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News: Karen B. London
Reactions to Hugs Between Humans
Dogs vary in their responses

Hugging is very human. Actually, this behavior occurs in our species as well as quite a few other primate species, as we primates seem to seek out and enjoy ventral-ventral contact with one another.

Dogs are quite different, as they typically don’t enjoy hugs, no matter how accommodating they are to the humans in their lives who insist on it. To see a dog look displeased, or even disgusted, giving one a hug is often all that’s required.

Of course, I would not recommend hugging a dog for a very important reason that is related to but extends beyond that fact that dogs typically detest it. Many dogs bite when they are hugged. The bites are sometimes motivated by fear, and sometimes a reaction along the lines of, “Don’t you dare do that to me. Again. Ever.”

It’s pretty straightforward to me. Humans like to give and receive hugs. Dogs don’t. When we hug them, most tolerate it in much the same way that children tolerate having their cheeks pinched by aging relatives—grudgingly and with an understanding that the people doing these dreadful things really can’t help themselves.

What’s far less clear to me is what dogs make of observing humans hug each other. I’ve known dogs with a variety of responses to hugs between the human members of my family or our visitors. Some dogs join the hug by jumping up and leaning into the action. Some leap onto the huggers repeatedly and with increasing vigor. Others place themselves between the huggers, causing them to separate. I’ve seen dogs spin in place or circle around the huggers, and I’ve known dogs who bark and growl when two or more humans hug in their presence. It’s unusual to have a dog who runs away, perhaps out of the room when they observe hugging, but I do know of a couple of dogs who did respond in exactly that way.

What does your dog do when you hug someone?

 

 

 

News: JoAnna Lou
Sniffing Poop to Save Wildlife
Ex-shelter dogs are trained to become conversation canines
Conservation Dog

 

Families often misjudge how much exercise dogs need, which is how many pets end up at the animal shelter. Insatiable play drive is bad for the average home but great for working canines. The Center for Biology Conservation adopts many of these dogs and trains them to sniff out wildlife droppings. Yes you read that right!

Scientists can learn a lot from scat, including sex, species, and even stress level. They can put together a complete health profile without even ever meeting an animal in person.

The Center's current project is bringing two conservation canines to the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico to track salamanders found nowhere else in the world. These amphibians are threatened due to the changing climate. The information will be used to map salamanders and create a plan to help save the critters and conserve the forests they live in.

The two dogs scheduled for the job are a Labrador named Sampson and an Australian Cattle Dog named Alli. Both are rescue pups and have since gone through rigorous training (all through positive reinforcement!). Sampson and Alli are trained on a variety of animal droppings, including the Pacific Pocket Mouse whose scat is as small as a sesame seed! Other conservation canines can even sniff out killer whale waste.

The Center's Conservation Canines program launched in 1997 and now sends scat sniffing dogs all over the world. Their skills are unmatched as they can collect huge amounts of samples over a large area in a short period of time.

I knew that droppings can provide a wealth of information, but the work that can be done with that data is far bigger that I'd realized. In one notable project, the Center used data from African elephant scat to create a map that is being used to battle the illegal ivory trade. Now when ivory pieces are discovered, the laboratory can identify the exact area it came from, which increases the chances of finding the culprits.

All that thanks to the amazing canine nose!

News: Karen B. London
Cleaning Challenges With Dogs
How do you keep carpets in shape?

There’s a carpet in the back room of my house that is shockingly dirty. Between kids and pets, it has taken a lot of abuse, and it wasn’t in great shape when we bought the house, either. As soon as we moved in, my husband and I both said, “That has GOT to be replaced!” When our 19-month old son threw up on it later that day, we decided we should wait until the kids were a little older. That son is now nearly 9 years old, we still have the carpet, and it is appalling. Between dog hair, muddy paw prints, and various substances that come out of Kongs, dogs have done as much damage as the kids have done with popsicles and paint.

I want to know what people are doing in their homes to prevent and treat this sort of issue. We try to keep the mess largely confined to that one room, which is a combination art studio and play room, so at least the whole house is not as gross. We vacuum most days and we clean the carpet ourselves every couple of months. If I’m honest, though, that carpet is just not pretty, and the time is clearly at hand to replace it, probably with a totally different type of flooring, such as wood or tile.

Having failed at maintaining a carpet myself, I’m so curious how other people with little mess-makers in their homes manage to keep their carpets from looking the way mine does. What are your secrets?

 

 

News: Guest Posts
Keeping Dogs Cool

 

Summer means all sorts of cool things: the beach, more time outside, summer reading, barbeques, vacations. But it also means hot dogs. Dogs of any variety can and will be affected by the rising temperatures and for all the joy and happiness that summer brings to dogs and their humans alike, it can also pose a dangerous health risk to our four-legged friends.

My own dog, Carlie, just naturally slows down in the summer months, a kind of self-regulating that’s very characteristic of her and many dogs, but I’m still cautious to ensure that she stays cool enough. I’ve soaked a bandana in ice-water and tied it around her neck before we venture out. I’ve rerouted our morning walk to one that is more shaded and I’ve invested in something called a Kool Kollar that’s sort of like a gel ice-pack in the shape of a collar to cool the neck and chest.  But to be sure I’m doing everything I can and also to check that I’m not doing anything I shouldn’t be, I checked in with three dog people in my neighborhood to see what they had to say about dogs in summer.

Mia Ziering, a veterinarian and founder of NYC House Vet (and Carlie’s vet) advises her patients to be as cautious as their pets in the heat as they would of their children.  Good rules of thumb: never leave pets in sun exposed areas, always make sure they have access to shade and water, and NEVER leave a pet in a closed car in the summer.  Also: limit physical exercise on hot days.

Anne McCormick, the proprietor of my neighborhood pet supply store, Calling All Pets, advised that dogs should be inside as much as possible during the heat. Early morning walks and late evening once the sun is down only, and if at all possible, AC should be left on for dogs at home. In lieu of that, there are cooling mats, similar to the cooling collar I had that dogs can rest on to bring their body temps down. Anne also offered similar common sense advice to Dr. Ziering’s: do for your pet what you would do for you.

Armed with all this good advice, I took to the street once more to check in with the dog person who might spend the most time with the most dogs out of anyone: the friendly neighborhood dog walker. It was a particularly hot late June day and I inquired of a dog walker gingerly leading a pack of ten down the shady side of my street. He spoke to me on the condition on anonymity. The verdict: these doggies gotta stay inside.

Granted, the advice I gathered is from my neighborhood in New York City where the climate (to say nothing of the cement) can be particularly challenging for canines. But wherever you are, please be practical, be safe, be mindful of your dog’s energy level and disposition this summer. And it doesn’t hurt to plan a trip to a wooded place, or keep your eye out for a wading pool or shallow pond.

 

News: JoAnna Lou
From Street Dog to Officer's Pet
Policeman finds a new friend on the job

Back in May, Officer Dan Waskiewicz of the Balimore City Police was on duty when he got a call about a vicious dog chasing kids. When he arrived at the scene, Instead of jumping to conclusions, Officer Waskiewicz got out of his patrol car and called the dog over to assess the situation. The Pit Bull mix came over panting, with his tail between his legs. Officer Waskiewicz  offered the tired pup some water and the two became fast friends. Although his partner wasn't a big dog fan, Officer Waskiewicz put the pup in the back of their patrol car and drove to the local shelter. 

As if saving an animal from the streets wasn't enough of a good deed, Officer Waskiewicz ended up adopting the Pit Bull mix himself and named him Bo. The lucky pup now lives with Waskiewicz's family, which includes two other dogs.

With so many recent reports of police shooting harmless pets, it's refreshing to see someone respond the right way. Officer Waskiewicz arrived on the scene with compassion and an open mind. As a result, a loving dog now has a wonderful home.

News: Editors
Lady Day and her Mister

July 17, marks the anniversary of the 1959 death of Billie Holiday. Her life was a hard one: a childhood of bitter poverty and early sexual abuse; an acute sensitivity to the all-pervasive racism of her time; a series of difficult relationships with controlling, exploitative men; an eventual downward spiral of depression, addiction and broken health. Among the things that gave her joy and an amazing vitality despite her troubles, music was, of course, the most important—her profound connection to jazz brought her the respect and adoration of audiences and fellow musicians alike. Another was her faithful and requited love of the series of dogs who were her companions throughout her life. We don’t know how or when she found her first dog friend, but anecdotes crop up throughout her biography. Lena Horne recalled that when the two jazz divas were together, they usually talked mainly about Billie’s dogs; “her animals were her only trusted friends.” There was the beloved Standard Poodle who, on his death, was wrapped in Billie’s best mink coat for the cremation, and the Chihuahua puppy she fed with a baby bottle in her New York apartment. Perhaps her most elegant companion was the handsome Boxer, Mister, who accompanied her to glamorous Harlem nightspots—places where he surely would not have been allowed if his mistress were anyone less remarkable than Lady Day.

NPR did an interesting story today about trying to find her final Resting Place—notice the little porcelain dog on her headstone.

News: Karen B. London
Hammocks and Dogs Create a Balancing Act
It’s another way to be together

I love hammocks and I love dogs. Over the years, there have been many happy moments enjoying each of these pleasures in life. Naturally, I have also spent considerable amounts of time enjoying the two simultaneously.

If you want your dog to enjoy being in a hammock with you, start slowly. Lift the dog or help him step in while the hammock is not moving. Keep it still, and don’t force him to stay in. He may do best with a bunch of short visits (seconds, or a few minutes at most depending on how he’s doing) over a period of time. For most dogs, the key is not to move the hammock until he is comfortable being in it while it’s stationery. To help many dogs like the hammock instead of just tolerating it, give him tasty treats while he’s in it, and then stop the delivery of the goodies when he’s out of it.

Once your dog has learned to settle in and feel comfortable in the hammock, you can add in gentle motion, but just briefly, and certainly don’t swing it far. To keep it safe, make sure your dog’s nails are trimmed so they don’t catch on the hammock. Low hammocks are best for dogs just in case anybody leaves it unexpectedly. Fabric hammocks are safer for dogs than rope ones because dogs’ little legs so easily go through the openings in the fabric, which can be scary and cause injury.

In the video below, Marley and I are having fun, but it was not particularly relaxing. He needs a watchful eye and a guiding hand.

 

 

Just so that nobody is too worried about Marley’s safety, we were only about a foot off the ground, he loves being in hammocks, and I was holding up the edges to minimize the chances of a mishap.

He is pretty well balanced actually, and is a natural in hammocks. He first jumped into the hammock uninvited. Luckily, he made it in on that occasion and did not fly out the other side or get part of his body caught in the hammock.

Nobody should force a dog into a hammock, as not all dogs enjoy the feeling on being in one. Some find the movement really scary while others become motion sick. Many dogs don’t suffer in them, but just vaguely seem to prefer to be on more solid ground.

It sounds overly obvious and simple, but there are few more pleasant ways to pass a lazy afternoon than to spend it swaying gently in the breeze in a hammock with your dog buddy. Do you "swing" with your pup?

 

News: Shea Cox
Rattlesnake Bites the Dog
The dos, the don’ts, and the mumbo jumbo myths

We all love to bask in the California sun and rattlesnakes are no exception. Snakebite envenomation is something that is frequently seen in the ER, in fact, we treated three pets for this just this past weekend alone! Sadie, an 11-week old Cocker Spaniel, was one of those patients. She was gardening with her Mom when a rattlesnake bit her.

Poisonous snakes of the United States belong to two groups: pit vipers and elapids. Pit vipers are the largest group and include at least 26 subspecies of rattlesnakes (Crotalus spp.), with the Western Rattlesnake being the most common in our region. Click this link for an excellent resource guide that includes pictures of the many species of California rattlesnakes.

How does the venom work?
An understanding of the function of venom is helpful in appreciating how envenomation works. The snake uses its venom to immobilize the victim and predigest body tissues. There are over 50 types of enzymes in pit viper venom, with a minimum of 10 in any individual snakes venom.  Additionally, there are many other non-enzymes present in the venom, called killing fractions, which are 50 times more toxic than the “crude” venom. When the venom destroys the body tissues, it is possible for up to 1/3 of a pet’s body fluid to be lost into the tissue spaces within several hours, which can result in life-threatening drops in blood pressure resulting in shock.

What makes a bad bite worse?
Several factors influence the severity of snakebites. The most important factors are the volume of venom injected and the toxicity of the venom itself. Other factors include:

  • The amount of regenerated venom since the last bite: there is more venom and it is more concentrate if the snake hasn’t bitten in a while.
  • The age of the snake: younger snakes have more “potent” venom.
  • Aggressiveness of the snake: the more threatened they feel, the more concentrated the venom.
  • Motivation of the snake: offensive strikes are more severe.
  • The size of the pet being bitten: smaller dogs and cats are more severely affected than large dogs due to their small body size to venom ratio (less body to “absorb” the amount of venom).
  • The size of the bite.
  • The location of the bite: the “best” place to be bitten is in the legs or face as the regional swelling and changes in the local blood supply can actually slow the uptake of the venom; envenomation to the body is more concerning as the broader area allows for the venom to be absorbed more rapidly; bites to the tongue are the worst and result in rapid and devastating clinical signs.
  • The time elapsed from bite until seeking medical treatment.
  • The amount of physical activity since the time of the bite.

What are the general signs of a snakebite wound?
Snakebites are not always easy to diagnose, especially if it was an unobserved bite and if a pet has a heavy hair coat that may hide puncture wounds. With pit viper bites, you can usually see bleeding puncture wounds and single or multiple puncture sites may be observed. The initial signs are marked swelling, which is due to the tissue destruction and body fluid “leaking” into the damaged area (see the picture of the little Chihuahua, showing a what a typical bite to the face looks like). Clinical signs may develop immediately or be delayed for several hours. Bruising and skin discoloration often occurs within hours of the bite because the venom causes the blood to not clot. There is usually intense and immediate pain at the site of the bite, which helps differentiate snakebites from other causes of swelling, and swelling is generally progressive for up to 36 hours. You can also see collapse, vomiting, muscle tremors, and depression in breathing.

What to do if a snake bites your pet:

  • If your pet is bitten by a snake, it is best to assume it is a venomous bite.
  • Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible!
  • If the swelling is not in the face, muzzle your pet (if you can do it safely) to avoid being bitten: snake bites are very painful and your pet may unintentionally snap at you; if the swelling is in the face, avoid touching this area all together.
  • Immobilize the part of your pet that has been bitten by the snake, if this can be done safely; try to keep the area at or below the level of the heart.
  • Keep your pet calm and immobile, carry if necessary.

What NOT to do (and the mumbo jumbo myths)

  • Do not try to suck out the venom! (This technique only works for John Wayne in old Western movies).
  • Do not attempt to “make an X” and cut open the area around the bite (you will only cause a wound).
  • Do not bother to use a Snake Bite Kit or Extractor Pump (they will actually do more harm to your pet- and your wallet!).
  • Do not apply ice to the area: this constricts the blood vessels locally and actually concentrates the venom causing severe muscle damage to the area.
  • Do not rub any substances into the bite: the venom has entered the blood stream, and any substance applied topically is ineffectual.
  • Do not apply a tourniquet: you will only succeed in causing further tissue damage and possibly create a need for limb amputation.
  • Do not allow your pet to move about freely.
  • Do not attempt to capture the snake for later identification (you’d be surprised…)

Tips for prevention:

  • Stay on open paths while hiking with your pet.
  • Keep your pets on leash away from high grass and rocky outcrops where snakes like to rest.
  • Don’t let your pet explore holes or dig under rocks.
  • Keep an open ear for that telltale rattling noise and keep your pet at your side until you determine where the sound is coming from, and then move slowly away.
  • If you see a snake that sees you, remember that a snake can strike only a distance of half its body length; give the snake time to “just go away” as they are not looking to interact with you or your pet.
  • Don’t let your pet examine a dead snake as they still can envenomate.
  • For around your home: cut off the snakes food supply and shelter by mowing close to the house, storing firewood away from the house, plugging up holes in the ground, and limiting birdseed waste which can attract rodents to your home.

What is the treatment?

Since the onset of clinical signs can be delayed for several hours, all pets that have been bitten by a snake should be hospitalized for at least 12 hours and ideally 24 hours. Although most pets generally need to be supported and monitored, the vast majority (95%) do survive with early and proper treatment.

Antivenom is the only proven treatment against pit viper envenomation, and the earlier it is administered, the more effective its action.  The biggest downside to antivenom is cost, and it can range anywhere from $450-$700 per vial.  Usually a single vial will control the envenomation but several vials may be necessary, especially in small dogs or cats.  Many animals may do “fine” without it, but it does decrease the severity of clinical signs, as well as speed overall recovery with a reduction in complications. Blood work is also recommended to monitor your pet’s platelet count as well as clotting times of the blood. IV fluid support, intensive pain management, antibiotics and wound monitoring are required for best clinical outcomes. Blood and plasma transfusions are sometimes needed in severe envenomation.

What about the vaccine?
There is a “snake-bite vaccine” that may be useful, but there have been no controlled studies for its effectiveness. The main benefit of the vaccine is that it may create protective antibodies to neutralize some of the injected venom, and in turn may lessen the severity of the clinical signs. One of the biggest myths is that if your pet has had the vaccine, then they don’t need to be treated if they are bitten; this is not true, and they still require the same treatment despite being given a vaccine or not!

Thankfully, most snakes will try to avoid you and your pets and typically only bite as a last resort. But if your pet does happen to get bitten by a snake that you think might be venomous, it is best to err on the side of caution and get medical attention immediately. As always, feel free to ask questions or leave comments!

News: JoAnna Lou
Developing a Healthy Immune System
Study finds that babies in dog homes get sick less often

I have friends on both sides of the parenting spectrum. Some won't let me in the door without slathering my hands in antibacterial gel, while others are okay with their kids teething on my dogs' Kongs.

There isn't one right way to raise children (human or canine!), but it turns out that a little bit of dirt and fur may be a good thing.

A recent study at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland found that babies who live with a dog are healthier and less likely to need antibiotics than infants in pet-free homes. Kids from homes without animals were healthy for 65 percent of their first year, compared with 72 to 76 percent for babies in dog homes.

The kids in pet families were also 44 percent less likely to get inner ear infections and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics. The study found a similar correlation between infants and families with cats, but to a lesser extent.

The researchers believe that dirt and allergens introduced by animals may cause a child's immune system to mature faster.

Our pets hold a special place in our family and now we know they may also play an important role in developing our kids' immune systems.

News: Karen B. London
Lending Your Dog To Those In Need
Does your dog spread cheer?

A friend of mine was telling me that her parents had recently lost their old dog and were really suffering with the grief and the quiet house. To help her parents, my friend and her husband loaned them their dog for a week of “dog therapy”, which really helped them out during part of the time between when their dog passed away and they adopted a new dog.

Now, I must assure you that my friends' dog is very comfortable at the parents’ house, which is a two-hour drive away from them. They take care of the dog when my friends travel for work, and the dog also spends a lot of time there during weekend visits and holidays, too

My friends said they really missed their dog, but that it felt good, too, to help out because they felt like her parents needed to have a dog present more they did at that point. Obviously, if this visit would have been stressful to the dog, I would have been opposed, but since the dog loves to be there, I think it was a lovely gesture. “Loaning out love” is such a kind and giving act.

Has your dog every gone visiting just to cheer people up?

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