Ten Reasons NOT to Get a Puppy This Holiday Season

Christmas Puppy

Today is Black Friday. With Thanksgiving over, many American families turn their thoughts to the next big celebration of the season: Christmas. And often, this is the time of year we think about buying a puppy to join the household.

As any dog-owner knows, our canine friends are highly intelligent (some would say “sentient”) creatures, with a surprisingly sophisticated emotional and behavioral life. For that reason, you should think long and hard before buying a puppy for the family this holiday season. Here are ten reasons why: Continue reading

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Literary Quotes About Cats

Cat on Books

Of one of his feline companions, H.P. Lovecraft—famed author of the fantastic and macabre—once wrote: “In its flawless grace and superior self-sufficiency I have seen a symbol of the perfect beauty and bland impersonality of the universe itself, objectively considered, and in its air of silent mystery there resides for me all the wonder and fascination of the unknown.”

What is it about cats that has so fascinated and mystified the world’s greatest writers throughout history? That is another mystery that may never be solved. Nevertheless, here we present some of our favorite feline quotes—some witty, some philosophical, but all insightful—from some very notable authors. Continue reading

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Autumn Pet Safety Tips

Autumn Scene

The last of the summer’s harvest is being gathered in, the kids have returned to their classrooms (oh joy!), and already the leaves in some places are starting to turn. That can mean only one thing: fall has arrived!

September 22 marks the autumnal equinox, when the hours of daylight and dark are equal. With this shift in seasons, we should also shift our thinking and habits regarding our beloved dogs and cats. Here are a few ideas, apropos for this time of year, to keep your pets safe and happy.

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Keeping Your Pets Safe in the Summer Heat

summerdog

With temperatures and humidity rising now that we’re in the peak of Summer, it can get downright uncomfortable for us. Doubly so for our pets, where the hot weather can prove to even be dangerous for our furry friends. Here are some tips to help you and your pet stay safe in the Summer heat.

NEVER leave your pet in a parked car

Like with babies and young children, never ever leave your pet parked in a car. Not even if you leave the car running with the a/c on full blast. On a warm day like today the internal temperature of a car sky-rockets and can increase by over 50% in under 30 minutes. So, if it’s 90 degrees outside, the car will reach 108 degrees in 10 minutes, by 30 minutes, the internal temperature of that car has already hit 120 degrees.

Limit Exercise on Hot Days

While exercise is good for your pet and for you, take care when exercising your pet on hot days. If you still plan on exercising with your furry friend, make sure it’s during the early morning or in the evening hours, so that the heat of the day isn’t there. Additionally, take care if your pet has white colored ears, they’re at higher risk of skin cancer. Also, make sure to keep your pet on grassy areas if possible as the asphalt could burn the pads of their feet.

Watch the Humidity

It’s not just the temperature you have to keep an eye on with your pet, but also the humidity as well. Animals pant to evaporate the moisture in their lungs, which helps them to cool down. If the humidity is too high, they won’t be able to cool themselves because of the ambient moisture levels being the same or greater than that of their body. So keep that A/C and dehumidifier running and don’t rely on a fan, as animals react differently to heat than humans do, and a fan won’t cool them off as effectively as you or me.

Provide Shade and Water

Finally, if your pet is outside, make sure they have protection from the heat and sun as well as plenty of fresh, cold water. During heat waves, add ice to the water when possible. Tarps or tree shade are the best way to provide shade as it doesn’t obstruct air flow.

Well, hope this helps keep your pets cool when the heat is high, now if you’ll excuse me I have to go turn up the A/C!

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Keeping Your Backyard Chickens Cool This Summer

Well, it seems the weather in upstate NY has decided to skip Spring yet again and the Summer heat has already started to make us sweat. While this can be easily solved with A/C and fans for us, our chickens aren’t so lucky. Consistently high summer temperatures can cause your chickens to suffer from heat stress, overheating, and can even stop their egg laying process. For heavier breeds, high temperatures can even cause death. Thankfully, there are some things that you can do to beat the heat and keep your chickens cool.

chickens at play

Add electrolytes to their water

Electrolyte tablets are important for when the temperature reaches the high peaks in Summer as they help prevent dehydration. You can find them on Amazon in bulk.

Avoid foods such as corn and scratch

Corn and scratch take a longer time for chickens to digest, which creates higher body heat. Instead, feed your chickens fresh fruit and vegetables with high water content, like watermelon to keep them cool.

Keep cold water available 24/7

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but is also the most important. Cold water will help the chickens to regulate their body temperature and keep them cool. Make sure it is always available to them and change out the water as needed.

Put a fan in the coop

This one might not always be possible without damaging the structure of the coop. However, if you’re able to do it, a small fan can circulate air and keep your flock cool in the summer months. One word of caution though, be careful about exposed wiring. Accidents can occur if exposed wiring gets wet or if your chickens break the wiring as you could end up with fried chicken.

Leave them alone

Interacting with your chickens can cause them to be more active and in turn, create more heat. On extremely hot days, try to leave them alone and only check on them as necessary.

Spray around the coop with cold water

Spraying around the coop and the roof can cause evaporation which will help cool off your chickens. You can also create small pools of water (or use a kiddie pool) for the chickens to wade in and keep themselves cool.

Frozen Gallon Jugs

If you don’t have a kiddie pool that you can use to keep your chickens cool, you can always make your own portable frozen water bottles. Take a spare gallon jug (milk jug will work), fill it with water, and then freeze it. Once it’s frozen solid, take it to your chicken pen, and bury it in a shallow hole in their favorite dusting spots. Place a small towel over the jug and let your chickens perch on it to cool down. Bonus points if you make sure to bury the jug in the shade.

We hope this helps to keep your chickens cool during the dog days of Summer. Be sure to let us know what tips you have yourself in the comments below!

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The Many Benefits of Backyard Chickens

chickens at play

Whether you consider yourself an urban socialite, a rural townie, or somewhere in between, keeping chickens can offer a wide variety of benefits. As it turns out, chickens aren’t just fluffy and fun little creatures, they’re also very healthy for you. From the nutritional benefit of free range eggs, to the great garden benefits, it’s no wonder that backyard chickens are gaining popularity quickly. Our finely feathered friends are more than a passing fad, they’re quickly becoming an asset to holistic, sustainable living.

Free-Range vs. Factory Farm

“Free Range”, “Cage Free”, Naturally Raised” the bevy of different labels on supermarket eggs these days can be confusing when trying to find the healthiest eggs. When you raise hens in your back yard, you know exactly where your eggs came from, and help save you money at the grocery store. Studies have shown that true free-range eggs contain higher levels of beta carotene, Omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamins E and A. They’re also lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than conventional, store-bought eggs.

Natural Pest Preventative

Chickens also make a great alternative to pesticides for your gardens. Chickens are known to help reduce or eliminate common garden pests (grasshoppers, termites, fleas, ticks, and ants). They also eat various beetle pests that can do a lot of damage to your garden. However, make sure to put some chicken wire around your vegetables as chickens can do a lot of damage to a newly planted garden with their foraging and dust baths.

Chickens are Fantastic Recyclers

Table scraps, weeds, garden clippings; all of these can be cleaned up and broken down into beneficial nutrients for your soil by chickens. While you can’t feed them everything from the house, you can give your chickens most table scraps to supplement their every day food. Which leads us to our next benefit…

An excellent source of fertilizer

Poultry manure is considered one of the best fertilizers for gardens due to their high level of essential nutrients needed for plant growth as well as chicken manure is a rich source of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. Additionally, chickens fully digest common weed seeds, so when you feed them weeds pulled from the garden, you don’t have to worry about them coming back next year when you use their manure. Having this rich source of fertilizer right in your back yard is a huge boon for gardeners as well as promotes a greener method of gardening without having to use chemically altered fertilizer. One thing to remember though, make sure to mix the chicken manure into a compost or other fertilizer mix as the high concentration of nitrogen can burn your soil if you’re not careful.

The Zen of Chickens

Watching chickens has been known to lower stress levels. Studies have shown that tending chickens releases oxytocin, often known as the “love” chemical. It’s the same one that gets released when we see a loved one or pet a dog or cat. This chemical not only lowers stress, but can help reduce blood pressure and decrease feelings of lonliness, which in turn can contribute to further lowering stress levels. Caring for chickens gets us outside regularly, and watching their methodical scratching and foraging around the yard helps to slow us down and ground us in the present, which can be a difficult thing to achieve in our busy day-to-day lives.

Additonally, chickens are now being used as therapy animals for people of all ages to address a wide variety of issues including dementia, Alzhimer’s, depression, and even autism. Their calming effect helps with symptoms like anxiety, emotional distress, and social frustrations.

Organizations are beginning to bring chickens to nursing homes to use as a therapy animal for memory loss patients. Agitation is a major issue with those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s and holding a chicken has been shown to calm them down.

Getting Started with Backyard Chickens

If you’ve decided that chickens are for you, a great place to start is by looking up websites like Backyard Chickens. You may even have a friend who keeps a backyard flock, and you could ask them to show you the ropes.

Next, it’s important to check with your local city ordinances or neighborhood regulations to make sure that backyard chickens are allowed and to find out the limit. Most cities allow 3-6 chickens and no roosters, but make sure to find out what your city allows.

Backyard chickens can help lead you to a richer, healthier life, and you reap the benefits, a richer garden and delicious fresh eggs!

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Pet Safety Tips for Spring

Pet Safety Tips For Spring

Even though spring technically starts on March 20th, the month of April is when it really begins. It’s that time of the year for warm weather, fresh gardens, and enjoying the outdoors with your pet. You can finally take your pet outside and not put on 5 layers for the freezing cold! But as with any change of season, there are always some important safety tips to consider. Let’s take a look at some of the most important ones:

Vet Visit

Spring is a great time to schedule a veterinary visit, especially if it’s been awhile. You can ask your veterinarian about topics like tick & flea prevention, spray/neutering, and more. Your vet will also observe/test your pet for any problems that may have come up during the winter. It’s been a tough winter in the northeast – things can happen!

dog_in_springWatch the Lawn & Garden

Fertilizers, herbicides – all that stuff that helps your lawn stay healthy certainly won’t do the same to your pet. Take special care in keeping your pet away from a freshly sprayed lawn. If your pet starts eating the grass, the results could be fatal. On the same token, certain plants can cause problems for pets. Some plants are poisonous, some will cause allergies, and others will cause choking hazards. Don’t let your pet roam around in an area you’re not familiar with.

Home Cleaning Supplies

Not only is spring the time to get your lawn in shape, but your house as well. Be mindful of all the cleaners you’ll be using to scrub the floor, dust the fans, and more. Make sure your pet doesn’t get into the cleaning supplies, as it could prove fatal.

Insect Bites

You know how insect bites are a big pain for humans – especially the ones that make you concerned? That same concern should be taken if your pet is bitten, too. Make sure serious insect bites are treated.

Pools

A lot of people wait until its summer to open up the pool. Some like to get it done with in the spring. Remember, pets should never swim unattended.

Open Windows

When you keep the windows open, make sure there’s a screen so your pet isn’t tempted to hop out. Now is the time to fix those broken screens!

Pet Tags

Pets are ready to get out and run around by the time spring rolls around. You’ll want to take them to a lot of new places – the dog park, a mountain, a nice walk on a new street, etc. And that’s all perfectly fine, as long as you keep an eye on them and they’re tagged. You certainly don’t want your pet to get lost!

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Scrapie: Sheep’s Silent Killer

Scrapie Sheep's Silent Killer

As all sheep producers know, Scrapie can be a extremely costly and disruptive disease to your flock. Its high infection rate can decimate a flock of sheep in a matter of months. Within a matter of years, the infected flocks continue to spread the infection to non-infected sheep and can make the whole flock economically unviable. The presence of scrapie in the US has inhibited us from exporting a majority of our breeding materials along with meat and by-products to many other countries. Recently, there has been an increased focus on scrapie and the other transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases which has led the US to form a full-fledged program to eradicate these diseases in the US.

History of The Disease

Scrapie was first recognized as a disease in sheep in Great Britain and other western european countries more than 250 years ago. To date, only two countries are completely free of scrapie; Australia and New Zealand, both of which, are major sheep-producing countries. In the US, the first case was diagnosed in 1947, where a Michigan farmer had imported British sheep through Canada for several years. From that first case to today, there has been more than 1000 flocks diagnosed with the illness.

Some Breeds Are More Susceptible

Studies have shown, that certain breeds of sheep are more susceptible to scrapie than others. The studies found that Suffolk and Cheviot are the most susceptible, but, that doesn’t mean other breeds aren’t affected by this illness. Scrapie has been found in almost every breed including Cotswold, Dorset, Finnsheep, Hampshire, Merino, Montadale, along with several crossbreeds.

Clinical Signs

Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment that your sheep can undergo for scrapie, however, if you catch the signs early enough, then you might be able to stymie it from spreading to the entire flock. Signs of scrapie vary widely among those it has infected, and signs can develop very slowly.

Early signs can include subtle changes in behavior or temperament of the infected. These subtle changes are usually followed by scratching or rubbing against fixed objects to alleviate the itching caused by the disease. Other signs could include loss of coordination, lip smacking, weight loss despite no loss in appetite, biting of feet and limbs, along with gait abnormalities.

Additionally, an infected animal may appear normal at rest, but if disturbed by a sudden noise, excessive movement, or stress from handling, the animal may fall down and appear to have convulsions.

Transmission

Scrapie is spread through fluid and tissue from the placentas of infected females. Which means that the disease can spread to an infected female’s offspring at birth as well as to other animals that are exposed to the same birth environment. Males can contract scrapie, but they cannot transmit the disease to other animals. A sheep’s genes affect both its susceptibility to the disease and the length of the incubation period.

What You Can Do

Sheep with certain genetic types are more resistant to scrapie than others. Blood tests can determine the genetic profile of a sheep. Producers that want to minimize the risk of scrapie in their flock can consider selective breeding for genetic resistance to this detrimental disease. However, even genetic resistant sheep can still be infected with scrapie.

Additionally, good food management and bio-security practices such as individual animal identification, record keeping, quarantining sick animals, clean birthing environments, and equipment disinfection practices can help reduce the environmental risks of infecting your livestock.

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