encouraged to read the label of insecticides used in the yard and the home before possibly exposing pets to them

Food for humans - Garlic, onions, grapes, alcohol and xylitol are just a few of the many human foods that can be poisonous for dogs and other pets.

Household products - These include cleaning supplies, paint and fire logs

Veterinary medications - Pet owners should be cautious with veterinary medication, especially any chewable medication which is appealing to pets.

Chocolate - Chocolate, especially dark and baking chocolate, is extremely dangerous to pets if ingested.

Plants - Keeping some greenery inside helps with maintaining fresh air within your house, but they can also be toxic to pet, especially cats. Before adding plants to your household, check to see if they could be toxic to your pet.

Rodenticides - Using rodent poisons to rid your house of mice or rats is a common enough practice but those poisons also pose a potential hazard to your pets. Make sure to keep them out of reach so your pet doesn't accidentally ingest those poisons.

Lawn and Garden Products - While maintaining your yard, be aware of herbicides and fungicides and your pets. They can be dangerous and potentially lethal if ingested.

If your pet ingests something it shouldn’t, contact your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 immediately.

Dental Quiz For Dog Owners

Could your dog be suffering from Periodontal Disease? Take our Self Test and find out!

The quiz below will help you see if your dog is at risk. Your dog may be suffering from periodontal disease if you answer "Yes" to three or more of the following questions about risk factors or symptoms:

Answer Yes or No to the following questions:

Is your dog:

1. Three years old or more?

2. A smaller breed (Terrier, Schnauzer)?

3. Plagued with bad breath?

4. Showing a loss of appetite or a reluctance to eat?

5. Suffering from swollen or inflamed gums?

6. Lethargic or continually fatigued?

7. Showing moderate to heavy dental tarter?

8. Salivating excessively?

9. Showing pain when caressed near the mouth?

10. Leaving traces of blood on its chew toys?

11. Missing one or more teeth?

12. Often pawing at its mouth?

13. Losing a significant amount of weight?

If the total in the YES column is:
3 or more - your dog may have periodontal disease.
5 or more - your dog may have an advanced case of periodontal disease.
7 or more - your dog may have a severe case of periodontal disease.