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JoAnna Lou

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

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
First Canine Influenza Vaccine
U.S. Department of Agriculture approves protection against the contagious virus.

Lately the flu, specifically the swine variety, has been on everyone’s minds. While the H1N1 swine flu doesn’t pose much of a threat to our pets, there is a risk of contracting the H3N8 dog flu, a highly contagious respiratory illness. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it had approved the first vaccine for the canine influenza. The vaccine does not always prevent infection, but it decreases the severity and duration of the illness.

Canine influenza was first identified in 2004 when pneumonia killed a third of racing greyhounds in Florida. Today, the flu has been found in 30 states and the District of Columbia, mostly in close quarters like animal shelters and pet stores. The flu has hit Florida, New York, Philadelphia, and Colorado the hardest.

Dr. Cynda Crawford, one of the early researchers of the virus, estimates that over 10,000 dogs have been infected in the United States, a hefty number but small compared to the nation’s 70 million dogs. At one time there was a fear that the flu would kill one to ten percent of the nation’s dogs. 

Most dogs have no immunity to the dog flu, so it has the potential to spread quickly. The virus can be passed through a water bowl or person’s clothes, no direct dog-dog contact is necessary. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that dogs can transmit the virus to humans.

Symptoms, which may not show up until several days after contracting the virus, include coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. However, a laboratory test is the only conclusive way to know if you dog has canine influenza. Most pups make a full recovery, but if it progresses to pneumonia, it can be life-threatening. Unlike human influenza, the dog flu infections occur year round.

I try to minimize the number of vaccines that my pets receive. For instance, my crew gets blood titers instead of boosters at their annual checkup. My dogs seem to be in the moderate risk group -- I never board them, but they do have a lot of contact with other canines at obedience school and agility trials. I’m leaning towards not vaccinating since the overall risk doesn’t seem high, but I plan on consulting with my veterinarian to get his opinion before making a final decision. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Breaking Up Dog Fights
Learn to keep you and your dog safe in case of an emergency.

This past weekend, one of my pups was involved in a bad scuffle with another dog. Luckily those present were able to break up the fight fairly quickly, but it was a scary experience. Despite taking pet first aid classes, I realized that I don’t know what to do when one of my pets is attacked. The weekend’s events inspired me to do some research. 

According to Jacque Lynn Schultz, ASPCA Companion Animal Programs Advisor, making noise or spraying citronella spray can be used as a first resort, although it’s usually not effective when the fight is heated. 

My first instinct was to grab my dog’s collar and use my arm to separate the fight, but doing so can make the situation worse and is a sure ticket to serious injury. 

The safest way to physically break up a fight is for two people to grab the back legs of each dog and lift their rear off the ground like a wheelbarrow. Then they should move backward in an arc away from the other dog. This forces the dogs to sidestep with their front feet to keep their chin from hitting the ground.

If this doesn’t work, Pit Bull Rescue Central suggests that you use a break stick, a tool that is inserted in the back of the dog’s mouth, behind their back teeth. 

My dogs get along with everyone, canine and human, so reading up on dog fights hadn’t previously crossed my mind. But dog trainer Adam Katz says, "the issue isn't whether your dog is or isn't nice, it's how the two dogs' temperaments interrelate." Understanding canine behavior and knowing the warning signs can prevent fights in the first place, no matter how laid back or friendly your own dog may be.

I hope you never need to use this information, but in the event you do, you’ll be more prepared than I was this weekend.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
First-Ever Animal Policy & Advocacy Degree
New Humane Society University to fosters understanding of our relationships with animals.

Dogs have lived alongside humans for ages, but in many ways we know little about them. For decades our understanding of animal-human relationships has been largely limited to anecdotal stories. Institutions such as Harvard’s Canine Cognition Lab and the American Humane Endowed Chair at the University of Denver would’ve been unthinkable until just a few years ago.

Recently, the possibilities for research in this field has expanded even further. The Humane Society of the United States’ newly licensed university has begun accepting student applications for matriculation in the fall, making it the first in the nation to offer bachelor degree programs in animal studies and the first in the world to offer a bachelor’s degree in animal policy and advocacy.

Applicants must complete 60 college credits, equivalent to at least two years of an average college degree program. Those who already have bachelor's degrees from other institutions can enroll in graduate certificate programs in animal studies, animal policy and advocacy, and humane leadership. The program is run out of their facility in Washington D.C., but also includes online study options.

I’m most excited about the studies in animal policy and advocacy. The graduates from this program are sure to have a significant impact on how animals are represented and understood in our society. Makes me want to go back to school!

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Using Technology to Solve Canine Boredom
An engineering grad student invents a way to interact with his dog remotely.

Recently I stumbled upon an iPhone controlled dog treat dispensing device built by Stephen Myers. The Biomedical Engineer PhD student created the dispenser to interact with his dog Cooper during his long grad school days. 

The one-of-a-kind creation allows Stephen to monitor his pup by web cam and deliver treats from anywhere his iPhone receives service. He details how the dispenser was built on his blog.

I’m always on the lookout for new treat dispensing toys to keep my crew busy while I’m at work, so I was excited to discover such an innovative device. Unfortunately Stephen isn’t selling his creation and I definitely don’t have the technical expertise to build it (let alone in Stephen’s amazing one hour time frame!). 

So I’ll have to rely on my trusty Kong Time and collection of manual food dispensing toys, like the Buster Cube or the DogPyramid. However, I can only imagine the impact this valuable training tool could have on solving boredom behaviors like barking and furniture chewing.

How do you keep your dogs busy while you’re out?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
FDA Approves the First Canine Cancer Drug
Palladia offers options for treating the second most common canine tumor.

Earlier this year, I attended an agility trial in New Jersey that was raising money for canine cancer research. Decorating the arena were pictures of dogs who had cancer at some point in their lives. There were more than 100 photo montages covering every inch of free space. 

During an intermission tribute, handlers were asked to raise their hand if they ever had a dog affected by cancer. I was shocked to see well more than half the audience with their hand up and soon learned that canine cancer effects one out of every three dogs.

Since then, two of my friends found tumors on their dogs, one benign and one malignant. Thankfully, both were successfully removed, but the topic has stayed on my mind. So I was excited to hear that this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug developed specifically for the treatment of canine cancer. Palladia, an oral drug, works by cutting off the blood supply to mast cell tumors, the second most common tumor in dogs.

Palladia will be available next year through veterinary oncologists and internists. There are a number of side effects and, like any drug, will have its limitations. But Palladia is a huge step in the right direction for curing this horrible disease.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
WebMD for Dogs
DoggedHealth helps pet lovers diagnose canine health problems.

If you’re like me, there are certain websites that you don’t know how you ever lived without. One of the first that comes to mind is the popular medical diagnostic site, WebMD.

Finally, a similar resource has been created for canines. Earlier this year, DoggedHealth debuted the Diagnostic Dog as an information resource to empower pet lovers to make educated healthcare decisions for their four-legged family members. Users can click on a map of the canine body to access articles about related health problems. All content is written by a veterinarian or a dog trainer, depending on the topic. 

I’m looking forward to being able to refine searches by symptom (a WebMD feature), which DoggedHealth is in the process of developing. Diagnostic Dog certainly won’t replace my veterinarian, but it’s a great resource for increasing my knowledge before I step into the office. Of course like WebMD, Diagnostic Dog has the potential to make worried pet parents a bit paranoid, but it’s comforting to know that a wealth of information is only a few clicks away.

What are your favorite canine-related websites?

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Canine Role in the Anti-Piracy Crusade
Disc-detecting dogs help shut down illegal DVD operations in Malaysia.

Dogs have been trained to detect everything from bombs to cancer. But until this week, I had never heard of DVD sniffing dogs in the anti-piracy crusade. There really is no limit to what dogs can be trained to do!

According to the Motion Picture Association (MPA), its member companies lost 6.1 billion dollars to worldwide piracy in 2005. Struggling to find a solution, they turned to dogs’ superior olfactory abilities to join in on the mission.

Recently, a black Labrador named Paddy led a series of raids that uncovered 35,000 pirated DVDs and a replication machine, leading to the shutdown of six warehouses in Malaysia. Paddy was given to the country by the MPA to help in the battle against illegal DVDs.

Although not well known, dogs are not new to the anti-piracy scene. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) bought the first DVD-detecting canines in 2006, Lucky and Flo. Originally search and rescue dogs, their handler trained them to detect polycarbonate, the polymer used in DVDs. 

In just a few short months, Lucky and Flo had sniffed out over two million pirated discs and even had a $30,000 bounty put on their heads by a Malaysian pirate syndicate. 

I always love to read about working dogs and their remarkable abilities. Many times we think of dogs playing more of a companionship role today. After all, you don’t see many Dachshunds hunting badgers or Shelties herding sheep. But dogs, such as Paddy, Lucky and Flo,  remind us that their role alongside humans is always evolving.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Pet Soup Kitchen in Danger of Closing
Daffy's throws a block party fundrasier to help save its Georgia warehouse.

In the March/April issue of the magazine, I wrote about Daffy’s Soup Kitchen in Lawrenceville, Ga., where the mission is to keep families and their pets together. Daffy’s has continued to grow, now distributing more than 20,000 pounds of food per month, supporting more than 1,000 people and 2,000 animals at locations across eight states.

Although demand has grown for this much-needed resource, Daffy’s has recently been dealt a devastating blow. Due to the current economic conditions, its sponsor can no longer afford to cover its warehouse lease. The soup kitchen is now faced with the possibility of closing its main distribution center by September if Daffy’s doesn’t find new sponsors.

To help raise money, the soup kitchen is holding its first annual Daffy’s Day Block Party on Saturday, June 13th from 12-5 p.m. to benefit the Warehouse Fund. Animal lovers and leashed pets are invited to the festivities. In addition to human food, Taj Ma-Hound Bakery and Dogwell/Catswell will be giving out yummy treats for the dogs. Professional photographer, Heather Cosgrove, will be on site taking photos. 

The event isn’t limited to fun and games. There will also be pet CPR demonstrations and the opportunity to sign up for future Daffy’s CPR classes. The block party will be held at Daffy’s main warehouse at 2160 Oakland Industrial Court, Suite 100 in Lawrenceville, Ga. 

If you’d like to help Daffy’s out, but can’t make it to the festivities, they’re accepting online donations through their website.

Daffy’s estimates that 219 animals are euthanized every day in Georgia, a number they fear could increase if they’re forced to shut down. In addition to the local impact, Daffy’s has also provided guidance to pet soup kitchens that have opened in other areas around the nation. I’m hoping that the community will come together to save this important resource. 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Grieving Through Art
DoveLewis’ Community Art Program helps pet lovers heal after a loss.

When a friend’s dog recently passed away, in my search for a memorial gift, I discovered an amazing program started by certified grief counselor and artist, Enid Traisman at DoveLewis emergency animal hospital in Portland, Ore.

Through running one of the first pet loss support programs in the nation, Traisman found a unique way to use art to foster the healing process. Three years ago, the former social worker turned full-time pet grief counselor added the Community Art Program to the already successful group therapy sessions and 24-hour message line. Offered for free through a sponsorship by Dignified Pet Services, pet lovers can sign up through the hospital’s website.

Twice a month, Traisman picks projects to help grieving pet lovers memorialize animals who have recently passed away. People are asked to bring pictures of their pets to personalize their artwork. Past projects include picture frames, memory boxes, and prayer candles. At special adult-only sessions, participants have the opportunity to create glass memorial keepsakes fused with their pets’ ashes in a kiln.

Although Traisman has been doing this for years, she is still moved by what is an emotional process. “These memorial art sessions have been fabulously rewarding,” Traisman says. “It is amazing to see the beautiful items people create in memory of their beloved pets.” 

The DoveLewis Community Art Program is a great way to honor the pets who have given so much during their short time with us. I only wish there were more of these beneficial programs at other hospitals around the world.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
The Dog Who Sparked an Animal Rights Movement
Slate.com explores the history of protecting animals in medical research.

Today, Slate.com begins a five-part history of animal rights in regards to laboratory testing. The series begins with the heartbreaking story of Pepper, a Dalmation who forever changed the way American science obtains and uses research animals. Pepper sparked a national movement in 1965, when she was stolen from her loving home in Pennsylvania and sold to a New York hospital for cardiology research.

It was extremely difficult to read the article’s descriptions of gruesome animal testing (the opening part in particular made my stomach turn). However, it’s amazing to learn about the humble Pennsylvania farm dog's impact. Many of the politicians and lobbyists involved in Pepper’s story went on to introduce and support the nation’s first animal welfare laws.

Slate.com will publish a new chapter in its series each day through the end of the week. The online magazine is also hosting discussions on their Facebook and Twitter pages that will be periodically visited by the author, Daniel Engber, who will respond to readers.

More than 40 years later, it’s horrifying that dogs continue to be stolen for medical research. While it’s technically illegal for stolen animals to be sold or used in research, it is legal for Class B Dealers to take stray animals from the street. HBO’s Dealing Dogs documents the modern illegal dog trade.

I’m not a proponent of animal testing, but it’s hard to deny that many of today’s medical advances are due in part to thousands of canine martyrs. Pepper herself was a part of a crucial development in cardiology research.

How do you feel about this controversial ethical debate?

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