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Common Household Hazards For Small Animals

Household hazards for small pets.

When you think about small mammal pets like rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs and hamsters, you usually don’t think about them being at risk of getting hurt at home. However, if you have one of these pets, there are home hazards you should be aware of.

These small creatures are very clever and curious, and capable of getting into things they shouldn’t. Here are some things you should be aware of.

Electric cords—so fun to chew, and so dangerous!
When your small pet chews on wires, they are likely to develop zinc poisoning which can lead to gastrointestinal upset, blood disturbances and even death. Some wires also contain copper, which can also be lethal. Live electrical wires offer the added danger of electrocution and instant death, and at the very least, severe oral burns. Keep all wires and cords safely secured or hidden so your pet can not access them.

Lead
Many construction materials used in building homes, including paint, linoleum and dry wall, may contain lead. Baseboards and floor edges can be tempting for small animals to chew on, but it can also be deadly, if the substances they’re chewing on contain lead. Keep pets away from chipping paint and other potentially lead-containing substances, as even a few bites of these materials can be lethal for smaller pets.

Temperature
Some small animals are extremely sensitive to temperature. For example, rabbits have thick, dense coats and cannot sweat. They get severely overheated at temperatures above 80 degrees, and can die. 80 degrees isn’t even considered extreme heat, so it’s important to be aware of the temperature and ensure your pet is comfortable. On the other hand, at temperatures below 70 degrees, hedgehogs enter a state of hibernation. Their heart rate slows and they become more susceptible to illness and even death if they remain at that temperature. It’s critical that your pet’s environment is kept in the temperature range that’s optimal for them.

People food
The food that we eat can be extremely toxic to small animals. Garlic, onions, food containing seeds, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine and grapes are just a few of the foods they should never be given.

Other
Things like human medications and household cleaning products should always be kept out of reach of all pets.

Is Grain-Free Food Right for Your Dog?

Choosing a diet for man’s best friend is not a task to be taken lightly. We want our dogs to be as healthy as possible, and nutrition plays a very important part of their well-being. Grain-free foods have become popular among humans and among dog food diets as well. Is this the right choice for your dog?

The theory behind grain-free food for dogs is that protein-based, grain-free dog foods more closely mimic a canine’s natural or “ancestral” diet as a carnivore. However, mass-produced dog kibble generally uses inexpensive fillers like corn, wheat and barley to create bulk and reduce costs.

A dog’s digestive system has little support for breaking down and metabolizing complex carbohydrates and cereal grains. The inability to process these grains can cause damage to the lining of the digestive system, resulting in bowel inflammation disorders, food sensitivities, food allergies and obesity.

Most vets today recommend that carbohydrates and grains make up a small portion of a dog’s diet. Many grain-free dog foods contain more protein and animal fats and fewer carbohydrates than their grain-filled counterparts, and are therefore more easily digested.

Other benefits include:

  • Helps keep dogs fuller longer resulting in less food being eaten
  • May help prevent or reduce canine food allergies
  • Provides more energy
  • Fewer and smaller stools
  • Healthier skin
  • Shinier coat
  • Less shedding
  • Better breath

Should you switch your dog to grain-free? If your dog has no health issues, you might not need to worry. Definitely consult your vet before making any changes, but check out the ingredients in your dog’s food. If corn, wheat or soy is listed as the first ingredient, you might consider switching to a different formula.

If you and your vet determine change is a good idea, make sure to introduce the new food gradually so your dog’s digestive system can adjust.

Tips for Feeding In A Multi-Cat Household

Handling a single hungry cat is pretty simple. Feeding more than one cat in a household can be difficult. Many factors can present challenges: the number of cats involved, their temperaments, the size of feeding area and number of dishes, as well as any specific dietary needs that have to be considered.

Cats evolved as solitary hunters, and they ate many small meals in a day. Today, cats have one of two types of eating habits. The majority are “nibblers”—they’ll nibble at their food if it’s left out during the day (free-feeding). The others are meal feeders.

Free-feeding presents additional challenges in multi-cat homes, because it’s not easy to monitor each cat’s appetite and food intake. Also, assertive cats may prevent shyer cats from accessing the food bowl, or intimidate them into leaving the food before they have finished eating. Conflict among cats is often subtle, so you may not even be aware this is happening.

So what is the solution? Generally in most multi-cat households, meal feeding with individual stations is the best approach. This is especially true if any of the cats requires a specific or special type of food. One idea is to feed each cat in a separate room of the home, with the door closed. Ideally a regular feeding schedule is adhered to, and each cat is given a certain amount of time to eat.

At all times, water should be freely available in several locations. If separate rooms isn’t possible, setting up dividers or partitions might create enough division for everyone to eat peacefully. Or think vertically – cats like to jump and climb, so their food dishes could be separated at different levels of surfaces in the home.

Regardless of the feeding plan chosen, make sure to consult your vet about the amount of calories your cat should consume each day. Obesity is the biggest health concern facing cats in the US today, and by simply being aware of how much food your cat needs and avoiding overfeeding, you can greatly improve your cat’s health.

Keeping Your Bird’s Beak Healthy

Keeping Your Bird's Beak Healthy.

A healthy bird has a healthy beak. And a healthy beak means your bird will use it like we use our hands, as it performs a multitude of vital tasks such grooming, feeding, and defending. Each bird has a beak with a distinct shape and design relating to its lifestyle and the type of food it normally eats.

Here are some signs of a healthy beak:

  • Smooth, symmetrical appearance
  • No peeling or unusual textures
  • No discolored areas
  • Proper beak length
  • The upper should align with the lower beak

Here are a few products that will help keep your bird’s beak in tip top shape:

Cuttlebones
A cuttlebone is not actually a bone, but rather the internal shell of a cuttlefish. It is a great source of calcium which helps strengthen the keratin that makes up your bird’s beak, and its texture is helpful in wearing down overgrown beaks. The cuttlebones come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors. It’s a great idea to keep one in your bird’s cage at all times.

Beak Conditioner
Made of natural lava stone, this block helps birds keep their beaks sharp and trimmed.

Manu Mineral Block
A natural, mineral-rich clay originating from the Manu River deep in the Amazon. This clay contains the nine essential minerals that birds crave, and its rough texture and odd shape also provides great exercise and conditioning of the bird’s beak.

Banana Mineral Treat
A treat and beak conditioner all in one! This banana-flavored treat provides the essential nutrients calcium and iodine, while also trimming and conditioning.

Common Causes of Dog Skin Conditions

Dog skin problems are the most common reason for a visit to the vet’s office-accounting for almost one quarter of visits.

Being aware of some of the most common skin conditions your dog might face can help you keep him healthier and can help the vet narrow down the cause to figure out the best plan for treatment.

Environmental

Dogs can develop sensitivities to common elements like lawn grasses, dust, pollen, mold and mildew. These allergens might make your dog itchy and uncomfortable. Moisture can also get trapped on the skin which causes ‘hot spots’, which is a painful moist reddish inflamed area of skin. Hot spots can spread quickly, so it’s best to treat them as soon as possible.

Nutritional

Food allergies are not as common, but when food allergies do occur, they are usually caused by proteins, both meat-based and plant-based. Beef, dairy and wheat are the most common allergens. The main symptom of food-based allergies is excessive itching/scratching and skin irritation, but it can also cause digestive issues.

Parasitic

Flea bites can also cause allergic reactions in dogs-this is known as parasitic dermatitis. Excessive itching, inflammation and hair loss are common symptoms of this, though tick bites and mites can also cause a similar reaction.

Infectious

Infections can also cause dermatitis in dogs. The infection can be bacterial, fungal (such as ringworm), or yeast infections. Yeast infections are common in warmer weather and are often misdiagnosed as allergies. Itchy ears and paws are most often caused by yeast infections. Bacterial infections are often secondary infections to allergies, caused by sores from excessive scratching.

How to help

Parasitic dermatitis is the easiest of the causes to deal with – treat your home and your pets for fleas, and make sure they’re on a flea preventative. Once the fleas are eliminated, the itching will be too. Other allergies and irritants are more difficult to pinpoint though, so if the fleas are under control and your dog is still suffering, a vet visit is the best way to narrow down the possible culprits. Environmental allergens can be treated with medication or shots; food allergies can be managed by transitioning to a new food, recommended by your vet. It may require some trial and error to figure out the underlying cause, but your patience will be rewarded once your dog is feeling better!

Tips for a Stress Free Vet Visit

  • Be aware that your behavior influences your cat’s behavior. If you are nervous or on edge, they are likely to be also. Offer your cat plenty of love and affection before preparing to leave for the visit, as this can help both of you stay calm.
  • An important stress reducer is getting your cat to feel comfortable with her carrier. If she only ever gets in it to go to the vet, that will be her only association with it. Incorporate it into your daily lives-make it a comfortable nap space, and offer treats when he’s inside for positive reinforcement.
  • The type of carrier you use is also important-it should be large enough for your cat to be able to stand, stretch and turn around in. Hard carriers with a top-loading option make it easier to lift out a fearful cat. You can also try covering it with a familiar towel from home to help block out some of the frightening stimuli of the vet’s waiting room.
  • The car ride can also be a negative association for your cat. Cats like things to be familiar and predictable, and a car ride is definitely not part of their daily routine. Once she’s used to the carrier, try taking her for shorter car rides every once in a while, just around the block or down the street. While your cat may never grow to love riding in the car, if a trip doesn’t always end up at the vet’s office, it may become less stressful.
  • Not feeding your cat prior to the visit can help prevent any motion sickness caused by the car ride. An added bonus is that your cat will be more interested in any treats the vet offers.
  • Handle your cat often. Give your cat regular head-to-toe checkups at home. Even if you aren’t sure what you’re looking for, it will help your cat become more comfortable with being handled. You’ll also notice any potential issues more quickly if you’re checking your cat frequently.

Correcting Bird Biting Behavior

If your pet bird bites you-or someone else-it’s important that you spend time to correct the behavior. A bird’s biting can be playful, their attempt to climb on or to preen you, or just simple baby bird behavior.

Purposeful biting happens for one of two basic reasons, either out of fear or aggression, so the first step in correcting biting is to determine the underlying cause.

Fearful biting

Sometimes, the cause of fear is a rational one-a loud sound like a vacuum cleaner, for example. Other times, the fear appears illogical, but perhaps something happened in your bird’s past to cause the fear. Once you’ve determined the cause, remove it from the bird’s environment, if at all possible. If that’s not an option, try increasing the distance between the cause and the bird. Give the bird treats and positive reinforcement as you gradually move the bird closer (very slowly, over the course of days or weeks). Eventually, the bird will associate the cause of the fear with positive reinforcement, which should reduce its fear.

Aggressive biting

Some underlying causes of aggression include control/territorial dominance, lack of attention or hormonal or medical issues. There are right and wrong ways to correct this behavior-it’s important not to reinforce it. In your relationship with your bird, you should have established yourself as the “head of the flock” and he should already be trained to step up onto your hand on command. Birds react to facial expressions and praise. So if your bird is biting, you should:

  1. Calmly and firmly, but not loudly or dramatically, say “No”
  2. Give your bird a stern look to express that you are not pleased
  3. Then do what is known as “laddering”. This is where you calmly and firmly tell your bird to “step up” onto your finger, and then have them do this over and over (3 or 4 times in a row).

This puts you back in control and reminds your bird that you are in charge. You must be consistent with this technique and if you are, the biting should stop.

It’s just as important to know what NOT to do. Do not:

  • React by yelling. Birds love drama and yelling and think of it as a reward.
  • React with violence, under any circumstances. You will damage their trust in you and therefore your relationship.
  • Attempt to punish the bird by putting it in its cage. They won’t make the connection between biting and being put in his cage.

Bath Time! (Tips for Bathing Your Dog)

Most dogs don’t mind being dirty—in fact, they enjoy it! Depending on your dog, bath time can be tricky. Some dogs, even water-loving breeds, are not fond of baths.

Here are some tips for making bath time easier for you, and your dog.

How often?

The ASPCA recommends bathing your dog at least once every 3 months, and veterinary dermatologists recommend it even more frequently, as often as once a week. Figure out what works best for you and your dog based on factors like how much time they spend outside and any skin conditions they may have (bathing more frequently is better for dogs with allergies).

Before the Bath

  • Make sure you have a shampoo and/or conditioner that is especially formulated for dogs. Find what will work best for your dog—a Pet Supermarket associate would be happy to help you with recommendations.
  • Brush your dog thoroughly before getting him wet.
  • You can put a cotton ball in your dog’s ear canals to prevent water from getting inside—just remember to take it out after you’re done. Some dogs may benefit from the use of an ear powder after bathing. The powder helps absorb any excess moisture.
  • If you’re bathing your dog at home in the bathtub, putting a non-slip surface on the floor of the tub or a bathing tether can help relieve anxiety by giving your dog more traction and security.

Splish Splash

  • Now that you’re ready for the bath, it’s time for positive reinforcement. Offer treats, toys and affection to get your dog excited for the bath, and anytime he does anything that’s helpful during bath time. Stay calm and assertive—if you are anxious or angry, your dog’s actions will reflect your energy.
  • Use warm water, not hot. If your dog is anxious about baths, adding the water to the tub before he gets in may help calm him.
  • Start shampooing at your dog’s neck and work your way down to the tail and the toes. Use a damp washcloth to wash your dog’s face. Offer praise and treats along the way.
  • Once your dog is sudsed up, rinse with clean, warm water. If your dog is still dirty, you can repeat shampooing and rinsing as needed. If you’ll be using conditioner, you can massage it into your dog’s fur and then rinse well.

Drying Off

  • Have towels ready for drying—three is a good amount. One can go on the floor, one for drying your dog’s face and ears, and another for drying his body and feet. Some dogs don’t mind blow dryers if you’d prefer to go that route, just make sure it’s on the coolest setting so as not to burn your dog’s skin.
  • Don’t let your dog outside until he’s completely dry, or he might undo all of your hard work!

Pet Supermarket carries a large selection of shampoos and grooming supplies to make your dog’s bath a success!

Cat Drool

Cats rarely drool like our canine companions do. A little saliva isn’t cause for worry, but if you notice your cat drooling excessively, it is most likely a sign of an underlying medical problem. As a rule, if your cat is drooling or foaming at the mouth for no obvious reason, drooling persists for more than half an hour, or there are other signs of illness simultaneously, it’s time to call the vet.

Some causes that might be behavioral or fairly benign include:

  • Salivation from fear or excitement
  • Car sickness, caused by motion or fear
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting a hairball
  • Sometimes a cat will drool with pleasure while being petted – the drool of happiness!

Some of the worrying causes of drools:

  • Dental disease—more than 80% of adult cats will develop periodontal, gum or other oral diseases that cause pain and may induce drooling.
  • Poison ingestion (or of a foul-tasting substance)—common plants like tulips, lilies, azaleas, and chrysanthemums can make your cat drool, as well as make her sick.
  • Oral cancers—these can be very aggressive in cats and cause a large amount of drool.
  • Respiratory infection—drooling can signal an infection of the nose, throat, or sinuses.
  • Organ disease—as cats age, they’re more likely to get sick. Liver and kidney diseases can cause drooling. Annual checkups can help diagnose and treat these diseases early.
  • Foreign object or tumor in the mouth—some common objects that may get stuck in cats’ mouths include string, sticks, bones or fish hooks.
  • Rabies—it is a rare diagnosis, but if the cat has not been vaccinated against rabies and begins drooling and behaving unusually, it must be considered.

When in doubt, check with your veterinarian for an examination to rule out underlying causes for excessive drool. While normal for most dogs, our elegant feline friends aren’t fond of drool.

Pet Bird Happiness

Birds are smart creatures—some species of parrots have been shown to have the emotional complexity of a 5-year-old-child. It’s important to keep these intelligent animals happy and healthy. By knowing the basics of your bird’s needs—just three major elements—it can make it much easier to keep them content and healthy.

Keep them healthy

  • Good nutrition and variety is important to a bird’s diet. Offer seed, pellets, and treats to keep your bird healthy.
  • Daily access to unfiltered sunlight—birds need access to UVA and UVB rays direct sunlight or full-spectrum lighting to synthesize vitamin D necessary for bone health. Window glass blocks necessary UV rays.
  • Grooming—your bird should be given regular opportunities to bathe. A bird bath and even bird bath spray can be found at your local Pet Supermarket.
  • Temperature regulation—protect them from extreme heat or cold.

Appropriate accommodations

  • They need a spacious cage, big enough to accommodate perches, bird toys and several food dishes; as well as allowing for exercise—maybe even short flights from one perch to another. The larger, the better.
  • Make it fun. Include natural perches (set up as they might be in the wild), foraging opportunities, and adequate nature—safe, edible plants and non-toxic wood.
  • Add indoor plants if possible. These increase oxygen flow and help clean the air indoors, and also provide privacy, which can alleviate some behavioral problems, such as feather plucking.

Spreading their wings

  • Social time. By nature, birds are social creatures and enjoy the company of other living beings. If it is an only bird, make sure to spend quality time with your bird. Place multiple perches throughout your house so your bird can “hang out” with you.
  • Daily exercise. Your bird needs out-of-cage time at least once a day to allow for sufficient physical and mental stimulation, preferably including free-flying in a safe, supervised environment.
  • Offer a variety of toys and enrichment activities, or work on teaching your bird a few tricks. This will have the added benefit of strengthening the bond between you and your bird. For maximum benefit, rotate toys periodically.

Tips For Keeping Your Dog Cool This Summer

As the weather warms up, the natural tendency is to want to spend lots of time outdoors soaking up the sunshine. While spending more time outdoors can be a great source of exercise and fun for your dog, it’s essential to be aware of the dangers of heat exhaustion. Here are some tips for keeping your best friend cool and safe this summer.

  • First and foremost, keep your dog hydrated. Dogs will need more water than usual when the temperatures rise, so make sure to keep the water bowl full of fresh, cool water, and take water for your dog with you on any walks. If a dog gets dehydrated, it can turn into heatstroke quickly. Signs of dehydration include dry nose, dry mouth and gums, excessive panting, and vomiting or loss of appetite. If your dog has a few of these symptoms, see your vet immediately.
  • Don’t let the temperature fool you. Dogs can overheat in temperatures as low as 80 degrees. Add in humidity and exertion, and it gets dangerous quickly.
  • Change your walking time. Avoid the hottest parts of the day by going for walks in the early morning and late evening, after the sun has set. If possible, avoid hot surfaces like sand or asphalt, as your dog’s paws are sensitive and can burn easily.
  • NEVER leave your dog in a closed car (even with the windows cracked); on a warm day, the temperature inside can rise to over 150 degrees within minutes.
  • Go for a swim! Swimming is the best activity for a dog in the summertime. It’s not only great exercise, but it can be an opportunity for bonding while the two of you cool off together.

By following these tips, you can make sure you and your dog both have a safe, fun summer.

Kitty Hydration

Keeping your cat hydrated is always important, but especially so during the warm summer months. Depending on their weight and diet, your cat should be drinking two to four ounces a day.

If your cat is a picky kitty, you may need to try a few things to keep them properly hydrated.

Sparkling Clean H20

  • Refresh your cat’s water every day. Water that sits for a few days can get stale or contaminated.
  • Offer filtered water rather than tap water, which has minerals and chlorine.
  • If your cat eats dry food, make sure fresh water is always available. If you decide to add water to their food, make sure to dispose of it as soon as they are done eating to prevent spoilage.
  • If your cat is on a wet-food diet, they will need less water, but feel free to add a little to their food bowl.
  • Refill their water to the same level daily. This will make it easier to notice any changes in her water intake.

Water Bowl Protocol

  • Wash their food bowl often and rinse all traces of dish soap, which can burn their tongue.
  • Your cat might not like having their water close to her food source. In this case, a double feeder bowl with food and water next to each other would be a turn off. Try separate bowls instead.
  • Glass or stainless steel bowls are preferable as plastic may leave an unpleasant taste.
  • Some cats don’t like their whiskers touching the sides of the bowl when they drink. Give them more room with a wide, shallow bowl.
  • If your cat prefers to drink running water, get them a water fountain. A water fountain can provide a continuous flow of fresh, filtered water for your cat. It could be a source of water and play!

Keep the fresh water flowing for a healthy cat and be sure to monitor their water intake. If they are drinking more or less than normal, they should see a vet to be checked for any potential health issues.

Protecting Your Bird In Summer Heat: Safety Tips For Monitoring & Regulating Body Temperature

Summer heat safety tips for your pet bird.

Although most types of pet birds are native to tropical habitats, warm summer weather can still be a threat to their health. Birds handle heat better than cats and dogs because their normal body temperature is around 104 degrees Fahrenheit. But because they lack sweat glands, any increase in body temperature can cause heat exhaustion. Heat stress in birds is a serious concern and must be treated immediately. Here are some tips for protecting your bird in the summer heat.

  • Make sure cages are kept away from direct sunlight. Keep in mind that the sun changes direction throughout the day and the cage’s location may need to be altered accordingly.
  • Air conditioning and ceiling fans are useful options for keeping your bird cool. Even if the air being circulated is warm, it will help pull heat from the bird’s body. Be careful not to direct the airflow directly at the bird, however. Gel-based freezer packs in a Ziploc bag can be placed in the cage to help cool down the air.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables will be a welcome addition to your bird’s high-quality seed-based diet. Your bird’s preferences may vary, but fresh apple pieces, parsley, cucumber, and moist lettuce leaves are great options to offer as treats. Food spoils more quickly in the heat, so for this reason make sure to remove any uneaten food after a couple of hours.
  • Make sure there’s an abundant supply of clean, fresh water—for both drinking and bathing—in separate containers. Your bird may also enjoy being spritzed with cool water from a water bottle. Besides cooling them down, it also keeps the feathers in condition, helps grooming and enhances coloration. Just take care not to startle your bird with the misting.

By following these tips, you can ensure your bird stays cool and healthy in the summer heat. However, it’s helpful to be aware of the signs of heat stress. One of the first signs that your bird is not feeling well is the lack of preening or grooming, usually followed by fluffing up in a ball and being very quiet, or sitting at the bottom of its cage. Another signal of heat stress is your bird panting with an open beak and its wings spread away from the body. If you notice any of these signs or your bird’s behavior changes suddenly, contact your vet immediately.

How Long Should You Walk Your Dog?

How long should I walk my dog?

The amount of exercise a dog needs is dependent on several factors. A dog’s age, size, breed and overall health are all taken into consideration when determining how much exercise is sufficient. Generally speaking, for most dogs, a leashed 10-minute walk isn’t enough.

Dogs in the hunting, working or herding groups—labrador retrievers, collies, shepherds, hounds—require the most exercise. If your dog is in one of these groups and in good health, they should be getting at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise (Frisbee, soccer, agility courses) several times a week in addition to their daily walks.

For other breeds, pay attention to their signs to determine how much exercise is enough. If they’re still walking at full speed after 20 minutes, add another 10. Observing your dog’s behavior should give you clues to when they’re well-exercised.

Some additional tips:

  • Limit your dog’s outdoor activity in extreme weather, including temperatures higher than 85º F.
  • Older dogs, younger dogs, and dark-haired dogs are more sensitive to heat. Walk your dog in morning or early evening to avoid heat extremes.
  • Protect your dog’s paws in cold weather. In the winter, avoid salted paths—they can cause chemical burns on their foot pads.
  • On long walks, don’t forget to bring water for your dog.
  • Even toy and small breeds need outside exercise and daily walks. Pugs, for example, are prone to obesity, so they require exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

Enjoy this daily routine with your dog—walking your dog is a bonding activity, in addition to enriching your dog’s life and health (and yours!).

All About Cats’ Eyes

All about your cat's eyes.

Cats’ eyes are fascinating! Here are some interesting facts about how your cat sees the world.

  • Cats see very well in low light (but not total darkness).

Compared to most humans, cats have poor vision. However, they can see things we can’t. They give up the ability to see fine detail and rich colors in exchange for being able to see in the dark.

  • Cats don’t see intense colors.

They’re not completely color-blind, but they see less colors than humans, and the ones they do see are less-saturated. Scientists believe that cats see blues and yellows fairly well but they can’t distinguish between reds and greens.

  • Cats’ vision is sharpest 2-3 feet from their face.

Many researchers believe cats are farsighted because their lens doesn’t change shape to compensate for focusing close up, so they don’t see fine details that we might see.

  • Domesticated cats have vertical pupils.

This allows them to open and close faster than the round pupil humans have. This helps them adjust to light changes rapidly, and to quickly detect sudden movement. Interestingly, lions and other big cats have the same round pupils that humans have.

  • In addition, the pupil also indicates emotional state.

A narrow pupil can indicate anger or irritation, while a wide open pupil is indicative of fear or excitement.

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