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This little piggy went to the pet store

The teacup pig is becoming a popular petA pet breeder in England has raised a new type of miniature pig which families across the UK are brining into their homes as a pet.

Dubbed the teacup pig, new pet sensation grows from about 9 ounces at birth to a full growth of about 12 to 16 inches at the age of 2, MSNBC reports. The pigs, which do not typically grow to more than 65 pounds, are a breed between potbellied pigs and the Tamworth, Kune Kune and Gloucester Old Spot breeds.

Jane Croft, the 42-year-old breeder of the minute animals told the news source, "They make fantastic pets. They’re really clean. They’re highly intelligent and just love to be loved. They give so much back to you."

Croft sells the pigs in England for up to $1,100 each. Despite the relatively high cost for the pets, the breeder says she has had to work 14-hour days in order to keep up with the high demand in the UK.

The animals are not officially available in the U.S., but many believe the petite pigs will be bred and sold here shortly.

Though full-sized pigs were popular pets about 20 years ago, Pigs Sanctuary, a shelter in West Virginia reported housing over 200 abandoned pigs during the 1990s.

Survey shows gap in knowledge about pet diets

Many pet owners are in the dark when it comes to nutritional pet foodAccording to a recent survey, approximately 60 percent of pet owners do not know how to select the most nutritional food to optimize their pet’s needs.

The research, commissioned by pet retailer PETCO, revealed that 79 percent of people with pets believe their pet’s nutrition to be important or critical.

However, 57 percent of respondents did not know how to evaluate the nutritional value of pet food by reading the label, 59 percent could not identify nutritious ingredients and 61 percent could not differentiate between basic, premium, natural and organic pet foods.

After receiving the results to this survey, PETCO began a nutrition education program which will provide detailed training to experts in each store. One company official hopes that the program will disseminate the message to consumers concerned with pet health as well.

Rick Rockhill, vice president of merchandise for PETCO revealed one tip, and advised dog and cat owners not to rely on diets typically deemed healthy for humans such as low-fat, unprocessed foods. "Dogs and cats actually get most of their energy from fat and have an easier time digesting foods that have been correctly processed."

HousePet Magazine further warns that dogs and cats are susceptible to bacteria in meat such as salmonella, campylobacter, E. coli and Listeria.

DiCaprio Speaks on Responsibility for Animals

DiCaprio recognizes the responsibility humans must take for wildlifeOscar-winner Leonardo DiCaprio teamed up with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) for Animal Action Week to promote the importance of guarding biodiversity in ecosystems and to value the bonds between people and animals.

During Animal Action Week, IFAW engages teachers and children around the world in topics which concern the responsibilities humans have for animals. This year’s theme, Under One Sky, seeks to explain how everyday activities can impact both the environment and the creatures that dwell within.

DiCaprio, and IFAW Honorary Board Member emphasized, "Animals, like people, need a home that provides food, water, shelter and space. It’s our responsibility to protect animals and our planet’s vital ecosystems if we want to leave a better world for future generations."

As part of the program, the organization asks families to sign a pledge to take care of the animals with which they interact.

IFAW has now been operating for more than 16 years and has educated children in 18 countries about the importance of respecting and actively protecting animal life.

The U.S. Humane Society estimates that 39 percent of households own at least one dog and 34 percent house at least one cat.

Veterinarian hits the road to provide care

One vet has decided to take her business on the roadRecognizing the importance of pet health to many families, one veterinarian from Locust Grove, Oklahoma is traveling directly to animals in need of care in communities without access to other licensed vets.

The traveling vet, Dr Carolynne Cash, recently purchased a mobile veterinary clinic after conceiving of the idea at an industry conference last February, the Pryor Daily Times reports. Though the impetus to take her practice on the road was to serve communities without a veterinarian, Cash points out that her clinic is also ideal for families with multiple pets who struggle with car trips to the vet office.

Her refurbished and fully stocked mobile clinic allows her to vaccinate, spay, neuter and provide dental care for cats, dogs and smaller animals. Cash typically drives into communities like Adair and Fort Gibson and sets up her clinic in a community center or fire department.

The doctor also offers treatment in homes and backyards to animals whose owners leave the pets alone during the day. She told the news source, "It’s real convenient for people who are working."

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average veterinary expenditure per household in 2006 was $366.

Scientists wish to explore benefits of pet therapy

Pets may help some patients form needed bondsThe National Institutes of Health (NIH) is accepting proposals for studies which investigate how interactions between humans and animals affect typical development and health.

The National Insititue of Child Health and Human Development, a sector of the NIH, has teamed up with the Waltham Center for pet Nutrition in England to study whether some animals can have recognizable effects on a child’s psychological welfare.

The request for research proposals was encouraged by doctors who treat Alzheimer’s and autism who have noticed that patients often respond to their pets or service dogs in ways that they cannot relate to humans.

Dr Melissa Nishawala, clinical director of the autism-spectrum service at the Child Study Center, described how an 11-year-old boy with autism, Milo, reacted to pet therapy after a service dog moved in with the boy’s family. "I noticed a prominent and noticeable change. He started to give me narrative in a way he never did." She added that he mostly spoke about the new dog.

While pets work wonders to miraculously improve our health, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association says that veterinary pet insurance can be used to protect pet health and ensure the financial stability of the pet’s family.

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