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Jodie Snyder

Jodie Snyder is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. She is the author of Happy Dog Phoenix, which benefits local animal rescues.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
AZ Bill Aims to Protect Dogs in Hot Cars
Photo by Rusty Clark

A metro Phoenix community college teacher’s civics assignment wound up helping create a law to aid dogs trapped in hot cars.

Debra Nolen, who teaches ethics, suggested her students find ways to help dogs left behind in locked vehicles.

 “I wanted to find a topic for them to learn about civic engagement and social responsibility and this seemed perfect,’’ she said.

Complete newcomers to politics, students and teacher contacted Nolen’s state legislator, John Kavanagh, who had previously supported other animal-welfare laws. He agreed to sponsor their bill and other Arizona animal-rights groups got behind it.

Under the new law, someone who uses “reasonable force” to break into an unattended motor vehicle is not subject to civil damages if there’s a “good faith belief” a child or animal “is in imminent danger of suffering physical injury or death.”

Would-be rescuers must first notify police, medical personnel or, if needed, animal control officers. Then, after entering the vehicle, they must remain until responders arrive.

Previously, Arizona laws weren’t clear if a Good Samaritan could be sued for damaging property while rescuing a trapped animal.

Now, 29 states have some type of a “hot car” law on the books, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Laws vary; some make distinctions between domesticated animals versus livestock; some differentiate between law-enforcement personnel and citizen rescuers.

“In the last few years, there has been an explosion in the number of hot-car laws,’’ said Lora Dunn, director of the criminal justice program for the fund. “There’s greater awareness, people are getting involved and pushing their lawmakers.’’

But it’s not always easy.

Some Arizona legislators questioned why animals warranted the same expectation of protection as humans.

 “I actually had one legislator describe pets as ‘chattel’,’’ Nolen said. “I had to tell him how so many people have sacrificed their own well-being on behalf of their pets.’’

Having Arizona’s governor talk up the legislation in his State of the State address helped push it past those ideological obstacles, Kavanagh said. Nolen’s participation too was key, he said. “She was a like a bulldog on this.’’

All part of the learning process, says Nolen. “My kids learned so much from this, how to be active in their communities for good. I look at them and think ‘these are tomorrow’s leaders’.’’

Wellness: Healthy Living
Protecting Your Pup from Mosquitoes

This summer’s routine insect-prevention strategies are taking on a new urgency as public health experts warn that certain parts of the U.S. may experience outbreaks of the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects in Latin America.

As you protect yourself from any and all mosquitos this summer, don’t hurt your dog in the process!

The Centers for Disease Control recommends people use insect repellents that use of these ingredients:

  • DEET (used in Off, Deep Woods Off and Cutter)
  • Picaridin
  • IR3535
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • Para-menthane-diol.

Unfortunately, DEET can be poisonous to your dog. Ingesting it can cause your dog to have stomach problems, conjunctivitis, breathing difficulties and seizures.

So using it as a spray on your dog’s coat is a big no-no. And be careful that they don’t lick it off of you or get into any bug-spray cans that may have been left in the back yard or in your hiking backpacks.

Signs of possible DEET ingestion include drooling, wobbly gait, vomiting and loss of appetite, according to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, which reports getting calls every summer involving dogs hurt by DEET exposure. If you think your dog has been exposed to DEET, take her to the vet immediately.

For dog people worried that their dog may get her nose into some DEET, good alternatives for mosquito protection are oils from lemon eucalyptus and cedar, which can be used as an insect repellent for people and pets alike.

CDC researchers say there have been no signs that dogs have been affected by Zika or that they act as carriers for the virus. In fact, the mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus seek out humans to bite on rather than animals.

Despite the lack of a direct link to Zika, safeguarding your dog against mosquito bites is still critical.  

A bite from one mosquito bite infected with the heartworm larvae will give your dog heartworm disease, which can be fatal. With one bite, the larvae can be deposited into your dog. That larvae can grow to cause severe injury to the dog’s lungs, major arteries and heart, harming your dog’s quality of life and potentially her lifespan.

For full protection against mosquitos and heartworms, ask your veterinarian about products that can repel fleas, ticks and mosquitoes. There are also some products available that do double duty by offering heartworm prevention.

Frequently, it is difficult to tell if your dog has been bitten by a mosquito. One telltale sign is scratching. Some dogs will have an allergic reaction and the bitten areas will swell. In most cases, however, all you will see at the spot of the bite is a bump.

To treat the bite, wash the affected area with a mild soap and warm water and apply a topical antibacterial cream. If the bite gets worse or does not improve over the next few days, take your dog to the vet for an examination. 

News: Guest Posts
Dangers to Dogs Hiking in Heat
Prompt park officials in Arizona to ban dogs

The city of Phoenix is now banning dogs from hiking trails when it hits 100 degrees at the parks.

Under the pilot program, which went into effect July 1 and runs through Sept. 1, someone who disobeys the rule could be cited for a Class One misdemeanor, be fined up to $2,500 and receive up to six months jail time. Phoenix officials say they are emphasizing the educational aspect of the program and not the punitive measures.

Phoenix has some of the largest municipal parks in the country with 15-mile trails that cut through desert that is beautiful but shadeless during the summer.

Summertime temps in the metro Phoenix area can easily reach 110 during the day and stay warm throughout the night, hovering around the mid to upper 80s.  In 2015, there were 88 days when daytime temperatures were 100 degrees or higher.

Although the parks open at sunrise, it is not uncommon for runners, hikers and cyclists to be on the trails even during the hottest parts of the day.  Already this year, six people have died on area trails and there have been reports of dog deaths but no statistics are kept in that area. Frequently, dogs who are overtaken by the heat are taken to nearby vets or emergency-animal clinics for care.

In 2011, three dogs died on trails in the nearby city of Glendale. The only way the city knew about those deaths was because its fire department was called to help the dogs. “For everyone incident reported, we believe there are dozens of animal fatalities that we don’t hear about,’’ said Sue Breding, Glendale spokeswoman.

Kristen Nelson, DVM, a Phoenix area veterinarian, said one Labrador recently came into her clinic with a temperature of over 107. The dog’s owners had taken him hiking at 2 p.m. during the day when it was over 100 degrees outside. The dog had collapsed on the trail and died two days later after many of his organs gave out.

 In many southwestern cities like in Phoenix, dogs can overheat at any time of the year, says Aaron Franko, DVM, at BluePearl Veterinary Partners.

At end of February, he had a Labrador mixed breed dog come in who was suffering heat stroke. “It was a very warm day,’’ Franko said.

 “People don’t realize how fast dogs can get overheated and into trouble,’’ he added.

All dogs can be bothered by the heat but some types are pre-disposed to problems, Franko said. Those types include short-nosed breeds such as Bulldogs, Pugs and Boston Terriers as well as dogs with underlying heart disease, older dogs and those with thicker coats.

If it is warm outside, people need to bring water for their dogs and if it is hot, they need to avoid taking them out at all, Franko said.

He estimates that his central Phoenix emergency clinic sees five or more heat-stressed dogs a week. “And we are just one emergency clinic here.’’

Many veterinarians say that the summertime heat danger to dogs can’t be emphasized enough to people with pets. The Arizona Humane Society says it can easily receive up to 50 a calls a day during the summer for animal rescues and investigations. Up to half of those involve animals who don’t have enough water or shade to deal with the heat.

Phoenix city officials believe this may be one of the few times municipal trails have been closed to dogs because of heat. Many U.S. national parks prohibit even leashed dogs on trails because the dogs may endanger themselves or area wildlife.  Parks from Portland, Ore. to Maine have closed dog-friendly trails for various reasons including protecting the ecosystem and safeguarding nearby livestock.

Wellness: Healthy Living
Fighting Valley Fever
Chocolate lab sits on the dried grass. Discussions of Valley Fever in Arizona's research group.

Arizona genetics researchers are taking the unusual step of asking for dog lovers’ help in fighting a mysterious, potentially lethal infection that plagues both dog and man.

They are looking for dogs to be registered and potentially to have their DNA collected to help combat valley fever, a fungus-based disease once confined to the Southwest desert but is now spreading across the country.

Valley fever can be triggered by inhalation of just a handful of spores of a particular fungus. People, dogs and cats are susceptible to the illness that was once believed to occur only in Arizona and California. The disease is not contagious and is not spread from species to species.

The risk for valley fever increases as climates get drier, say California State University, Bakersfield researchers. Warmer temperatures and less rain basically kill off the fungus’ competitors for nutrients and thereby creating an ideal growing environment for the infection-causing fungus.

Valley fever is now being reported in states such as Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota, which never used to see the condition. And the states that typically see the condition are reporting more and more cases: The number of Valley Fever reports is increasing in more than a third of California’s  counties, putting more dogs at risk for a disease that can lead to lameness, extreme weight loss and coma.

When Charlie, a 75-pound Chocolate Lab, started coughing, it didn’t set off any alarms. But then he developed a fever and was diagnosed as having kennel cough, which can be easily treated by antibiotics and steroids. Then the symptoms returned and again it was misdiagnosed as pneumonia. More than two months passed before Charlie was given the correct medication; the delay in a correct diagnosis lessens his chances for a full recovery.

Charlie now spends most of his time sleeping off the effects of valley fever, instead of being his normal playful self.

There is no cure for valley fever. Currently treatments focus on helping dogs beat the symptoms. Vet bills can mount up since a dog may have to get medication for up to eighteen months; in some severe cases, a dog may be on medicine for the rest of his life.  It is estimated that Arizona dog lovers spend $60 million per year in caring for dogs with valley fever.

Seeing the increase in valley fever cases across the U.S., Phoenix-based Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) researchers are now asking for dog people to take a brief online survey about their pet’s breed, health history and lifestyle. After the survey, the dog may be selected to give a saliva sample.

Then after the swabbing is done, researchers will look for differences in the genes of dogs who are sick compared to dogs who show signs of exposure to valley fever but who aren’t sick.

“In certain dogs, a minor infection can progress to severe disease, and the reasons for this are unknown,” said Dr. Bridget Barker, assistant professor and head of TGen’s Northern Arizona Center for Valley Fever Research in Flagstaff, Ariz.

This information would be used to help develop new therapies for both dogs and people, she said.

For more information about TGen’s Valley Fever PAWS (Prevention, Awareness, Working for Solutions), visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vfpaws, and on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPAWS.