Category Archives: Question Responses

Want To Know More? Emperor Penguins


As a response to a message asking to know more about Emperor Penguins, here is some information you may not have known…

Emperor penguins are the largest species of penguin. They are streamlined, with waterproof feathers – specially adapted for swimming. The colours of a penguin are for camouflage – the black back, when viewed from above, make the penguin appear to blend in with the sea; the white underside causes the penguin to blend in to the sea when viewed from below. This makes the ideal hunters in the sea (but does not stop them being hunted!) – although penguins cannot be in the cold sea for too long.

Penguins, again, are specially adapted for this with the ability to  store undigested food in their stomach for up to 3 weeks! They do this by maintaining their stomach temperature  around 38°C and keeping the pH levels of their stomach constant. During this time the stomach will not fluctuate and everything will remain internally constant. Penguins also do this for shorter periods of time when feeding their young, so that they can regurgitate food for them – until they can hunt for themselves; until they are big enough, with their adult feathers (waterproof enough to hunt in the sea).

Emperor Penguins live in temperatures ranging from 0°C to -60°C whilst maintaining an internal body temperature of 35°C to 41°C. The thick layers of blubber that penguins have, under their waterproof feathers, helps to keep them warm, as well as huddling together. Huddling together works best for the penguins in the middle, the outer huddle individuals will bare the brunt of the cold, so the penguins will rotate to avoid anyone freezing to death.

Random fact – polar bears are not a predator of penguins. Why? Because polar bears do not live in the same place!

 

Curious About Cross-Breeds!


Cross-Breed or Hybrid

Cross-breed means the animal is of mixed blood; the animal is often a mix of two different breeds, or a mix of several breeds. These are often referred to as mongrels for dogs, or moggies for cats, mules in sheep, or just known as a cross-breed with other species. Cross-breeds often display traits from all the breeds that make up the mix. Cross-breeds can reproduce, as they are just different types of the same species.

A cross-breed is different to what is referred to as a hybrid. A hybrid is cross between different species, as with cross-breeds, hybrids often display both physical and personality traits from both parents species. However, hybrids tend to be infertile (they cannot reproduce their own young) and therefore the only way to get the particular hybrid is to cross the 2 original species. A few hybrid animal examples are:

  • Mule (female donkey x male horse)
  • Hinny (male donkey x female horse)
  • Liger (male lion x tigress)
  • Tigon (lioness x male tiger)
  • Leopon (lion x leopard)
  • Beefalo (buffalo x domestic cow)
  • Dzo (yak x domestic cow)
  • Cama (camel x llama)
  • Zorse (zebra x horse)
  • Donkra (zebra x donkey)
Tigon
Tigon (lioness x male tiger)

Cross-Breed Dogs

It is important to think about this when acquiring a cross-breed as a pet; if the mix of breeds is known, you can research into them to see the likely physical characteristics, as well as the likely personality traits you may see in your pet.

Cross-breeds are becoming increasingly popular with dogs, and cross-bred dogs are being sold as designer breeds. Some of the more popular designer dog breeds are:

  • Labradoodle (Labrador x Poodle)
  • Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle)
  • Chorkie (Chihuahua x Yorkshire Terrier)
  • Puggle (Pug x Beagle)

As you may have noticed, these  deisgner  breeds have been given their own, new name that combines the 2 breeds they have been crossed with.

Chihuahua x Yorkie
Chihuahua x Yorkie

Due to the fact that cross-breeds have ability to reproduce, there is dispute about designer breeds and what makes them up. Take the Labradoodle for example, most breeders will only accept a dog as being a Labradoodle if it is the first generation; i.e. one parent is a Poodle, the other parent is a Labrador. If 2 Labradoodles have offspring, most breeders do not class the puppies as Labradoodles, but rather as mongrels. If one parent is a Labradoodle, and the other is either a Poodle or a Labrador, the offspring is also termed as being mongrels along most breeders of the designer breed.

Labradoodle
Labradoodle

Aside from the designer cross-breeds, most cross-breeds are not recognised as “breeds”, but rather just referred to as crosses. The crosses from just 2 different breeds that are not designer dogs are easily differentiated by the fact they are referred to as cross-breeds, and do not have their own “breed name”.

Often cross-breeds are similar breeds that have been mated, such as the Scottish Terrier and the West Highland Terrier. These are 2 similar looking breeds; similar height, coat, ears, face, as well as having a similar temperament.

Cross-breed
Cross-breed dog (2 breeds crossed)

However, due to the ability to reproduce, cross-breeds become more and more diluted in breed terms and eventually just get termed as a mongrel. A lot of mongrels are so mixed with breeds that a similarity to any one breed is very hard to see, others have a distinct breed that stands out; such as the Alsatian mix and the Tibetan Terrier mix, pictured below.

Cross-breed
Cross-breed dog (Mongrel)
Cross-breed
Cross-breed dog (Mongrel)

All breeds, including the ones that are now classified as pedigree breeds, have come about from mixing different kinds of canines to get the desired appearance and/ or personality out of the animal that the breeder desired. The Bedlington Terrier for example, is thought to be a mix of; the Rothbury Terrier, Kerry Blue Terrier, Wheaten Terrier,  Otterhound, Poodle and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier… so basically a mongrel with a lot of breeds mixed in! However, nowadays it is its own recognised breed, a pedigree.

Bedlington Terrier
Bedlington Terrier

Other Cross-Breed Animals

Dogs may be the most popular animals to mix breeds, but they are certainly not the only ones! Cats, birds, fish, rabbits, rodents, reptiles, sheep, cows, pigs, horses and ponies can all be cross bred; but some species cross-breeds are more common than others. For example, cross-breed rabbits are fairly common, often due to un-neutered pets having accidental litters!

Cats cross-breed often too, however in one litter there can be a different father for each kitten, so the crosses cannot always be determined and may not be known – unless the cross-breeding was intentional and artificially selected. Cats are usually bred via artificial selection for their pedigree, so in the way we get designer dog breeds, it is not the same with cats. Some cat crosses  can be seen clearly, but most are unsure and just get termed as a moggie.

Cross-breed cat
Cross-breed cat

Just to clarify – the terms horse and pony refers to the height of the same animal. They are measure in hands high (hh) – horses are 14.2hh+, whereas ponies are up to (and including) 14.1hh. Horses and ponies are usually selected for their pedigree too, due to needing pure bloodlines for race and show animals. However, there are a few recognised cross-breeds:

  • Welera (Welsh pony x Arabian horse)
  • National Show Horse (American Saddlebred x Arabian horse)
  • Morab (Morgan x Arabian horse)
  • Appendix Quarter Horse (Quarter horse x Thoroughbred)
  • Quarab (Quarter horse x Arabian horse)
  • Walkaloosa (Tennessee walking horse x Appaloosa)
Cross-breed horse
Cross-breed horse

There is also a mongrel of horses – a mix breed of many breeds that has come to be recognised as a breed, the Pony of the Americas (POA).

Mix breed horse (POA)
Mix breed horse (POA)

A lot of people do not believe birds and fish can be cross bred, however this is just due to the occurrence of this being very low (lower in fish than birds). Birds can cross breed as long as they belong to the same sub-species; for example, 2 of the same type (such as 2 conures, or 2 cockatoos) of parrot can have offspring, 2 of the same type of aviary bird (such as a pair of different finch types) can have offspring, 2 different chicken types can have offspring… And the list goes on. It is just uncommon, but the ability is there.

 So really… they’re all mongrels and moggies and mixed breeds, our pets! But whatever we have, we love them regardless!
 Any questions or comments?
Please use either contact page, thoughts comment box below, or social media site (Facebook, Google+, Twitter or LinkedIn).

Let’s Sea About Sea Monkey’s


My brother and sister-in-law have recently tried, not very successfully, to raise a little batch of Sea Monkey’s.  Quite disappointed in the short-lived pets, I was asked how long they typically live for… so I decided to do a bit of research looking into this little species.

For many people, their first pet as a child was a little packet of Sea Monkey’s; lovingly hatched from the eggs received in the packet, after following all the instructions to prepare the little tank for their home… what most people don’t know is, what Sea Monkey’s actually are. Whilst doing some research into this post, I have also come to realise that a lot of people (I’m unsure why…) did not even know that Sea Monkey’s were living creatures!

What Are They?

Sea Monkey’s are an invertebrate species, meaning they do not have a backbone. They are arthropods, meaning they have jointed legs. They are a crustacean; related to crabs, shrimp, water fleas, lobsters; with an exoskeleton, an outer shell. When growing, they shed their exoskeleton and regrow a new one to fit their larger size. Until the new exoskeleton hardens, they are more vulnerable.

They are also known as, Brine Shrimp. If you have followed any previous posts you may have come across this little titbit of information before, in Something Fishy! (1) – as they are a form of live and frozen fish food.

Females vs. Males

Size wise – females are smaller than males; females growing between 8-12 mm in length, and males growing between 10-15 mm in length.

Females have a “lump” at the base of their tail (which is where the eggs are stored), the males do not. Females have small antennae, whilst the males have large, distinct antennae (see image, below).

Female (left), Male (right) - Brine Shrimp
Female (left), Male (right) – Brine Shrimp

Lifespan

My sister-in-law told me that the packet informed her, that Sea Monkey’s can live up to 6 months! That surprised me a bit, as from what I have witnessed and been taught through my studies, is that they typically live 3-5 weeks in the right conditions. The longest I have discovered for the claimed lifespan of the Brine Shrimp is 12 weeks; the average being about 6 weeks.

They last about a week in the fridge, in a bag of water for fish food (less if they are not refrigerated)… and approximately 48 hours in freshwater (provided they are not eaten first), as they are not designed to live in freshwater habitats.

Basically, don’t be too disheartened your Sea Monkey’s die before they have reached half of the lifespan given in the information booklet you got with your new pet.

Keeping Sea Monkey’s Alive!

Being kept in tiny tanks means that the water needs changing more often, as in such a small space, the water deteriorates quickly. Roughly a 20% water change should be done bi-weekly, to ensure clean water and enough oxygen for survival; so that your Sea Monkey’s do not die from suffocation. Adding an aerator into the tank will also keep up oxygen levels, making breathing easier.

Doing a water change with such a small animal can be difficult; ensure you do not accidentally throw away any Sea Monkey’s with the dirty, discarded water! The shedding of the exoskeleton during growth makes up a lot of the dirtiness of the water, with so many of them shedding around the same time!

Causes of Death

Deteriorated, dirty water and lack of oxygen, are common causes of premature Sea Monkey death.The tank being knocked over, and therefore spilling your Sea Monkey’s everywhere, is a big stress to the little creatures, and ultimately will result in the death of the little guys (and girls)! The stress, combined with not being able to breathe out of water… so ensure your Sea Monkey’s are in a safe, secure place where they are unlikely to be knocked over.

Other common causes are the tank being in too warm a location; by a window in summer, in a very warm room/ next to a radiator in winter… or being in a location that makes them too cold; in a room not warm enough in winter, in the fridge because they will be fed to my Comet Goldfish within the week. Of course, being used as food is a cause of death, although this does not apply to Brine Shrimp being kept as pet Sea Monkey’s!

Last Thought

Even though Sea Monkey’s are just simple Brine Shrimp, feel free to imagine them how they were advertised in the 60’s and 70’s (see image, below). – as a cute little family… it may be anthropomorphic, but who doesn’t treat their pet a bit human at times?!

Sea Monkey Family
Sea Monkey Family

Moulting in Dogs


Pet owners are obviously interested in their pets and how to properly care for them, things that their pets do and/ or go through are also of interest. One thing that pet owners often wonder about, is moulting – particularly in dog owners – especially when it means bringing out the vacuum cleaner more often than usual!

Your Dog’s Coat

In order for dog owners to understand the moulting of their pet’s coat, it is helpful to understand the coat of a dog. The canine coat is made up of of two layers. One is the longer outer layer known as the overcoat; the other being the dense, insulative layer known as the undercoat.

This requires the hair growth cycle to be looked into. All of the hair on your dog goes through three cycles; these phases are the anagen (or active growth) phase, the catagen (or transitioning) phase, and the telogen (or resting) phase.  Although not all the hair will be in the same cycle at the same time, at particular times of the year the telogen phase is most dominant, causing more shedding to occur.

Anagen Phase

This is the active growth of the hair follicles, the cells of the hair root are diving rapidly. This is when the hair will actively grow under the surface of the skin, and then reach full length above the skin’s surface. Full hair length is genetically determined, so different breeds will have a different length of time for this phase of the hair growth cycle.

Catagen Phase

This is the transitioning phase at the end of the the anagen phase; the end of the active hair growth. During this stage the hair root and hair shaft (top portion of the hair, coming up out of the skin) detach from one-another – preparing for new hair growth.

Telogen Phase

This is the resting phase of the hair. The hair does not grow during this stage. At this stage the hair stays attached, however it could be pulled out (i.e. via grooming) at this stage, but tends not to fall out. Approximately 15% of al hair is in this stage at once.  Towards the end of this stage, as the hair cycle is coming around again to re-enter the anagen phase – the old hair falls out as new hair comes up and pushes the old hair out – this is your pet moulting.

 

Dog Coat Type

Dogs, such as my Bedlington Terrier (Barney, photo below) and Poodles, that do not moult have hair that is predominantly in the anagen phase. They require extra grooming to keep a nice coat and to pull out the old hairs as the detachment stage occurs less.

Barney, Bedlington Terrier
Barney, Bedlington Terrier

Dog breeds that do moult, such as Old English Sheepdogs (see Daisy, photo below) and most other breeds to be honest, have hair that is predominantly in the telogen phase. This is why you get a lot of hairs all over your furniture, clothes, carpet… Well let’s face it, EVERYWHERE!

Old English Sheepdog
Daisy, Old English Sheepdog

But Why?…

Daylight and temperature

These cycles are largely influenced by the amount of daylight, and a little by temperature – often people think that seasonal shedding is due to change in temperature, but in actual fact it is the length of daylight that has the main effect. As the seasons change and the day-lengths change, the daylight triggers the shedding of one coat and the growth of the new. This often occurs bi-annually, but in some breeds only occurs annually.

Breeds that shed annually are breeds built for colder temperatures (such as the Alaskan Malamute), and in the wild would need their coat thicker for longer. The majority of breeds shed bi-annually, losing their thick winter coat in favour of a lighter summer coat; losing their light summer coat in favour of a thick, warm winter coat. However, with dogs nowadays living inside with a lot of domestic comforts their wild counterparts lack, shedding can occur all year round, or at least more often than once or twice a year. Artificial lighting seemingly lengthens the “daylight” and can cause your dog to moult more.

Hormones

Bitches and dogs also shed slightly differently. After coming into heat or season, a bitch often sheds as part of her body cycle due to the hormone changes; pregnancy, gestation and birth can also cause hair loss with the changes in hormone levels and with the female pulling out fur for nest making.

Obviously, males are not affected by this kind of hormone change – however, male or female, thyroxin (the hormone from the thyroid gland) contributes to hair growth and rate of growth. This means that any pets suffering with hyperthyroidism, being deficient in this hormone, can lose hair more rapidly than a dog with a healthy thyroid.

External Factors

Food and water, environment, and grooming can all contribute to hair loss too.

Ensuring your dog is on the right food and has a healthy coat and skin will help ensure a normal hair cycle and moulting. Ensuring your dog has plenty of fresh water, easily accessible will also help with normal moulting – dehydration can cause problems (not just with moulting and coat but to your the general health of your pet).

Changes in environment can cause stress – noise, boredom, fear, a new pet/ child, moving house, redecorating, etc. – can all be stressors to your dog. Not all of these will affect every dog, as all dogs are individuals, different, and have had different life experiences. In cases of daily stress, moulting problems can occur.

Poor grooming, or lack of grooming, will affect the health of your dog’s skin and coat condition – affecting the hair cycle and moulting. Ensure you bathe your dog, as a dirty coat encourages bacteria growth and prevents hair growth; however, do not bathe your dog too often as you can wash away the natural, protective oils in the coat – again causing problems. Brush your dog regularly too, especially if it is a breed with curly or wavy hair, or a breed that does not moult, as hair can become tangled and matted and will be problematic in shedding.

 

Last Thoughts

If you suspect your dog is moulting excessively, take it to the vet to ensure their is no underlying issue. Check into the diet and nutrition of your dog, as sometimes the problem can be solved with a change in diet. If you are not comfortable or confident in grooming your dog yourself, find a reputable dog groomer and book your dog in regularly to keep their coat in tip-top condition!

Just groomed Westie, on grooming table
Just groomed Westie, on grooming table