Six museums around the country for animal-art aficionados

Art museums are a visual record of our history. When we visit them, we don’t simply see the artist’s vision, but also fashions, food, furnishings and, yes, animals from a given point in time.

Many famous art museums feature portraits of people with their dogs, cats and horses, but specialty museums focus on works that portray the animals themselves. A visit to one of them is a feast of fine art depicting the role of animals in society through the ages and how they have changed -- or not. No matter which one you visit, you’ll be rewarded with a fascinating glimpse into the background of your favorite animal. Here are eight to look for.

▪ American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog, St. Louis. In the 14,000-square-foot Jarville House in Queeny Park are more than 700 original paintings, drawings, sculptures, porcelains and more, all depicting man’s best friend. Bonus: Leashed, well-behaved dogs are welcome to visit, too.

▪ Feline Historical Museum, Alliance, Ohio. Not to be outdone, the Cat Fanciers Association has a permanent home for its extensive collection of cat-themed art and other unique items, including the silver collar awarded to Cosey, who won the first Madison Square Garden cat show in 1895; a bronze of a Persian by J. Clayton Bright; feline figurines from Lalique, Baccarat and Royal Doulton; and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house for a cat. Visitors may also enjoy the company of cats on the premises, including Maine coons and ragdolls.

▪ National Sporting Library and Museum, Middleburg, Virginia. Horse and dog lovers will appreciate the sporting art on display at this museum devoted to equestrian and field sports. Current exhibits include Picturing English Pastimes: British Sporting Prints at the NSLM and the Chronicle of the Horse in Art. Researcher Elizabeth Tobey says, “Particularly significant are its holdings of early modern books from the 16th through 18th centuries from Europe and Great Britain on horsemanship, hunting, natural history and animal husbandry.”

▪ International Museum of the Horse, Lexington, Kentucky. They’re not just horsing around at this museum. Its collections include fine and folk art, photographs, tack, trophies, sculptures and horse-drawn vehicles.

“Calumet Farm’s massive collection of historic racing trophies alone is worth the visit to the International Museum of the Horse, and the strong selection of permanent exhibits is bolstered regularly by impressive special exhibitions,” says Glenye Oakford of Lexington, Kentucky, senior editor at The Chronicle of the Horse. “If you’re more into history that’s truly alive, just step outside to the Hall of Champions, where some of the racing and show world’s heroes, including the wildly popular 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Funny Cide, greet visitors.”

▪ National Bird Dog Museum, Grand Junction, Tennessee. Anyone who has ever loved a sporting breed won’t want to miss this bird dog field of dreams. Displays include a sculpture of national champion pointer Elhew’s Snakefoot and sporting dog art, photography and memorabilia.

▪ Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum, Wasilla, Alaska. Housed in a log cabin, the museum’s displays feature trophies, photos and videos of the iconic race commemorating a thousand-mile run to bring life-saving diphtheria serum to disease-stricken Nome in 1925. In summer, take a ride in a cart pulled by sled dogs to get a taste of what is now a National Historic Trail.

▪ Museum of Hounds and Hunting North America, Leesburg, Virginia. Housed at stately Morven Park, this collection ranges from a hound head sculpture to a colonial-era hunting horn to the hunting diaries of Gen. George S. Patton.

▪ Newseum, Washington, D.C. Pets make news, too, especially if they live in the White House. An ongoing exhibit, First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Pets, presents images and stories of presidential pets, including Calvin and Grace Coolidge’s 12 dogs; Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier Fala -- and his press secretary; and Warren G. Harding’s Airedale, Laddie Boy, who had his own chair at cabinet meetings.

Apple seeds not toxic to pets

Q: I like to give my dog apple cores, and he loves them, but I heard that the seeds contain cyanide. Should I stop giving them? I don’t want to poison him!

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A: They say that an apple day keeps the doctor away, and it probably helps to keep the veterinarian away, too. Bites of apple -- you probably don’t want to give a whole one all at once -- are a good, low-calorie, crunchy treat for dogs. They can help to freshen a dog’s breath and are a good way to help a dieting dog feel like he’s not so deprived.

Keep giving your dog apple cores without worry. Apple seeds are overhyped as being poisonous to pets. The amount of cyanide within a few seeds is so minimal that it’s really not a concern. I know of some dogs who love to steal apples right off the tree when they can reach them, or just wait for them to fall.

QT Pi loves apples, especially Honeycrisps or Fujis that snap back when bitten into. How do I know this? Because I asked him, and he told me so. For variety, he likes them dusted with cinnamon or lightly dipped in Lighthouse caramel dip (three for daddy, one for son). Know that the gooey version is only an infrequent treat, and we closely monitor his calorie intake and weight to keep him at his ideal body weight.

Other great, healthy “people food” treats -- in moderation, of course -- include bananas, blueberries, carrots, green beans, cooked sweet potatoes, cantaloupe and watermelon. A couple of dogs I know even like slices of tangerine and orange.

If you ever do think your pet has eaten something toxic and you can’t reach your veterinarian, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for life-saving advice.

Dr. Marty Becker

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Hands-on therapies help cats in pain

-- We don’t typically think of cats as needing massage, physical rehab or chiropractic adjustments, but their feats of strength and jumping ability can make them prone to musculoskeletal problems, such as arthritis. Especially as they age, cats can become stiff and pained from leaping on and off high places, twisting their slinky bodies into strange positions or careening off the wall as they chase a ball down the hall. If you notice when you’re petting him that your cat turns around and bites at you right when you stroke the mid-lumbar region, he may have some aches and pains that can be addressed with some hands-on treatment and medication. Talk to your veterinarian to see what can be done.

-- An English springer spaniel named Angus is hard at work in a hospital in Vancouver, Canada. He’s not visiting patients -- he’s sniffing out a hazardous superbug commonly found in hospitals: Clostridium difficile. C-diff persists in the environment for long periods and is highly contagious and even deadly. His alerts to its presence allow hospital staff to target areas for additional cleaning and disinfection.

-- What does it mean when the label on a bag or can of pet food says the contents are “natural”? Legally, there’s no official definition. The United States Food and Drug Administration considers the term “natural” to mean that a food does not contain artificial flavors, artificial colors or artificial preservatives. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, the organization that develops nutrient standards and ingredient definitions for pet foods, the word “natural” applies only to a food or ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources. It should be used to describe products only when all of the ingredients -- not counting chemically synthesized vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients -- meet that definition. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with