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Dr. Marc Schmidt

Why Do Cats Like Catnip?

By | Behavior

Not every cat is sensitive to catnip which is an herb.

Only about half of all cats are genetically disposed to respond to the active oil in catnip. It is not certain what part of the brain is stimulated by this ingredient, but it is not harmful and can be used to help increase their use of items like scratching posts. Found in many cat treats it can encourage play. The aroma of catnip is thought to be quite pleasurable to cats.


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Why Do Cats Knead?

By | Behavior

This instinctual behavior is left over from kittenhood when cats knead on the mother to stimulate the production of milk.

In adult cats it can be a sign of contentment, a form of stretching, or a way to get attention.

Kneading might also just feel good to the cat.


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Why Do Cats Dislike Car Travel?

By | Behavior

Some people say the hardest part about a cat’s appointment at the vet is first getting them out of the house.

Unlike dogs, cats don’t like to leave their familiar surroundings. Even the presence of their owners does not reassure them because in a new environment, like a car, which sounds and smells strange to them, they can’t know what might happen. Also, cats have a very acute sense of balance, so the car’s motion might upset them.


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Brown and white cat with white maltese dog at the vet

New Faces-New Places: An Education in Socialization

By | Behavior

“We just can’t take you anywhere!”

Have you ever said this to that friend who always does the wrong thing, is out of control, doesn’t fit in and messes up every situation? What if that “friend” is your dog?

If you have a puppy it’s important to expose him to a variety of people and places early on so nothing comes as a big scary surprise. But success can be all about timing.

Get on Board with Socialization Before that “Training Train Has left the Station

The goal of socialization is to have a dog with a good stable personality . . . a “superdog” . . . one that’s part of the family, is a good neighbor, and plays well with others, both two legged and four legged.

The optimal socialization period for puppies is between 3 and 12 weeks. This is when they learn rules and behaviors, and what is expected of them as a dog.

If the pup has the wrong experiences or misses these experiences altogether they may not have the tools needed to accept both dogs and humans and learn to live in both worlds.

For example if you take a puppy from the litter too soon he won’t learn “dog” lessons such as bite inhibitions or “play with me” posturing. You may end up with aggression problems because he’s not used to interacting with other dogs.

Similarly if a dog is only around other dogs he may not have developed the ability to bond with humans.

Generally, there is a 6-12 week window which is the secondary time frame to socialize the dog to humans. If that process is delayed it may be impossible to socialize.

So by 12 weeks, a puppy should be able to meet new and different people in a variety of situations without fear or aggression.

Socializing is not that hard and can be done through repetitive play, speech and touch. That’s called habituation, which is getting a dog used to stuff.

Of course it’s hard to anticipate every situation your dog might encounter.

Our dog Foxy, calm and relaxed in most settings is not bothered at all by the noisy vacuum cleaner, even when it gets close to her. But she was terrified the first time a locomotive train with a loud horn went by. And while cows don’t faze her she is uncomfortable around horses.

Even our lizard showed intense dislike to any man wearing a hat.

But familiarity breeds content. So get out there and take your dog with you.

But this does raise another issue.

Does the optimum period for socialization conflict with the conventional wisdom of keeping other dogs away from young puppies who are susceptible to diseases? We’ll answer this question in the next installment:

In the House, On the Porch, In the Yard, At the Park –How Far Should A Pup Go?


Have a question about your pet or its behavior?
Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by
texting or calling 480-987-4555.


Long haired chihuaha tilting head

Why Foxy Woke Up With a Tilted Head

By | Disease and Medicine, RIKKI "Tails"

Foxy was perfectly fine when I put her to bed the night before, but when I went to get her the next morning, she could barely walk, and kept stumbling and falling down. Her head was cocked at a 45° angle and she had pooped and thrown up in her bed.

My first thought was that she had had a stroke or perhaps a spider had bitten her. My next thought was to call Marc. He knew what it was just from my description of her symptoms and a trip to the clinic only confirmed the diagnosis.

Foxy had “Idiopathic Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome”

a disease found primarily in dogs seven years and older. It comes on suddenly and dramatically with ‘idiopathic’ meaning ‘arising spontaneously’ and ‘from an unknown cause’.

Telltale signs include:

  • Loss of balance – stumbling, staggering, even falling down or rolling around
  • Head tilt
  • Nystagmus or erratic eye movements, where the eyes have trouble focusing and can’t stay still
  • Loss of appetite due to nausea and/or vomiting

Now there could be other reasons for these ailments such as an ear infection, a perforated ear-drum, a virus or an adverse reaction to a medication. It could even be something really serious like a stroke, polyps, a tumor or brain damage.

But since my 12 year old dog was normal and healthy only the day before, odds are it’s a vestibular problem. The vestibular system is comprised of parts of the brain and ear and is responsible for maintaining a sense of balance so when something goes wrong the dog experiences vertigo where everything is spinning.

Marc assured me that while the condition is frightening (both for me and Foxy) and there’s no specific treatment or cure . . .

Most Dogs Do Improve.

Meanwhile though, I had to help Foxy get around since she could barely walk or even position herself to go potty.

It took a few weeks but Foxy did get better, and while she’s left with a bit of a lingering head tilt, she can run and jump again and her quality of life has not been affected.

Marc did warn me however, that it is possible for dogs to have more than one episode of idiopathic vestibular disease. If it happens again at least I’ll recognize what it is.


Have a question about your pet or its behavior?
Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by
texting or calling 480-987-4555.


Married man and woman smiling

How Did the Dog Get to the Turkey?

By | Behavior, RIKKI "Tails"

One day, just after Thanksgiving, I arrived at the clinic in time to witness two technicians trying to get a 40-pound dachshund to throw up.

“Boy that’s the biggest, fattest dachshund I’ve ever seen,” I observed.

“Well he’s even fatter than usual after eating a turkey leg, “said one of the technicians.

Soon, the hydrogen peroxide mixture was doing its job and the dog was heaving miserably into a bucket.

“How did the dog get to the turkey?”

I asked. “I mean it’s a big dachshund but it still has those short little legs.”

“Oh, at about two in the morning the dog snatched the turkey off the coffee table,” another vet tech mentioned casually.

“Why was the dog prowling around the house in the middle of the night, and besides, who leaves a turkey out all night on a coffee table?” I wondered out loud, my housekeeping sensibilities offended.

About an hour later I noticed there was still a dachshund sitting on the exam table, but this one looked considerably smaller.

“Is that the same dog I saw before that ate the turkey?” I asked. “He looks so little now. He must have thrown up the whole bird.”

“This dog ate turkey all right,” Dr. Marc told me. “But it’s the other dog’s sister. They both stuffed themselves but the bigger dog got the lion’s share.”

During my next visit to the clinic, I noticed a tiny black and brown dog the size of a Chihuahua. The poor dog, which must have weighed all of three pounds, was standing on the exam table shivering and shaking.

“What’s wrong with this little guy?”

I asked.

chihuahua“It ate a ham” one of the technicians said.

“That dog’s not even as big as a ham,” I observed. Then, remembering the coffee table turkey I added, “How could it have snatched a ham? Where was this ham? On the floor?”

“I don’t know,” Marc sounded exasperated. “Owners didn’t even realize the ham was gone. Besides, this is nothing new. Had a beagle in here that ate a whole ham as well.”

“Why are there so many untended hams and turkeys around?”

I wondered aloud as the small dog started vomiting. The clinic was turning into a support group for bulimics.

“You know,” I mentioned to Marc, “it seems they should change that expression, ‘eats like a pig’ to ‘eats like a dog.’”


Have a question about your pet or its behavior?
Contact us at Johnson Ranch Animal Clinic by
texting or calling 480-987-4555.


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270 East Hunt Hwy, Ste. #4
San Tan Valley, AZ 85143
480-987-4555