Nutmeg, World’s Oldest Cat, Passes Away at 32

Many pet health experts consider cats to be “senior” after the age of 7.  If your cat has reached the age of 20, then he or she is definitely in the senior range.  But what about a 32-year old cat?  That’s roughly the equivalent of 144 human years!  One British cat named Nutmeg reached the ripe old age of 32 before passing on in late August.

According to Nutmeg’s owners, interviewed in a recent People Magazine article, this sweet guy enjoyed very robust health for most of his long life.  He lost most of his teeth and did suffer a stroke back in 2015, but he recovered and went on to live two more years.  His owners, a couple with no children, considered Nutmeg to be their child.  “We both feel like our hearts have been ripped out.  He was our little boy,” they said.  Anyone who’s ever lost a beloved pet, regardless of age, knows that feeling.

Here’s a video of Nutmeg from back in 2016.  His owner lovingly refers to him as a bit of a grumpy grandpa, but it’s obvious that he was a real sweetheart!

 

Image of Nutmeg from Westway Veterinary Group Facebook page.

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Study Shows MRI Scans Help Find Best Service Dog Candidates

In the ongoing effort to understand what our pets are thinking, researchers have been performing MRI scans on dogs’ brains for the past several years.  A recent canine brain scan study conducted by scientists at Emory University may help determine which dogs will make the best service dogs.

43 service dogs in training with the organization Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) underwent MRI scans to determine what makes a successful service dog.  While all the dogs in the study had outwardly calm temperaments, the scans revealed that some of the dogs had higher levels of activity in the area of the brain associated with excitability.  These dogs were more likely to fail the training program.

Scanning potential service dogs early in the training process could be very beneficial for organizations like CCI, since it can cost as much as $50,000 to fully train one dog.  70% of dogs that start a training program will drop out due to behavioral issues.  Since there are always waiting lists for good service dogs, it would be efficient to weed out problematic candidates at the beginning.

Without the MRI scan, the early identification of dogs that would ultimately fail training had a 47% success rate.  With the scan, the predictability of failure went up to a 67% success rate.

How did researchers test the dogs?  While in the MRI machine, dogs were given hand signals for “treat” or “no treat.”  The successful service dog candidates did show activity in a part of the brain associated with rewards when given the sign for “treat” but they did not show excessive activity in the excitability area of the brain.  In contrast, the less successful candidates showed more excitability with the “treat” signal, including when signaled by strangers, a trait which trainers consider to be a red flag for service dogs.

Interested in learning more?  You can read the full text of the article on the website for Scientific Reports HERE.

 

Top image of some very good study participants:  Dr. Gregory Berns, Emory University.

 

How to Help Florida and Caribbean Pets Affected by Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma left a widespread trail of flooding and destruction throughout the Caribbean and Florida.  What can concerned animal lovers do to help the dogs, cats, and other animals left homeless by the hurricane?  Animal rescue and relief efforts are underway, led by both U.S. and international animal welfare organizations. Here’s an update on a few ongoing rescue operations.

The Humane Society International and the H3 Foundation are teaming up to help the animals of the British Virgin Islands that have been impacted by Hurricane Irma.  An emergency veterinary team has already arrived on the island of Tortola, with more rescue and relief efforts scheduled to arrive in the BVI in the coming days.  Click HERE to learn more.

The islands of Antigua and Barbuda were hard hit by Irma.  While there are no animal shelters on Barbuda, Antigua humane organizations are helping the pets and farm animals of both islands.  Check out the Facebook page of Paaws Antigua for the latest news and updates on their ongoing efforts to save the animals in both places.

The Florida Keys SPCA is on the front lines of helping the homeless pets of the Keys.  Their facilities were damaged and all their resident shelter animals have been moved into foster homes.  Not only will they need help with repairing shelter buildings on Key West and Marathon, they also expect an influx of many more displaced pets in the coming days and weeks.

South Florida’s wild animals need help, too!  The South Florida Wildlife Center rescues and rehabilitates the wildlife of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.  Hurricanes can flood birds and animals out of nests and burrows, so wildlife rescue efforts are especially critical after storms.

 

Heartwarming Video: Dog Cares for Foster Kittens After Losing Cat Best Friend

A sweet dog named Flora was inconsolable after her best friend, a 20-year-old rescue cat named Dexter passed away.  Her human family took in 4 foster kittens and Flora found some new kitty friends to help her get over the loss of Dexter.  Watch the adorable video, courtesy of The Dodo, here:

 

FAQs: Airline Travel with Pets

Thinking about bringing your fur kids along when you visit family and friends over the holidays?  If your holiday travel will involve an airline flight, it’s never too early to start planning for a smooth trip for both yourself and your pet.  What do you need to know to book a pet on a flight?  Make sure you check the specific pet policies of each airline you are considering, and be sure to book early, as many airlines reserve a limited number of spots for pets in the cabin (or cargo) section.

What else do you need to know to make flying with dogs, cats, and other pets as stress-free as possible?  Here are some answers to a few frequently asked questions…but always remember to check with your airline for definitive information!

Are there government regulations for pet airline travel?

Yes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service maintains a website with valuable information on both domestic and international travel with pets.  They also provide a heads-up on which animals actually qualify as “pets.”  Be sure to check the USDA site if you have an exotic companion animal!

How can I compare airline pet policies?

The pet-friendly travel website Bring Fido has a web page that lists most major U.S. and international airline pet policies.  From Aer Lingus to Turkish Airlines, you can easily click between sites to find the perfect pet policy for your needs.

Do I need to see the vet before I fly with my pet?

According to American Veterinary Medical Association, most airlines require a current Certificate of Veterinary Inspection for your pet to travel.  Your vet will certify that your pet is healthy enough for travel, and that it has no diseases that could be passed on to humans or other animals.  Certain vaccines need to be up-to-date before your pet can travel.  Don’t forget that international pet travel health requirements can be more stringent than domestic ones, and your pet may have to go into quarantine upon arrival.  This applies to Hawaii as well.

Is it safe for my pet to fly in cargo?

Many concerned pet owners have heard scary stories about pets’ health being harmed by flying in cargo.  A recent article in Conde Nast Traveler cites a U.S. Department of Transportation report on statistics for pet cargo travel in 2016.  Out of approximately 500,000 pets that flew cargo, 26 died and 24 were injured.  That’s about a 1 per 10,000 pet incident rate.  United and Hawaiian have the highest incident rates.  Flying with your pet in the cabin with you is safer than putting your pet in cargo, but that is only an option for smaller pets.  Large dogs must fly cargo unless they are service animals.  Many experts suggest avoiding placing your pet in cargo unless it is absolutely necessary, such as for a cross-country move.

What kind of pet carrier should I get for airline travel?

Each airline’s pet policy page will have specific dimensions for under-the-seat pet carriers.  Generally, they allow hard or soft carriers, as long as they fit under the seat in front of you.  Remember, you cannot remove your pet from the crate during flight, so the carrier must be large enough to keep your pet comfortable.  Some pet stores sell carriers specifically designed for airline travel.  The carrier company Sherpa Pet works with American and Delta, so you can get carriers specifically designed for those airlines.

Happy travels!