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JoAnna Lou

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Signs of Canine Cancer
One in three dogs will be affected by cancer

I still remember when I first heard that cancer affects one in three dogs. I was at an agility trial fundraiser for canine cancer research and the organizers asked anyone touched by the disease to raise their hand. Almost everyone had their hand up.

It's a scary statistic that hit home recently. Three of my friends have lost dogs to cancer in the last month. The disease has become so commonplace that last week there was an Internet hoax last week about a canine hero who was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma.

So I thought it was a good time to review the National Canine Cancer Foundation's 10 early warning signs of canine cancer:

  • Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  • Sores that do not heal
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • Offensive odor
  • Difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  • Persistent lameness or stiffness
  • Difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecation


Between research and early detection, hopefully one day we'll be able to make cancer a thing of the past.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Budgeting for Dog Expenses
The ASPCA and Mint.com calculate annual and monthly pet costs

Dog lovers don't need a survey to tell us that we spend a lot of money on our pups. But exactly how big is our pet budget?

The ASPCA calculated basic annual expenses for a variety of pets (not including one-time purchases, like a crate or leash). According to their survey, the average medium dog incurs the following costs per year:

  • Food - $118
  • Recurring Medical - $236.30
  • Toys/Treats - $55.60
  • License - $13.90
  • Health Insurance - $222.40
  • Miscellaneous - $41.70

I don't buy pet health insurance, but I know that I can easily spend over $400 on medical bills for one of my dogs in a year. And I definitely spend more than $118 per dog on food. Let's not even get started about agility classes and trials!

Personal money management website, Mint.com, also looked at pet spending through their users. They found that the average person in the United States spends $112 per month on their pets (note that this number is for all pets in a given household). They also looked at variation by city. San Francisco spent the most money, $148 per month over the national average.

Obviously, there are many things that influence these numbers, but it's a good start to get people thinking about pet related expenses before they add a dog to the family.

How much do you estimate that you spend on each of your dogs in one year?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Thefts Up This Year
AKC reports 32 percent increase in stolen dogs

Last year, I wrote about a piece of legislation aimed at making pet theft a felony in New York State. The bill hasn't been passed yet and, unfortunately, it looks like pet theft is on the rise.

This year, the American Kennel Club reports a 32 percent increase in stolen dogs. The data are taken from media reports of pet theft and customers who call the Companion Animal Recovery service, so the statistic may not be totally representative of the whole pet population. However, many believe that all types of crime have increased as a result of the economy, so the report could hold some truth.

I always thought that small, trendy breeds were the most attractive to thieves, but interestingly the AKC says that Pit Bulls and other large breeds are most common.

Typically, pets are stolen for monetary gain, but I wonder if the large dogs are being stolen for dog fighting. People used to worry about pets being stolen for laboratories, but today most dogs and cats are bred specifically for research purposes.

Although the number of stolen dogs has gone up, the AKC stresses that the number is small compared to those who are lost or abandoned.

For tips on preventing pet theft, visit Petfinder's web page on the topic.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Burial Ban in New York
State puts an end to human ashes in pet cemeteries

Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, the first of its kind in America, holds a special place in my heart. My cat was cremated there and I have friends whose pets are buried there. The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery has been open for over 100 years and is a testament to the special relationship humans have with their pets.

Given that it's the final resting place for many special animals, it's not surprising that about 600 pet lovers chose to join their dogs and cats by having their ashes buried at the cemetery. Although people have been doing this for decades, the ritual is now a thing of the past.

In February, New York's Division of Cemeteries made the practice illegal and ordered the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery to stop taking human ashes. The statewide ban became official in April.

Officials say the ruling was created because human cemeteries have more state protections than pet cemeteries. Additionally, human cemeteries must be nonprofit while pet cemeteries can be a for-profit businesses.

As you can imagine, plot holders at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery are angry about the sudden restriction.

I understand where the Division of Cemeteries is coming from, but it seems unfair since there are no other restrictions on where you can put human ashes.

If ocean lovers can have their ashes carried out to sea and nature lovers can have their ashes scattered in the forest, why can't an animal lover have their ashes buried at a pet cemetary?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Top Pet Friendly Airlines
Petfinder rates the best airlines for pets

Flying with pets can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you travel with a large dog. I go through great lengths to avoid putting my dogs on a plane, even if that means driving over 1,000 miles from New York to Florida!

But for those of you who have to travel by plane, Petfinder just released their annual list of most pet-friendly airlines. The airlines were reviewed based on the following criteria: most pet-friendly overall, best amenities for pets (and pet parents), best for transporting pet variety, best for budget-conscious consumers, best for flying multiple pets in cabin, and best for big furry friends.

Most important, all airlines that made the ranking were required to have zero pet deaths in the past reported year (according to official government reports).

Here are the top airlines for 2011:

  • Most Pet-Friendly Overall: Pet Airways. This choice isn't surprising, given that Pet Airways caters to animals, but hopefully this airline will inspire others to up their game.

  • Best Amenities for Pets (and Pet Parents): JetBlue. JetBlue goes above and beyond with the perks. Amenities include a pet carrier baggage tag, a travel “petiquette” guide, 300 frequent flyer points each way, and a comprehensive e-booklet with pet-friendly hotels, restaurants, parks and animal hospitals in some of JetBlue’s major cities.

  • Best for Transporting Pet Variety: Frontier Airlines. Frontier allows the most types of pets including rabbits, guinea pigs, and birds.

  • Best for Budget-Conscious Consumers: WestJet. WestJet has the cheapest pet fee at $50. AirTran Airways was a close second at $69.

  • Best for Flying Multiple Pets in Cabin: Frontier Airlines. All airlines have a limit as to how many pets can ride in the cabin. Frontier allows up to 10 pet crates on board, however only one container is allowed per passenger.

  • Best for Big Furry Friends: Pet Airways. Again Pet Airways rules with its pets-only flights.

I hope that reviews like Petfinder's list will encourage more airlines to become more pet friendly. Maybe one day all pets will be able to travel in the cabin alongside the humans. One can only dream!

Have you flown with a pet? Who would you nominate as the most pet friendly airline?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Dog Airlifted Out of Calif. Forest
A hike turned into an overnight excursion for a couple and their dog

A couple weeks ago, a friend of mine ended up carrying his 50 pound dog for two miles after the poor pup tore the pads on his paws during a trail run. I wondered what I would do in the same situation. Unfortunately, I'd probably be stuck because I don't usually carry first aid supplies and I definitely don't have as much upper body strength as my friend. The ordeal certainly got me thinking.

Even the most well-conditioned dog can become injured on a hike or run, so it's important to have a plan if something should go wrong. This is even more important if you're trekking in a remote area.

A couple in California learned this lesson the hard way while on an afternoon hike at Angeles National Forest last weekend. During the outing, their Labrador mix, Baxter, cut his pads and soon grew too tired to complete the hike. The couple couldn't carry the 80-pound dog, so they were forced to call the police and wait overnight for help to arrive. The next morning a rescue helicopter airlifted the couple and their dog to safety.

I don't run or hike in remote areas, so I usually rely on the fact someone can come get me if there's an emergency. But after hearing this story, and knowing what happened to my friend, I think I'm going to start carrying a few basic supplies with me. Torn pads are fairly common for active dogs, so bringing disinfectant and gauze on our next outing is probably not a bad idea.

What do you bring with you when you run or hike with your dogs?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
McQueen Leaves Large Sum to Dogs
The late fashion designer left money to his dogs and pet charities

Leaving money to pets and animal related charities is nothing new, however the topic was catapulted to popular discussion four years ago after Leona Helmsley left millions to her pup. Although I fully intend to set aside money for my pets, I imagine that the modest sum will hardly be controversial.

Last week it was revealed that Alexander McQueen also left a less contentious sum to his dogs and two animal related charities. His pets were so important to him that his suicide note specifically asked his family to look after his dogs.

The late fashion designer left £50,000 ($82,000 USD) to ensure that his canine family, Minter, Juice and Callum, would be well cared for after his death. McQueen also made a generous donation of £100,000 ($164,000 USD) to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and the Blue Cross, organizations that help homeless animals in the United Kingdom.

Rich celebrities aren't the only ones including their pets in their will. According to Petriarch, 25 percent of pet owners have provided for their pets in a legal document, such as a pet protection agreement, pet trust or will.

In a survey by More Than Pet Insurance in the United Kingdom, 35 percent of respondents planned to leave their pets more than £10,000 ($16,400 USD) in their will, with some 37 percent admitting they intend to leave more to their pet than to a close relative or friend.

With the cost of quality pet care increasing every day, it's becoming even more important to set aside money for your furry family members.

Are your pets included in a will or pet trust?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Man’s New Best Friend
Do we rely on PCs more than our pups?

Has the computer replaced dog as “mans best friend?” Computeractive magazine and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) surveyed over 2,000 people in Britain to find out.

A whopping 67 percent of respondents believe that most people rely more on their computer than their dog. The number is lower for people who actually have a dog, but higher if the respondent was between the ages of 18–24 years old. Interestingly, men are almost twice as likely as females to rely more on their computers.

I depend on my computer for almost everything I do—editing spreadsheets at work, buying clothes and books online, mapping directions and watching movies, just to name a few. And of course, I use my computer to do lots of dog-related activities—researching dog food, buying pet supplies and entering agility trials. Lets face it, we’ve come to rely on computers for almost every aspect of our lives.

But there are many things that my computer will never be able to do. My dogs make me laugh when I’m down, get me outside to exercise when I’m feeling lazy, and help me meet new friends when we’re walking in the park.

A dog is always happy to see you and has so much love to give. As useful as my computer is, it can’t come close to the relationship I have with my dogs. So it’s safe to say that no technology will be replacing my pup as my best friend!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet-Friendly Apartments Are Lucrative
There are many benefits for landlords that welcome pets

When I rented my last apartment, pet-friendly buildings were, on average, more expensive than the ones that didn't welcome pets.

It's unfortunate that a few irresponsible people seem to have given pets a bad name. In my search, I even found that many landlords stopped allowing animals because of property damage or complaints about barking. I've seen this with hotels too.

However, in these hard economic times, some real estate experts are recommending that non-pet-friendly landlords consider reversing their policy. According to the National Association of Residential Property Managers, upwards of 70 percent of tenants have some kind of pet. So clearly non-pet-friendly landlords are losing out on a large market.

A 2003 study by the Foundation for Interdisciplinary Research and Education Promoting Animal Welfare (FIREPAW) found that pet friendly apartments actually gained an average of nearly $3,000 per apartment, per year. Additionally, welcoming pets allows landlords to be more selective, since they're picking from a wider pool of prospective tenants.

While the study is a bit outdated, the statistics are compelling and makes a good case for landlords to become pet friendly.

  • Vacancy rates for pet-friendly apartments was 10 percent versus 14 percent for non-pet friendly units
  • Pet friendly apartments rented in an average of 19 days versus 29 days for non-pet friendly places
  • Tenants in pet friendly rentals stayed an average of 46 months compared with 18 months for non-pet friendly apartments
  • Pet friendly apartments were able to charge 20 to 30 percent more in rent than non-pet-friendly units
  • When controlling for children, apartments with pets cost landlords less in damage than rentals without pets

I understand that there are other factors to consider, like insurance issues, but I hope that more landlords will see both the economic incentives for changing policy and the many responsible pet lovers out there.

Have you found that landlords are more pet friendly these days?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Light by Poop
Arizona city considers a street lamp powered by dog waste

Last year, Lisa Wogan blogged about a Cambridge, Mass., artist who created a dog poop-to-methane converter used to fuel a local park lamp. Visitors pick up after their dogs and stick the biodegradable waste bags in the converter to power the light. I happen to think this is an ingenious idea. It puts dog waste to good use, while encouraging people to pick up after their dogs.

Although the idea of poop-powered lights hasn't caught on yet with other cities, Gilbert, Ariz., is the latest town to consider the alternative energy source for street lamps.

The town is currently debating whether to approve a project that would use dog waste collected from the local dog park to power a street lamp, with the option of expanding to other uses later.

Students from Arizona State University are hoping to design and create the converter necessary to power the street lamp. Although a similar machine has already been created, there will be unique challenges in designing one suited to Arizona's climate.

I would love to see more cities embrace this alternative energy source and it's a great way to get students involved in green initiatives with a “real world” project.

I also hope that one day this technology will be accessible for home use. Imagine having a poop-powered porch light!

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