Pet Advice & Ideas

What Pet Parents Need to Know About Vaccines

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“Vaccines are good!” “No, they’re bad!” “Do a half dose of the vaccine!” “Titer instead!”

There sure is a lot of noise surrounding vaccines for our pets, isn’t there? I don’t blame you if you think it’s confusing. Heck, I think it’s confusing and I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. How, when, and what vaccines to use in pets is one of the most common questions I get both in person and online. When it comes to the truth about vaccines, here’s the real life, not-so-neat reality: there is no one size fits all answer. But the more we understand the principles behind the recommendations, the better equipped we are to make good decisions on behalf of our loved ones.

The immune system is complex, as is the science behind how we optimize it using various vaccinations. Here’s the basic information every pet person needs to understand.

How the Body Fights Disease

As we all know, a well-functioning body fights disease using white blood cells. However, not all white blood cells are the same! They come in three general categories:

1. Macrophages: These cells are the first line of defense. They engulf infected and dying cells, and save pieces of it to present to the other immune cells. Think of them as first responders. They save little pieces of the invader, known as antigens, as evidence from the crime scene!
2. B cells: These cells produce antibodies in response to the antigen. An antibody is a substance that helps the body fight disease in a variety of ways. For example, it can neutralize the invader, or act like a homing beacon for other types of cells to identify the invaders quickly. B cells are like Dr. Nefario from "Despicable Me" ... they don’t take part in the fight directly, but they produce all the gadgets that help the good guy win the battle.
3. T cells: These cells directly attack infected cells. They’re trained to identify a specific antigen, so it can react quickly to destroy the invader. T cells are the trained assassins of the body, honed in on their target.

After an infection is overcome, the body retains some T and B cells specific to that antigen, just in case it encounters it again. In order for those B cells and T cells to react quickly, they must have already been exposed to antigens from the infecting agent. That’s where vaccines come in.

How Vaccines Help

Vaccines imitate infection without causing the actual disease. This allows the body the benefit of those B and T cells carrying around a blueprint for how to respond to the disease, without actually having to survive the infection first. Here’s the important thing to note ... not all vaccines work the same way. Here are the most common types of vaccines we use in veterinary medicine:

1. Attenuated vaccines: These are live infective agents that have been weakened or altered in some way so they do not cause the actual disease. Distemper, parvo, and adenovirus-2 are this type.
2. Inactivated vaccines: These are whole bacteria or viruses that have been killed so they cannot replicate. The most common vaccines in this category are rabies, Leptospirosis, Lyme, influzena, FeLV, and injectable Bordetella. Because these organisms are dead, they are often combined with a substance to “draw” the immune system’s attention: like sending a flare into the sky. These substances are called adjuvants. Vaccines in this category are, according to some, the most likely to cause an adverse reaction.
3. Toxoid vaccines: These are a detoxified toxin - these are not actually in response to an infectious agent at all! Rattlesnake vaccine is the most common example.
4. Recombinant vaccines: These vaccines represent a new generation of vaccine technology. They take a piece of DNA or RNA from the infectious agent and insert it into a benign live virus that will not cause infection. Because the organism is live, it triggers a nice strong immune response without the need for adjuvant. If your cat has been vaccinated with adjuvant-free Purevax, then you’re familiar with this type of vaccine.

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How often do we need to re-vaccinate?

Well, here’s where it gets tricky. Some vaccines last longer than others because of the nature of the infection itself. Or, the exact same vaccine may last longer in one individual than in another. I have a colleague who needs a rabies vaccine every three years; mine lasted 20! There is no guaranteed answer.

So, what do we do? We make recommendations based on minimizing the number of vaccines while maximizing the level of protection for animals taking into account the wide variability in response. The American Animal Hospital Association assembled a gold star panel of the world experts in immunology who make, in my opinion, the most informed recommendations for dogs. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has done the same for cats. These are guidelines that are tailored to your pet with help from your veterinarian.

When you talk to your vet about what your pet needs, you balance risk versus benefit for the individual. You look at lifestyle, likelihood of exposure to diseases, severity of those diseases, current health, and vaccine history. The two most important factors are risk and health history.

Risk: Not all pets are at equal risk for disease. A pug who lives in a skyscraper in San Francisco is not at the same risk for certain diseases as a hunting dog in Louisiana.

Health History: A healthy one year old who is just finishing up their initial vaccine series has different needs than a sixteen-year-old diabetic who has been vaccinated on time her whole life. A sick pet, one with a history of reactions to vaccines, or one with a history of immune mediated disease will have different recommendations.

The exception is rabies, a disease that kills both pets and people. Most jurisdictions have mandated rabies vaccination guidelines written into law.

Can’t I just titer?

Titers are, for those willing to pay for them, a decent (but not foolproof) way of feeling out a pet’s immune status. Titers check for circulating antibodies to a specific disease. Remember when we were talking about B cells and T cells? Titers only tell you about long term B cell response. A pet with a high antibody titer may still be bottomed out on T cells, and vice versa. It’s only part of the picture. It’s not a guarantee that a pet is protected, but it gives you more information to make an informed decision particularly when it comes to how often to boost vaccines in an adult animal who already has several boosters.

What about half doses for smaller pets?

It’s tempting to think of vaccines the same way that we do drugs, whose efficacy is dependent on the concentration in the blood. Not so with vaccines. Vaccines work more on an all-or-nothing proposition: either they get the body’s attention, or they don’t. The degree of the response is determined by the body’s production of those T and B cells. This is the same as in human medicine: my kiddos get the same volume of flu vaccine as my husband. It’s not worth the risk to gamble with a vaccine not working, with no proven benefit.

It’s challenging to dilute a textbook’s worth of information into a single blog post, but hopefully this gives you a little background for your discussions with your vet. Vaccines, nutrition, weight control, exercise ... lots of moving parts come together to help ensure the best health outcomes for your pets. The best decisions are those you make with your trusted health care providers as a team!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

References:
“Understanding How Vaccines Work” from CDC.gov
AAHA canine vaccination guidelines
AAFP feline vaccination guidelines

Customer Bulletin: Excess Vitamin D Recall Expanded

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NOTE: NO LIFE’S ABUNDANCE PET FOODS ARE INVOLVED IN THIS OR ANY RECALL.

Update as of January 31, 2019:

Hill’s Pet Nutrition voluntarily recalled select canned dog food products due to potentially elevated levels of vitamin D. Specifically, 14 different Hill's Prescription Diet and 11 Science Diet canned foods are involved. These recalled products were distributed to retail stores and veterinary clinics nationwide. This recall is the first to involve canned pet food. Click here for the current FDA information and recall list.

Original Article Posted on December 5, 2018:

The FDA has expanded its investigation of the presence of elevated levels of Vitamin D in dry dog foods, which can be toxic and cause serious health problems. Currently, there are eight brands and twelve different diets that have been recalled. After evaluating samples of several of these foods, the FDA found an alarming 70 times the intended amount of vitamin D. Although an essential nutrient for dogs, very high amounts of Vitamin D can cause serious health problems like kidney failure or death.

The FDA says signs of elevated vitamin D levels can include vomiting, loss of appetite, increased thirst, increased urination, excessive drooling and weight loss. Pet parents with dogs that have been eating the recalled brands and showing these symptoms should discontinue use, contact their veterinarian and can also report a suspected case to the FDA. Click here for the current FDA information and recall list.

Suspected Problem

In the pet food industry, it is common for manufacturers to make dog food diets for other companies. For example, Sunshine Mills makes Evolve, Triumph and Nature Farms, to name a few. It is also very common for these manufacturers to purchase generic vitamin and mineral mixes and use them in other brands. This could be the reason why we saw the Vitamin D recall start with just two brands and expand to eight brands ... and maybe even more.

Safer Solution

At Life's Abundance, we have a much better and safer way of making pet foods. For example, as it relates to this situation with Vitamin D, we do not use a generic vitamin and mineral mix in our pet diets. In other words, the mix we use is a proprietary formula that is made only for Life's Abundance and no other company. This exclusive vitamin and mineral mix goes beyond what AAFCO requires and is just one of the steps we take to make sure your pets are getting safe and nutritious foods.

We hope the information we shared with you will do two things. Alert unsuspecting dog food consumers of this situation so their dogs don’t get sick and also help you feel even more confident about Life's Abundance and our commitment to helping families, including our pets, live long, healthy lives!

Say Goodbye to Doggie Breath

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February is National Pet Dental Month so it's a great time to reassess your dental care plan for your companion animals. If you're a new pet parent, or if the idea of cleaning your dog's teeth seems at all daunting, it's a great time to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for an assessment of your pet’s oral health and, if needed, schedule a dental cleaning.

If you’re wondering why the awareness campaign lasts for a whole month, it’s because periodontal disease is the most commonly diagnosed disease in dogs. Crazy, right? According to the latest stats, four out of every five dogs over the age of two have some degree of periodontal disease!

“But his teeth look fine!” you might protest. The problem is that plaque (the gummy film that forms on a pet’s teeth within hours of eating) isn’t obvious to the naked eye. Over the course of several days it combines with minerals to harden into tartar. Over weeks and months, this tartar builds into a thick brown stain.

Many put off professional dental cleanings due to costs or feared risks. But there is a steep price to pay for neglecting your companion animal’s dental health. Avoiding a consistent care regimen can lead to excessive tartar, tooth decay, periodontal disease, even painful abscesses. These conditions can be the gateway to other major medical conditions involving the heart, liver and kidneys ... even joint problems. As with humans, such advanced dental disease can diminish your doggo’s quality of life and may even shorten his or her lifespan. Some older pets have mouths that are so painful that eating becomes an ordeal. By addressing periodontal concerns early on, your dog will also live longer, healthier and enjoy a better quality life.

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There are many benefits to having your pet’s teeth cleaned. No matter how much we joke about dog breath, the odors caused by dental infections are no laughing matter. After a dental cleaning, your pet’s breath will be fresh again. Best of all, it can actually remain fresh with regular home care. Keep in mind that the regular use of health-promoting dental care products and treats can help reduce plaque buildup and freshen breath, too.

Thanks to National Pet Dental Month, now is the ideal time to take advantage of dental cleaning specials offered by veterinary clinics. Be sure to check with your clinic soon to inquire about any current promotions. Think of your veterinarian as an informative partner who can help you to ensure that your pupper has the kind of regular oral healthcare that will help to support a long and healthy life.

We're incredibly pleased to announce that starting February 1st, Life’s Abundance will be celebrating National Pet Dental Health Month with exclusive savings on select products. Throughout the entire month of February, Gourmet Dental Treats for Adult Dogs and Porky Puffs are available to everyone at their discounted Autoship prices ... up to 18% savings off retail! 

There's never been a better time to provide your dog with yummy, nutritious treats that can actually help to maintain a healthy mouth. So place an order today and say "goodbye" to doggie breath!

Four Pet Trends to Look for in 2019

Does your dog have her own dedicated Twitter following? Is your cat a fabulous Instagram star? Do you find yourself skimming the trades to make sure your puppy or kitten will have the freshest, from everyday chic wear to the slickest tech toys? If so, trends are def your thing.

Now that 2019 is well and truly underway, we're taking a closer look at pet trends for the coming year. Specifically, we'll check out four distinct areas: smart tech, alternative health, special diets and emotional health.

So, without any further ado, let's check out what's hot and what's not for doggos and kittehs for the immediate future. To view the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below. And be sure to share this handy infographic with other like-minded pet parents, too!

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Forget Resolutions, Try Intentions

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Photo by Tamandra Michaels, Heart Dog Studio

Do you set New Year’s Resolutions? I used to, back when I thought I could keep them for more than two weeks. Over the years I’ve learned that the exercise resolutions always wavered, the commitment to less chocolate died when Valentine’s Day arrived, and I wound up more irritated than inspired. 

But maybe I’m just using the wrong word. “Resolution” seems so rigid ... you either do it or you don't. Each day is part of a journey rather than a destination in and of itself. I’ve done much better when I use the word “intention” instead. Rather than a number on the scale or on a clothing tag, I focus on habits and actions. If I have a bad day where I don’t live up to that intention, so be it. There’s always tomorrow.

I’ve found the most successful intentions come by building on something you already believe in and want to take to the next level. This applies not only to our physical health, but our work in life. In the last couple of months, I’ve had some great conversations with the Life’s Abundance team about personal success, and I want to share my intention with you in the hopes that you, too, will choose to embrace it.

My intention for 2019 is to focus on the “why” versus the “what.” Many of our readers are Field Reps and we are all here as a part of the Life’s Abundance family, sharing a common interest in premium products. But what is it that truly sets us apart from other companies?

For me, it’s the people.

I have worked with a lot of different pet-product companies over the years, and despite what we sometimes read, the vast majority of people who work in the industry do care about animals and try to do the right thing. This isn’t about ‘good’ people versus ‘bad’ people. But how many of them truly view their co-workers as family?

People who work at jobs may work hard, may put in great efforts, and be committed to excellence in what they do. But people who view their co-workers as family? There’s something very special about that kind of relationship. They go the extra mile without being asked, without having any incentive other than this is what you do. When you view those people around you as extended family, there’s never any question as to what motivates them ... it all boils down to the long-term well-being of everyone around them. It's much easier to trust a company when you believe not just in the product line, but the people behind the formulas.

As far as pet foods go, I think we’re going to see a lot of discussion about quality assurances this year. 2018 was a bumpy year for many in the pet food industry, and we’re seeing more about what happens when rigorous quality control isn’t in place. Today's savvy consumers are looking beyond just the ingredient list. They want to know, "What are you doing to ensure the bag contains what you say it does, is this the best version of this recipe, and can we trust what you are doing?"

You can’t underestimate the power of nearly 20 years of continuity and consistency in not only a product, but in a team. Most of the Life’s Abundance executive team has been here from the start. I am fortunate to be beginning my third year, and each year my respect continues to grow for the mission, purpose and team. It’s a group that does the right thing even when no one is looking, even when there might be an easier or cheaper option. When people ask why I choose to work with this team and this company, that is my "why."

You all have your own why, your own story to tell. When I meet Field Reps, I can hear in your voices as you talk about your Australian Shepherds, or show me pictures of your Persians, that you aren’t here because you’re doing a job. You’re here because you know you’re part of a family. A family takes care of each other. Your work is a reflection of your values and the choices you make. So as you move into 2019 and plan ahead, don’t forget to share your unique purpose that brought you here. And if you've always thought about becoming a Life's Abundance Field Rep but haven't committed, we invite you to visit our opportunity page today.

Here’s to a wonderful year for everyone!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The 12 Dog Days of Christmas

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As an unabashed fan of all things holiday, I made sure my family dragged out all our Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving so we could get a head start on being festive.

My son was the first one to point out the obvious- how did I think the puppies were going to do with all the decorations? Dakota just turned one, Ollie is six months old, and they love nothing more than tearing around the house and barreling through anything in their path. Dakota, in particular, loves to chew on anything he can get his mouth on. Life with puppies is so much fun but so much work. And sweeping. And training.

I got my answer soon after we began decorating and Dakota started barking incessantly at the Santas on the mantel. He seems to think they are jolly little intruders. The dogs then followed the cat underneath the tree, got stuck, and banged about ten ornaments off the bottom while trying to back out. They tried to eat the gingerbread house I’ve painstakingly assembled over the past seven days. It’s become abundantly clear that unless we want a wrapping paper mess all over the house, we won’t be putting any presents under the tree until Christmas morning.

I might have felt annoyed but for one thing: the pet ornaments. Every pet who has been a part of my life since my first Lhasa Apso at eight has their own ornament. I have a lot of them now, and as I unpack them I pause for a moment to remember Christmases past with each of them, how they too climbed the tree and jumped in the wrapping paper and did all the dog and cat things that make them who they are. Our time with them is all too fleeting, so I remind myself every day to take in every wild and joyful moment.

Instead of being frustrated, I’ll be grateful for each mutilated decoration, the armless Santa and the headless angel. As I move them to higher ground and check to make sure all the breakable ornaments rest in higher branches, I can’t feel anything but good fortune that I have two dogs and a cat that bring so much joy and energy to our family.

In honor of Ollie and Dakota’s first Christmas as part of our family, I’ve rewritten the 12 Days of Christmas to better reflect our reality. I hope you get a laugh and a commiseration out of it.

The 12 Dog Days of Christmas

"On the twelfth day of Christmas,
my puppies brought to me,
12 holes a digging
11 neighbors barked at
10 armless Santas
9 tattered chew toys
8 headless angels
7 dogs a-swimming
6 bulbs a-laying
5 bully sticks
4 muddy paws
3 dog beds
2 slobber hugs
And a pup nap under the tree!"

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Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season from my home to yours!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

How Your Cat Really Wants to be Fed

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What does your cat’s dish look like? Is it plastic, stainless steel, or maybe ceramic? No matter what you’re imagining, it's almost certainly one of these types of cat food dishes.

But is that about to change? What if the best answer to "how does my cat really want to be fed?" is, “not in a dish at all!”

The American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP), a collection of the best and brightest minds in feline medicine, just released a 2018 consensus statement on the feeding of cats.1 Contrary to the usual debate over cat food which centers on wet versus dry, this discussion focuses not on the ‘what’ of cat food, but the ‘how’.

Here in the States, we often encourage people to keep their cats indoors in order to keep them safe from predators, and from themselves having an adverse effect on native bird populations. While an indoor life is the safest option, this doesn’t provide them much opportunity to act like, well, cats. Outdoor cats routinely roam over ranges as far as two miles, so it’s no wonder their behavior changes when they are confined to a 2,000 square foot house.

As hunters, cats are hardwired to hunt small prey. Unlike a snake, which may go days or weeks in between feedings, a cat in the wild eats multiple small prey every day. The typical household practice of filling a food bowl twice a day doesn’t do a whole lot to fulfill this instinctive need. Without the job of hunting to keep cats occupied, they may become bored and overweight. It may also contribute to stress, particularly if the household contains multiple cats sharing a single food source.

Fortunately, there is a way to manage this issue without making all indoor cats become outdoor cats. The AAFP offers several suggestions to better approximate natural cat behavior in the home, including:

  • Feeding multiple smaller meals a day versus one or two large ones. Automated feeders can do this on a timer.
  • Ensuring multiple food sources for multi-cat households.
  • Using puzzle feeders to encourage natural hunting behavior.

I love puzzle feeders and recommend them routinely for both dogs and, now, for cats. They are based on the very simple principle that companion animals need to work for their food. You can find elaborate feeders that require pets to remove pieces and move doors around, and others that are as simple as a ball with holes in it that drops food out as it rolls. However, puzzle feeders made specifically for felines encourage their natural pouncing and tossing behavior. You can buy feeders for both wet and dry food, so find one that works best with whichever Life’s Abundance premium cat food your sweet kitty prefers.

Although we’ve domesticated cats and dogs, there’s no reason that we can’t continue to adapt and accommodate their instinctual behaviors, especially as our understanding of their physical, mental and emotional needs continues to expand. I’ve spoken to multiple behaviorists who recommend puzzle feeders as a part of any treatment for behavioral issues in cats, from aggression to inappropriate elimination to over-grooming. It’s such a simple thing to do, so why not give it a try with your cat? We feel confident that your little hunter will be super pleased with the change.

Stay well, and happy hunting to your kitty!

Dr V Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

REFERENCES

1. https://www.catvets.com/guidelines/practice-guidelines/how-to-feed

Five Ways to Give Thanks to Pets

With half of November already over and done, the holiday season is practically upon us. At this time of year, our thoughts linger over how much we have to be thankful for, as well as everyone who fulfills an important role in our lives. For many of us, a special canine or feline friend makes our family complete!

Since partaking of turkey and all the trimmings is out of the question for most dogs and cats, we devoted some serious thought into novel approaches (that won't lead to gastric upset) pet parents can use to express their gratitude to companion animals. Just like with people, going the extra mile to show how much you appreciate everything they do to enrich your life can make all the difference!

Without any further ado, here’s our handy infographic outlining five simple ways you can show your dog or cat how grateful you are to have them in your life. To view or download the full-size PDF, simply click on the image below.

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What are some of the ways you use to show your companion animal how much you care? Be sure to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below!

World’s Creepiest Cat Legends

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If we asked you to name something spooky about cats, you’d probably mention a black cat crossing your path leading to misfortune. But a bit of bad luck pales in comparison to some of the terrifying myths of times past.

Cats are undeniably mysterious. There’s just something about those haunting eyes, their silent, stealthy movements and a wail that reminds some of babies crying. Whatever the cause, that air of mystery has lead humans over the course of human history to entertain a whole host of seriously scary - or even downright strange - beliefs involving felines. Honestly, it would be easy to fill a book’s worth of information of this topic, but we’ve culled that down to a manageable list of five. After reading these decidedly spooky superstitions, you’ll feel like the scaredy cat. But don’t worry, your sweet kitty will be there to comfort you.

Sith Cats

A fairy creature from both Celtic and Scottish mythology, Sith Cats were large black cats with splash of white fur on its chest. While Sith Cats were believed to be spectral in nature, they were inspired by actual creatures known as Kellas cats, a hybrid between wildcats and domestic cats only found in Scotland. They were believed to have wicked purposes, including a desire to consume souls immediately after death. Every year on Samhain (which we now celebrate as Halloween), houses where an offering of a saucer of milk was left outside would be blessed by the being, while those that did not would suffer a curse. Fun Fact: The Scots believed the Cat Sith was actually a witch that had the ability to transform into a cat, but that the witch was limited to only nine transformations in a lifetime. Scholars believe this is the origin of the belief that cats enjoy nine lives!

The Matagot

First conceived in the oral traditions of southern France, the Matagot (also referred to as Mandagot) is a mischievous spirit. While it was capable of shapeshifting into a number of animals (such as a rat, a fox, a dog and even a cow), its preferred form was that of a black cat. Matagots were considered evil in nature, but they could be trapped whereupon it would take a largely beneficial role for its captor. The legend states that if you lured one from its hiding spot with a serving of fresh, meaty chicken and then scooped it up and walked straight home without looking behind you, it would become a source of dependable good fortune. There were a couple of catches, as there always are with magical beings. First, before every meal, you would have to feed the first mouthful of your food and the first sip of your drink to the Matagot. If you managed to stick to that routine, each morning you would find a gold coin. Second, you would have to release the creature from this servitude well prior to your death. Otherwise, your last days on earth would assuredly be agonizingly painful.

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The Bakeneko of Nabeshima (aka, Vampire Cat)

The origin of this terrifying legend is from 16th century Japan. One of the more frightening creatures, this cat not only sought to devour humans, but immediately afterwards would assume their victim’s exact likeness, whereupon they would attempt to deceive other humans, thus continuing a vicious cycle. Aside from their shapeshifting abilities, they were believed to wear strange hats for dancing, perfectly imitate human speech, have the ability to place hexes on people (especially those who were known for their cruelty to cats), possession, and even a penchant for hiding in mountainous locales where they would tame and train wolves to assist them in attacking weary travelers far from home.

The Wampus Cat

Believed to originate among the Cherokee people, the mythical Wampus Cat is a common staple of Appalachian folklore. A shapeshifter, its most common manifestation was as a large, wild cat, but it could also take the shape of a beautiful woman. It was considered a ferocious creature, capable of driving even the bravest of warriors to the brink of insanity. J.K. Rowling’s fans may recognize this magical being as a source for the hair that Garrick Ollivander used in the creation of certain magic wands. Fun Fact: the word “catawampus,” which means “out of alignment” but also “fierce and destructive,” arises from this myth.

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The Black Cat of KillaKee

Like all of the supernatural kitties, this Irish creature's origins began centuries ago. However, sightings have continued into modern times, which makes this arguably the most frightening. Like the tall tales that are common in the area, this one is attached to a particular great house. But we can assure you, nothing like this ever happened on Downton Abbey. Located in Dublin, the Killakee House was rumored to be haunted by a spectacularly creepy cat. Though technically it stalked the grounds, unlike other big cat sightings in the UK, the main difference is that this cat is supernatural.

In 1968, a young couple bought the Killakee House and began much needed renovations. Within days, workers started hearing strange noises and sensing things that quite frankly were decidedly spooky. Things came to a head when the workers were shocked by the sudden appearance of a towering black cat with eyes that "glowed like a demon." Just as the renovators started freaking out, the specter vanished. Afterwards, the new owners listened politely to the story, but didn't put much stock in the tale. And then ... the creature appeared to each of the new owners in turn. The giant apparition appeared in every corner of the house, despite locked doors and windows, stalking the couple with its penetrating stare and toothy snarls. The newlyweds sought help from the Catholic Church, whereupon an exorcism was performed on the estate. For a few months, everything was quiet, and the two believed their nightmare was finally over. Sometime later, however, a group of actors visiting the estate held a séance, whereupon the devilish creature returned, bringing with it two frightening ghosts dressed in nuns' garb. And thus, the nightmare continues.

5 Spooky Canine Superstitions

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We’re all familiar with the long and storied association between cats and mythology. It makes sense: they are mysterious creatures, well suited to legends and lore. But what about dogs? As man’s best friend, they fall into a bit more of a predictable and familiar category. Or do they?

As much time as we spend with dogs, it makes sense that superstitions would crop up over time. While some are specific to a certain time or place, others are more universal. Where did these myths come from, and why? Read on to learn about five of the most unusual ideas and legends surrounding our canine companions!

1. A Howling Dog Brings Death

Origin: This is one of the most common dog superstitions, and can be found in multiple cultures. In Greek mythology, the howling of a dog was thought to signal that the Wind God had summoned death to a nearby home. In Norse mythology, dogs howl at the approach of Freyja, the Goddess of Death. Why? Because her chariot is pulled by two giant cats (think about it). In Welsh lore, the king of Annwn would patrol the land riding supernatural hounds that only other dogs could see. The howling was their way of acknowledging the presence of these spooky beasts as they raced by.

Facts: Dogs howl as a form of communication. Sometimes it's for attention, other times it's an expression of anxiety, and sometimes it’s just a loud way of saying, “HELLOOOOOO." As a form of communication, it’s very effective! As a former coonhound owner, I can attest to the fact that baying carries over long distances. Remember, dogs are pack animals, much like their relatives, wolves, whose howl can be heard for many miles!

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2. Dogs Can See Ghosts

Origin: If you’ve lived with a dog, you’ve probably had this hair-raising experience ... it’s pitch black outside. You’re home alone. In the eerie silence, your dog suddenly starts to stare at a wall (or worse, a door with no window) and starts to growl, hackles raised. Are they seeing the supernatural?

Facts: Dogs do perceive the world differently than we do, but that’s hardly proof of the supernatural. From dog whistles that pick up high frequencies we cannot register to a sense of smell 10,000 more sensitive than our own, dogs enjoy a heightened experience of their environment beyond our capabilities.

Out in the world, many people report dogs appearing agitated in the moments before earthquakes or other natural disasters. It is theorized dogs can pick up on sensitive vibrations we miss. People have taken advantage of these sensitivities to train dogs in everything from seizure alerts to cancer detection, proving that in almost every sense, dogs out-perceive the world compared to you and me. So what is your dog growling at in the dead of night? Let’s tell ourselves something comforting so we can fall asleep tonight.

3. If You Step in Dog Poo, Do it Properly

Origin: This one is specific to France, land of croissants, the Louvre, and lots and lots of dog poop. According to local lore, stepping in dog piles with your left foot is good luck, while stepping in it with your right? Woe be unto you!

Fact: More than anything, this legend reflects that as a “scoop your poop” culture, France has a long way to go. A recent survey noted that while 1.85 million dog waste bags were sold in the UK in 2015, France sold a mere 3,600. That’s one fifth of one percent as many bags being sold, people. Until 2007, dog poop wasn’t even mentioned in French law at all. Mon dieu!

I think no matter where you live we can all agree on one thing. Stepping in a warm pile of dog waste never feels lucky, regardless of the foot.

three-white-dogs

4. Seeing Three White Dogs Together Signals Good Luck

Origin: An English myth contends that seeing three white dogs standing together is a sign of good fortune, particularly financial luck. An alternate version states the same good luck will come to you if you spot a Dalmatian (pun intended!) on the way to a business meeting.

Fact: No one is quite sure where this came from. Maybe because these dogs were rare, it was more of a unique find to see them wandering the streets! Just as possible is the simple associations people make between white being a symbol of good luck and black a symbol of bad luck, an unfortunate fallacy that results in many wonderful black cats and dogs having a more difficult time getting adopted. As someone who adopted both a beautiful black Labrador and a sweet and wonderful black cat, I’m convinced they bring nothing but great fortune.

5. No Dogs Allowed On Board Ships

Origin: Historically, nautical legend is filled with a wide variety of superstitions about who and what can come on board. It makes sense. Sailing is by nature a dangerous occupation, so every time something terrible would happen, it’s only natural to look for some external cause. Better to blame the flowers or bananas you brought on board than the terrible weather you had no control over. But why dogs? That, unfortunately, remains a mystery. You’d think those long, lonely days out on the open seas could only be improved with a happy companion. Maybe it was the fleas they brought as stowaways?

Fact: Times have changed. Dogs are now considered faithful companions to many seafaring people. You can even get your dog his or her own lifejacket if you’re planning to bring him aboard. If you want any further proof about how much our views have evolved over time, consider this: cats on board ships used to be considered good luck, probably due to their ability to control the rodent population. Can you imagine taking today's average house cat out on the high seas? Yikes!

If you ask me, having a dog in the house is good luck no matter what. According to my own personal legends and lore, dogs bring good health, happiness, and reduced stress to all they come across. That's a story I could tell again and again!

Have you ever heard a dog-related superstition? Share it in the comments section below!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM